Klaxons: “We’re a pop group trying to make hits for the radio, and it’s working”
Frontman Jamie Reynolds ponders Klaxons’ place in the world.
There’s no denying that Klaxons have grown up. The vision of health the band are in shows as they walk through Islington, frontman Jamie Reynolds excitedly explaining that he ran 10K this morning whilst sipping a smoothie and beaming about guitarist Simon Taylor-Davis recently running the marathon. But as he chats over juice in a café, it’s clear that the Technicolor madness attracting everyone to their weird pop world is still very much present.
“I’ve got one eye on the future,” comments Jamie. It shows, in the elastic, bouncing synth lines on their new album and the video for title track ‘Love Frequency’, directed by video collective Brother, who’ve done videos for Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX . Featuring alien abduction, religious iconography and the three figures, Jamie, Simon and James – positioned within a rainbow kaleidoscope of colours, it’s everything that’s ever come to be expected of Klaxons. Timing is everything for the band and Jamie brings up an article from a Russian news website on his phone with the headline “Alien Baptism! Pope Francis would welcome Martians to the Church,” laughing at the relevance.
With the interest in extra-terrestrial beings and space infiltrating their world, having their music sent to space is something that Jamie seriously considers but isn’t logistically possible for them at the moment. His mind is stuck on a more imminent future though - Klaxons’ 10th anniversary. “That’s all I can think about at the moment!” he says, matter-of-factly. He remembers the date they formed the band right down to the day, November 5th 2005. If he had the ability to time travel, that exact date in 2015 is where he’d end up. “Find out what the hell is going on at our 10th anniversary! What has gone on for ten years? It doesn’t feel like that long.”
We’re a long way from the band’s beginnings. For Jamie, his career in the field of music started at now defunct record shop, Essential Music. “I was made redundant but it’s fine, I don’t give a shit! Maybe I was just trying to get one over on the guy that fired me,” he says half-jokingly. At the time, he was into “punk, reggae, more lo-fi electronica”, more specifically DFA and a Sonic Youth experimental compilation. “After being made redundant, I was like, ‘Screw you, I’m going to form a band!’”
“Katy Perry’s videos look like one of ours from five years ago.”
— Jamie Reynolds
After building a rehearsal space with Joe from Angular Records in Deptford and using that as a place to hang out, everything started to fall together quickly when Simon moved from his uni town of Nottingham to pursue the band in London, in New Cross. “It was a hairy place, there was a lot of hanging out at Goldsmiths. We felt quite free down there, we could do whatever we wanted. Our mates were putting on cool club nights, local bands – there was just a competitive, exciting nature about the whole thing.”
Being tagged with the term “new rave” was something that started out as a joke between Jamie and journalists but took a life of its own and became a community. “I told Jaime Hodgson who was working for Vice and Tim Chester who I was renting my studio out to. Before I’d even done anything I told them we were going to make this new rave band. They were like, ‘No, shut up you idiot!’ and then we did it and threw it down everybody’s throats.” Looking at pop stars now, they’re seeing what they started out with come full circle. “The other day we were talking about how Lady Gaga’s tour is called Artrave and Katy Perry’s videos look like one of ours from five years ago.”
Getting roped in with the ‘indie’ scene at the time was something they couldn’t have been less interested in. “We wanted to take ecstasy and have a really good time, that was pretty much our vibe.” However, this didn’t always settle well with the people they were working alongside. “We’re definitely not as mental as we used to be – our tour manager can vouch for that. The other week we were on tour in Amsterdam and bumped into our guitar tech from years ago, she quit because she just couldn’t stand it, it was like, ‘This is car crash, this is madness, I want nothing to do with this!’ Our tour manager was the one getting us high every day, it was free drugs so we were having a great time. Our manager rightfully brought in a new tour manager and was like, you guys have an opportunity to have a career here. If you don’t sort yourself out, it’s not going to happen.”
This was back in 2006/7 and thankfully, they did sort themselves out and focused in on the band’s mission: to make hits for the radio. “After our second record only had two songs for the radio, we were like, we’re going to make an album full of songs for the radio and see how far we can take that. Yesterday our second single went on the playlist at Radio 1. We’re a pop group trying to make hits for the radio and it’s working.” Jamie’s bursting at the seams with ideas as he talks, both past and future, “This idea of creating a Klaxons wonderland where we could create an interactive exhibition that just references our songs is one of the things I’m thinking about.”
“We wanted to take ecstasy and have a really good time.”
— Jamie Reynolds
The issue of being able to express ideas and put them out with ease is something that’s followed Klaxons after everything went smoothly with their first album. “Our track record with albums…” Jamie trails off in a self-aware way, “It takes us quite a while to make a record. The song with Gorgon City [on the album] we made in a day so we can do it, we just need to stop being whatever it is we are. Stop taking a long time to make stuff and just do it!” That was their mentality whilst making ‘Love Frequency’ but other factors weren’t always working in their favour. Originally, James Murphy was meant to produce the whole of the album but prior commitments got in the way and they only got three days with the LCD Soundsystem frontman.
“He was just very, very busy - we see him around because he lives in London so we go for a beer. I know he’s got a coffee thing and a trainers thing, he’s an entrepreneur! He was in the midst of figuring all that out. At the end of Shut Up and Play The Hits you can see he’s having a breakdown and he came and worked with us straight off the back of that. It was a good time, it was hilarious – he’s a funny dude. But he just had so many fingers in so many pies. We were like dude make our record! We did three days with him and that’s literally all we had so we made two tracks, one was an alternate version of ‘Love Frequency’ which still exists and then we made bits of the opening track ‘New Reality’. We played it to our record company and they loved it like go, go, go, you’ve found what you’re looking for. Everyone was really excited about it but he just didn’t have the time so we lost it because he wasn’t around.”
Another name that came up during the process of looking for a producer was Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers and that was the one they ended up going with. “We were already friends, we wrote a song for his album ‘We Are The Night’, we’d been touring with him and loved all his albums. He’d never produced another group before, it was always for himself. He loved the demos and was just like come over to my house so we did it with him.” Whilst we’re on the topic of producers, Jamie chats about James Ford and the “lost” record that was ‘Landmarks of Lunacy’. Perhaps long forgotten by many, gathering dust at the back of iTunes with its Christmas release date – this was the furthest away from being a pop hit factory that Klaxons have ever experienced. “It wasn’t pop music so at that point in time, we weren’t making pop music. We were getting mad out of it, literally crazed and making this very whimsical, fairy record. It just got weird. We played it to our record company, they were like ‘… What? This isn’t ‘Golden Skans’, ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ or ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, what’s going on?’ There were no radio hits on it, it was very slow, dense, whimsical, druggy and weird. In hindsight, we should have run with it but on hearing it they were like, ‘No guys what are you doing?’”
Their second record, ‘Surfing The Void’, might feel like a blip in Klaxons’ timeline for some but for them, it was really about just having a brilliant time making a record. “We made this record, had this therapy session [with producer Ross Robinson] and we were loving it! ‘Echoes’ was Top 40, the album was Top 10 and we were over the moon! Ross came from this place of therapy, his mother is one of America’s top new age therapists. We were really impressed with that quite out-there approach, we were getting into spiritual nonsense.”
“Nobody’s saying anything political in music at the moment.”
— Jamie Reynolds
However, as they got the end of the album cycle, they knew that the dynamic of the band had to change for them to progress. Jamie states, “We have to exist in a contemporary culture, we wanted to make an electronic album and wanted to see how that would sit in the current climate.” A lot of their new record ‘Love Frequency’ comes from a place of frustration of wanting to get the record finished and out there in there world. “We finished touring, we lost our drummer, we got new management, there’s loads going on in the group but at the same time, we wanted to make electronic music. It took 18 months. I know it seems weird because our albums aren’t that quick but I like to work fast. I was writing songs about being frustrated, ‘Show Me A Miracle’ was just me like, finish this bloody song! We need to finish this album, seriously, that’s what it’s about!” Jamie laughs wholeheartedly.
It’s not only his own work that he’s been frustrated about though, he’s confused at what other musicians are saying or rather, the lack of what they’re saying. “I’m interested in the idea that nobody’s saying anything political in music at the moment. There’s apathy towards writing about social situations and there’s a lot to be sung about.” It’s something that’s been on his mind lately and he follows it up with an explanation of why he feels it’s missing from music. “I realised funding from the arts council or record labels, there was a certain amount of money that went into the arts that was openly critical so if you’re being paid to stand up and say fuck this, you’re going to do it. If there’s no security in what you’re doing and nobody’s backing you – that’s why people are scared to say it.”
“They’re trying to have this pop moment which we’re guilty of doing,” Jamie readily admits. “Everything’s changed in our world and we’ve had to change and make it work.”
Taken from the new DIY Weekly, available to download for iPhone, iPad and Android or read online now. Klaxons’ new album ‘Love Frequency’ is out now via Akashic Rekords / Sony Red.
Looking back on Klaxons’ ‘Myths Of The Near Future’
Glowsticks and dodgy neon-coloured clothing aside, Klaxons’ era-defining debut sounded like nothing else that came before it.
Klaxons’ James Righton starts Shock Machine project, shares EP
Listen to ‘Open up the Sky’, the first post-Klaxons material since the group called it quits.
New DIY Weekly out now, feat. Cerebral Ballzy, Klaxons, Arcade Fire & More
DIY’s free Weekly edition is available on Apple, Android and online.
Klaxons look ahead to tenth anniversary
As the band release their new album, frontman Jamie Reynolds considers another milestone.