The Big Pink’s album artwork may be splattered with paint. It may have taken its name from a 1980s skateboard advertisement. But ‘Future This’ didn’t take its sound from the streets – as the pair explain, it’s all thanks to some new toys.
Let’s face it, throughout 2009 – and a fair way in to 2010 – you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing The Big Pink’s chart-bothering anthem, ‘Dominos’. From niche radio playlists and clubs to shopping centre soundsystems and during football montages on TV, the ubiquitous nature of debut album, ‘A Brief History Of Love’ meant following it up would be a difficult task.
But, it’s one Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell took to easily, at least, having begun the process that ultimately birthed ‘Future This’ while still touring the debut. “In our heads, we did it really quickly,” asserts Milo, when it’s suggested that they’d given themselves plenty of time to work on the album, rather than being under pressure to rush things. “The heartbeat of the record is actually in the thought process. Making music is quite easy, knowing what you want to make is probably the hard thing. And, we knew while touring that we wanted to make a faster, more fluid, upbeat record.”
Whether ultimately seen as a happier album than its predecessor, ‘Future This’ is definitely less heavy in sound, a consequence perhaps of what Milo describes as wanting to “step it up, make it a bit brighter.” The themes are “less personal,” too. “We felt the first record was steeped in heartbreak, it was quite sad. We wanted to make something a bit more universal,” Robbie chips in. “It’s a positive next step, taking on from where we left off, but a bit of a different vibe.’
Rather than self-producing as they had last time, they enlisted the help of super producer, Paul Epworth – a decision that freed them up further, as they explain how the songs came about. “This time, we were like ‘let’s write a song,’ get the bare bones of the song down – the verse and chorus, and then move on to the next one. We did about two [songs] a week over a three-month period. We knew that we were going to work with Epworth on it, so we didn’t lose our minds in the detail - we didn’t go nuts on every hi-hat sound. We knew we weren’t going to finish the songs, that we were going to go in to the studio and work with a producer, so that afforded us the chance to be really quick and get songs out and done, then move on. We wrote quite a lot of songs.”
Those which did make the cut include ‘Hit The Ground (Superman)’ which makes use of Laurie Anderson’s 1981 avante-garde hit ‘O Superman’ – samples played a massive part in how ‘Future This’ came about. Robbie explains: “On the first record, we sampled ourselves. We’d fill the room with a sound, make noise, link up loads of guitar pedals and effects, record the whole thing, then go back in to it and find little bits, and then loop them and put a beat on it. Whatever we wanted to do, stick a loop, or create a beat underneath it and then build the song around that.” In addition to the easily recognisable ‘O Superman’ cut, “there are definitely a few more samples,” including ‘Give It Up’, which is “very much based on an old soul sample we cut up in a DJ program.”
The magpie-esque nature of the duo’s songwriting on ‘Future This’ can be echoed live on tour, too – thanks once again to new technology. As they both explain, their recent foray in to Ableton Live has allowed them to act more freely on stage. Milo begins: “It’s great, because we can now manipulate everything live, whereas before, when we were using samplers, we couldn’t do it unless we were going through effects pedals and stuff, which is a bit weird, you go out of time. This opens us up to constantly evolving.” Robbie continues: “If you want to keep that middle eight going round for a few more cycles, you can do that. We couldn’t do it before, so now if we want to keep a loop going, we can do that and react to the room in that moment. Which is really exciting.”
It’s allowed the pair to explore their live set up more intensely, something they both seem very happy about. “We’ve always tried to make our live set different from the record,” explains Milo, “the first record, when we played that live, it was a lot heavier, and this one, the set up allows us to just do what we want, it’s a lot more spacious, it’s not regimented. Everything meanders, flows really nicely. We’ve got great equipment, and we’re triggering stuff, it’s really like a sonic assault, without being abrasive. We played with distortion a lot before, but I think this time we’re going with delays and reverbs.”
With plans well underway for visuals to accompany their new material (“we want to make it a proper show, control lights from the stage, elaborate on things we’ve done before”), Robbie seems to sum the pair’s modus operandi up perfectly. “It’s all playing. We just like playing with things.”
The Big Pink’s new album ‘Future This’ is out now via 4AD.
Taken from the March 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.