Interview The Phenomenal Handclap Band: ‘There Was No One There To Expect Anything’

One of disco’s final troopers, Patrick Adams fills is in on what his band are up to.

“I’m so sorry if we kept you waiting, I’m really, really sorry,” is the sentence repeated by the Phenomenal Handclap Band’s main man; Daniel Collas when we first meet. He needn’t be sorry, they were late by five minutes, and even so, they’re the Phenomenal Handclap Band… for me to care about their lateness would’ve been, well, phenomenal. The New York eight-piece are perhaps one of disco’s final troopers, a somewhat amiable and agreeable mix of retro soul and 70s funk – citing influences from Italian disco, and Patrick Adams; well boys and girls, it shows.

Let’s with the rudimentary questions, how is the tour going? Any home-sickness?
Basically… great. Really great. We’ve played such a variety of venues, and the crowds are all really good – we’ve had no days off so we’ve been playing these really weird Tuesday and Wednesday gigs, but people are still turning up and being really responsive. We have six nights left including tonight, and we’ll be in Europe for that part.
Home-sickness? No way! We’ve not really been away long enough for that to kick in, and even though we’ll be happy to be back home we’re not missing it majorly. It’s a very different atmosphere in the US, the crowds are just as enthusiastic but they’re smaller (unless you’re in New York or LA). The only time we’ve really played to large crowd in the middle of the country we were supporting Bryan Ferry – and for our a band like us, that scale was just unimaginable

Speaking of playing with Bryan Ferry last year, how was that tour for you?
That was incredible; as a band, even as individuals, that was the highlight of our careers. They were a really sweet group, really hospitable, really supportive. The audiences were incredible to play to, it was strange though because obviously people didn’t really know who we were at the beginning, only a few of the audience had ever heard of us before.

Your latest album, ‘Form and Control’, is rather different to anything you’ve really released before, why is that?
I guess for me it’s hard to look at it objectively like that. You can tell that we’ve matured on this record musically; it’s a progression. Yeah, a progression. To me it sounds like a lot of stuff we’ve done before, just a progressed state of it you know what I mean? This album was a bit like the first album, only part two. I’d be writing these songs and doing all the tunes for them and in my head I’d say to myself “oh yeah, this is ‘Baby’ part two” or “this is ‘Dim The Lights’ part two”. I certainly made a conscious decision on this album to incorporate more of a male and female vocal harmony – like the Human League do, Human League were a massive influence on this album, Human League and Fleetwood Mac.

Before you get carried away, who would you cite as influences on this record?
A lot of our influences have been influences since we started out as a band, I’m talking cosmic disco/space disco that sort of thing, Patrick Adams, Boney M; with the album though it’s of course more about Fleetwood Mac and the Human League this time.

What was recording this album like for you? Do any songs stick out in particular?
In a way it was a lot harder, because of the pressure and stress; but in a way it was easier, because we had the label and we’d done it before. The main thing was that before we could just take our time and do what we liked, as there was no-one there to expect anything from us, but now we had to work to a deadline, and make sure it was all perfect.
I couldn’t really choose any songs individually! That’d be like having to choose between your children; though a few particular favourites are ‘Written Word’ and ‘Winter Falls’. This record is odd because it’s very front loaded, a lot of my favourites are towards the start of the album.

So what’s next for the Phenomenal Handclap Band?
Well, now we’ve done the album we’re going to be resting from recording. Though we do have a few bonus tracks left over – a few singles in the bag and a release for Record Store Day. It’s the usual really, a few more tour dates, a couple of festivals, and then rest.

The Phenomenal Handclap Band’s new album ‘Form And Control’ is out now.

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