Inspired in part by classic rock and 1980’s synth, Late of the Pier have an original sound that is making a big impact with listeners globally. The young English foursome recently released their first album, Fantasy Black Channel, a diverse collection of songs that is on the forefront of electronic music. I had an opportunity to have a conversation with topics ranging from: music to social and political ideas with singer Samuel Eastgate and drummer Ross Dawson for a talk during their most recent stay in New York. Here is an excerpt of the full interview that will appear soon on Short & Sweet NYC.
T: Your music definitely has an 80’s feel to it. How did you incorporate the sound into what you do? What’s your process like?
S: Most importantly it’s not completely 80’s- I think the best few moments of the 80’s are remembered in our music for that kind of sheer individualism. People just looked ridiculous in the 80’s and sang ridiculous songs and played ridiculous guitar riffs and things like that. I think when we make music it’s bad to always veer away from that. I think a lot of musicians think they’re being cool and veer away from those more obscene kinds of sounds which were so popular in the 80’s. When we make music we want to go to those extremes, the 80’s being one extreme- a synth sound or a type of production and we juxtapose that against things from other decades like classical rock from the 60’s and even a modern, more electronic club sound. I think we just have this love and hate affair with every decade of music.
R: yeah, that’s true, it weird
T: The funny thing about the 80’s is that much of the music was kind of shallow and in a way it represented the culture. People often mention the same influences when they speak about your music, do you feel a stigma with the 80’s influence?
S: Some of that is just repeated journalism that might’ve happened a lot in America. One English interview says something like “this song sounds like Gary Newman” and it’s been recycled a few hundred times and now we’re just some Gary Newman tribute band.
R: Yeah, people try to lump us in with New Wave and that kind of thing as well and really we just sound nothing like it.
S: The best way to battle against that is to just play our music for people.
T: As a visual artist I wanted to ask you what some of your influences are outside of music.
R When we were younger, we used to discuss all sorts of art forms, varying from film and photography. Me and Sam both studied art for a time.
S: I did photography and for a long time we were definitely considering being artists instead of musicians at the start of the band.
R: You were leaning towards graphic design and I was leaning more towards photography.
S: I kind of hated graphic design in some respects because I was too arty for graphic design and too graphic for art so I always did an odd sort of mixture, then I did photography as well. Actually the best thing I ever did was when I found this website called “Deviant Art” - it’s a huge website now but when I was young it wasn’t, do you know it?
T: Yeah, sure.
R: I wonder if they’re still up there, they probably are?
T: Yeah, they should be they- that stuff stays up forever.
S Do they? Well they’re probably still up there. I’ll let people try to find them themselves. Yeah, so we really just didn’t know if we were going to be a band. It’s funny, of course we design all our record covers also.
T: Well that seems to make sense from the clips I saw online your live shows are almost performance art piece at times.
S: We try to make every gig memorable
R: You never know what you are going to get.
S: I remember one gig when we hit the nail on the head completely. We built this huge purple castle out of cardboard- went through all the pain, got a crown, and then I had those wooden slats that I play hanging from the ceiling- it was a spectacle. We had this wooden horse that we found in a skit in London and all these crazy things. At the end of the gig amazingly the support band came on with hammers and smashed the castle to pieces, we didn’t ask them to do that but…
R: God, I nearly got hit in the head with a hammer- this hammer was like woof past my head (laughing) “careful!”
S: Some days it’s better than others, you know. We’ve really been put on the treadmill recently which is something we are really eager to just step off and maybe get back to doing what we do best which is probably one-off shows and a bit more writing. Next year, apart from the U.S. tour, which is going to be in March, it will be much more of an onslaught.
R: I think we’re definitely into the idea of making the U.S. tour different from what we’ve done so far
S: We don’t want to play the same gig like a hundred times
T: This year is an election year here in the U.S. and there’s some tension in the air. I wanted to ask you guys, coming from England, about some social and political issues. Do you talk about any social issues?
R: Yeah we have a lot of political and social ideas.
S: We’re very strong minded about things like that. Education is one of the things we usually talk about. People ask about how you start as a band and one of the things we say is that we were bored [in school]- we feel that not everybody has to go to University.
R: I guess everybody wants to say they were going through some kind of rebellion.
S: Once upon a time, University was only for a few select people, nowadays there are so many people going to University that it kind of loses its meaning for a lot of people. Although it’s good for them to be around like minded people I think sometimes it gets watered down. People now want something more than University, something more suited to them. For us the only way we could get that was just to leave it behind- I think that’s the way we became friends as a band.
R: People are just scared thought really, to get off the road of education.
S: It’s not an easy thing for people to say no to University. We found it extremely hard.
T: Did you guys meet in University?
S: No we met before A-level
R: We were about 16 or so.
S: We really got together I guess because we were the kids who were a bit worried about whether it was right for us to go to University considering we had such unconventional ideas.
R: I hated school really.
S: We went to a bad school really.
T: That’s interesting because I teach art and film in high school and I always have students ask me if they really need to go to college and even when they aren’t sure I tell them it’s a good idea to go- even for just a semester or a year to know whether you should go or not.
S: Well I had a couple of amazingly good teachers. The last teacher that I had before I quit school basically said “well you’re a really good student you should stay but I think you probably want to leave for a good reason”. He still sends me emails now and then. He’s supportive of us. We always talk about how education could be better for people. I think because of the growing number of people it puts a stress on schools and the education system. It’s the same problem in England.
T: Yeah, I’ve heard.
R: Well you should probably just not be there if you don’t want to be there. It would probably make it easier for everyone wouldn’t it?
S: But also there’s the obvious problem that teachers nowadays are told more and more strictly what to teach and how to do things.
R: Which is the problem we had with ours. I used to get C’s and it used to just really get me down. I’m not a C student.
T: I’ll end with the question of what advice do you have for musicians or artists coming up in the industry?
S: Just keep plowing your own path and understand that if people tell you there’s one way of doing things they’re probably being forced to say that by the government.