"We’re still in the same book as Group Therapy, but it feels like a new chapter..." - hmv.com talks to Above & Beyond
Above & Beyond are something of an anomaly, especially in the world of dance and electronica. They play huge venues all over the world, headline festivals, run two record labels, host their own weekly radio show, have the sort of social media presence that many household names can only dream and yet they fly under most people's radar.
The London-based trio have never had a radio hit and swerve the big-name collaborations that have dominate the charts over the last year, choosing to work with trusted collaborators and singers they love. Their new album We Are All We Need drops on Monday (January 19th) and we sat down with mainman Tony McGuinness to find out all about it...
Your new album drops on January 19th, do you get nervous before you put albums out?
“Not really, no; by the time the album is finished we’ve been living with the songs and productions for a long time so we can’t wait to put it out and share the songs with everyone. It’s a mixture of excitement and relief.”
This is your first full studio album since Group Therapy, are you glad of the gap? Or was it a longer gap than you’d have liked?
“We never stop writing and recording songs but we have very high standards, so an Above & Beyond album takes years to finish. In this case the Acoustic project took a lot of time to organise and produce and that came out just a year ago, so there's been plenty to do since Group Therapy.”
Where did you record the album?
“We started it in our old studio and finished the bulk of the recording at our new studios which we built and fitted out last year. Plus some stuff gets recorded at our homes.”
Zoe Johnston, Gemma Hayes, Alex Vargas and Justine Suissa all feature on the album, how do you go about finding your collaborators?
“We have a strong songwriting ethic in the group and the nature and personality of our own songs has helped inform our decisions about who to work with. Justine we’ve been working as part of the OceanLab project since 2002 and has now joined us in Above & Beyond.”
“We fell in love with Zoe Johnston in 2003 and have been blessed by her involvement in all of our albums since then. Alex stepped in for the Acoustic project when Richard Bedford left to do his own thing and did such an amazing job of singing those songs we were delighted when he agreed to sing on the album.”
“As for Gemma, she sang on an Anjunadeep release last year and we all fell in love with her voice.”
This is your first studio album without Richard Bedford, did you decide it was time for a change? Or did none of the songs make sense for him?
“It was his decision, he did a great job bringing our songs to life but left just as we were beginning to prepare the acoustic album to write and sing his own songs.”
How did you want the album to move on from Group Therapy?
“Evolution happens one song at a time, so the move happens gradually and quite randomly. I think the process of recording the Acoustic album did have an effect - we’ve always tried to produce each song in an individual way rather than as part of a formula, but the freedom suggested by those arrangements made it even easier for us to work that way.”
“That being said we’ve ended up with quite a lot of tracks which sound like club mixes and we’re already playing out. Like I said, it’s quite random! Lyrically it’s only when you finish and take a step back that you can see the picture and whilst we’re still in the same book as Group Therapy, metaphorically speaking, but it feels like a new chapter, with some new characters.”
Have you embraced any new influences in the time between Group Therapy and We Are All We Need?
“Certainly, “no input, no output” as Joe Strummer once said. Some of the influences have come from close to home, our Acoustic album and the club mixes of Group Therapy songs we’ve released in the interim, artists on Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep that we listen to every day and the thousands of tracks we listen to every week to make our radio show Group Therapy have all gone in and changed our musical horizons.”
“Plus there’s some things that have been in there for years from bands as old as Prefab Sprout and even lyrical inspiration from a painting by Turner.”
You’ve got a short UK tour lined up for April, what can fans expect? Are you planning big production for the show?
“Yes indeed, we’ve been evolving the show week by week and gave the visual content a big overhaul in time for this album tour, so it will look and feel quite different from the Group Therapy shows. The intent of the show remains the same, though, to provide everyone with an emotional experience they’ll never forget.”
How is your summer looking? Lots of festivals planned?
“We’re doing lots of our own shows this spring, a big European tour and a six week US bus tour that visits all the major towns and cities in America. We did lots of festivals last year but the emphasis this year will be more on our own shows.”
Finally, what records are you most looking forward to in 2015?
“We have a new Boom Jinx album that is finally set for release in the first half of 2015, he's been working on it for quite a few years but it's a very unique and interesting record, well worth the wait. Andrew Bayer is busy in the studio at the moment so we are looking forward to seeing what direction he heads in, and on the deeper side of things Lane 8 is working on his debut LP. And, of course, it’s always nice to be surprised by music you weren’t expecting.”