It’s hard to believe, but 2019 marks ten years since the release of the self-titled debut of Sydney electro-icons Art vs Science. A full decade since they left their indelible mark on the Aussie music scene.
If you weren’t active in the Aussie music scene a decade, you would likely find it hard to imagine the absolute phenomenon that Art vs Science were.
Having burst onto the scene in 2008 with the release of ‘Flippers’, it was just a few months later when their self-titled EP was released, unleashing singles like ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’, which would go on to reach #2 in the 2009 Hottest 100.
Before long, they were playing massive festival sets (including three consecutive Splendour In The Grass appearances) and were being heralded as the next big thing in the Aussie music world.
Unlike most hyped-up artists, this claim wasn’t far from the truth, with singles like ‘Magic Fountain’ and their debut album, The Experiment, going on to cement the band as household names in no time.
Since then, we’ve received one more studio album in 2015, and a few singles since. Now, with new music on the way, Art vs Science have marked the tenth anniversary of their debut EP by releasing a remastered version on limited-edition vinyl, and announcing plans to hit the road for a series of intimate club shows.
With the band gearing up to kick off some appearances at BeerFest this week, we caught up with Dan McNamee of Art vs Science for a look back at the classic EP, as well as a sneak peek into what the future holds for the band.
Check out ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’ by Art vs Science:
Tone Deaf: First of all, congrats on the anniversary! It’s been 10 years since you guys released your debut EP – how does it feel to have reached such a milestone and for something you created to have had such a legacy?
Dan McNamee: It feels great. The EP was a product of a lot of… how would you say it? A really good time in our lives.
I think we were all just finishing uni, were living close by together in Sydney in this really awesome share house. Well, I was in an awesome share house. The other guys used to just hang out there because it was so big and we used to have heaps of parties.
I think music is just a really good translator of what’s going on around you. We just had a really good summer, and I think we wrote all of those songs in the space of a few weeks, actually.
TD: When you guys released it, did you ever imagine it would be such a success? ‘Flippers’ had already been popular near the end of 2008, but did you imagine you guys would basically be household names within a year?
DM: [Laughs], nah. Well, I think we were starting to feel a sense of confidence just from the strength of the live shows. I didn’t think we anticipated how well it would go. But we were feeling really happy with it and we could tell which songs were going well.
I think we had about three others written at that point which kind of fell flat when we played live. There was a group of five winners out of the songs we wrote real quickly. But, yeah, we had no idea.
If I knew we’d still be doing it [laughs]… There’s a joke that Joe Walsh from the Eagles tells which is, “if I knew I’d be singing this song in ten years time, I would’ve written it better,” [laughs]. But, yeah, we love all those tunes.
Check out Art vs Science’s ‘Flippers’:
TD: When you guys started making music, was there any grand plan? I know you were heavily influenced heavily by the likes of Daft Punk, but was there anything in particular that the band was trying to achieve?
DM: Yeah, I remember at the time I had seen Daft Punk live and I thought that’d be a great way to transmit some messages to people on a broad scale, which I thought in my sort of idealistic youth. But, I still kind of do today, actually. I thought they would be useful to people.
We ended up writing songs about flippers and “Do you speak French?”, and that kind of stuff, so that kind of got completely lost along the way.
But I was coming from a place where I thought people should think about (which is ironic, considering it’s a party band) ideas about freedom, and what it means to be a human, responsibility, and weird stuff like that. So, in a sense, some of those early songs were a taking apart of pop structures.
I remember I was fascinated by them because Jim [Finn, vocals and keyboards] and I were doing acoustic covers at the time, playing these pop songs, and we started to get a real sense of what makes a good pop song, and eventually started thinking, “man, all you have to do is plug in a few variables into the formula and you’re 70-80% of your way there to writing something decent.”
But then dance music gave us the extra freedom where you didn’t have to write a full chorus if you didn’t want to. You could just repeat something over and over and call it dance music. So, we learned a lot from what was going on then.
There was a lot of thinking going on into constructing the formulas and then saying… in a sense there was, “if we show people what these formulas are, that can be a way that they are more empowered as well.”
You can clearly see we had just gotten out of uni and were thinking very post-modernistically, [laughs].
Check out Art vs Science’s ‘Hollywood’:
TD: The EP is one that’s been ingrained within fans’ memories for years, what are your own memories from the period leading up to, and the creation of, the record?
DM: It was just a really awesome time. Like I had said, I just had moved into this house with four other guys. I think one of them was a DJ, two other sets of brothers.
It was one of those once in a lifetime, really lucky things where we actually… two of the brothers parents had bought it with plans to knock it down, and they let five of us brats stay there over what was supposed to be one summer, and it ended up being about two years.
It was pool and a court looking over the harbour. Me and the DJ (Charlie Chux – he’s still DJ-ing around today, he’s a killer DJ), as we were leaving it, he was like, “man, we may never live in a house this nice again,” and I said, “I think you’re right.”
So this place became this nucleus of all of our social going ons. It was also well before lock outs had ever been imagined in Sydney — it was a jumping place.
We were in our early-mid twenties in this mansion. We just filled it with people. We were all from slightly different youth groups, so it was like a strata effect where all of my friends sort of knew the other person’s friends, but didn’t quite, and so on, and so forth.
It just became this nucleus of having a good time, like a really awesome time. And that’s where those years were where Art vs Science started cooking.
Justice was in full swing, that Daft Punk tour had just come around. Electro house was really firing at that point, hitting the mainstream, hitting the festivals really hard. And bands like Midnight Juggernauts and The Presets were smashing it in terms of making a live element, and Grafton Primary as well—they were doing a similar thing. Miami Horror…
So we just took inspiration from those guys, and said, “let’s give that a crack.”
Check out Art vs Science’s ‘Take Me To Your Leader’:
TD: There’s the story about you guys basically wrote seven songs in 48 hours when you first started. By the time you guys kicked off the recording process and made your debut, how had those songs evolved?
DM: ‘Flippers’ was pretty much unchanged. Those ones… I think we did some last minute changes in the studio. ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’ definitely had the most work done to it in the studio. I couldn’t tell you exactly how they morphed from conception to end.
I know that part in the verse that went “do it, do it…”, I took that from another song. Like, when a car goes into wrecking, and you take all the spare bits and put them into another one? That was lifted from another song which never saw the light of day.
Another part from that song became the weird harp line that formed ‘Magic Fountain’, so that song which never lived had its organs harvested and put to good use.
TD: Considering how popular ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’ and ‘Magic Fountain’ were, you never know how popular that one could’ve been.
DM: We should’ve left it alone, [laughs].
TD: Looking at the EP ten years on, you guys have obviously evolved as people and musicians, is there anything you would have done differently with the EP?
DM: Probably would’ve overcooked it and done a worse job. As you get bigger and you get more time and more money and more resources, it’s very easy to overcook things. But the beauty of that EP was that because it was our first offering, it was allowed to be quite garage-y and a little bit imperfect as well.
TD: There was nothing to prove at the time.
DM: Exactly. Albums have different purposes as the albums go on, as you progress to second, and third, and so on. You’re not advertising your entrance into the market anymore. You’re actually trying to deliver something really high quality.
Nah, it’s a sick EP. We remixed ‘Friend In The Field’ like a year or six months after, and the single version was that mix. Just the drums we found were a little too clean in the EP version. I think both versions are out there floating around. But, that’s the only thing I think we ended up changing.
I wrote to RÜFÜS [DU SOL] singer, Tyrone [Lindqvist] – their album was called Innerbloom – about how that reminded me of our first EP in it’s simplicity. It was really simple, minimal. It was like the German beer purity law — there was like four ingredients per song, and nothing extra, and all recorded on tape, and mixed on an SSL which was pretty cool.
Really, really simple. And I think that’s why it maybe still sounds so good. There wasn’t a tonne of bells and whistles. It was just straight-up quite raw. So, no, I wouldn’t change anything, [laughs].
Check out Art vs Science’s ‘Friend In The Field’:
TD: Following on from that, was the remastering process of the EP a rather simple one, or was there much changed in the end?
DM: It’s pretty true. I compared them when we were doing it. It’s amazing, the subtle differences. There’s a couple of versions of ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’ that our mastering engineer sent through, and the one we ended up going on had more energy in the snare, for some reason.
Maybe it was the certain attack time on the compressor, but it just jumped. It just sort of popped out and reminded me of the vibe that we have when we’re playing it live. It’s so subjective, but it’s that same thing that I mentioned at the start — music translates emotions and you receive the emotions.
The subtleties, maybe, or the energy was feeling a particular way that day, and that sounded good. That came through. In board terms, it’s a bit more banging, I suppose, than the original masters. Beyond that, I’ll leave it to the listener’s interpretation.
TD: You guys have also released a couple of new singles in recent years. It’s been a few years since the last album, but will we be seeing a new record in the near future?
DM: Absolutely. We got another single coming out. We’ve been really perfecting this one. I just finished – what I hope is the final mix – on Tuesday. But, we’ll have to run it past the guys again and make sure there’s nothing else to change, but yeah.
It’s a really fun song we did a little while back. It’s almost an instrumental, but it samples my voice. It’s just really epic. The chords in it are really epic. I love it. It’s like really classic Art vs Science. It’s really epic. Is it taking the piss? I don’t know [laughs]. It is. No, it’s not. It might be? Nah, it’s real. I think in that way it gives the listener an excuse to go with it on the epic-ness.
So, anyway, new single, and then writing earlier next year. We’ve got a bunch of songs half finished, or 90% finished, so we’re finishing them, but also getting together to write heaps of new ones because everyone’s rearing to go now, and working well together.
Watch this space. It’ll be new Art vs Science in 2020.
Check out Art vs Science’s latest single, ‘Zeus In The Architecture’:
Art vs Science 10 Years Tour
Friday, November 29th, 2019
The Foundry, Brisbane, QLD
Friday, December 6th, 2019
Jive, Adelaide, SA
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Lansdowne, Sydney, NSW
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
Howler, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets on sale now from the Art vs Science website
Also performing at…
Saturday, November 9th, 2019
Esplanade Park, Fremantle, WA
Saturday, November 30th, 2019
Centennial Parklands, Sydney, NSW
Tuesday, December 31st, 2020
Royal Park, Launceston, TAS
Friday, February 14th, 2020
The Marlin, Ulladulla, NSW
Saturday, February 15th, 2020
John Dunmore Lang Place, Canberra, ACT
Saturday, February 29th, 2020
Catani Gardens, St Kilda, VIC
Sunday, March 1st – Wednesday, March 4th, 2020
Hakuba Valley, Japan
Saturday, March 14th, 2020
Victoria Park, Brisbane, QLD