Rife with pulsating bass, playing off of warbled guitars, and vibrantly distorted electronic noise, one could readily mistake Australian Electro Pop outfit, Art vs. Science, for a band of many as opposed to a remarkably skilled three-piece, helmed by Jim Finn on bass, keys and vocals; Dan Mac on guitar, keys and vocals; and Dan Williams handling drums and vocals. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the trio is their insistence on continually remaining true to their roots as a band that firmly adheres to laying down all of their instrumentation live, as opposed to relying on synthesizers, computers and the element of automation that accompanies them. Every instrument is played in studio in precisely the same way it would be on stage, with the Electronic sounds in particular being generated by connecting the keys directly into a guitar amplifier, then adding the percussion as the back beat. The energy that permeates their music draws heavily from their debauched, off-the-wall performances, which have garnered them much in the way of notoriety in their native Australia. Their independently-released 2010 EP, Magic Fountain, netted three ARIA nominations (the Australian equivalent to a Grammy award).
The subsequent debut full-length release, which dropped in 2011, entitled The Experiment, met with even greater success debuting at number 2 in sales on the ARIA music charts, in addition to attaining the accolade of “Best Independent Release” at the 2012 ARIA Awards – a resounding testament to their ability to resonate with critics, as well as commercial audiences alike. With the release of their sophomore self-titled LP, the band hopes to translate their success down under to North America – embarking on a tour of Canada and the United States, with festival dates at Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Governor’s Ball in New York. The band clearly draws inspiration from electro and dance punk, eschewing The Rapture by way of Justice, albeit without the latter’s reliance on digitized instrumentation. In anticipation of their upcoming performance at Bardot on Thursday, we took the time to sit down and get to know Art vs. Science a little better.
So it is my understanding that you guys go way back, having met in high school. How did it come about that you decided to play in a band together?
The live aspect of your music is clearly something that plays a pivotal role in your music and in your sound. How do you approach the recording process in a way that really makes it in any way distinguishable from what you already do on stage?
You strive to replicate that same sort of distorted yet frenetic energy prevalent in electro on your tracks, and you remain ardent in your conviction against using any sort of digitized equipment in generating that sound. Why do you avoid adding any sort of computerized element to the tracks, and do you find that it limits what you can do in terms of innovating?
Dan Mac: Well… it was just the way we started really! Technically our keyboards are digital but they’re all old and cheap and sound like a bucket of crap when you hear them plugged directly into a PA or computer. But when you hook them up to a Mesa Boogie or a Marshall stack the amps add all that character that’s missing from digital equipment. Plus you get that classic rock combination of voices: two big guitar amps plus an Ampeg bass rig. It’s tried and tested but we just plug shitty keyboards into them instead of electric guitars.
You’ve recently garnered much in the way of success back home in Australia. How have you taken the surge of fanfare that has started to gravitate towards your music, and how do you insulate yourself from it from a creative standpoint?
Dan Mac: That is an excellent question! I’m not too sure really. Part of our schtick is that we don’t place ourselves as central characters in the Art vs Science “world” of lyrics and video clips. We like being the background instigators / observers. Playing live is different of course, in which case we’re each massive attention hogs “look at me! look at me!” and I’m probably the worst. But we have a fairly solid core of stuff we want to sing about which is a mixture of party fun times / sci fi / and esoteric so our moderate success hasn’t affected that yet. We definitely like to think about the music as a soundtrack to some sort of story, and the story must interest us! More often than not this is really geeky stuff about robots and quantum mechanics and black holes and consciousness…
Where did you draw the inspiration for the sound you’ve been developing on the past few releases, and how does the new self-titled LP really build on that?
Dan Mac: Way, way back when I first heard Justice’s Cross – that changed my life! The sounds they use on it – super tight, gated snare / white noise, and thick booming kick sucking the bass sounds – ah the bass sounds! That was a huge influence for us. We always cite Justice and Daft Punk without even thinking about it now, but Justice was a massive influence. I think they put their synths through a bunch of overdrive pedals or amplifiers or something like that, and replicating their sound was one of the first things we ever did, even before Art vs Science had a name. Plugging a Yamaha PSR-27 into a Mesa Boogie stack. Then we bought these HP/LP filter clones from the Korg MS-20 (sorry if I’m geeking out a little here! It’s what I love) which brought our sound closer to stereotypical dance things; low pass sweeps etc.
For those who aren’t too familiar with Art vs. Science live, what they can they expect to see in a live performance from you guys?
Dan Mac: A rock band dressed like David Bowie sounding like AC/DC playing Daft Punk.