A Chat With Saturday Night Gym Club
aaamusic | On 11, Feb 2012
AAAmusic chats to Saturday Night Gym Club! Find out what we discovered!
AAAmusic: Okay, starting with the obvious: where on earth did your name come from?
Revising for finals, knowing that a bender could easily result in one of us being detained in a foreign prison. The obvious way to get the blood flowing without getting pissed was the gymnasium. We’d do a version of the bleep test where an amen break or a rave horn would go off at each end. By the end it was like a bloody Venetian Snares smash up. Sweat and kick drums going everywhere. Thankfully that dark time is behind us now.
AAAmusic: Now that’s out the way, onto the music. It says on your press release you describe it as “an electric blanket for the soul”. Would you like to explain that to us?
This one seems to have been transplanted from a piece of writing describing our debut single ‘I know’ which read “It’s like something off Star Trek in there. Anyway, the mad scientists and Ellie have managed to come up with something like an electric blanket for the soul, which makes you all warm and tingly, then fizzes and sparks like the wiring is dodgy and has not been quality tested for Kitemark standards.”
We definitely wouldn’t distance ourselves from the comment. It would be positive if people felt they could wrap up in the layered sounds and get cosy; without the health and safety risk of course.
AAAmusic: The release also says that you do music via email. How does your songwriting work, and would you say it’s a very different angle compared to a more traditional band?
Well it’s a system that was born out of necessity. When we finished uni we weren’t yet ready to let go. We ended up in different cities for various reasons but just carried on writing and producing using a remote server to store and swap musical parts like violin lines, drum ideas or chunks of granular noise. The internet is so fast now that we can have conference calls on Skype to throw our ideas around. So when we finally get together for studio sessions we have loads of material already in the bag. Plus, Skype does loads of comedy glitches that make nick sound fully stoned…it’s ridiculous.
I would say we have a different angle because we develop our ideas in bedrooms, on trains, flights, coffee shops, just anywhere we can, before meeting in the studio to construct the actual ‘song’. SNGC has a heterogeneous sound that has all of our contributions layered in democratically. There is always a story being told or a scene being described. In that sense you could say that the heart of each song is pretty traditional.
AAAmusic: Your sound is a rather unique take on electro. Where do you get inspiration and influences from?
As many places as possible! The inspiration for themes and lyrical ideas might come from our experiences or those of characters in literature or film. We live in such crazy times that you’d be hard pushed not to be inspired. In terms of influences, we aren’t big fans of replicating other people’s work, so we wouldn’t listen to electronic pop music to get pumped for writing electronic pop songs. If I think back to when we all started getting to know each other it was clear that we didn’t share genre tastes, but we agreed on the building blocks of music; the rhythms, timbre, structure etc. When you deconstruct a piece by a minimalist composer like Steve Reich it can compare to the intricate techno we would dance to in Berlin. The rhythms we hear in dance genres are a definite influence as are the layers and chords in neo-classical music. We all enjoy a wonky bass line and are attracted to obscure underground styles but we’d never turn our noses up at a smart pop tune.
AAAmusic: Both Aphex Twin and Ólafur Arnalds are mentioned in the press release – that’s a very diverse mix. Would you say that there’s a big difference between the “scenes” of the music that you use, and has that affected the way you do things, either live or on recordings in any big way?
Yeah I’d say the “scenes” are different. In the last few months we have been to some diverse shows; for example we watched Olafur Arnalds on London’s South Bank and saw Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs at Bestival. These gigs were so different from each other. One got our minds moving and the other got our legs moving. In the band we have a trend of diversity. Maybe we try to one up each other by introducing new artists. In the end our ears are never stuck in one style for too long so the far-reaching influences must permeate our tunes.
If we were to generalise, then there are classical styles in our recordings and live set that are side by side with rougher hip-hop styles of sample-chopping, digital sound processing. In reality it’s just a case of using the tools we have to communicate a message and have fun doing it.
AAAmusic: You also self-produce your music. Would you ever consider having someone else on board in production, or do you think you’ll keep self-producing, seeing as you seem to be doing a good job right now!
My initial response would be that we’ll keep working away ourselves for now. We are learning so much each time we record and mix a new song. The techniques we use are becoming more adventurous as our repertoire increases. The main reason is just the massive reward we get from being able to say we constructed the sound from the first idea to hearing it on the radio. With all that said though, we know we have a long way to go to get ‘that sound’. Fine tuning ones ears don’t come easy! In 2011 I was lucky enough to be invited to the BBC Introducing Masterclass at Maida Vale and Abbey Road with some of the UKs top artists and producers. Just seeing/hearing the way those professionals create and sculpt sound was humbling. As well as that we have worked with other producers to record parts in the studios, sometimes the wardrobe vocal booth doesn’t cut the mustard. Collaboration has only ever been positive for us in the past so bring it on in the future.
AAAmusic: Finally: what are your plans for 2012?
The first priority is promoting our debut EP ‘how to build a liferaft’ which comes out on 5th March 2012. On the back of that we’ll be performing at as many shows as we can. Our live show is developing really quickly now that have worked out the best way to link or kit together to allow live looping/processing. The next show is in Belfast where half of SNGC originate from so we can’t wait for that. The Irish lads see it as our homecoming. We’ve always loved festivals; last year we played a couple including BBC Radio1 Big weekend. We are working on a few slots for this summer so fingers crossed we’ll be playing in a field or two this year.
We all have a desire to write the album. We have romantic thoughts of renting some unchartered garage, kitting it out with shed loads of machinery by combining our respective studios, and with our supplies of Finnish vodka and jalapeno hummus we won’t emerge until it’s done. So if we disappear for a while this year, you’ll know where to find us.