MJ for IM//UR: "we tried to take a shot in the back of this moving vehical but it was looking a bit depressing so we felt we had to beach it up a bit. "
Bands must always evolve. The Midnight Juggernauts that toured Dystopia are not the same ones that made that Dragonette remix, nor are they the same ones that are about to release new album Crystal Axis. And that's one of the reasons they're one of the few bands born during the Hype Machine era that is still relevant even after taking three years between albums.
Other reasons can be the fact that the band has a strong visual identity, which they've developed further with video collective Krozm. For example, the cover of Crystal Axis, which shows the band jamming around a sculpture, was the initial starting point for the idea for the 'Vital Signs' video - the one with all those dizzily, technologically deformed bodies. And on stage, the trio of nice, hairy Aussies become giants, dominating the crowd simply through their music, which is made with as many synths and drum parts (live kits and electronic ones) as a band of their size can carry around the world...which, nowadays, is as impressive as light shows and huge screens at the back of the stage.
And finally, the most important thing for any artist: they make really good music. Midnight Juggernauts are described and categorised into different genres all the time, from stadium rock to krautock, new french wave to maximal and electro rock. They're always impressing blogs, their fans, critics, others bands and weird combinations of all the above, simply on account of the quality of their music. And from what I saw (yes, Brazil was included this time on their world tour), heard and read (including bits of this interview), people will have to create new genres to describe Crystal Axis, because their music is getting weirder and more complex, but aiming - as odd as it may sound - to make pop music.
At first, songs like 'Vital Signs' and 'This New Technology' might not seem like the best way to express this pop side, as they are developed under layers and layers of synths, bass and furious drums, but look behind that and you'll notice the vocals are given more space to be, and as a result, are better executed.
This evolution, this development, is strictly connected to the time the band took to make of the new album. Although crucial, time is probably the most overlooked factor for musicians and their music. But as a band who doesn't suffer from a label's pressure - in case you don't know, they are their own label - Midnight Juggernauts gave themselves enough time to experiment, explore and reconstruct until they felt, three years after releasing Dystopia, that the second album was ready.
We talked to Vincent Vendetta about Crystal Axis, Justice, Beyoncé's sister Solange, new bands and B grade horror films as inspiration. We even got a sunny bit of artwork as a gift! Now it's the time to see if a band that are doing things their own way can fly over the dust the hype has stirred up and left behind to make a solid second album. We think we know the answer - it seems like Midnight Juggernauts do too.
When a friend
introduced me to your band, before Dystopia was even released, he used the term krautrock to describe
your music. He was really excited to hear the
krautrock elements played alongside synths. What surprises do you have for us with The Crystal Axis?
We've always liked to mix things up a bit so we'll try to make each new album a new experience. Perhaps this could be seen as a warped pop album with strange tangents here and there.
When you first started talking about the new album, you said it was going to be "different" than the debut - does this mean it's more psychedelic and less dance-y?
Yeah that would be right. We just like challenging ourselves and our listeners. It may end up splitting people down the line but we're ok with that.
'Vital Signs' and 'This New Technology' both feel more focused on the vocal melodies than on the instrumentals. Is that one of the new things about The Crystal Axis?
We hadn't really thought about that, but maybe that could be the case. There's probably also a lot more layers going on with this record and more unpredictable textures. Whatever that means...
I heard you went crazy on old synths and effects on this new record, how will this be translated live?
Yeah we played with a hell of a lot of old synths and other toys when we were making this record. This current tour that we're on is a bit of a testing ground for our live set up. We probably can't take more than 4 synths with us when we're touring but we also play with a lot more loop pedals and sample pads which can make the live show more interesting. It can get a little unpredictable sometimes which can be good or bad, but it makes it more fun for us to play.
If you had the money, what you would add to your live gig?
It would be fun to bring a lot more old school
keyboards, however they're so heavy and they
never make the same note twice. Even our minimoog
goes out of tune when we play it on these live shows. It probably
would be safest to use that money on extra set design, like a giant waterfall behind us which we walk in and out of at the end of
Do you prefer playing in clubs, festivals or music venues?
Personally I've always loved playing big festivals when you have a sea of people all moving as one. However I like the venues and clubs as well regardless of the size. Sometimes in a small club you can create a direct atmosphere and energy which can only be summoned in small intimate spaces.
How was letting a new person participate in the creative process of the music? Can you hear bits of Chris Moore in the new album?
Yeah having someone else there makes you let go a little more and not be so precious about certain things. It was difficult at first to let go but it creates new moods and discoveries within the group which couldn't have been planned otherwise.
After recording (almost) every single one of your videos, do you consider Krozm members of the band? And how do you guys come up with the ideas for the videos?
Well we've known the guys from Krozm for many years so it's very direct where an idea can be struck and shot within a very short amount of time. With the 'Vital Signs' clip the band came up with the Idea ourselves where we wanted to use this particular technical effect to bring the album cover imagery to life. We like how the album artwork is based around a real physical environment of us jamming around a physical sculpture, rather than a photoshop construct. The clip brings that imagery to life.
a previous clip for 'Twenty Thousand Leagues' we were touring through the US at the time and just sent a message to krozm to see whether they'd feel like
doing a cut and paste video montage, as a kind of
distorted ode to VHS. So they came up with all
that imagery themselves sourced from their own old video collection.
We all were heavily into collecting masses of ex-rental B-grade horror
and sci-fi flicks. Video Nasty, Mondo, Italian Cannibal films etc etc.
A strange way to bond.
Having a close look to what the band represents visually and musically, it isn't wrong to assume that Midnight Juggernauts is a complex project. I know this might sound really stupid, but do you guys have some rules for the band to achieve this?
Well, maybe to not think ideas are too stupid to
pursue. Even if they are stupid.
A lot of people listened to you guys after Justice said that you were their favourite new band; apart from the hype they lent to you, how important was Justice to you?
It was definitely a help when you're championed by a larger established act. Supporting those guys on their US tour was a great introduction for us to North America. We've never spent much money on advertising or promotion so any push like that is great for exposure. And personally they're great guys.
We've heard (and can assume anyway) all the good sides about having your own label - but what are the negative sides? Are there any?
Well it's definitely a lot more work in running your own label. You have to be a lot more involved in organising music clips, photoshoots, websites, well basically all artwork. More to stress about in that respect but we like being involved in all those worlds. Also you'll probably not be as big as acts which have larger label push and money behind them, but this has never really bothered us either. We'd much prefer to keep control over what we're doing and keep it fun and fulfilling.
What bands are making MJ excited at the moment and why?
There's a lot out there. There's this band from Tokyo called Gimme Um that came out of the ashes of Damn Arms. Then there's also Kirin J Callihan who can be really out there live. He does really cool stuff.
Any plans for remixing other artists? And who is going to remix the upcoming singles from Crystal Axis?
We've been a little lazy with remixes recently. We've had our hands tied with other things so took a break from it for quite a while. We'll get back into it once we release the album. We'll also be getting some left of centre artists to get some strange remixes so could be pretty diverse.
Is that Solange Knowles collaboration still happening? I can't stress enough how cool we think that would be!
Yeah we're still doing things with Solange. Though we're keeping it open to what it is actually so it remains fun and stress free. She came out to Australia earlier this year and we started writing some tunes together. She's really cool and it was a lot of fun. It's been hard for everyone to organise our schedules to get in synch as everyone's busy with their own music and touring etc, however i was going to do some more writing sessions with her later this month in California. I respect how she just dives in and takes chances.