No mode of transport can compare with the romance of train travel; the sinuous rolling of the carriage, the rhythmic chugging of the train as it slides over the gleaming metal tracks, not to mention the slightly clichéd yet continually alluring mental imagery of trains powering through tunnels. Capitalising on and adding to this already sensual form of transportation, the good folk at Bacardi added some of their signature brew and some of the nation’s, nay the world’s, most gyration-inducing bands on a locomotive and tripped the light fantastic from Melbourne to Sydney for three days of debauchery and largesse.
Receiving top billing on the three-day pleasure cruise were English dance music pillars Groove Armada, returning to our southern lands with a new release in the offing, which has been lovingly tweaked by one our current favourite sons. It is clear that the relationship between these dapper English gents and our wide brown isle is a close and sensual one indeed.
Music Feeds finds one half of the duo, Tom Findlay, quietly sipping a beverage in the dining car, whiling the while the constantly shifting landscape fleets past the windows as the train hurtles the expanse between Wollongong and Sydney. Once the sponsor product has loosened tongues and senses of propriety, Music Feeds ventures for some tantalizing tidbits on Groove Armada’s upcoming release.
“The next album we’ve got which is kind of about a month away from completion we’re going to call it Black Light and it is going to be the darker side of Groove Armada, which is finally coming out after 12 years,” he chuckles.
And where pray tell does this dark side come from?
“It comes from the bits at the end of these gigs. All this stuff is fun but sometimes you find yourself at the hotel room at five in the morning talking to a lunatic and you actually think ‘Why do I do this?’ and that’s where Black Light comes from. That’s kind of where we are, I think it’s a real progression for us.” Adding excitedly “and its a real live, live album you know we miked up a drum kit, guitars and bass and really gave it something so it should be good. Fingers crossed.”
Adding a sprinkle of magic to the next Groove Armada mix is our own musical svengali Nick Littlemore. “Working with him for three day’s was really an education. He loves to get involved in the production side of stuff … and he’s got a very strong sense of the way he wants the song to sound. He’s a real stream of consciousness kind of guy, you’ve got to keep it on record the whole time, he’ll just get up and run in to the studio – we spent hours cutting this stuff up – we got about four tracks that sound great and two we are going to get him back over to France in about two weeks to get into the studio and finish it.”
Aside from a whirling dervish of activity, what else has Littlemore added to the Groove Armada ethos? “The word ‘genius’ gets used too much in music but he really is.” Findlay imparts reverently. “He’s got a sort of darkness about the recording stuff but it’s been fine because we are quite sunny people so he been bringing a bit of that into the sessions so it’s good for us there is a bit of balance. I feel good about this one its not there yet but in about a month, six weeks it will be.”
The subject of contrast leads Music Feeds to a potentially dicey line of questioning. Whilst the band are hailed as heroes in their native British Isles, Europe and of course in our beloved little piece of Earth, Groove Armada has yet to make a sizable dent into the US mainstream despite a cult following in some of the nation’s coastal climes. Does Findlay have a theory on why this is so? “I think they’ve got this suspicion of anything that’s gay.” he offers, clearly having previous considered this paradigm.
“You get away from the coast and they just can’t deal with it. But you go to San Francisco and it’s amazing, you go to Chicago and they get it and you go to New York they get it – there is a sort of openness and different thinking – but you go to Texas and they don’t like it at all. So they like, and no disrespect to these guys, they like the Prodigy and they like the Chemical Brothers because it’s very white – it’s basically indie dance and they understand that. It’s got guitars and it’s nasty but they won’t touch anything that’s slightly gay. Australia is very open, there is great gay scene in Sydney just as there is a great gay scene in London it’s more accepted and it just works. The first club that we ever did was a gay bar, that’s how we started, in a gay bar in Shoreditch.”
Findlay’s last words coincide with the train pulling into our last stop and the polite gent must spirit away to prepare for the night’s show. Hands are proffered for shaking, best wishes are imparted and Music Feeds leaves, thinking gay thoughts.