The Presets are back! Frontman Julian Hamilton and his cohort Kim Moyes recently dropped ‘Do What You Want’ – the first single from a long-hyped follow-up to 2012’s Pacifica. The Sydneysiders may be known for their anthemic electro-pop, but they’re mischievously touting ‘Do What You Want’ as “pub rock techno”.
This, people, is The Presets, post-EDM.
Kim’s brother Kris shot the diverting, MTV-era video.
As it turns out, The Presets have been increasingly active in 2017, performing at festivals like This That. But the duo will amp things up when they headline the launch of The Warehouse Collective event series in Sydney on Saturday. Expect to hear other songs off album number four.
The Presets formed in 2003 – the same year that MySpace started. They issued their debut album, Beams, on Steve “Pav” Pavlovic’s indie-dance Modular Recordings. In 2008, The Presets became household names with Apocalypso – and cleaned up the ARIAs (they were the inaugural dance act to win Album Of The Year). Yet much has altered for the combo in the past 14 years. Modular imploded – Pavlovic quitting last year. But, generally, today, music is largely consumed on streaming platforms. And artists rely on social media to maintain any presence.
Still, Kim is cruisy. “I guess we are always trying to adapt to whatever the landscape has changed to,” he ponders. “But it doesn’t seem too difficult a challenge to at least try. We probably come off looking a little bit stupid but, hey, we’re just having fun!”
In fact, The Presets are smart. They’ve managed to capitalise on nostalgia, while keeping the music moving. And, Kim tells Music Feeds, pub techno is just one of their secret weapons.
Music Feeds: It seems like ages since you’ve had music out – or, at least, Pacifica. What have you been up to in the last five years?
Kim Moyes: Oh gosh, man! I made a couple of records with a couple of other people. And Jules and I did a massive project with the Australian Chamber Orchestra back in 2014, I think, called Timeline [Life Flashes Before Your Ears] – it was like a collaboration we did with them. It probably took up the best part of a year. We did release a couple of standalone singles [after] Pacifica [2014’s ‘Goodbye Future’ and ‘No Fun’], which were neither here nor there (laughs). Yeah, so I guess it’s pretty busy in the professional world.
MF: This single, ‘Do What You Want’, is such a banger. How does it set up the album, which I assume is to follow?
KM: Yeah, I mean, this song – it’s funny, there’s something that sounds so kind of energetic and in-your-face and immediate. It was definitely a difficult one to get out (laughs). We came up with the really super-catchy/annoying ‘Do What You Want’ hook relatively quickly and [tried to] make that last and not sound annoying, or just, at least, teeter on the edge of catchy and annoying. Working that song, it took a very long time – maybe even a couple of years – and 75 versions, with various tempos and different styles and all that sorta stuff, before we actually hit upon this vibe, which was this “pub techno” thing that we’ve been labelling it. I think, for us, it was always a no-brainer when the inspiration for it came; that it was like, “Oh my God, this is one of those tracks, it’s gonna be a good way to start this album.” We’re really focussing on trying to get back to basics and just make something really fun and dumb. We thought this would be the perfect reintroduction for us after so many years – a bit like Kramer, when he slides through Jerry Seinfeld’s door every episode. It’s a bit like a comedic introduction, basically – like, “We’re back!” But we really love it. It’s a good time.
MF: I love your term ‘pub techno’. Who coined that?
KM: I think I came up with that maybe in 2005. I remember we were playing at The Gaelic Club in Sydney and I was just like, We’re in the midst of all this retro-rock revival – like Jet and Wolfmother and stuff – and we were still coming up. We were playing this weird dance music, but it always seemed to be in the context of a pub rock show. It was just funny watching people come to the pub and get loose to our sort of techno-infused beats. I was like, “Yeah, you know, this is pub techno.” I thought it was funny, but never actually legitimately used it until now. It seems like the perfect genre for ‘Do What You Want’.
MF: You’re playing this Warehouse Collective party and I wondered what you’ve got planned for that – if there’s the prospect of new songs. I know you’ll play the single obviously. But what is the strategy?
KM: Yeah, yeah, yeah – we’ve definitely got a couple of new ones in there. We’ve been kind of re-tweaking the live show. We’ve got a heap of new visuals. We’ve found this really talented girl in Sydney called Gina Wagstaffe, who makes these amazing, hypnotic, trippy visuals. She’s started piecing some stuff together for us, which is just mind-blowing. There’s a couple of new tricks up our sleeves in terms of lights and stuff. But there’s another track… Oh, we can’t tell you what the name of it is just yet, but it’s another banger – more of just a techno/techno track, as opposed to a pub techno track. But it’s gonna be really fun.
MF: What label are you with now exactly? I don’t think anyone actually understands what the status of Modular is. What can you tell us?
KM: Okay, yeah, so Modular is now 100 percent owned by Universal. For a long time, it was 50/50 with Pav. Because of what’s happened, they now have his other 50 percent share. So it’s still an imprint and we’re still on Modular. I don’t know how many bands are actually left on Modular, but we are being run by the EMI team now. But we also still have our old A&R guy from Modular, Glen Goetze – he’s still working with us and he’s been really instrumental on this record. So it’s funny, man. It’s a brave new world for us – different label, different management, different perspective – and it feels really good. It feels like things are set up for a really good ride for us.
MF: Modular was so important for Australian dance music. Now the floodgates have opened and there are just so many acts – you’re playing with Kilter at this Sydney party. Do you see your influence on some of these young acts coming up on the scene? Do they bow down to you like they would to Dr Dre and Timbaland?
KM: Maybe, maybe not (laughs). I don’t know, I guess so? Yeah, it was a very different landscape when, say, The Presets, Cut Copy and Midnight Juggernauts were like the Three Amigos… Technically, there were dance bands like PNAU or Sneaky Sound System, but things were really different. I think we did sort of help shift something. You’re right – there’s a much broader landscape when it comes to electronic music with all the Future Classic artists and what have you. I definitely get a lot of respect from some of the younger guys. One guy I’m actually quite good friends with is Tom [Stell] from Golden Features [who remixed ‘No Fun’]. He always talks about how much of an influence that we’ve had on him when he was younger and what he does now. He’s super respectful. He’s an incredibly talented producer. So, I mean, God, when someone like that pays respect, I’m super-honoured because I have a lot of time for his music and stuff. But… influenced? I don’t know.
MF: Certainly, when you see the international festivals now, there’s so much Australian talent on there – and you were doing that circuit as well. Do you have any plans to hit those overseas territories on the back of this single? Or will you wait for the album?
KM: Yeah, we are planning on getting over to the States for a little run in March – which is still being worked out at the moment. But, yeah, definitely. Touring overseas is really important to us – it always has been. We’ve spent a lot of time in the States, in particular. It’s always great for us there. Some cities, like San Francisco, are just as visceral as Sydney or Melbourne for us. So it’s great for us to get over there and do that. But there will be all sorts of touring and stuff like that coming up around the record.
MF: It actually sounds like the album would be out by March? Is that the plan?
KM: Nice (laughs deeply). Yeah, I’m not so sure just yet.
MF: That laugh is the laugh of an artist who’s on a different timeframe to their management. I know that laugh! Management has one idea, the artist is like, “When it’s ready.”
KM: Yeah, exactly, exactly!
MF: How do you avoid becoming ‘retro’ before your time? Soulwax/2manydjs say they just play good music.
KM: Yeah, I think it’s true. I think a good song is a good song. We’ve always focused on writing good songs. It’s true that our production is electronic and so that really does run the risk of becoming dated. But, at the end of the day, for us what we’re trying to achieve is communicating good times and good energy – and we just wrap that up in whatever interesting ways that we think we can. So, in a way, what we’re trying to say is kind of timeless. I’m not sure if it will stand the test of time, forever, and it might come in and out of fashion, but we’re not trying to just be over-stylistic – we’re not just trying to be a genre-based band. We’re trying to say something true and we’re trying to write really great songs that you’ll be able to sing along to at a piano or [on] a guitar or with a bunch of techno drum machines behind it.
The Presets will play alongside groove-making duo Bag Raiders, experimentalist Kilter, exciting newbie Nyxen and the boundary-pushing Lucy Cliché at The Warehouse Collective 1 in Sydney this Saturday.
The Warehouse Collective 1
Saturday, 16th December
Exhibition Hall @ The Australian Technology Park, Sydney
Tickets: Division Agency