Groove Armada – Close to the brink

Groove Armada are arguably more fun then the Spanish Armada. For one thing, there are fewer boats. For this reason, and this reason only, Music Feeds caught up with Andy Cato from the Groove to discuss lots of issues, particularly the Japan Plan, which sounds suspicious but isn’t, really.

MF: So what’s the go with the Japan Plan? Well the Armada were kicking it in the land of the cherry blossom, when an idea blossomed, eerily similar to a cherry.

Andy: “In Japan we decided to put it back together all over again. The new stuff, Black Light, is a band record; so we were playing it live more or less as it sounds on the CD, whereas with the old stuff we’d rewritten it for festivals and gigs. So we decided to do that for Black Light material as well.”

MF: If I decide to rewrite something I can choose to do it in my room or my study, both of which have dog vomit on the carpet. However, if like Andy, you’re responsible for some of the seminal dance music of our time, the options are slightly more, glamorous.

Andy: “We took off to France, the whole band. It was totally mental, literally completely sleepless, even by Groove Armada standards it was crazy, but when we start something we do it properly. It was definitely the right decision. Everyone in the band feels so energised by it, it’s the most vibing Groove Armada has been live.”

MF: Judging by response at Glasto, this Japan inspired, French recorded, new material is pretty vibing. The BBC gave the band an exclusive hour of coverage, which is kind of a big deal at Glastonbury. But let’s be honest, forget those BBC suits, what did the punters think?

Andy: “It was massive, the difference was huge. It’s interesting because you’re playing to a lot of people who didn’t buy Black Light, but it didn’t matter because it sounded so big it worked on every level.”

MF: So what’s the go with this new approach? Reinvention may be too strong a word, but I’m going to use it anyway because I’m a word maverick. In fact Andy recently said that people who ‘hated previous Groove Armada stuff may love this record’, has he felt the love?

Andy: “What I said was true, there are a lot of people who may have made their mind up about us for whatever reason and may be knocked sideways by this new live show or by Black Light.”

MF: To help refine the sound, Groove Armada brought on board local boy, Nick Littlemore. Littlemore’s music scored him a place on Elton John’s Rolodex and he brought these skills to four Armada tracks.

Andy: “He’s a genius, I think it was a good combination. He brought real life and belief to the process, because he loved what we were doing and when you’re out on a limb for the first time, no major label, you need that kind of support and energy.”

MF: Ditching the major label is almost in vogue these days; think Radiohead, Weezer and Wilco, but Andy admits the band struggled at first.

Andy: “You go into a nerve wracking period where you’re in a studio doing something new and no one is paying you. Black Light was the hardest record to make out of all of them and it drove us quite close to the brink”.

MF: Talk of an Armada split is upsetting, however Andy and Tom made it through, but how?  Could they see the (Black) Light at the end of the tunnel?

Andy: “Haha!” says Andy; with what’s obviously a pity laugh. “There were a few times we weren’t going to see it through, but we wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t a great relationship. I’ve spent far more time with Tom then I have wives or girlfriends. It’s more then a decade.” Perhaps the key was the addition of the conveniently named Saint Saviour, a female vocalist. Now before you religious types start burning people at the stake, she’s not an actual saint, in fact there’s nothing religious about her coming on board”. “We saw her playing and stole her from her previous band, so it was essentially theft. Worth it though, she has revealed herself to be the performer of her generation, no one can hold a candle to her on stage”.

MF: The Saint will be joining Armada on their Parklife adventure, something that makes Andy excited.

Andy: “I’m excited”  See. “Seriously though, Australian crowds go off, I just can’t wait to try out the combination of this new live set with an Australian crowd, because I think it’ll be absolutely mental. We’ve had some of our best gigs ever in Australia and I think the best is still to come.”

MF: Sounds good to me.

Groove Armada play Parklife on Sunday 3rd October.

*Black Light is out now through Cooking Vinyl

Visit www.parklife.com.au or www.groovearmada.com for more!

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