Groove Armada were one of the biggest crossover house music acts of the 1990s, rivalling Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk. But when EDM boomed, they retreated. Now, Andy Cato and Tom Findlay have released the deluxe compilation, GA25, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut single ‘At The River’. They’re returning to Australia for a final live tour as well.
Cato and Findlay met in the early ’90s through Cato’s future wife. The keen DJs launched a club night in London (Cato played trombone, too). As Groove Armada, they enjoyed a fluke independent hit with 1997’s Balearic production ‘At The River’, sampling Patti Page’s ’50s bop ‘Old Cape Cod’.
Groove Armada – ‘At the River’
Groove Armada went mainstream with the anthems ‘If Everybody Looked The Same’, ‘I See You Baby’ and ‘Superstylin”, blending house, hip hop and dancehall. They received three Grammy noms, remixed Madonna’s ‘Music’, and licensed ‘Hands Of Time’ (with folky Richie Havens) to the soundtrack accompanying Tom Cruise’s Collateral.
But as Groove Armada lost momentum in the 2010s, the pair developed other interests. Cato, a Yorkshire man, became a full-time farmer in France’s Gascony region. Today he is a leading proponent of regenerative farming and tenant of the National Trust’s Buscot & Coleshill Estate in Oxfordshire.
Chatting to Music Feeds via Zoom, Cato apologises for his poor connection. “I’m speaking to you from the middle of nowhere,” he says. Meanwhile, Findlay studied to be a cognitive behavioural therapist and currently works for the UK’s National Health Service.
Groove Armada have strong ties to the Australian scene. The two collaborated with PNAU’s Nick Littlemore on 2010’s new wave-inspired LP Black Light. “Obviously, Nick has been a big influence,” Findlay says. “Black Light would not have happened without him. He’s the kind of the third member of the band on that one, without a question.”
In 2020, Groove Armada remixed Confidence Man’s ‘First Class Bitch’. Findlay calls himself “a big fan,” and says he caught the Brisbane band at recent summer festivals. “I just think they’re great performers,” he says. “There’s a real joy about what they do.” Lately, Groove Armada recruited another Aussie name, Logic1000, to remix ‘My Friend’.
While this Antipodean run is a quasi-farewell tour, Groove Armada aren’t quitting altogether. Instead they’ll revert to their original DJ incarnation. And the moonlighters intend to cut more music – GA25 contains the new single ‘Hold A Vibe’, featuring dancehall MC Red Rat.
Groove Armada – ‘Hold A Vibe’ ft. Red Rat
Music Feeds: Andy, from what I understand, you’re now a full-time farmer. What was the catalyst for that?
Andy Cato: It was simply that I was coming back from a gig once in Eastern Europe and I picked up a magazine article that was about industrial food production, our current food production system, and its consequences for human health and the environment and so on. It ended with this brilliant piece of journalism, which was, “If you don’t like the system, don’t depend on it.”
That made me get into trying to grow food for the family. But I went down a massive, massive rabbit hole about soil health, plant health, human health, [and] ended up selling my publishing rights to buy this farm in France – which is a lunatic idea.
That went really badly because the soil was all knackered, as most of our soils in which we grow our food are. The upside of that is it forced me to find ways to do it differently; to grow in a way in harmony with nature that improves the soil and so on.
Then that’s become this project with a couple of mates where we’re trying to help other farmers adopt these techniques, and we’re trying to educate consumers about why it matters where they buy their food from. We’ve got ten years to turn this around otherwise – you know, I don’t wanna sound too doom-like, but we’ve got ten years to turn this around, really.
MF: You completed a UK tour in April that was marketed as “the last full live UK tour”. What exactly does that mean for the future of Groove Armada?
Tom Findlay: Yeah, this is the final tour run – exactly. So we’re doing Australia, then New Zealand, and that is it for the live thing. We’ll still DJ and we’ve already got some shows in for that for next summer which are really exciting.
And then that will mean that we’ll kind of lean towards more making dance music, just stuff that makes sense in clubs again. We went through that cycle maybe ten years ago and we did an album called Little Black Book. We started making some house music and DJing again and it was fun – it’s less all-consuming than the live thing, which is like sort of running a small business at times.
MF: The GA25 album highlights just how much you’ve done. I’ve always thought you were a really strong album act. I wondered if each of you have something you thought people slept-on?
Andy: I’ll go for the Black Light album. It’s an album that remained a kind of “best kept secret” at the time. I think it was a combination of circumstances between labels and management and all kinds of things. It was also, yes, another change in our ever-changing sound. So there were no radio plays on that album to speak of.
But, yeah, I think that album as an end-to-end thing for me reaches the studio pinnacle of that combination of live instruments and electronics that’s been the hallmark of our sound on stage.
Tom: I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s slept-on at all, but when people talk about our anthems, then ‘Superstylin” is obviously the one. But, actually, when we play it live, ‘Get Down’ is almost bigger – and that came from the  album Soundboy Rock. I love it. It’s a very futuristic-sounding dance record. The bass sound on that is just nuts. And, when we do that one live, it feels timeless.
Groove Armada – ‘Get Down’ ft. Stush, Red Rat
MF: I remember when you worked with Mutya Buena on ‘Song 4 Mutya (Out Of Control)’, people were so excited – like Sugababes, they’re a mythic girl band. What was it like working with her?
Andy: Yeah, I can remember sort of a general pattern was fixed up for Mutya to come around to Tom’s basement to record some vocals and then [we’d] wake up in the morning, go and get the paper, read the headlines about what Mutya’d been up to the night before and realise she wasn’t going to come.
And we repeated that loop several times – can’t quite remember how many times; it was several times. But the thing is that, when it did come together, it was pretty effortless from a production point of view because she’s just got the perfect voice for a pop song.
Tom: What I really liked about her is she’s just authentic and real and no bullshit – [she] lived the life that you thought she lived. I’m really happy to see the Sugababes having a bit of a comeback now, because I saw their show in Glastonbury and their catalogue is completely brilliant. So I’m really pleased they’re having a second act because they fully deserve it, you know?
MF: Do you plan to do another studio album, given that you can work remotely? Andy, can that work with the farm life?
Andy: Yeah, the farm life is definitely quite busy, but Tom’s doing his counselling stuff as well. But, yeah, no, I think once this last sort of hurrah is over with the live band, one of the appeals of going back to the house stuff is that it just really lends itself to what Tom and I really enjoy doing now, which is just to find a couple of days – which invariably turns into a couple of nights as well – but we can just get together, sit in the studio, turn off all outside inputs and just have a laugh making some music and then go and play that in nightclubs. I mean, what’s not to like, really?
So, as soon as we get back from Australia, we’ve got some studio time to start putting together some house tracks for next year. Whether that becomes an EP or an album’s worth or a mix-album, god knows, we’ll see.
But, as Tom mentioned, we’ve already got some really exciting DJ gigs booked in for next year. We’ve got irons in the fire in Ibiza to try and do something a bit special there. So, yeah, it’s onwards, but in a house music direction.
Groove Armada – ‘Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control)’
- Groove Armada’s GA25 is out now.