Rewind seven years—James Ford and Jas Shaw of the indie crew Simian swap their guitars for sequencers and transform into Simian Mobile Disco. Their subsequent releases snaked through no-nonsense tech house, fluorescent Justice-style synth-pop and every weirdo shade in between, and their latest, Whorl, continues the pattern of stylistic innovation. The process-minded album combines live recordings from a Southern California desert concert with postproduction tweaks in a fluid synthesis of performance and studio composition. The guys jointly answered a few questions in advance of their Sep 21 set at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
The new setup is considerably stripped down. How has your performance rig varied over your career?
It's varied a little bit over the years, taking some things in and out (e.g. we used to have a Korg MS-20 in the live set up until we replaced it with the mod, as that expanded). We wanted to really take away the main safety net, which was a laptop sequencing the synths, and go for hardware sequencers as a challenge. We had to lose some bits, like the iPad controllers we were using that were useful bits of kit, but that forced us to add more modules to allow us more playing possibilities.
How has it been different touring as an electronic act versus a band back in the days of Simian?
Well, it's much less hassle having to worry about bringing drums and getting them set up! Smaller band and more electronic instrumentation is generally a bit easier to manage.
You’ve helped produce albums for some big-name indie crews (namely, Arctic Monkeys and Haim)—how does that work influence Simian Mobile Disco?
They're completely different really. Band production doesn't really have any influence on SMD material. The other way round maybe a bit—we usually end up taking a bit of hardware to recording sessions if we need to add electronic elements.
The name "Simian Mobile Disco" started out as a joke slapped on a B-side remix. Ever had any misgivings?
Ha, often. If we could go back, we would choose something much more sensible. Four albums in, we're kind of stuck with it now though!
Read more from Time Out's interview with Simian Mobile Disco in this week's issue, available Thu, Sep 18th.