Australian duo The Presets are part of a wave of dance acts coming to Britain from their homeland at present – alongside the likes of Midnight Juggernauts and Cut Copy, Kim Moyes and Julian Hamilton are proving to us Brits that there’s some truly silky floor-filling sounds bubbling upwards from the undergrounds of their hometown Sydney, Melbourne and more.
The pair’s latest album, their second after 2005’s well-received Beams, is Apocalyso (via Modular, review). It might’ve taken a mild kicking on DiS – not every writer shares the opinions of others around these parts – but that didn’t prevent it going to number one on the Australian albums chart. Singles ‘My People’ and ‘This Boy’s In Love’ have showcased The Presets’ fondness for the savvy of the Pet Shop Boys and their ‘80s synth-pop peers, and the blistering beats of mid-‘90s titans like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers. Like all three, Hamilton and Moyes have worked their live set into a must-see – you can catch them at a number of festivals this summer, details below.
DiS got Hamilton on the phone hours before a headline slot at London’s Scala to catch up with developments in The Presets’ world.
Video: The Presets, ‘My People’
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Hey Julian. I see you played Glastonbury the weekend just gone – how was that?
It was a lot of fun, actually. It was really quite civilised. We’d never played Glastonbury before, but we’d seen pictures of all the mud. But it was okay, and a lot more chilled out than a lot of other festivals we’ve played at.
I see you’ve plenty forthcoming, including Wild in the Country, which has just been cancelled… don’t know if you knew that.
Yeah, we only just found out. That’s a bummer.
How do you find festivals in general? Your music sounds, to me, like the sort of thing that’d get a tent pumping.
It’s that thing where it’s more of a challenge, because when you do your own club dates you’re playing to your crowd, but at a festival that’s not always the case. It’s fun to try to win people over, and to turn a crowd around.
And do you get the chance to mill about much, or do you generally hang around backstage?
Oh man, I usually can’t stand hanging around backstage. Sometimes it’s nice to catch up with friends there, but otherwise I go out and check out other bands. There’s rarely anything interesting going on backstage.
The new album was written and recorded after a great deal of touring – do you think it’s a better representation of yourselves as a live force than the debut?
It is, yeah. For the first one, we hadn’t played much live, and we were sort of just making things up as we went along in that sense. Now we’re taking more time over, and paying more attention to the live show. Older songs are finding new forms, and even tracks from the new record are changing live, as we develop the set. There’s a terrible type of live dance show, where you just get guys stood behind laptops. That’s not fun for anybody, so we’re definitely not like that.
And when you started, was there any plan to take your music on tour, or was it more of a studio-based project?
It’s quite insane to be touring to some of the places we are now, for sure. We’re very lucky to be sharing bills with some of the great bands who’ve inspired us – like The Chemical Brothers – who were in some way responsible, perhaps, for acts like ourselves having the motivation to take our music out into the live environment. I remember seeing their show and being amazed, by the music and the visual element of it. The only problem with touring like we do is excess baggage fees. You can really get stung by them, and it’s not like we can’t take planes when we’re touring back home – touring the UK is easy in a van, and the States can be done, but in Australia every city you can play in is a long way from the next. There are maybe only ten places that you’ll play on an Australian tour.
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It seems you’re touring at a pretty good time for the type of music you play, especially given the rise to prominence of the likes of your countrymen, Midnight Juggernauts and Cut Copy.
Yeah, it’s great. They’re friends, and it’s wonderful to see them reaching new audiences.
And do you have a break coming up? Seems you’re free after T in the Park…
Well, it’s like my mum calls me and says we’ve a break coming up, but those seven or eight days will get eaten up by travelling. We’ll only be off for a couple of days, really, before playing in Australia at the end of July and then pretty much touring ‘til the end of the year. We’ll probably get a break at Christmas… hopefully.
Was Apocalypso getting to number one back home a surprise to you, or did you expect it in any way?
It was a total surprise – we hoped it’d do well, given the growth of our audience, but we didn’t think for a second it might go to number one. And now Cut Copy’s new album’s gone to number one there, too, so that’s brilliant. It really wasn’t that long ago we were playing to a hundred people – we might now be able to play to thousands upon thousands at these big festivals, but the progression has been very gradual. We’ve not suddenly peaked in a popularity sense – it’s been a slow and steady growth for us. It’s nice when we go home now, after touring abroad – it’s like we’re a sports team or something, and we’ve done well, as suddenly people in Australia will have a new, or different, sort of respect for us. I think we do them proud. Our fans back home are great.
As a two-piece, do you and Kim ever get under each other’s skin?
We can do. The moment I realised we were ‘making it’, actually, was when he and I first got individual hotel rooms. That was really special – we spend so much time together, in the studio and on stage, on buses and aeroplanes, that it is nice to have a little breathing space once in a while. We’re like family, and he’s great – we spend more time together than we do with our partners – but it’s good to be apart a little, too! It must be okay if you’re a five-piece band – one day you can lunch with your drummer, the next day have dinner with your bassist – but Kim and I do everything together.
Just before I leave you to the rest of your day, what can a Presets virgin expect from your show if they catch you this summer?
Expect plenty of energy, and a greater boisterousness than what’s evident on the records – we really try to switch things up. We’re definitely looking to get our audience involved, to get them really into the music – generally, our audience goes mad, so hopefully newcomers will get sucked into that and become a part of the fun.
Video: The Presets, ‘This Boy’s In Love’
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See The Presets (MySpace here) live as follows:
6 Amsterdam, Holland 5 Days Off
10 Novi Sad, Serbia Exit Festival
12 Lieges, Belgium Les Ardentes Festival
13 Balado, Scotland T in the Park
7 Oslo, Norway Oya Festival
8 Saalburg, Germany Sonne Mond Stern Festival
9 Cheltenham Bloom Festival
16 Chelmsford V Festival
17 Staffordshire V Festival
23 Daresbury Creamfields
24 London Get Loaded Festival
29 Ireland Electric Picnic
6 Isle of Wight Bestival