On the back of the release of their third album Pacifica last month, we caught up with Australian electronic duo The Presets to chat Beethoven, Dora the Explorer and their love of Sydney – warts and all…
First off, tell us a little bit about your new album Pacifica – how have you felt the reaction to it has been so far?
Pacifica is simply the next chapter in a long list of things that we’ve already done, and a whole bunch of stuff we’d still like to do! The reaction has been good, I think; our friends like it. The critics have said nice things about it – beyond that I’m not really certain.
How would you say having the time to write and record over a longer period affected the outcome of Pacifica?
Hopefully it has made it better! When we made Apocalypso we only wrote 12 songs, and 10 of those ended up as the record. This time around we were able to spend a lot more time experimenting in the studio, and making sketches and other ideas, before committing to finishing any songs.
In what way would you say things have changed for you guys musically between Apocalypso and Pacifica?
Every time we make something new we try to get better at it, I guess. We take what we have done in the past and cook it down even further in an attempt to make the most honest music we can. We try and stay away from current pop and dance trends and just do what feels fun and exciting to us. That seems to have worked for us in the past.
Much of the album – particularly ‘Ghosts’ – seems like a more world-wise affair, have you gained more of a sense of perspective following the success of Apocalypso? If so, how?
Sure – Kim and I have been making music together for seventeen years now and we’re still learning. We gain new experience and perspective with every track we make, every show we play. I wouldn’t say the success of Apocalypso gave us any more perspective than anything else; it did however give us the luxury of more time and space to make Pacifica.
Has growing up and the both of you having children changed the way you view music now? What sort of effect has it had?
Having children changes everything. Musician or not – anyone who has kids will tell you that. But I wouldn’t say having kids has necessarily changed the way we view music, although I am gaining a whole new appreciation for music on children’s TV shows. I like some of the Latin arrangements in Dora the Explorer.
‘A.O.’ seems to be simultaneously a love letter to Sydney but also an exposé of its darker side; what were you trying to achieve lyrically on this track? Was it a case of both of those themes being important?
I’m glad you see the love letter thing. Not many other people have; a lot of people think it’s a big diss on our home town. We love Sydney – warts and all. We just wanted to make a song that explores the whole city – its beauty, its excitement and its darkness. There is more to Sydney than its beaches and harbour – and we wanted to write a song about that stuff.
You guys first met at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Has what you learnt there informed your music going forward? Is it still a big compositional influence – in terms of the music you were exposed to – to this day?
Sure. I think when you immerse yourself so deeply in any classical art – music, ballet, painting, whatever – it’s very hard to shake it all off later in life. It kind of stays with you forever, and informs whatever you create in the future. Of course, we are not making music that sounds like the Beethoven and Shostakovich we studied, but a lot of what I learnt studying those guys – melodic writing, arranging, harmony, dramatic light and shade – is always in the back of my mind when we are making techno or whatever.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? What’s there for us to get excited about?
The rest of this year, there’ll be a bunch on new remixes coming out and a couple of new singles to look forward to. Apart from a US tour that we’re on right now, we’ll spend the rest of the year at home. But we’ll be over your way early 2013, for sure.
How do you see things going forward now for the both of you? In an ideal world, what would you like to achieve next?
Just keep adding to what we have done – more albums, new shows. We just recently scored a dance work for a Melbourne-based choreographer, which was really fun so we’d definitely like to do more of that. A movie score would be great eventually, too. Pacifica is just the most recent chapter in what we do – but we have a lot more we need to do, still.
Finally, it’s 2012 this year. Apocalyptic theories being commonplace and all, if you had one night left on Earth, what would you do with it?
Cook a nice meal at home with my family, go to the park, kick a football around, climb a tree there with my daughter, sit in the sun for a bit. After the sun goes down, go for a walk to get some gelato with her and my girlfriend.
- Alex Cull