Back Back Forward Punch
By Juliana Russell
After the release of their sensational new EP “Tragic Lover”, Laura and Andy of Back Back Forward Punch spoke with Juliana Russell from Black on the Canvas, over Skype from Melbourne, Australia to California. The clever, talented duo discussed a variety of topics, including love, robots, disco, and the quest to find a unique sound.
Thanks for doing this interview! Let’s get right into it. What’s your music about? How did you get started?
Laura: How did we start… What’s our music about… Well, we’ve been doing this gig for a while. We first started making music together in 2006, when we first met, so it’s really evolved a lot since then. But I think our music’s just been about… It started off just being about parties, all that sort of regular stuff… Love. What else do we write about? Where has it gone? It’s still about love. (laughs)
Andy: (laughs) Everyone always writes about love. Pretty much any song writer you ask, they’ve always got some pained love story that they have to tell.
Laura: Probably relationships, more so, I think. A lot of our songs are about people we know, people that we are.
Andy: Still a lot of the time, we’ve always wanted to write music that moved people, in a dancing type of way. We want to get people on the dance floor, make them happy while listening to our music.
Yeah, awesome. So what are your roles? What do each of you do?
Laura: I sing. I’m usually the person who does the melody line and the lyrics… And Andy does everything else. (laughs)
Andy: So I write all the beats, all the music, arrangement. I’ll chop up Laura’s melody lines, and arrange it in a way that I think sounds good and presentable. And occasionally, I’ll do some singing as well.
Laura: Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
Andy: Yeah, I’m not a particularly strong singer, so I try to… I’ll always use some type of effected vocal. There’s an item I use all the time called a Talk Box, which is pretty much a way to allow me to sing, but I don’t actually use my own voice. The sound is produced by the keyboard, and gets shaped in my mouth. So I get a robotic, electronic sort of sound.
Hm, interesting! So what are some of your main influences and inspirations, musical or otherwise?
Andy: I was always a fan of the Chemical Brothers, an English band… They originated in the late 90’s, but they’ve still been writing songs, last year they had some big hits. On top of that, my other inspirations are… Left Field.
Laura: I always go back to an English band called Crazy P, they’ve got this really amazing front lady called Danielle Moore. They were pretty much my intro into disco, and funky prog house. Lately I really like weird songs that have attitude. I listen to a lot of radio, and for inspiration I just pick bits and pieces of songs that I like. I like stuff that’s surprising, a little bit left of center.
Andy: What are you listening to right now?
Laura: My favorite song right now is “Genghis Khan”, by Miike Snow. Such a good song, it’s amazing… I’ve been obsessed with it.
Cool! I’ll have to check all of these out. Talk about your new EP “Tragic Lover”. Are there standout tracks that you’d like to talk about? Or do any of the songs have an interesting back story or lyrics?
Andy: The latest single that was released off the EP is called “Machine Believing”. For that, I was kind of inspired by the ideas from the movie “Her”. It’s this really freaky, futuristic, sci-fi movie that just seems really normal.
He falls in love with Siri, basically? (laughs)
Laura: Yeah, exactly. I just love the idea of this whole false love, and questions around… You know, “When is human emotion real? When might it not be real?” So that was the inspiration for the song, those kinds of ideas.
Oh okay, interesting!
Andy: Which is where “Machine Believing” came from, I guess.
Laura: Well actually, Andy always puts working titles to these songs, when he is writing them. And “Machine Believing” was just the working title that he came up with. And I was like “Oh, Machine Believing! I kinda want to keep that. I like it! I think we can do something around that.” And it was around the time I was watching “Her”.
Andy: I thought it was about the movie “Short Circuit”! Where the robot becomes alive, and they’ve got to talk about the morality of an actual robot.
Laura: 80’s guy… He’s an 80’s guy!! (laughs) What about you?
Andy: Well, my favorite on the EP is “No Answer”, which was the first single we released off the EP. That was probably one of the easiest songs I’ve ever written. I just sort of sat at the piano one day, and it was just idea after idea… It sort of dripped out of my fingers.
Yeah, that’s always nice!
Andy: Yeah, it was so easy to write. Which meant that it just felt like really natural song. I enjoy listening to it still, and playing it. Musicians talk about writing a song in like fifteen minutes. That’s the one that I wrote in fifteen minutes—it just feels really good.
So what kinds of programs and equipment do you use?
Laura: That’s for you! (laughs)
Andy: So I used Ableton Live, which is pretty standard. That’s what I use mainly. Everything else is recorded at our home studio, and all mixed and produced there. We use a couple of synthesizers, one called a Nord Wave, a hard ware synthesizer.
Laura: Live, I use a little device called a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch, which does voice modulation, voice effects…
Interesting. So what’s your compositional and creative process like? How do you go about starting a new song?
Laura: It’s a pretty set process now.
Andy: Yeah, it seems to go that I’ll be constantly tinkering around with ideas, chord progressions, sounds, beats… And I’ll come up with an idea pretty much on the piano, then it’ll turn into something that’s a bit more interesting, more electronic, using all the other instruments… Then I’ll present it to Laura, say here’s a bunch of ideas I’ve got. Then Laura goes into the studio for a couple hours, going through her book that’s got a lot of lyrics in it. See how it feels.
Laura: Yeah, I can always gauge the feeling of the song from maybe what he’s called it. Like “Machine Believing”, I really liked that one. Sometimes the working titles are really crap, and I’ll say no. This feels more like… I don’t know, I’ll just visualize what the song is about, and try and work out a theme from there. I usually just try and hum something along with it… Just see where a melody line locks in, and words often come. Often they have to be really bashed out of me, and it’s really hard. But I think it’s like that with anything, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. But I agree with Andy, there are songs that come just like that—those songs are often the best.
That actually ties in with my next question… Did you face any technical or creative challenges while producing this EP? And how did you deal with those challenges?
Laura: Probably more creative challenges… Constantly keeping things fresh for us, cause we’ve been doing this for a long time. Trying to do something new, something we haven’t done before, trying to push the envelope in what our style might be. For people who haven’t heard of us, we’re new. So it’s fine for everyone else, but for us, keeping ourselves interested and challenged is always a constant thing.
Andy: Yeah, I would agree. I don’t know if you’ve listened to much of our older material, but we definitely had more of a disco type of vibe over the last couple years, which I think was a natural, easy place to fall back into. So on this EP, we’re trying to move with the times, I suppose. There’s not much disco music that’s in vogue at the moment. So we’re really creatively trying to leave away those typical disco elements, and sort of slide into the more sort of deep house feel. That’s what I was listening to, and found easy to write—disco music. So to take ourselves out of our comfort zone, pushing the boundaries on the way we typically write melody lines, beats, and grooves…
Laura: You know what else I think it is. We have such a diverse love of different styles of music. We’ve done lots of different styles in the past, and that’s not because we were searching for something else. It’s because we genuinely like a heap of different music. You know, so it’s kind of like “Who am I? What should we be doing?” It’s this constant… Should we have A SOUND? Or should we just do whatever the hell we want?
Andy: We just do that one!
Laura: You know how some bands really have a sound. I don’t know if we have that, maybe we do? I don’t know, that’s for other people to decide. So that’s something we’ve struggled with.
Yeah, okay. Do you perform live very often? And what are some of your favorite and least favorite aspects about performing?
Andy: We’ve played a lot of gigs, yes, over the years. Last year we had a reasonably quiet year, I think cause we were concentrating on recording. The whole process of recording and releasing music is sometimes disconnected from live performances.
Laura: Yeah, it takes a lot of time.
Andy: It’s good to do all your recording and then head out and play. We like to play live. It’s pretty much the best part, it’s the main drive for the recording, the opportunity to play some awesome shows, the thrill of listening to your music in loud speakers, performing to a crowd who’s connecting to your music… When you look down and someone’s actually mouthing the words to the song that you wrote… That’s a pretty special moment.
Laura: Yeah, it sometimes just happens with really repetitive songs, when they can pretty much get it by the end (laughs)
Andy: No, it’s because they know our music enough! (laughs)
Laura: (laughs) What I really like, in Melbourne there’s a really good community of electronic artists. We’ve been doing it for years, so we’ve made some really great friends in acts that are like us. But one thing I really don’t like is… I’m a bit of a control freak sometimes. You’re kind of out of control in a way when you perform. The sound might not be quite right, the sound engineer might not really get your sound, might be pushing it a little bit wrong… Technical difficulties… The projector doesn’t work, a speaker blows out… A lot of weird stuff has happened to us. I think in our first gig, we blew the speakers… (laughs)
Andy: We played a gig once when we were starting out where a light fell over. The system was so poorly set up, that the light shorted out the entire room. (laughs) Everything was plugged into one sound board. The lights and the entire sound system, and it all blew up. So… Some pretty stupid things have happened. (laughs) It’s embarrassing at the time, but then the crowd is generally quite sympathetic to technical difficulties. But it’s just… You practice really hard…
Laura: And then sound goes out and it’s like “Oh. Hi. Um… Sh** I gotta talk to the crowd now. Not just sing our otherwise perfectly rehearsed show.”
Andy: And we play electronic instruments, like keyboards—everything needs power. So you can’t just like get up there on your guitar.
Just do two-part harmony, acapella! (laughs) Start beat-boxing.
Laura: There was one time, that you still had power to your keyboard, but our other band member at the time, who was running the back up stuff, his stuff shorted out… So Andy decided we had to a little bit of a piano number. And just sort of improvised until everything was up and running again. It was probably pretty terrible. (laughs)
Andy: That was uncomfortable. (laughs) Anyway, did we answer your question!? (laughs)
Yeah! (laughs) So what are some of your future plans?
Laura: Well we’ve just released this ‘Tragic Lover’ EP and our manager is already onto us about the next release. So what that’s gonna look like, we don’t know. But there will be more music coming. It might feature other people or different musical styles as well. I’d really love to get some other vocalists in, potentially to create a different vocal sound.
Yeah, a different timbre.
Andy: Yeah, we’ve had a bit of a writing session over the last couple of months, collecting some new songs. We’re pretty much always coming up with new ideas for tracks. So it’d be great to have another EP out, mid-to-late… This year, probably another collection of four songs or so. We’re constantly writing music. So the free flow of releasing songs should be going well this year.
Awesome. That’s all I have. Do you have any final thoughts? Parting comments? (laughs)
Laura: Thanks for getting in touch! We really appreciate all the support from blogs such as yourself!
Andy: Yeah, the music blog scene’s pretty big in America. In Australia, in comparison to America, is not very big, as far as I know. Correct me if I’m wrong, but getting your music out… Breaking through music blogs, that’s where a lot of people get their music from it seems. Most of our listens come from the U.S. You’re our biggest… Would you say fanbase?
Laura: Yeah, most of our soundcloud listens come from the U.S., which is pretty cool!
Yeah, awesome! Well thank you so much! Hope you have a good day!
Check out Back Back Forward Punch’s new EP on Soundcloud: