Mainstays of the festival circuit and all-around legends The Presets are back with an African-flavoured jam and a new album, Hi Viz, on the verge of release. The Upside News had a chat to Julian Hamilton (Jules), vocalist, keyboardist and one-half of the electronic music duo.
Their new track “Downtown Shutdown” has a bit of a different sound to the rave-stomping sound of their previous hits, enlisting the St Paul’s Lutheran Choir to give the track a distinctly upbeat feel, but it didn’t start out that way.
“Often the way tracks start out end very differently. That track started out being this weird little techno stomper thing with a lot of synths and it was very dancefloor. It was electronic, and it had a whole different vocal on it. And then we didn’t like the vocals so much, but we really liked the ‘Downtown Shutdown’ lyrics. Kim (Moyes – drums, keyboards) thought we would try it as a choir, like a chant, so I multitracked my voice over and over and make a choir out of fifteen ‘Me’s’. And this time Kim suggested this time why don’t we get a real choir?”
“We’d been listening to a lot of Fela Kuti and Soweto Gospel Choir, so we thought that could be really cool. So, we found this great choir in Shepparton, St Paul’s Lutheran Church Choir with all these Sudanese kids out there and they sounded fantastic. We put a fat bass on it and it turned into quite a different beast to what it started out as.”
“You can sort of sense when a song is heading in a certain direction, and you can think ‘I could turn this into the thumping techno banger or we could just get to its logical conclusion’ which is more of a Sunday afternoon, early 80’s New York block party vibe.”
“Downtown Shutdown” is the third single which will be recognizable to fans on their upcoming fourth album Hi Viz, with “Do What You Want” released in 2017 and “14U + 14 ME” released earlier this year.
“The main thing we wanted to set out to do with this record of five years was to make a record that sounded like a party. Like a cool mixtape with a few different styles. But the one thing that links it all together is that it’s fun and energetic.”
The creative process of getting this party mixtape right meant a lot of songs that didn’t meet the brief were thrown out.
“Each day we’d make more and more material and we wrote a ballad-y, atmospheric, chilled out thing, we would finish in that style, and we wouldn’t try to turn it into a banger. And likewise, if we had a techno stomping we wouldn’t try and chill that out. You try to finish them off in the outfits that best suit them.”
“So, after a couple of years you’re sitting there with a pile of fifty or sixty songs and you think, wow, we’ve got some really chilled out stuff, we’ve got some brooding electro-pop stuff, we’ve got some really distorted, ugly, brutal death techno. What do we want to make?”
For Hi Viz, they wanted to get wild and have a “good time” record.
“So that meant that those broody, dark pop songs. We love them, but they’re just not going to fit the MO, so we turfed those, and the atmosphere-y dreamscape ones, we had to put that to the side as well.
“Our records are always a bit of a motley crew, different styles and different vibes and this one is too.”
The Presets have a national tour kickstarting on June 13 and audiences can expect a high-energy blast – fans wouldn’t expect anything less.
“You can expect the record (Hi Viz) and all of our records, just done to the power of ten. You know, lights and crazy content that we’ve designed for every single song with different visuals. Kim’s brought the live drums back. It’s a mix of electronic DJ style with live drums and instruments. And there’s me running around singing and barking at the audience. It’s just a crazy party.
The Presets have been around for fifteen years now, and call it dumb luck, but they have continued to get the crowd going and I have no doubt they will continue to do so at their latest shows.
And for those who are still wondering what their hit song “Ghosts” is all about? “When I wrote those lyrics, in my head at least, I was just trying to say look, you can forge your own path and it was just a very existential thing. Be yourself, choose the path you want to choose and take the steps you want to take without worrying about preconceived ideas like what people think of you or things that have happened in your past. Don’t be bothered by the ghosts of your past. Take a step forward. Don’t be troubled by ghosts. Whatever you’ve done in the past, good or bad, don’t let that define you. Let you define you.”