Brit EDM Trio Above & Beyond Kick Off Their Tour This Week
The group kicks off Blue Frog’s launch party in Pune
The articulate Tony McGuinness has been writing Above & Beyond’s lyrics for over a decade now. His words are sung in every corner of the world ”“ some are even tattooed into the skin of the band’s fans.
Last year, the trio, which includes McGuinness, Jono Grant and Paavo Siljamaki, made history by broadcasting the first episode of their new radio show, Group Therapy Radio, to millions across the world from Jayamahal Palace in Bengaluru.
Ahead of Above & Beyond’s return to India this week, McGuinness spoke to ROLLING STONE India about artistic evolution and Â a new album of original material that they plan to release next year.
On trance music:
“We love trance music, we make trance music most of the time. That’s what we do for a living. But to define ourselves so narrowly is kind of missing the point. We’ve seen ourselves as a band for many years.”
On artistic evolution:
“We definitely tried with Group Therapy [their second album that released in 2011], and we’ll definitely try with any body of work, to do something that’s different from what we’ve done before. I think as artists, we are duty bound to do that.
The things that remain the same in Above & Beyond’s music ”“ the emotions, the minor keys, the lyrical subjects ”“ those things have been there since the beginning.
There is enough trust now [from fans] that we could walk onto a stage in America and play two shows that we’d provisionally booked as electronic DJ shows, and turn up with a 16 piece-acoustic band, and do something nobody had ever heard before, but that everybody enjoyed.
That, to me, is what we’re about.”
“I don’t mind people describing our music in any way they like. Are we EDM? People ask me, and I’m afraid to answer. Are we are electronic dance music? Yes, we are. Do I think we sound like what most people describe as EDM? Absolutely not. But I can live with that contradiction.”
On discovering clubbing:
“My brother Liam and I were both rock musicians ”“ he played bass and I played guitar. We liked overly majestic, quite pretentious rock music dealing with existential issues. We loved bands like the Chameleons and The Smiths.”
Then Liam started clubbing, and he said: “You’ve got to come, it’s the most amazing experience.”
I said: “I dunno if I really wanna do that, I dunno if I really like dance music.” I’d heard stuff on the radio, I was aware of it, but I didn’t really get it.”
But then I went to Ministry of Sound for one night, and the scales fell from my eyes. I had a sort of “Road to Damascus” experience, I was like “okay, I can see how this is great fun!”
On how the UK’s clubbing scene changed:
“What was exciting about clubbing back in the day was the sense of community. To be honest, I think I enjoyed the slight sense of it being almost a counterculture.
It kind of went wrong around the turn of the century, for me at least, when it became pop music. When it gets too pop, you end up being in a situation where you see people that you don’t fully empathize with, in a mixed-up state, gatecrashing your scene.”
On working with Jono and Paavo for the first time:
“I remember one Saturday morning, Jono turned up to my house with this strange Finnish man, Paavo.
That was the first time I’d really sat down and worked with the two of them, and they were both very young at the time, 19 or 20.
Paavo was a unique and wonderful human being, just as Jono is, but I think their combined enthusiasm was the thing that hit me the first. It was not until sometime later that I got to realize the depth of their musical talent.”
On the new album of original material:
“We’re about halfway through the writing of it. We’re working with Justine (Suissa, Brit songwriter) and ZoÃ« (Johnston, Brit songwriter who has worked on Group Therapy ), and a young singer-songwriter named Alex Vargas. We feel that we’ve set the bar quite high with Tri-State and Group Therapy, which obviously makes following them up a challenge, but we hope we can do a good job.
We want to do something that’s fresh and new, but retains all the things that people love Above & Beyond for. Definitely, we’ve been encouraged by the reaction to the acoustic project, because it’s shown us that the songs can be realized in any form on the album.
We’re planning to finish it in the spring and have it out by summer 2014.”
Above & Beyond Group Therapy India
November 21st – Blue Frog Amphitheater, Pune
November 22nd – EZone, Bengaluru
November 23rd – Amaanta, New Delhi
November 24th – Kamalistan, Mumbai
Above & Beyond perform at Blue Frog Amphitheater, Pune on November 21nd. Entry: Rs 2,375 (inclusive of Rs 500 cover), Rs 4,950 (inclusive of Rs 1,000 cover charge) and Rs 6,275 (for buy three get one free offer). Tickets available here.