Oct 08, 2010
interview
Plump DJs

After their superb live set at Nocturnal, LessThan3 sits down with the guys to discuss a bit of their history, their new London-based venue Xoyo, and the launch of the Grand Hotel imprint for up-and-coming artists.

LessThan3: Hey guys. First of all we’d like to tell you a little bit about ourselves; we run the dance music website LessThan3.com. We’re US based in California and New York and our goal is to kind be a content filter on the web. There is so much dance music being produced out there, and we want to kind of be the Rolling Stone of dance music. Like a place that people can come to and expect a certain high level of quality of dance music being posted.
Lee: You know that’s something we’ve always been moaning about in recent times—the fact that the filter is nonexistent. Things are all over the place.
LessThan3: Have you guys ever individually DJ-ed under separate names or has it always been a duo?
Andy: We have done that but not as separate names; we generally are trying to keep it Plumps always.
LessThan3: You guys have some serious energy working together onstage. It looks like you guys are pretty synchronized.
Andy: We’ve been working together for about 10 years.
LessThan3: How did you guys meet each other?
Andy:Lee:Andy: Through a mutual mate Matt Cantor who was in the Freestylers; he was friends with both of us.

We were hanging out with Matt and he introduced me to Andrew. We were making music and we were out raving and just having fun, and then I was working with Andy who was was signed to this underground sort of early breakbeat label. I was promoting at night and Andy was making music and DJing, and I wanted to DJ so I started doing it on my own warming up for Andy and Matt. We got along really well, so we got into the studio and started making music.

I think we were asked to do a remix, right? There was a remix going and someone asked if we wanted to have a try. So we said “why don’t we get into the studio and have ourselves a go?” And it worked quite well.

LessThan3: You guys have a sound that’s all your own. You’re pretty unique in the scene right now. Do you guys go into your productions with the intention of striving to be different or do you pretty much just go with the flow and go with what comes to you?
Lee:Andy: We get really inspired by innovation and new music and we’re just trying to express ourselves as best as possible. We’ve had the technological know-how to make pop music for years now but we’ve chosen to make underground experimental dance music. Breakbeat is sort of where we’ve found our fit.

When we go into a studio we only have a set of a few guidelines for ourselves. We don’t try to have an actual sound, so when it comes out, that’s whatever comes out. It’s not regimented.

LessThan3: Is one of you more technically minded and the other is more musically minded?
Lee:Andy: It’s basically all Andy. [laughter]

Production-wise we’re both making a lot of decisions but I’m sort of doing the technical side.

LessThan3: What software do you guys use when you produce?
Andy: Logic.
LessThan3: And you prefer that over Ableton?
Andy: Yeah. I’ve used Ableton for time-stretching and a few bits and bolts but yeah I prefer logic. I was born…born?—brought up with Logic [laughter]. There was a program they wrote for Logic called Notator by the same company and I was brought up on that, so I just progressed straight to Logic.
LessThan3: So how do you feel about technology today? Do you feel that it’s finally given you a chance to be free in your own domain to produce new music or do you still feel limited in some ways by the design and the tools?
Andy:Lee: There are too many ways to make new music. You’ve got to be quite structured in your thinking to say “I want to try to do this or that,” because there’s just too much to do.

We almost have to restrict ourselves so that we can actually find a path. We used to have pads on the floor and guitar pedals everywhere, and we would try to make something out of nothing. You know—hitting spoons together and trying to get some sort of sound. Now we’ve got a Captain’s log, all singing all dancing studio. We have to restrict ourselves to come up with some kind of definite sound. Deciding to use that synth, that drum machine…just to make it tight.

LessThan3: Do you ever feel that you work on tracks then kind of get lost because you never really finish one before you move onto the next one?
Andy: Oh yeah, all the time.
LessThan3: When you play out live do you try out some of these unfinished tracks to poll the crowd and see how they’ll react?
Andy: Yeah. We’ve got four CDJs because we’re both playing, so if you play something and it doesn’t work, you just slam in another beat. So we’re always trying things out.
LessThan3: Have you ever considered moving more towards something like using an APC40 with Ableton?
Andy:Lee: The thing is because there’s two of us we both kind of have to have our hands around it. We don’t want to be locked and looking down and looking at laptops so we haven’t gone down that route.

We’ve got an old-school mentality. For us CDJs are just nice and easy. I always find that it’s hard; empathy is really the trick you need. When you’re playing good tracks for the people it’s just about putting yourself in their persona and trying to feel their vibe. On that tiny little screen you’re probably miles and miles away from what the audience is thinking. People are spilling drinks and falling over. [laughter] If everyone handed us a nice big USB stick it’d be really easy. [laughter] If you’ve got a big audience it’s much easier. So we like to play in front of nice big groups.

LessThan3: When you have to play to a crowd, how do you communicate to each other which direction you are going to take a set in? Do you go into the set with the plan?
Andy:Lee:Andy:Lee: We have a general plan—a sort of skeleton of a plan. We generally play 3 records each, give or take.

We’ve been playing records so long together that there is sort of this second sense going on; you know roughly what the other person is doing, so there’s a few different directions you can take.

You don’t really have to talk about it—when you play a couple of tunes in one direction…unless you disagree [laughter]

It’s almost because you’ve got that 3-on-3 sort of protocol that you’ve got a reasonable amount of movement by the time you get onto the deck, so it’s not really like one tune, but instead a small body of work each time. So we can sort of give a nod or a wink and change direction a bit more easily. We’re never happy though, really. [laughter] we could always be better [laughter]

LessThan3: Do you get more enjoyment out of playing your music to live audiences or do you get more enjoyment in the studio when you’re working on a specific track?
Andy:Lee: That’s a difficult question. They’re both really good fun but if you did only one of them all the time….

You can’t sit on a beach for the rest of your life; at some time you want to go play volleyball. There’s gotta be a balance.

LessThan3: One of the tracks that we recently reviewed is The Volcano Coalition—incredible track. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience and what went into it?
Lee: We always wanted to do something with that track for a long time. We were playing around with acapellas and it was working out quite well.
LessThan3: Using Beatles samples is usually a gimmick to get your name out there, but you guys made that track work.
Andy:Lee: We’ve always wanted to do something with that track—it’s my favorite Beatles track.

We were playing with that sort of choppy, thumpy big kick, that sort of house sound with big noises and interesting changes. Two ideas kind of came together really well.

LessThan3: Did you guys get Kelis involved?
Andy: Yeah she flew over to sing acapella just for us—just kidding! [laughter]
LessThan3: If you didn’t know either artist you would think that it was all one group—it’s so seamless.
Andy: Well if you’ve never heard of the Beatles….
LessThan3: If you’ve never heard of the Beatles…you’re living under a rock somewhere…[laughter]
Andy: No it just happened at the same time; it was just a crazy idea and it was just good fun.
LessThan3: So what genre would you call that? It’s kinda electro house mixed with some classic rock…
Lee: Horror stomp house. [laughter] Stomp house with high timbres. Just a mashup, really.
LessThan3: It’s kind of how a lot of your music is. It’s hard to classify so it’s kind of like “well it’s just the Plump DJs music.” It makes it much more interesting
Lee: Well that’s very nice of you. That comment just made my day. We don’t know where to put ‘em, it’s just the Plumps. I like that. That’s really good. That’s what we really hope for.
LessThan3: We saw you guys at Ultra this year—that was an excellent set as well. Completely different from today, but excellent—really polished.
Lee: We sort of just can’t stand staying still. We get pretty bored of each other quite quickly and get bored of each other’s ideas and just start chewing up other people’s ideas quite well.
LessThan3: It’s good that you guys get tired of each other and keep pushing each other.
Lee: Well that’s just it–you’ve got to keep innovating.
LessThan3: Can you talk a little bit about the scenes in America you’ve seen? Maybe Ultra compared to nocturnal?
Lee:Andy:Lee: Well when you’ve got a big open wide ceiling [at Nocturnal], it’s a live-oriented experience. It’s just massive. The atmosphere is almost lost to a certain extent; the sound flies all over the place.

It was tougher [at Nocturnal] than at Ultra. At Ultra there was just a smaller stage and a big bank of people, just a smaller thing than [Nocturnal] really.

At Nocturnal it’s just a huge place to fill so if there are no people it just looks empty. We can make changes on deck quickly in a small venue. In a big venue you need to take things really slowly. The information travels out slowly and comes back slowly so you have to adapt it from person to person. In a small venue you can flick your hands everywhere and you can just go all over and everyone’s eyes are on you and you know what you’re doing. But in a big venue like that you have to come up like a slow giant…like f*cking great…. [laughter]

LessThan3: It’s hard to adjust a big crowd to what you want to get out to them.
Lee:Andy:Lee: Especially when we’re always trying to push ourselves to change our sound and keep innovating all the time. People know you for one thing and that’s one thing that we’ve probably moved on from. We haven’t been out to the states for about ten years and people have been playing our music here for ten years, so there are people who are into our really old stuff; they come out and they want to hear our old stuff. But what we’ve been developing in those ten years they haven’t heard—they are very out of touch with what we are doing. Playing for everyone is quite tough.

I think that LA is the best place for us to play for just that reason. There are a lot of young kids who don’t know our old stuff so they aren’t expecting anything and just want to hear our new stuff. It’s sort of nice to get into what we are doing now and then they discover what we’ve done before.

We’re much more about the here and now. We could do a tribute set with like an old-school funky breaks faceoff, but that’s not what we’re about; we love to innovate so LA is perfect for that.

LessThan3: The scene has changed so quickly over the past 5-10 years, so it’s nice to see people trying to push the envelope of what’s going on. If there were one artist that you guys would say is on fire right now, someone hot who you’d like to be promoting who would you say that is?
Lee: Hudson Mohawke. We missed their set earlier on. There are different people from different countries that are doing really well in their own right. Loops of Fury from Australia are making really good music and they aren’t getting enough (not on the record) opportunities. I wouldn’t say they’re the best thing out there at the moment, but they should be recognized a bit more. There are a few people in London that have done really well that are not quite getting through certain umbrellas of promotion. There’s a lot of monopoly in dance music.
LessThan3: I think the Internet and especially websites like ours and others are creating a chance for up-and-coming artists to get the exposure that they deserve.
Andy: I think what you are doing is brilliant. Trying to find the cream of the crop and give people a voice. That’s fantastic.
LessThan3: The coolest part about this scene is that it is worldwide. We’re all doing the same thing—we all just want to make people dance to this music.
Lee: We’ve got a new night starting in London in January under the Grand Hotel label moniker and that’s sort of one of the big things we want to do—bring people up from the bottom, especially in London because there is so much localization that you can’t get a gig in a club. You can’t get radio play. Everything is clamped down massively. Even the innovative radio DJs have got their own idea of what they want to do and they’re just not open to new stuff because it undermines them, so we just want to get in there, get this club night started, and try to make it a really big rave.
LessThan3: Can you tell us a little bit more about the Grand Hotel imprint? What’s the concept behind that?
Lee: Well we wanted to sort of get our own platform for making and playing our own music and start our own sort of family, so this is the beginning of that, really.
LessThan3: And along with that you also started residencies at Fabric and Matter.
Lee: Unfortunately Matter has fallen apart now, but we sold out Fabric which is great. Now they’ve got to serve all the promoters that were at Matter as well, so they’re really inundated at Fabric. You can’t get any press at Fabric—they don’t let anyone in to cover your event. It works for them, which is cool, but we’re trying to start something new so we found a new venue in London that’s worked.
LessThan3: What venue is that?
Lee: It’s called Xoyo. It only opened last week. It’s sort of scary and challenging to start a venue with a sort of underground feel. It’s got two floors and a 600-700 capacity. So that’s going to be our home hopefully. It’s really exciting.
LessThan3: Do you guys feel that the location of your home is going to affect the sound that you’re pushing out?
Lee:Andy: Maybe. Dalston’s got a lot of new music coming out, a lot of people have moved out there.

East London also has a lot of innovation happening. Graphic design, new media…young students coming to east London. We’ve moved to east London because it’s cheaper and there’s a nice lifestyle there… and they all play synth! [laughter]

LessThan3: Well we wish you a lot of luck.
Andy: Thank you for the interview, really.
LessThan3: Thank you for your time and thanks again for having us.
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