With a highly acclaimed debut of powerful synth-pop, ‘A Brief History of Love’, English two-piece The Big Pink are enjoying considerable success. They’re back with their second LP ‘Future This’, an album characterised by an even more majestic, poppy and catchy sound. Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze, who founded the band in 2007, have come a long way: Robbie first made a name for himself playing noise and industrial music with Panic DHH or Alec Empire, and Milo is the brains behind the Merok label, the first to uncover bands such as the Klaxons and Crystal Castles. We caught up with them and had a natter about the new album, skateboarding and posing as a gay couple.
You’re releasing your second album this month. How’s it different from your debut? What have you learned?
M: The whole record is the result of a learning process. I’m not saying that we made a lot of mistakes, it’s just that we’ve been playing our first record live for ages now and that makes you realise a few things. Also, it became a bit of a chore playing it and had a negative vibe to it in our live show. We absolutely wanted something more positive this time.
It sounds a lot more poppy to me than the first album.
R: Yes, some say it’s more poppy, but I think it’s just much more refined. Our first album was sombre and unpoppy. The new one is uplifting and develops a completely different energy when played live. There’s this groovy dance thing to it. We want our gigs to be a celebration and have a good time.
Didn’t you enjoy your tour?
M: No, don’t get me wrong, we did have a really good time on tour, just on stage it was a bit of a let-down. (laughter)
R: And that’s something that we kept in mind of course whilst writing the new songs.
Don’t kill me for saying this, but I feel like some of the songs almost sound like they could easily be sung by Justin Timberlake for example.
You’re coming from the indie scene, though, where the pop label is not necessarily seen as a good thing, no?
M: Everyone loves Rihanna in the end. When we DJ or go out in London, Rihanna is played next to Nine Inch Nails. The musical landscape became more open, at least in London.
Can you tell me about the writing process for the new album?
R: We never stop writing music and grab every chance to go into the studio and record stuff. Festivals are a good time to work on new music, that’s when we did some of our earliest demos. In October we stopped touring and really went for it. Our new management asked for 24 tracks and we did 22, it all came very quickly and was an easy process. We’re very excited about it. Our producer played a big role too, he really knows how to structure us and how to structure a song.
What’s the general theme of the album? You seem to sing a lot about love.
M: It’s about self-belief, how the dark times are always followed by happier ones. It’s about love, life and death. Actually it feels more like a debut record because we are more us and had more time to consider everything.
R: When we did the first record we kind of just fell into everything. We didn’t know yet what we wanted to be.
M: When it comes to lyrics, bands typically hide behind this cryptic nonsense and you have no clue what the hell they are going on about. Actually they are the ones playing it safe by being mysterious and cool. We think it’s better to be immediate and find charm in simplicity.
R: In the beginning we actually distorted the voices so people wouldn’t hear what we sing.
What’s the story behind the album title, ‘Future This’?
M: We stole it from an old skateboard advert. We used to skateboard together, but very badly. I like that world: The tribes, the gang mentality. It still exists today. People always want to hang out in groups, now we do that as a band.
Milo, you have your own label, Merok, before you started the band. Did that make you more equipped for the business than other bands?
M: I think the knowledge made us stupid in a way. And I was just running a little label from my bedroom, listening to stuff on the internet. I never listen to demos for example.
R: We never thought we would actually be successful.
Because of the experience with Merok and due to the fact that Milo’s Dad, Denny Cordell, was a record producer, you’ve been labelled the best-connected band in England.
M : The NME wrote that, right? That’s completely ridiculous.
But it is true that you discovered the Klaxons?
M: Yes, we did 500 7” for the Klaxons. But it was more like a hobby. After that they signed with a really big label.
How did the success with The Big Pink happen then?
M: We made 1000 7” with our first single ‘Too Young To Love’ and then played some gigs and got approached by 4AD. Actually it was the guys from TV on the Radio who got 4AD to notice us. That was maybe at our 10th gig. Word of mouth is also very important, in London people talk about music all the time.
What advice can you give to young bands on how to maket it these days?
R: Sometimes bands take off without doing anything except playing well.
M: It’s hard to say because we just were very lucky. Also, we are not that successful. We are not in the best position to give advice, you should ask The XX!
Did it change you to sign with a quite big label as 4AD?
M: Our label isn’t that huge and luckily lets us do whatever we want. Maybe that’s a bad thing though!
Do you still pose as a gay couple?
R: We haven’t done that for a while now and even get separate rooms (laughter). We did this to get attention and have a laugh. It was fun. A photographer asked us to kiss each other and we just did it. And we didn’t want to be like everyone else, leaning against a brick wall and looking too cool – that’s depressing. There was tongue involved and my upper lip got completely stubbled from Milo’s beard, it really burned. Just imagine two fighting fish!
What music do you listen to? What were your favourite records in 2011?
M: We listen to a lot of American hip hop lately. And the latest Girls record.
R: When you hang out together a lot you start liking the same things.
M: And I’m the jukebox!.
What’s next in store for you?
M: In Spring we are going on tour to promote the album.
Listen to ‘Stay Gold’, the first single of the new album ‘Future This’:
‘Future This’ is out on 16th January on 4AD.
The album is available on iTunes here.