After a three-year spell, Brooklyn-based electronic pop duo Telepathe are about to release their long-awaited second album. We caught up with Busy Gangnes right before their European tour and talked about Miami dance music, musical expiration dates and taking inspiration from short attention spans.
Interview by Basje Boer, Photos shot by Bobby Doherty in New York, USA
How would you describe your taste in music?
Very eclectic. I tend to lean towards non-mainstream music and underground music. I like classical music, I like hip hop music. When I was a teenager I feel like you had to define yourself into a subculture. If you liked punk, that was all you liked. But now my taste in music’s pretty eclectic – and Melissa would probably say the same thing. We share that.
Do you take inspiration from all those different genres?
Yes. Consciously or subconsciously, when we make songs, we go through a catalogue of music that we’re interested in. Or we get really focused. For our latest record we decided to specifically draw from the freestyle genre of music. You know, Miami dance music. We started making our beats on a 707, which is the drum machine that they use.
What music are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to some R&B. And also cold wave, French wave music. Actually, that was a side influence when we were making this last album. We will listen to that together and kind of get inspired by it, as a band.
You actually meet up to listen to music?
Yeah. Over the years that’s been the main reason for spending time together. It’s how we hang out, you know.
So the music you’re listening to right now – will you still be listening to it in, say, six months?
The cold wave stuff is kind of a trend in New York right now, amongst our friends and our extended community. There are some club nights surrounding it that are fun to go to. But, I mean, R&B music for example, that’s been pretty consistent for me since I was in high school. As for music that’s coming out right now, I’m really into Blood Orange. That’s a friend of ours, Dev. His new stuff is really influenced by Prince. Awesome.
What makes an album stand the test of time?
If it sounds inspired and consistent. If there’s some kind of underlying theme or energy to the songs. Also, if there’s something imperfect about it… Hmm, maybe I’m getting too abstract here. I feel like an album should take you on a journey, from start to finish, as you’re listening to it.
Do you think there’s an expiration date on your music?
At the time we made our first album we wanted it to sound very of the times, you know? We were listening to a lot of mainstream hip hop and radio-style synth sounds. We get lumped into the Brooklyn scene a lot. We wanted to separate ourselves from that, but on the other hand we also wanted to represent it. But yeah, it was our specific intention to have it sound like nothing else and that in a few years it would still sound fresh, not like it was part of one scene that… expired, I guess you could say. But who knows, maybe I’ll listen back in a few years and just think it sounds like everything else I was listening to at the time.
Is it your aim to make a classic album?
You know, if it had the potential to be classic, that would be amazing. But it’s really time-consuming and hard to craft a consistent body of work. We spent a lot of time and effort on the two albums we made so far. I also like the idea of making a song and putting it on the internet. For a week people get really into it and then they forget about it. People have a really short attention span these days when it comes to accessing music and getting into music. It inspires me.
How does the second album compare to the first one?
I think it still sounds like us. If we’ve created a signature sound, then we’ve continued that. But some of the beats are more straightforward. We did that intentionally; we wanted it to be less of a headphones experience and more of a dance-floor experience. So in a way it’s a little bit more simplified than the stuff we made before. We both like really complex rhythms so it wasn’t that easy to do that, you know, to make stuff more four-to-the-floor. But we wanted to try it.
Have you tried it out live yet?
Yeah, we’ve played live four times with our new material. We just played last night in Williamsburg.
And were people dancing to it?
Actually, it wasn’t really a club setting. But yeah, they were moving to the music.
Telepathe play on 13 September at OT301 in Amsterdam. The show is free for Subbacultcha! members.