You seem to focus a lot on lyrics and lyrical themes, which in dance music is something that people don't tend to focus on.
I don't know — there's definitely a lot of room for instrumental dance music, for track-y dance music that's great for mixing for DJ's, I love that kind of music. But for me, and in my own art, lyrics are — I try as much as possible to make them stand on their own as a body of work, so you could look at those words on a piece of paper and acknowledge them as a poem or a text, aside from the music that those words are put to. To me, lyric-writing is a whole separate thing that is really important to me and has to be taken seriously — I'm not interested in throwaway lyrics about cell phones and, you know, sex and dumb stuff.
You have always had awesome vocalists for your songs — especially your material with Antony on the last album. Did you write those songs for specific singers? And how did you get Antony in the first place?
That was just a blessing from the heavens. Antony Hegarty happens to be one of the greatest voices on the planet, and he happened to be one of my best friends. So I was lucky enough to be like, "Hey, guess what, dance music-haters? Here's some real legitimate singing and thinking for you, so fuck off!" You know? So that was a real blessing.
When I first worked with Antony, I had just written "Blind." And the original version of the song has a weird synthesized voice of me singing it. And Antony thought it sounded cool, and he was like, "You should just do that!" And I was like "No, I want to hear your voice, I want to see what you would do with it." And he went into the studio to sing it, and that was that. But after that collaboration, there were a few songs that I wrote specifically for Antony's voice. Like "Easy," for example: there were moments that I thought would be perfect for his voice.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Hercules and Love Affair has a different lineup now than on the first record.
Yeah: on the recording we have more live instrumentation than we did on the first record. We have strings, we have trombones, trumpets, clarinets, the whole nine yards. I really tried to involve as much live musicianship as possible. For the live show, I wanted to get a much clubbier, more hard-hitting experience — something more akin to what I used to experience as a 15 year old!
That's an interesting change, especially since so much of your band's thing was tied into the large-band format you had when you toured the first album.
I was really happy with what we did as a nine-piece live band on the road. And I was really into the whole wonky live feeling where we felt like we were recreating something very special from the late-'70s/early-'80s kind of no-disco kind of punky-disco thing. But it never ever hit the way that my favorite club tracks hit. And that was always a problem for me. Because inevitably your bass player's going to hit some stanky notes, and your horn players are going to forget their cues, and your drummer's going to go out of time with the drum machine. And not that I have that many issues with imperfection — I love live music! — but I wanted to present something with more of a real deep-club emotional experience. And what we were presenting was more of a hoot, a fun lively no-wave thing, like more of a Bush Tetras kind of thing. And I want it to be more physical, like when that bass drum hits, you feel it in your stomach, and your heart, you know?