Interview with Julian Hamilton from The Presets
Ahead of Groovin The Moo 2014, the ‘musical odyssey’ that kicks off around regional Australia on April 25, we were lucky enough to be able to catch up with Julian Hamilton, one half of Australian electro-pop duo The Presets, who are amongst this year’s headliners.
You’re working on some singles at the moment. Can you give anything away about what you’re doing and where you’re heading stylistically??
It’s funny, it’s not even really planned out. I guess we’ve always just made music with feeling, in the moment. When we’re making an album, it’s probably easier to pinpoint where it’s going, but as you’ve said, we’re only just really making a few songs at the moment, so it’s difficult to say where we’re headed.
But I can say we’re really enjoying making some more streamlined sort of techno-sounding dance music again. I think Pacifica was a little bit more kind of band orientated with the live drums. A lot of the things we did on that record we really loved when we made it, and we felt we’d kind of ticked that box. So we’re looking forward to making some sort of harder-edged techno again.
Tell us a little bit about [new song] Goodbye Future. Where did the idea come from and how did you go about composing the track?
With the music, I guess we were just in the studio playing with our machines and instruments, and on that day we were just kind of making something a bit harder and a bit tougher, and a bit more jumpin’, you know? And once that track started feeling that way, we just sort of guided it home.
On other days, we might be working on songs that are a little bit softer, or a little bit slower or more ballad-like, or a little groovier. I guess the trick is we always just try and help the song find the way it’s supposed to sound. If something’s kind of tough and aggressive sounding from the get-go, you can’t really force it into a ballad.
Or if something’s more of a ballad-y song you can’t really juice it up into a slamming techno thing… You’ve got to be honest with it.
We weren’t setting out to do anything aggressive or tough, it was just kind of what we were making on the day.
And then, the video: we’d love to say we had some involvement in that, but honestly, with the videos, we just get a bunch of pictures and treatments sent to us from different directors, a lot of really interesting and different ideas. And the one we went with – with Prad (Senanayake) – was just the favourite.
Often you’ll read a bunch of treatments that you kind of think are ok, and then you’ll get one treatment through and you’ll just be like – oh wow! – this is so weird, I haven’t seen this before, and it’s just a really weird take on the song.
And they’re the ones we usually go with.
You guys are back on the Groovin’ The Moo lineup this year. How did you find it last time you played there?
It was a long time ago, definitely over five years ago. I do remember it being very wild, and I remember there being lots of mud. The Townsville one, in particular, was very hot and sweaty, and humid, and tropical. But they’re super-fun and we can’t wait to get back out there and do these ones.
There’re some great Australian acts playing: Architecture In Helsinki, The Jezebels … But they’ve also got some UK talent coming over for the occasion, too, like Disclosure and Dizzie Rascal. Are you planning to sneak into anyone’s trailer to hang out?
Hang out with Dizzie Rascal and have a bit of a party? I guess. Yeah, maybe. I think perhaps because this is a regional tour, maybe there’ll be more opportunity to be hanging out with the other bands. Often for these kinds of things, the bands just kind of shoot off in their Taragos after the show and they go to their hotels or wherever they’re staying in the city. But because these are more country towns, maybe there’ll be a bit more camaraderie between bands on the tour. We’ll have to wait and see.
Are there any bands in the world either you’d like to gig with, or you’d like to just hang out with in a social sense?
Bands that have our friends in them, we like to hang out with. We’ve been lucky enough to make a lot of friends from other bands over the years, just from touring with them. Obviously guys like Cut Copy and Midnight Juggernauts; bands like The Rapture from New York. I can’t really think of any bands that I don’t know that I’d like to hang out with, ‘cos you know, they might be dickheads. But then again, they might be really cool!
Is there anything crazy you guys have on your riders??
There’s always the boring standard fare: you know, the beers, and the bottle of vodka, and if you’re feeling a little bit rock-star-ish, you can stipulate what brand of vodka you want. Oh, and then of course there’s our salt & vinegar chips. We won’t play unless we’ve had our salt & vinegar chips.
There’s nothing that strange. When we’re touring the States and we’re feeling really unhealthy, I used to ask for things like broccoli, just green vegetables that I could eat raw. Or yoghurt, and honey, or a banana, for breakfast. We’re not very rockstar in that sort of sense.
Tell us about your latest album artwork; it’s pretty unusual. Where did the inspiration come from?
It’s funny, this stuff … often it can be something we just think of in the moment. We find a few props, or there’s some face paint, or a jacket just lying about, and you just kind of chuck it on and go with it. And you do it quite quickly.
And often, some of the more staged ideas, especially in photoshoots, that’ve been conceived by the directors, over many weeks, they’re the ones that don’t look so crash-hot or don’t work out sometimes. But then the kind of fun ones that have just been improvised on the day, they’re the ones that just happen.
And then, people find meaning in them, and they’re interpreted in much deeper ways. But often, those kind of things, they’re just spur of the moment, you just kind of, like I said, throw on a jacket and grab some face paint, cuddle up to your bandmate, and snap – there’s your photo.
Often there’s less thought that goes into the more meaningful images.