Andrew Butler of Hercules & Love Affair talks to eGigs

the UK tour, influences, the new album, new band members, and more on Monday 21 February 2011

Last week eGigs got the chance to speak to Andrew Butler founder of New York's unstoppable dance collective Hercules And Love Affair who return to UK shores for 9 dates in March to air tracks from their sophomore album, 'Blue Songs'.

Hercules And Love Affair
For those that haven't heard your new album 'Blue Songs' yet how would you describe it?
I would describe it as something of a stupefying record like my first record. It’s not a great description, but it's really noisy, banging, jacking moments and very introspective almost ambient mellow moments. It's much more personal, and less reverential. For instance I don't think this time you're going to hear a song and think, "Oh, Giorgio Moroder inspired that song." You're going to hear it and say, "Oh this is different." And that difference was more about me trying to assert my own compositional voice, that has developed since I was a child. To the degree that I was using music that I wrote as a child, and actually put it on the record. I'm really trying to return to something personal, and my own voice. Even though the first record was fully me, you heard a lot of references. In the new record there are still influences but they’re less direct and less obvious.

You've currently got new members, your intention was always to rotate the cast of Hercules & Love Affair...
Well, not so much rotate but more invite, and if a rotation happened it would be glorious, because it meant that there was a long lasting relationship and friendship. For instance one member that will always rotate is Kim Ann Foxman, and that's because the working partnership we have together in uncanny, we can go into the studio and come out with something always, and our friendship deepens every time we work together.

Other of artists we've had have developed solo careers, and others are undoubtedly going to develop solo careers. Nomi Ruiz is actually working on a solo career, but I think she's probably going to stick to her guns and stay with Hercules and appear with us whenever she can.

Who are the new members of Hercules for this forthcoming tour?
We introducing this fabulous singer from Chicago called Shaun J Wright who spent a couple of years in New York. He has an interesting background, he's studied club culture academically, and grew up in Chicago with a mother who is an R&B vocalist which made him more introvert, and he didn't sing as much as he should when he was growing up. Then he went to the London College Of Fashion, and he had a real sense of fashion, and he got a Masters degree in Fashion Curation so he brings a lot of style to the whole group as well as a humongous voice that he must have inherited from his mother.

The next new member is a woman called Aerea Negrot, and she is kind of a wild card. Her name is a palindrome, spelt the same forwards and backwards.

She came to me in the midst of an Antony And The Johnsons performance. I was helping him, I was selling merchandise, I was his merch boy, which at times I'm proud of and at times I'm not so proud of. There's nothing wrong with selling a T shirt to a bunch of people.

She came out of the audience really sad, and actually crying. The people behind her had asked her to leave because she was crying too much. She left, and I was there, we got talking, and she mentioned she liked techno music and she liked opera, and to me having just worked with Antony (Hegarty) who has a bit of an operatic style in his voice. So naturally I was intrigued. I was like, "Wow, here's a girl who does both."

The next day she and Antony and I had lunch. I lost contact with her, and then made contact with her again and went into the studio and recorded the first song on the album about three years ago.

All of our performers have something pretty unique on stage, something special, but I think I can confidently say she's the most dynamic. She's a classically trained ballet dancer so she knows her body really well. She throws her legs in the air, that sounded bad, but she does a lot of movement. She really engages her crowd, she's a performer and she's also a solo artist on the BPitch Control label, which is a premiere techno label in Berlin.

Then we have our main man, boy, Kim Ann Foxman who is on vocals. Who sings on a couple of songs, most noticeably one of my favourite songs which is our cover of 'It's All Right'. Kim Ann and I decided to do a song for the two of us, and we decided to do it without any rhythms just bringing out the beauty of the song.

Do you think have members that just move in and out of Hercules make it difficult for the dynamic of the band?
Well logistically it does. On the first tour Antony wasn't able to tour, and I knew that from the beginning. I knew he was going to be embarking on his own tour, and I knew he was going to be recording two new albums, writing a book, doing a movie. You can't ask someone of that calibre to be touring with you on your debut record, playing shows to 400 people at times. That was a bit of an issue.

Our new collaborator Kele Okereke, who is most famous for his work with Bloc Party, he's been really cool. He's just showed up at a couple of gigs and sung with us, and perhaps in the future we may take him on mini jaunts, with a week here and a week there. He plays five or six shows with us.

But overall it can cause a problem. My vision or goal is to incorporate as many different inspirational vocalists as I can, and that is going to logistically create problems for me, because I'm going to be working with, in my dreams singers that span the ages from 18 to 65 year olds on tour. 65 year olds on tour just don't happen. We're just going to continue this way and each record is going to be different and diverse, so that by the end of the trajectory it's going to look like a massive project that involves tonnes of people, and I'm really looking forward to that.

Have you got any guest vocalists who might appear on the UK tour dates?
I'm sure Kele will show up once or twice. He was with us a Heaven last week, and the three vocalists that are on the latest record will be with us, on this tour.

How do the UK fans compare to the US ones?
They went off at heaven. It's hard for me to tell because I'm in the back with Mark (Pistel) doing all the knob twiddling and we're really focusing on trying to get the set as solid as possible. I do get to look up and I get a sense of the crowd, but not nearly the way the singers do. I should ask them right here.... you guys would you say at Heaven it was a really strong response?
Reply: Yes, it was amazing.

Would you say they were frigid at times?
Reply: Definitely not.

So does that mean US ones can be frigid at times?
No, US ones are not frigid. US ones are out of control, except New York, New York can be a little stand offish, at first they were because they expected us to prove a lot. But, once they saw that we could do it, the crowds were insane.

What has been the most memorable gig you’ve played so far?
My most memorable gig would have been one of the dates with the Gossip. It was an opening slot but we won over a crowd that was more of a rock/dance crowd and they were cheering for us throughout our set. It felt so rewarding. Also, Electric Picnic in Ireland a couple of years ago. It sounds cheesy, but it was one of those moments where time and space were suspended and I was able to enjoy the show whilst fully present, and it was pretty amazing. That makes it one of my all time favourites.

Are you doing any festivals this summer in the UK?
We have tonnes of festivals lined up, certainly Glastonbury, we're playing the World Stage.

What are your plans for Hercules?
The same things as now really, make a record, play the record, and maybe incorporate more slower music. We have plans to evolve the show so that people hear songs that they've never heard live. I've just written a film score for the first time which the whole band saw for the first time last night. I'm really proud of it.

It is a short film (Abraza Mis Recuerdos) that was funded by the Minister of Culture in Spain, and directed by a really talented young director called Horatio Alcala and it's being entered into a hundred film festivals, and that was thrilling for me to work with symphony orchestra members.

Who influenced your musical styles?
Everyone from Ralphi Rosario and Adonis, acid house people to deep house people like Merk and MK, and Detroit artists all the way to Brian Eno, and singer songwriters like Judith Hill to a great song by Carole King. I find inspiration from anything.

How do you see the club music scene at the moment?
I think it's a healthy scene at the moment. Europe is always a little bit healthier and a bit more ready for the party than New York or America. I think there's a lot of young artists who are trying to write real songs, timely songs, and I think it's pretty cool.

You can see Hercules And Love Affair when they play the following dates in March:

Thu 10 March digital, Brighton
Fri 11 March Village Underground, Shoreditch, London
Sat 12 March The Faversham, Leeds
Sun 13 March Mojo, Liverpool
Mon 14 March The Foundry-Sheff Uni, Sheffield
Wed 16 March Metropolis, Bristol
Fri 18 March FAC251, Manchester
Sat 19 March Arches, Glasgow
Sun 20 March The Tunnels, Aberdeen

To buy tickets, where available, click here.

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article by: Scott Williams

published: 21/02/2011 13:19