Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"We think of it as music trivia" Interview: Yacht Club DJs

This interview was originally conducted for, and published by Beat street press as well as online here. The following is the unedited 'direcor's cut' of the article.
Has it really been a full twelve months since we’ve heard or seen from Yacht Club DJs, Australia’s leading purveyors of mash-ups par excellence? Having spent nearly three solid years touring Australia, in both regional headline tours as well as a regular fixture of major festivals like Big Day Out, Splendour In The Grass, Parklife and Falls, the partners in crime – Gareth ‘Gaz’ Harrison and Guy Chapell-Lawrence – decided to take some time off from the party-crazed, vodka-swilling, sweaty madness they call their live show. “We were a little burnt out and were a bit sick of the sight of each other,” laughs Gaz, suitably suffering from a hangover. Speaking down the line he recalls, “we were just tired I think, we were acting up a bit because we were cranky kids, being naughty doing all the things we shouldn't do.”

‘Naughty’ being getting nude mid-set or playing Parklife and shattering his ankle on a barrier after stage-diving onto an inflatable boat. A Yacht Club DJs set is nothing if not a maelstrom of party abandon, with the two deck runners being the craziest people in the room. “We are idiots,” confirms Gaz, but everyone loves an idiot right? “We’ve made a career out of that statement.” Now they’ve recovered, the pair are itching to set off on their national east coast tour in April. “We’re refreshed now after a year off, we just want to get out there and really flog it,” he says.

So what have they got to flog? Chiefly, their latest mixtape,
They Mostly Come At Night… Mostly (still available for download here). Perhaps their most ambitious set to date, seamlessly ricocheting between popular hooks (Public Enemy x 'Love Cats'? Check), some musical cornerstones (Jackson 5, Johnny Cash, check), some knowingly sardonic winks (Limp Bizkit backing Estelle), and of course, their usual fascination with eighties hair metal. One notable peak comes in pairing the cheesy power balladry of Journey’s 'Don’t Stop Believin’ with Kimbra’s verse on the recent world-dominating 'Somebody That I Used To Know'. “How ridiculous is that?!” quips Gaz. “The guitar solo and everything works with the chorus. It [sort of] adds a positive message to it. I was quite surprised when Guy turned up and said ‘listen to this’ – it was a definite highlight.”

It’s just one example of literally hundreds that are squeezed into its 70 minute running time, though the press release touts the tally at five to six hundred, Gaz retorts, “That’s an estimate, it could be anywhere near a thousand, we have no idea. It’s not like we write down everything as we’re doing it, we just chop these really small things in and then forgot about what we’ve done. As long as it sounds good, who cares?”

This sort of free-wheeling attitude has always been in the spirit of what Yacht Club does, even though the nature of their mixes swims in some particularly murky legal waters, they defy the looming shadow of copyright wranglers. Having begun DJing at the tender age of 16, Gaz admits, “[we] came into it with a bit of naivety. We were used to hearing things like
The Avalanches and 2 Many DJs, and all these other people sampling and thought, ‘Obviously you can just do it, it’s cool, it won’t be a problem.’ Then the more you get into it, the legal side rears its ugly head.”

As mash-up artists, Yacht Club can never really ‘sell’ their music, unlike
Girl Talk’s flexible ‘appropriate use’ terminology with the United States judicial system, Australia’s policies are far more strict. “We are quite legally bound in Australia,” confirms Gaz. “We can’t do too much with what we make, so apart from performing it live we’d be writing a million-artist year-long APRA list. I try not to think about it. We don’t make enough money to be sued, so we’re happy. It’s probably best to stay under the radar in that respect.” Interestingly there’s no weight to critics simply dismissing them as pilfering other’s music for their own means. “We’ve both been in bands a lot longer than we’ve been in Yacht Club,” details Gaz, himself a regular member of blues act Them 9’s. “I’m a musician as well, I like getting paid! So I kind of understand both sides of the coin. I think people should obviously get credit and reward for their work but at the same time, if someone goes and does something creative, people should be more accepting and open to the idea that what they’ve made isn’t exactly what you made – it’s just a part of the recording… there’s a lot of room for creativity in sampling.”

None more-so than in Yacht Club’s own dazzling configurations, where the full canvas of pop culture is ripe for dissecting, not simply its music. Having previously included Disney songs and the Roger Ramjet theme in their delirious mixes,
Mostly Come At Night continues the trend; with enough curios to delight Generation X listeners, from cutting in Street Fighter’s 'Hadouken’ sound effect to the ‘make those bodies sing’ banana commercial of the mid '90s. “I think we’re just trying to represent what we like more than anything,” details Gaz. ”Between the two of us I don't think there’s a genre of music we don’t like, so it’s all going to end up there eventually. We’ve always enjoyed the ‘Brothers with ADHD’ thing we’ve been tagged with, we think of it as music trivia. We hope that there’s someone sitting down, really listening to it trying to guess where everything comes from or pick all the artists. We do it as much for them as we do it for the dance-floor; because that’s where we were when we decided to do this – it’s a huge part of it.”

It’s a romantic notion, but it’s this obsession that compels the duo to exhaust themselves out on the road, to disobey conventional music laws in spite of the risks, to keep releasing music for minimal return. Can the cycle of: drop free mixtape - tour incessantly really be enough to sustain a career? How long can the Yacht Club’s keep up this pace? Ironically, Gaz thinks that while the gatekeepers of licensing are looking for a way to skewer them, they’ll equally come knocking if there’s money to be made, “with our level of exposure, eventually record companies will start asking the question, ‘surely we can make money out of this?’ It’s something that everybody obviously wants or I hope people want it. I’ll still do it even if they don’t. We owe a lot to our fans, they’re the ones who allow us to keep doing what we’re doing. They seem to still be digging it so we’ll keep giving them what they want… ‘till they tell us to fuck off.”

*             *             * 

Yacht Club DJs play tonight at the Prince Bandroom, then throughout April with support from Hunting Grounds. Tickets available through OzTix:

Apr 6: Bended Elbow, Geelong VIC
Apr 7 & 8: Karova Lounge, Ballarat VIC
Apr 13: The Gov, Adelaide SA
Apr 14: Waratah Hotel, Hobart TAS*
Apr 19: Wollongong Uni Bar, Wollongong NSW
Apr 20: Academy, Canberra ACT*
Apr 21: The Standard, Sydney NSW
Apr 22: Cambridge, Newcastle NSW
* Hunting Grounds not appearing for Canberra and Hobart dates 

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