The New Exotica of Rock Electronica
If you’re a Sydney-sider by trade, whether you know it or not, The Presets have crossed your path. Perhaps as session/touring musicians for Daniel Johns and Paul Mac’s Dissociatives, perhaps as supports for everyone from Wolfmother to Cut Copy to The Faint. Behind the scenes as local producers, or maybe an after-midnight drinking buddy in a seedy club that stays open till dawn. Most likely you’ve simply danced dangerously close to someone you’ve just met (your lips wet with tequila, tomorrow very far away) at one of the Setters’ infamous live shows. And now, with the same giddy anticipation a high school virgin feels knowing she’s about to have exciting if awkward sex with her motorcycle riding, leather jacket wearing boyfriend, the lads are dropping their debut album, Beams. Cue flashback.
Ten years ago Julian Hamilton, 29, and Kim Moyes, 28, discover a fellow odd-ball at the Conservatorium of Music. By day they craft the classics but by night – like urban superheroes readying to save the world of electronic music – they cast their nerdy exteriors aside, take acid and dance like demons.
Julian: From the first day it was always about writing music that we would like to hear, in clubs or going out. We used to go and see DJs who would play Daft Punk, New Order then Rage Against The Machine – we just loved it all, we wanted to do it all. There’s also stuff on the new album that’s almost classical – we love Morricone, and Serge Gainsbourg as much as we love rock-death…
Kim: And Kylie Minogue.
J: …and Kylie Minogue.
The first day Julian mentions took place after rehearsal of a band both he and Kim played in – Prop. Still in existence today (marking a ten-odd year history), Prop was an outfit making very beautiful, rich, intricate sound-scape music – “a music school band”.
J: After an hour of rehearsing that stuff we’d just wanna blow something up, y’know? We’d want to make something really immediate and explosive – a bit more for the hips, not for the head. That’s when we started doing The Presets. And that’s when we realised it was far more…
K: Easier, in every way. We could tour it easier, we could get better gigs, we get paid more…
J: More people like us…
K: There’s more chicks…
J: We could get played on the radio, given free clothes…
Sydney-based Modular Recordings offered the duo an EP deal off the strength of their 8-track demo and 2003’s Blow Up was born. The record was a cocky to the point of ironic call-to-arms: Thumping, dirty, dark dance floor anthems, delivered with the sweat and sex of rock ‘n’ roll. Blow Up successfully kidnapped the best parts from the rock and dance divide, and made something unique, and above all, fun out of them. A new cool was in town, and the peeps started to pay attention. So, what next guys?
K: Blow Up was upfront, immediate, aggressive – so we could get noticed. Once that happened, we thought we really need to make that other type of music that we love and we’re into, the sweeter and gentler side – Girl and the Sea.
The second EP. Here the boys’ love and knowledge of classical, cinematic music and their Prop past met their contemporary city-soaked sound. As beautiful as a glacier and at times just as dangerous, 2004’s delicate, detached Girl and the Sea, proved The Presets didn’t just come alive on the dancefloor.
Now we welcome Beams, more “the complete picture”, into The Presets’ world. And what a strange world it is. For if you’ve picked up Brag this week to work out what the fuck the front cover pic is about, you’re aware The Presets are not just about shimmering synths and vampire rock. Julian and Kim have been playing with the band’s visual representation since its inception, something they describe as coming from relentlessly egging each other on and because, hey, it’s fun. Sense of humour? Start with surreal, deliciously left-of-centre and use with word ‘faux-mo’ a whole lot, and you’re getting real warm.
K: We were up at Splendour and we went to a fancy dress shop and found these really ugly clear plastic masks – which we call ‘Truth’, by the way – we put them on and were like, ‘Wow…’. The guy who does our artwork was really turned on by that – his head just exploded when he saw those masks.
J: It’s such fun. It really works for me, in my head, that look.
K: It’s like a new exotica – it’s retarded… We’re so bored with the ‘cool’ video clips and the ‘cool’ bands and the brick walls and the bedroom eyes and the fringes and leather jackets…
J: Sometimes photographers will insist on directing a shoot, but after about five minutes we just take over and start wrapping each other in electrical tape and torturing each other. They love it.
K: I think it’s better, because you’re actually giving something. So many bands just wanna be worshipped, like they worship bands, and it’s like, ‘Do something, give us something, let us into your world, no matter how weird it is’.
Extending more than simply two guys who make music, The Presets’ originality, creativity, musical prowess and twisted sense of humour has created a must-see local act that has found a fanbase with rockers, ravers, surfers, the indie set, Goths kids and more. If you’re Presets convertee you’ll know Beams is an essential album from this excellently eccentric outfit. If not, then good times await you my friend: you are about to discover one of Australia’s most exciting bands. Huzzah!
The Presets on…
Kim: In Australia we want to take it as far as most bands get to go: tours, festivals, ARIA for Best Produced Album… Best Adult Contemporary Record… Best Female Vocalist… Best Gay Record by a Non-Gay Band…
Kim: The indie world [used to be] a bit dryer, a bit more straight ahead. There was a phase where it was just really just self conscious or dumb. There’s been so much more fun injected into it over the past couple of years – going to see a band play is fun. People have learned how to dance again.
Julian: The lyrics in The Presets are about as ridiculous as our outfits.