The Presets: “I feel like we don’t even make dance music”

“I’m certainly not disillusioned with anything!” – KATIE CUNNINGHAM finds The Presets’ Julian Hamilton in a relaxed frame of mind as the duo prepares to release third album Pacifica.

Four years after the colossal success of their second LP Apocalypso, duo Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes are just a day out releasing their next album Pacifica. The term “long-awaited” might be bandied around a lot when it comes to talk of an imminent release, but bar The Avalanches, you’d struggle to find an Australian dance record that’s been more anticipated. Just how do you follow up on 2008’s triple platinum Apocalypso that featured the anthemic lead track ‘My People’, and a string of singles including ‘This Boy’s In Love’, ‘Talk Like That’ and ‘Yippiyo-Ay’?

I know that the number one question whenever you did interviews the previous four years was always “when is the new album coming?” Did you feel there was a lot of pressure for you to come back with something really big?

No, there wasn’t really pressure on us really to do anything. I guess the only pressure that we had on ourselves was to make something real, if that makes any sense. I guess I can tell you what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to make Apocalypso again, and we didn’t want to copy what anyone else is doing. I mean Apocalypso was really, thankfully for us, really successful and all we tried to do with that record was make something cool that we liked. And thankfully, everyone else liked it too and it was a really magical wonderful time. So this time around we thought, “Look our golden rule is, let’s just make an album that we really love. And let’s not worry about styles, trends or our history or past successes. Let’s just make an album that we really want to hear right now.” So that was really the only pressure, and thankfully we’ve managed to do that. We’re really, really proud of the album that we’ve made.

Youth In Trouble is quite a different sounding song to Ghosts. Is it difficult to decide what single to lead with when there’s obviously going to be so much attention on the first single, and the inevitable assumption that it reveals the sound of the whole album?

Umm … not really. It wasn’t that difficult. Choosing a single for us is, on our list of things that are important, right down the bottom. When we make music we want to make the best songs that we can make. Then we want to make an album that really fits well, where all the songs fit well together as a strong body of work. They’re the most important things for us.

Then of course the time comes where the record company gets involved and we have to choose singles, do videos, do press shots and all that sort of stuff. That’s more the business side of stuff, which doesn’t really matter all that much to us I guess. That being said, I’m happy that ‘Ghosts’ is one of the earlier songs to go out and be heard by the general public because it’s a song we’re really proud of. I don’t know if any one song really indicates what the whole album is about, the same as with Apocalypso, I don’t know if any one song on that record was the album sound. It’s the same this time I think; again it’s quite a mixed bag of material. I think people will get a clearer picture of what the album is about when they hear the new album.

Gus Da Hoodrat, who remixed one of the songs from the album, described Pacifica as something that’s “not really aimed towards radio”. Would that be fair to say, do you think?

I don’t think we had that aim. I don’t think we ever aim towards radio. We aim towards, honestly, what we like and what we would want to hear. We always kind of have. We always have wanted to make the music that we wanted to hear first. If the radio wants to play it, that’s great! Because that means that we get paid and we sell records and we can continue to eat you know.

I don’t think you [should] ever aim to make music for the radio, that’s a recipe for disaster. And I think people can smell that from a mile off. And it’s funny, with ‘Ghosts’, I guess when we made it, we loved ‘Ghosts’. We thought it was really interesting, and something that we’d never really heard other people do before. And so we were quite stunned when we heard that commercial radio is playing it now. Likewise with ‘My People’, when they were playing ‘My People’, we were sort of stunned by that. You know what I mean? You can’t aim to make radio-friendly music. You just hope that you write good music and if anybody wants to play it, then that’s great.

How have you found the reception to the first two singles?

I try to avoid reading Facebook comments, or interviews and that sort of stuff. I guess I don’t really care. No, it’s not that I don’t care what people think … I don’t know, that’s just a dangerous place to go when you start reading all these comments about what people think of you. But what I have heard, I guess, is that ‘Ghosts’ for instance has quite divided the fans. Some people really love it and some people really hate it. But we kind of expected that, because it’s a bit of a curve ball and it certainly is not like some of our big hits in the past. I don’t know … I guess I just hope the real fans continue to enjoy our music. We didn’t want to write music that was just a smash hit for the summer and then be forgotten about next year. We want to have a career for life and make music for the rest of our lives, and I think we’ve managed to do that hopefully.

Do you feel that Pacifica is a better album than Apocalypso?

No, I wouldn’t say that it’s better or worse, it’s just the next album. The next chapter in our musical lives. When I listen to Apocalypso now, it reminds me of me and Kim four or five years ago. It feels like that time. I recognise those people, those characters. But it doesn’t feel like me right now. The same with Beams, and the same with the earlier EPs. It’s funny when we look at all our music put together, like we’re putting together our new show at the moment for Parklife and you put all the music up alongside each other, and you listen to it all to choose what songs you want to play. It’s sort of like looking through a photo album of your life or you’re seeing your life flash before your eyes. Ten years of music all put together at once, you get quite nostalgic thinking about the earlier songs, which is interesting. So hopefully Pacifica is a good representation of just where we’re at right now.

“Old ladies dying afraid and alone surrounded by coke, that really happened in Surry Hills”

There’s a line on the track ‘Adults Only’ – “little old ladies die afraid and alone, surrounded by yuppies, small bars and coke” – which I assume was about inner-city Sydney. And ‘Youth in Trouble’ obviously refers to concern over young people. I know that you guys are both settled down with kids now and obviously in very different places in your life than you would’ve been when Apocalypso came out. Would it be fair to say that Pacifica tackles a feeling of disillusionment?

Well, not disillusionment, I guess I’m certainly not disillusioned with anything! For instance, ‘Youth in Trouble’, I guess I’m hoping that song … we’re sort of taught by the media that we should be scared of youth because they’re going to steal our wallets, and they’re going to key our cars and everything. And then we’re taught that we have to be scared for them as well because they’re taking Fantasy and sexting and, you know what I mean? But I really do believe that the youth are well-equipped to get through … youth. I think that sometimes young people are better equipped for those problems than people of my generation are. They’re incredibly, generally a really resilient bunch of people, kids today. So I guess hopefully with that song it can come down either way. I’m not saying that you really are in trouble, I guess it’s more along the lines of exploring perceptions of youth.

That being said, you’re right, I’m a father now myself. And I do at times worry about my daughter and what the world will be like when she’s growing up and all that. And I’m also acutely aware that all the kids that are partying and jumping around and going crazy at nightclubs, we’re partly responsible for that … so there’s probably a few different layers to that song. But I’m certainly not disillusioned with it or anything. I think they’re having the time of their lives and having a good time, so more power to them. Just because I’m not going to nightclubs any more doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

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