OF ALL the albums released this year, Le Galaxie’s new LP Le Club is the one you can judge by its cover. The sleeve is a shock of pink and sky blue, with flying cars, palm trees and shiny glass skyscrapers — a future party LA dreamed up by someone who missed the boat on Blade Runner.
The band commissioned a Japanese artist for the cover after frontman Michael Pope discovered her on Instagram. They reckon she nailed the brief of electronic escapism, with a Japanese take on an Irish take of downtown disco LA, complete with a night scene on the back cover.
Pope says: “It was difficult because I think she was using Google Translate. Some of the emails were amazing, she described childhood as ‘the day of child’. She was like, ‘I’m so delighted, this kind of music means so much to me since the day of child. She was brilliant, open to us changing, say a flying car. We were obsessed with the cover girl’s really defined buttocks.”
Back to the grey drizzly present, I’ve joined Pope and bass and synth man David McGloughlin at the smallest round table in the smallest coffee shop in Dublin to get the lowdown on the music under the cover.
The album was fully finished “basically a year ago to the day”, says David, and the pair are visibly buzzing about finally getting it out there. They’re even breaking into the odd hummed riff when they’re describing the tunes they’ve been working on since locking themselves in a room in Slane two years ago with “every single synth we owned and loads of borrowed ones”.
The year-long wait after mixing was down to the small matter of a deal with Universal, “and you have to wait for the legal teams to be happy on both sides”. David adds: “It was probably worth the wait.” Michael butts in: “Arguably.”
It’s all fake modesty of course — Le Club is finally the sound of studio Le Galaxie finally catching up with their reputation as Ireland’s go-to festival/party/rave powerhouse.
David and Michael left cohorts Alistair Higgins and Anthony Hyland in Dublin while they hit LA to mix the album with Eric Broucek, saying they “couldn’t bear to do it by email”. Broucek was on their “wish-list” because of his work with the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Black Dice, the Juan MacLean and Shit Robot. They went to LA with 13 of the LP’s 14 songs and bagged it in five days, with an hour to spare. The city clearly rubbed off on the production, with David saying they got into “that romantic fantasy of LA”.
Michael adds: “One thing though, I never thought the first time I’d be driving down an LA freeway and to Echo Park I’d be listening to Jazz FM. I thought it’d be Kavinsky or something.”
Kavinsky’s widescreen cinematic electro is a handy marker for Le Club, which leaves debut album Laserdisc Nights II behind in a cloud of Testarossa fumes. It’s a gleaming hi-def collection that recalls classic synthpop, 80s TV idents, Daft Punk’s robo-key solos and retrofuturist experiments by the likes of James Ferraro, DMX Krew and Ford & Lopatin/Games. You’ll find all the classic big city pop themes in Pope’s lyrics, with ‘the street’, ‘the night’, ‘love’ and working late never too far off the horizon.
“It’s cool to give back a little bit of goofiness at the end”
They’ve also included their biggest hit so far, Love System, with an added bonus sax solo in case you thought they were taking the piss by sneaking it on.
“We were afraid people would think it was cynical, just chucking on our biggest song, but we knew it would be going out elsewhere so we figured that needed to go on there,” says Pope. “And anyway, it sits perfectly on the album – and as for the Irish folk, we gotta give you something, we gotta up that wind machine and get that shirt billowing.”
As another random bridge to the 80s, the sax player is Ben Castle – son of trumpeter Roy ‘Record Breakers’ Castle. “We’d done Love System with him in Galway a few years ago… it’s on YouTube, he’s playing the sax with one hand, just tearing it apart. If you google it you’ll see the inception of that idea,” says David.
“The worst thing we can do is have nothing to do on stage… we’re not a band who stares at a laptop screen”
Over the last year Le Galaxie have been teasing out new songs live but Pope adds: “We didn’t wanna blow our whole wad before the album tour.” Their two-night stand at Dublin’s Academy will see Le Club launched with all the bells, whistles, badges, glitterballs and glow sticks we’ve come to expect – as well as the album’s guest vocalists Elaine May, Senita and Fight Like Apes’ MayKay.
With so much studio polish on the album, they’ve been working out what they can physically play live, and Pope assures us: “We like to almost have too much to do. The worst thing we can do is have nothing to do on stage… we’re not a band who stares at a laptop screen.”
The first time I saw Le Galaxie live was in Dublin’s Bernard Shaw around six or seven years ago to around 15 people, and Pope reckons he can remember the night. He points to a tattoo on his arms, saying: “I got this done the same day. We were just piled into a corner, then the next day we went to Cork and played to four people.”
So where did it all go so right?
Dave recalls: “Back then we were more guitar-based, more krautrock and post-rock. I was thinking about that yesterday and how far we’ve come. Our first festival was Castlepalooza and we realised something was going down. Also there was a point where we played the Button Factory. There were DJs on before us and we thought, what do these people wanna hear, so we basically got out our more dancey tracks and the reaction was tangible, a watershed moment of, ‘Holy crap, people are really going for this’.”
Since then, the band have been given carte blanche to do whatever they want on stage, without worrying it’ll backfire. People still talk about the first time they played the Jurassic Park theme at Electric Picnic a few years ago, a preposterous idea on paper that became their calling card for a while.
Pope says: “The great part about that is, it’s like the national anthem after a good nightclub. Also, people have been there for an hour of original music, they’ve been with us the whole time, so it’s totally cool to give back a little bit of goofiness at the end. Then again, as soon as people started talking about it too much we just stopped doing it.”
David adds: “People didn’t realise we did loads of different things before that, we did Total Recall, ET.”
“I wanna finish to Riverdance next,” Pope adds.
In an interview last year, Pope said they’d once asked Jimmy Somerville to guest on a track but he never even replied, so now that they’ve got added industry muscle with the Universal deal, have they any other singers on the wish-list now that they’re already working on album 3?
Pope doesn’t think too much before saying: “We’d love to work with Robyn. She’s amazing, a complete package. It wouldn’t even be a collaboration, you’d just let her run away with it. In saying that I’ve still got my heart set on Jimmy Somerville! We were thinking of Bonnie Tyler but I’m not sure her voice is what it was. We could get her to freestyle over something.”David only has one voice on his mind: “John Oates. Not Daryl Hall though.”
Original Version in Irish Daily Star