If 2013 has taught us anything, it’s that the recipe for modern pop music is no longer a pre-packaged confection of sugar and sex, but a dish best served slightly weird. Take AlunaGeorge, for example. Since bursting onto the scene early last year, the British electro-pop duo comprised of vocalist Aluna Francis and producer George Reid, have loosened ears by blending sassy sweet hooks with electronic experimentation, a genre-twisting sound many are dubbing “future-pop.” Now, following a year of relentless hype and chart-topping singles, the artists have found their footing with the recent release of long-anticipated debut album Body Music. Heavily influenced by throwback R&B (think early aughts Timbaland) and UK dance, Body Music settles at a sound that feels fresh yet deeply nostalgic, left-of-center yet accessible, and catchy when you least expect it. Weirdly wonderful, wonderfully weird. We caught up with the exhausted-yet-chipper friends over Skype, who between fits of laughter speak just as passionately about their love of music as they do their love of chocolate-covered pancakes.
How are you guys? Where are you guys?
AF: Very well, thanks. We’re in London. In a minute we’re going over to Radio 1 for a party/DJ set kind of vibe with a few other different artists and DJs. We’re just getting our track list together.
Cool, what’re you gonna spin?
AF: We’re playing Flume’s “Sintra,” a remix that DJ Snake did of our song “You Know You Like It,” and we’re kind of deciding on the last one.
You’re currently promoting your new album Body Music, then you embark on your North American tour the beginning of September. What are your plans in the meantime?
GR: We’re finishing up the festival season over here in the UK and Europe.
AF: We’re going to have done over 22 festivals by the end of the summer.
GR: It’s crazy, it’s been every weekend for what seems like as long as I can remember we’ve been playing a festival.
AF: We just came back from four festivals in a row in four different countries.
This album was a work in progress for a long while, spread out over the course of what, a year and a half, two years?
GR: Yeah, we’ve been writing since we first met each other a little over three years ago. These songs on the album are ones we wrote and recorded in my bedroom. There’s songs on there that were written as little as a few months back, so it’s been a long process. It kind of became the process of writing an album for about a year and a half — taking everything we’d done before and seeing what we wanted to build the album around and going from there.
Listening to the record, there’s definitely a very coherent, fluid sound throughout. How did you manage this? Was arriving at a signature sound a challenge or something that came naturally?
AF: It just came through doing a lot of writing and not putting a lot of restrictions on ourselves or preconceived ideas on our writing method. After awhile we noticed that we had a few songs that had this particular sound that we liked the bounced of and just kept it in mind when continuing to write, not aiming directly for it, but knowing in the back of our minds that this was the kind of sound that we enjoyed.
British bass music is very explicitly body music, intended to be danced to and incite movement in the listener. Why is this kind of immediate, sensory music inspiring to you, and what it is that you want to communicate within your own music?
GR: When we’re writing the music, it’s essentially myself, Aluna, a computer, a microphone and a piano. To make something exciting it’s nice to have something that makes you move when you’re sitting in a windowless studio room. It’s nice to try and transport yourself beyond that or even make the most of it and create something to make us move in that tiny little space.
As musicians you two obviously mesh really well. How do you relate personally? Do you have much in common?
GR: We make each other laugh all the time, which I think has been crucial for us just because we spend so much time together in the last three years.
AF: I mean, it’s almost like there’s not much of a difference between how we are in the studio and how we are outside the studio. The same traits run through, so we’re pretty harmonious and easy going with each other. We haven’t really ever had to get to know each other because we’ve always had that rapport.
You say easy going, and that’s definitely something I’ve noticed. You two always seem so positive and well-adjusted to all the fame and attention, which at times must feel pretty weird and disorienting. How do you stay grounded?
AF: I would say we keep each other grounded very well. When one of us is freaking out momentarily the other one will very quickly find a perspective that helps to level out the reality of the situation. I really appreciate that and think it’s very important for us. It’s weird because I personally have a habit of not second guessing whether or not this whole thing is a good idea or not. At the same time being aware that people are being positive and stuff, I think both me and George take everything with a pinch of reality to it because one day things could be looking good, one day they might not look so good. You can’t have those ups and downs because it interrupts the flow of making songs. At the end of the day we need to be able to sit down and make a song in the way we’ve always done.
GR: It’s been quite a gradual build for us, even though it might appear to some people that we’ve blown up quite recently. To be fair, this year the process has accelerated a lot but we were writing in my bedroom for about a year, and that will ground anyone. My bedroom’s horrible.
Who’s the messy one?
AF: I don’t think you want to go in either of our rooms.
GR: My room’s messy as it is, but when I would have to remind Aluna to take her dirty tissues off of my beds… As I speak to you now there are plenty on this table.
What are your vices?
GR: Does food count as a vice? I’m terrible with things that are bad to eat, I’m forever eating sweets. Don’t judge me or whatever, but I woke up today and it’s the first morning that I had a few hours to take my time with life and start the day with some banana nuts and honey. That was immediately followed by two packets of crisps and some biscuits.
AF: In my time, I made myself some pancakes and put chocolate on them. I don’t like to say this, because I think it reenforces this habit, but I lose things. I was at Lovebox festival backstage in one of the tents, and in the next hour after I’d left I had five different people come and individually give me five different possessions that I’d left. Like running around after me, “Aluna! Aluna! Your sunglasses! Your shoes! Your wallet! Here’s your passport!”
Aluna, I learned you used to work as a reflexologist. Has that skill ever come in handy (no pun intended) in your career as a musician and performer?
AF: Yes, we’ve had a couple of two fake episodes of the boys crying like babies in places where we can’t get any pain killers, so the only weapon I had left was to do emergency reflexology. So I did our bass player, and a little bit on George in the back of a van for nerve stress.
GR: In the live band it’s myself, Aluna, a drummer and a bass player, and all of us boys had to have teeth out this year so the ache that came before getting the teeth removed Aluna’s helped us all. We’re very grateful. I don’t know, there must be something in the water. Or all those sweets I keep on eating.
Any particular city you’re most looking forward to visiting on this upcoming tour?
GR: Well, I’ve never been to America. Probably LA. I’m forever watching skateboarding videos and most of the skating seems to happen there, so it’d be nice to see the space.