Photography: Laura Austin
For producers, remixing tracks is almost something of a party trick—a great skill to break out when needed, but maybe not what you want to be primarily known for. Classixx, the LA-based production duo of Tyler Blake and Michael David, threw off that label with aplomb on their excellent 2013 debut Hanging Gardens, showing a deft touch with an array of sonic flavors from house to chill wave and disco. Their much anticipated follow-up Faraway Reach, out today, continues building on those themes, enlisting support from How to Dress Well, Harriet Brown, Passion Pit, De Lux and others to further the cause of sunny, slick dance music with pop appeal. BULLETT caught up with Blake while cruising around LA.
You’ve spent much of the time since the last album touring, Was that experience where the collaborations on Faraway Reach came from?
Yeah definitely. Some of them were recorded in LA, people who came to our studio to record their vocal part. But a lot of the songs were not. There’s one main obvious one which is the song that we did with this artist called Nonku, we recorded with her in Cape Town. That song was definitely a product of the environment. She’s singing in Zulu… It’s just a song that could have never written ourselves in Los Angeles, which is I think things like that feel special to us on the album. She was just also so great to work with, she’s extremely talented singer and writer. We recorded that at Red Bull Studios in Cape Town. We did a song with Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit, and we did that in his apartment in New York City. I think the vibe of that recording session really had a fingerprint on the way how that performance came out. I think it’s one of the more intimate, vulnerable moments on the album, as far as the vocal performance goes. The songs are definitely a product of going to those places or just working with those people who are from different places than we are.
This album feels like a further definition of who you guys are as producers, rather than just remixers.
Everything is very deliberate and intentional. We’ve been known in the past for doing remixes but even when we were doing that, the way that we’d approach doing a remix was more like we’d take one element that we really liked from a song, for example, the vocals, and try and just listen to that vocal without anything and imagine that’s the lead singer in our band and think about how we are we gonna to support the lead singer’s vocal, and we’d build a song around it that way. A band that we really love is The Smiths and I remember reading somewhere that Morrissey would just come up with this vocal melody and then Johnny Mar and the rest of the band would build the song around it. I think that’s kind of how we approach remixes, and it’s not so far off from the way we create our own songs for our album. We’ve always been in bands before doing remixes, so writing songs that way is sort of natural to us. The production element is I think a big part of what has set us apart and what has made us have an audience, and that part’s really fun and important to us.
Speaking of Morrissey, how did the concept for doing the video for “Whatever I Want” as a remake of The Smiths’ “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before” come about?
Daniel Pappas, the director of the video, he came up with the idea. The idea of having somebody that’s so in such a different crazy world as T-Pain playing Morrissey we thought was kind of funny.
Is T-Pain a big Morrissey fan?
That’s the crazy thing. They got GoPro to sponsor the video, which was great. and then T-Pain really liked the treatment. If you think about it, it seems strange, but Morrissey is just a great writer when it comes to melody, and I think T-Pain is also the same way even though they sing about very different things. The funny thing is, I think they are in some ways coming from the same place. Morrissey is talking about this melancholy, mopey things, but I know that T-Pain has publicly talked about his dealing with depression and I think the way that he combats that kind of is to write these songs about popping bottles and falling in love with the bartender or whatever. It’s a funny, worlds-collide kind of situation where there is some weird cross-over between them. It was also just really, really fun to shoot because T-Pain is just the raddest dude, totally hilarious.