Interview with Huxley Met Soda

Huxley Met Soda is a Paris-based band, well, actually it’s more of a project, including video mixing with music. Their atmospheric sounds are complemented with still photography yet their presence is rich in movement.

COTW’s Jo Whitby wanted to discover more about the collective and Michael Spanu, guitarist and bass player, kindly agreed to be gently grilled regarding their forthcoming album, their self-serving attitude and the different branches – such as dance – in which the project delves into for inspiration.


Cat On The Wall: When and why did Huxley Met Soda come about? How did you all meet?

Michael Spanu: Three of us met in high school in 2005 and started playing music together. From the beginning we had a rather free structure: many collaborations were initiated with other musicians and friends, some of which would eventually join the band. Then people came and left, pursuing studies or coming back after years abroad, and Huxley Met Soda acquired its definitive name and line-up of seven members in 2009.

COTW: HMS is described as an artist collective so does that mean in terms of members it’s quite a fluid outfit? What forms of art do you focus on at the moment?

MS: We are a collective more than a band because we always collaborate on projects with non-musical artists (video, dance, photography…). Not every member of the collective participates on every project or song, as we can be a different team depending on the on-going project: recording an EP or an album, shows… we try to get the best of every member of Huxley Met Soda but if one can’t participate for any reason he just steps out for one project and can participate in others anyway.

COTW: The ‘Ahead’ EP is an album teaser and you’ve launched an online campaign to raise funds for the forthcoming album. First of all can you tell us about the tracks on the EP? Why did you choose these as your teaser tracks? Secondly, what can you tell us about the forthcoming album? Is there an overall theme? How is the fund-raising going?

MS: ‘Ahead’ EP is a 3-track EP. We released it in January to send people a glance at what we are doing now with the forthcoming album. Even if there is still our “touch” on it, the songs of the album will be slightly different from what we released before (‘Deepwater Horizon’ EP in 2010 and ‘Urbaani Erämaa’ in 2009), so we think it is fair to send some samples to our fans to get them kind of ready for the big release.

These 3 tracks are also a good way to figure out what our album will sound like, all the components are in it: the two voices (actually the second voice will be a lot more present in the album), the mix between pop-rock and electro sounds, guitars and synths, drums and programmed beats.

The forthcoming album’s theme could be resumed as a bunch of scenes or pictures about individuals confronted to their environment and their tendency to evolve and interact with their context even if it’s not always in a good way. It sounds a bit abstract but the aim is more to create some kind of atmosphere rather than telling a story. We are not story-tellers. We like the idea that somebody can get inspired by our universe without being obliged to follow a specific path.

The album should have around twelve songs. We are still working on the track list. But one thing is sure: it will be a whole piece, not just a series of pop songs, even if we have some pop influence that we assume.
The fundraising is going well, as we speak we’ve already reached our goal. It’s an amazing thing for us and we feel really grateful. It actually surprised us because we thought it would have been more difficult to raise such a pile of money. But hopefully we have a very committed fanbase and supportive friends. By the way, if some of your readers want to contribute and get an album (or exclusive content), the fundraising continues until April 4th.

COTW: What is your creative process as a band when writing and recording?

MS: We do everything by ourselves. The album was completely recorded and engineered in our studio, and the mixing was done by François, one of the band’s singers. We composed it over a long time, starting last summer and finishing a few days ago with the last arrangement duties. Most of the tracks were first composed during rehearsals with the full band, which gave them a very “rock” identity, and then we remixed those tracks during the winter with a more “electro” approach. We try to combine electro and pop-rock sounds and structure to create something hybrid and modern.


COTW: Your live shows have included veejaying with images and sound as well as the use of dancers. What do you enjoy the most out of the live experience? Will you be developing your show further?

MS: Most of us can’t think of music without images, each song is a short movie or a colorful panorama in our minds, so working with video, photo, dance so veejaying seems natural for us. On stage we aim at the most intense immersion possible and we believe it comes with quality sound, images, lights, and any form of expression necessary. We are very technophile. But we don’t forget human energy and body’s expression. For instance when we join dance with music, for shows or videos (a lot of video stuff will be released this year) the main dancer is Elise, one of HMS’ singers, who is sometimes inspired by the songs in terms of movements. Dancing is another way to tell a story, as we do with music and images. Mixing digital images, body movements and electronic music while time and space are melting into something bigger for us on stage, all of this is a way of expressing our cyborg side.
Unfortunately, as an indie band, we can’t do a full show with images every time (we need quite big stages for this), but we try to as much as we can.

COTW: Why did you decide to launch the label PANDA? Will you be looking to take on more artists?

MS: PANDA: Perception And Art was originally a non-profit association we created to have a legal existence for our activities (basically to get paid for shows, to rent backline…). Recently, as we were working on the promotion of the album, the tour and all our projects, we realised a lot of bands at the same “level” of development were stuck because they couldn’t do more by themselves. We are very lucky regarding this: some members of the collective are sound engineers, others designers, we have a network of friends who produce video, photos, and movies, we can design websites, etc. Transforming our nonprofit in a “real” label is a way to strengthen our development and, when we will be ready, to help other bands. But for now we are still on our own, starting from the beginning and trying to find our way in this world.

COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?

MS: Going through 2012 alive would be a nice start, we have so much work to do!  The album release is set for early June, we will try to give shows in France and Europe if we are lucky, a music video will come with the album and some big video+music project will be released at the end of 2012… It will be an intense year for us!

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