The Presets have been recognized worldwide for their dynamic live performances, playing hundreds of shows domestically and internationally, including key slots at renowned international music festivals such as Glastonbury, Coachella, SXSW, Exit, Melt and Splendour In The Grass.
Six years after releasing their 4th album Pacifica, The Presets are back at it again with their new album HI VIZ just at our fingertips. This mixtape party album will have all the bangers you need to get the party going.
This interview has been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.
It’s been six years since the release of Pacifica.
Has it really been six years? Wow!
What have The Presets been up to since?
Kim Moyes: We finished Pacifica, then we toured for a year-and-a-half. Then we put out a couple of standalone singles as well, “Goodbye Future” and “No Fun,” and did this massive project with the Australian chamber orchestra called Timeline, which took months and months, maybe half a year to do. All around this we started writing music for HI VIZ, that took a long time.
Julian Hamilton: We had a clear idea of what we wanted on the album early on, and when we started to make the album it was very different to what we originally wanted to make. So we spent a year and a half purging all this beautiful, emotional electropop and then it was game of waiting it out until we felt we had all the pieces of the puzzle: songs that were of a high-enough standard and also really high energy.
It was about a year ago on Facebook you said that your new album HI VIZ is “Going to be a Monster.” What spurred that comment?
Kim: We were working on this — we had this crazy beat for a couple of years and we sort of felt like there was this one element of the album missing. Julian took that beat apart, and we ended up doing 20 different ideas of how the vocal treatment could work with it. And I took it away and pieced it out with a very basic outline of “14U + 14ME” would be. We sort of back-and-forth’ed it and he sent back saying here is the skeleton of “14U + 14ME”. Once we had that piece in the bag, I felt super confident that the album was going to be — well, a monster in my mind.
As music technology keeps improving, did you find yourself exploring new instruments or tools?
Julian: We’re still using the same computers we’ve recorded on the last album, and maybe the one before it. Our operating system is getting so old we can’t do anything. We can’t even use Dropbox anymore.
Kim: It’s a sound of frustration, because we have to restart our computer 15 times before we can even work.
Julian: Yeah, yeah, so when you get in a few minutes, it really counts.
Kim: In the end, we end up using the same bits and the same old synthesizers.
Are you worried about losing your sound if you try new instruments?
Julian: Even if it’s new synths and modern-sounding synthesizers, we end up recording them through old gear and hopefully not making them sound too plastic.
You guy have a bunch of collaborations on the new album HI VIZ. How did Jake Shears get involved?
Kim: He was a fan of the band and he got in touch with the old manager, and one night he came backstage. He was super lovely, and we kept in touch and whenever he came to Sydney to play Mardi Gras or different things, we’d see him. It was cool: We were getting all these different voices on the record. We’d been trying to do a thing with Jake Shears for eight years. He was a really huge fan of Pacifica and it was even him who suggested he’d like to — when he wasn’t doing so much with Scissor Sisters anymore — he wanted to do some solo stuff, and an EP with us and we never got around to it. Part of the idea of this album was that it sounded like a party. We tried to have as much variety as possible.
Your album cover for HI VIZ is wild. How did this concept come about?
Kim: There’s a piñata! It looks like a kid’s party. When we were putting this concept together, this album, in a way it was as close to a mixtape as we could possibly do, as much variety stylistically with the songs and the colors that we would use. For the first time introducing guest vocalists as cameos. It was a no-brainer. We had this one song, “Tools Down,” and we had a really strong — two vocal elements that Julian had done. Julian has become like 10 different characters on the record, so it was a no-brainer to send it to him and he ended up writing like three different song ideas for it. We just ended up having to peel it back to one thing that would actually work in the context of the song, and we’ve done that on a couple of songs. We’d send it to a couple different artists and they’d send us back things and we cherry-picked what we liked.
Do you see any differences between Australian crowds and U.S. crowds?
Julian: I don’t know. They tend to behave themselves the same way. I think Australian crowds are much more likely to go bananas quicker, not to say that American crowds don’t go bananas, but Australians are looking for any opportunity to get loose.
Brooklyn was your first show on your “Quick Run” preliminary tour. How was that?
Julian: Brooklyn was all Presets fans. They knew all the words so they were screaming and jumping around at all the right spots. The album’s not coming out now, so they knew all the words now and they were jumping around.
Kim: There’s that thing where you play a different city every night and a different country and when you come out on stage in Australia, you basically don’t even have to do anything. You take it for granted and then you play in a different country and you’re like, “All right, I’ve got to get these guys to unbutton the collar.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I heard that old-school, ’90s-techno on this new album.
Julian: It’s just kind of us. That’s our kind of honeymoon period of stuff we like. I think for us, when we thought to make this fun party record, when we first started the Presets we joked that it was going to be a cross between AC/DC and Basement Jaxx, and we’ve always tried to — when we listen to dance music these days I guess we just miss the bonkers elements of The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx and that kind of stuff from the ’90s. Which is really at a foundation of what we do and what we are all together. It’s not such a deliberate thing to do ’90s music, but it’s what our definition of what dance music is. The dance music today is based on a buildup and a drop and it works really well and we’ve tried to incorporate it, but a lot of what we do is just craziness from the get-go, and psychedelic colors and bonkers synth work. I guess it’s ’90s but it doesn’t really feel like that to us, and not to forget that this album is meant to sound like a mixtape so there’s that.
Thank you so much for your time. Can’t wait to see you guys tonight.
Julian and Kim: Have a good time! Permission granted.
The Presets highly anticipated album HI VIZ is set to be released in the next few months.