Chicago duo on their excellent new LP

Having released the Clash-approved ‘Chrome Lips’ mixtape, with Haleek Maul, in 2012 – check out our review of it – it was obvious that we were going to be psyched to hear the new album proper from Chicago production duo Supreme Cuts

And sure enough, when said record dropped into the inbox, shit went off. Headphones on, feet tapping, thumbs drumming: yeah, this is what we needed. ‘Divine Ecstasy’ is the record’s name, and it’s out now on Memphis Industries. Rather more accessible than the black-as-night designs of ‘Chrome Lips’, it’s a collection that could catapult its makers – Austin Keultjes and Mike Perry – into dance’s big leagues. We’re definitely feeling the potential for them to go SBTRKT massive.

So we sent some questions the way of the pair, eager to find out more about the creation of ‘Divine Ecstasy’, and what’s next for Supreme Cuts. And, wouldn’t you just know it, they got back to us…

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Supreme Cuts, ‘Down’ (feat. The GTW, Khallee, David Ashley)

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Congratulations on the album, we’re digging it. It’s immediately brighter, more upbeat, compared to what came directly before it. Was that something you were keen to present at the outset of this project?

It was a conscious effort to “quit hiding our sound under a bushel basket”. We love immersive sounds that you can really get lost in, or drown in. But with this album we didn’t want to suffocate. 

What sort of influences were you drawing from here? The record’s got a lot of different vocalists involved – it gets us thinking of the SBTRKT album.

It was always intended to be a pop album in the vein of The Neptunes’ ‘Clones’ or Timbaland’s ‘Shock Value’. Not that it sounds anything like those records, just that it touches on every genre and features all types of vocalists.

In regard to the vocalists, was there any one singer who you really wanted involved, but you couldn’t make happen?

The only person that comes to mind right away was Tink, from Chicago. We started this record in the winter of 2012 and that was when her genius tape, ‘Winter’s Diary’, was out, but it’s all good. We really wanted to work with fresh new voices, base the collaborations on a mutual respect and personal connections. We didn’t want to rely on ‘star power’ or whatever you wanna call it. Although obviously Channy (Leaneagh, of Poliça) is a phenomenon at this point.

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Supreme Cuts, ‘Envision’ (feat. Channy of Poliça)

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With the variety of sounds on the record, the way it flits between styles, are you at all worried that people won’t ‘get’ it as an album? Or do you have confidence in its cohesion? Will critics feel comfortable putting it in any single genre box?

We feel that the general vibe of the record, the keys we chose to use and the horns that pop up on every song, ties it all together. Plus, there’s also the fact that we made all the instrumentals in a few months’ span, when our minds were on the same track. We also had the same dialogue with every vocalist about the theme and message of the album.

But we can pretty much guarantee that most critics will pop a blood vessel or two trying to figure out this LP, because like you said, genre is kind of like their job. Fortunately, people our age and younger really could care less about genres, and almost everyone we know “likes a little bit of everything”. Really, that’s been one of the main goals of Supreme Cuts from the start. People forget we made our first EP before ‘cloud rap’ was even a phrase, when people outside of Chicago still thought witch-house was a real genre and stuff.

For a dance-music-focused pair, what does the album format mean to you, in terms of importance? Do you buy albums on the regular, or 12”s? Are we in an era when the album format matters? Are you cool with listeners picking their favourite tracks on iTunes and just downloading those, rather than the whole LP?

We have always been dead set on being album artists since way before Supreme Cuts. Being able to let something play out, relax your thoughts, and immerse yourself in is something that we both feel is hugely important – even if that’s via a YouTube full album stream. We don’t really know if that’s worked to our advantage because we’ve heard a lot of people ask whether it’s an album, mixtape, DJ mix… people only care for two weeks and move on.

But we’re artists and at the end of the day we’d rather be able to look into the mirror and like what we see as opposed to chasing down bottle service our whole career. Although all our mixes knock pretty hard, even though they switch genres a ton. 

Your own foundations, where do they lie? Are we talking about a background in hip-hop records, or are you ravers turned makers? I see a past quote says: “The best album would be a mixture of Stevie Wonder and Sonic Youth”. Do you feel like you’re any closer to achieving that yourselves?

DJing and going to house parties and clubs have affected our musical taste, for sure. The Boom Boom Room in Chicago is a big inspiration, that’s a pretty big space for classic house. But neither of us have actually been to a real ‘rave’. We prefer being surrounded by people we know and like. 

We definitely both grew up huge rap heads, with a lot of punk, noise and hardcore, too. That was during our angsty middle-school daze. Dance music was always there for us – DJ Funk, especially – but didn’t really start clicking hard till late high school. It’s really hard to say, because we’ve both delved so deeply into soul music, tons of ambient, and even jazz, so it’s hard to talk genres. The whole scope really comes into play when we sit down and make an album.

Thinking about Stevie Wonder mixed with Sonic Youth, you kind of have to take into account that those rhythms on ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ was that generation’s dance music. And in the world of Sonic Youth, ‘Goo’ was a pop record for them. But yeah, I guess we’re nowhere closer. Too vague of a comparison at this point, and we don’t wanna sing. Maybe “Richard D James meets (R Kelly’s) ‘R.’” would be closer. 

As well as the ‘Divine Ecstasy’ campaign, are you undertaking any remixes or other production projects in 2014?

With remixes we always have to keep that on the down-low, because you never know what’s going to happen, especially with major label weirdness. But you’ll definitely hear from us in that world.

As far as other projects, we’re keeping it close to the family. We’re doing an EP with Chicago rapper Kit, and producing Khallee (of JODY)’s first solo LP, and both of those are almost done. Then we’ve songs here and there with David Ashley & The GTW (of JODY), Le1f, Mykki Blanco, Heems, The Underachievers, Haleek Maul, Mahaut Mondino, Py, and I believe even some instrumental splits and side projects. We’re probably gonna lock ourselves away in the dungeon with the crew to knock out our own third album this winter, as well. 

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Supreme Cuts, ‘Gone’ (feat. Mahaut Mondino)

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As replied to: Mike Diver

Supreme Cuts make their UK live debut on February 20th at the Old Blue Last, London. Find the pair online here

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