“Playing live is almost an experiment, we’re seeing how it goes,” jokes Artificial Pleasure bassist Rich Zbaraski. The four-piece have just finished soundchecking ahead of their headline show at the Camden Assembly and are settling down alongside some salted popcorn for a chat with Clash.
After spending time admittedly “begging, borrowing and stealing” studio spaces to record their EP ‘Like Never Before’ it’s ready to be showcased in live environments up and down the country. “We had to find any recording space we could. We managed to pull favours to get a drum room, then we’d manage to record guitars somewhere else and then we’d snatch a day to do vocals somewhere, but it means we can do stuff in our own time. It means we’re able to labour over it and go back and forth, which is what we do,” explains vocalist and guitarist Phil McDonnell.
The EP’s title-track is an illustrious concoction of swirling synths and surging basslines set against McDonnell’s unmistakable vocal. “There’s certain things I use and certain things in our band’s palette that I know we can have, but then we can deviate from the slightly. The main things are simplicity and there’s generally going to be a gang vocal because that for me is the audience part, it means they’re then invited to be a part of that,” Phil says of the band’s song creation process. “For most of the track there’s a central groove and then everything moves around that. I’m pretty confident in the songs that I write that they are all varied, but they work as us and have the same attributes as us,” he continues.
The band have drawn a range of comparisons which sits well with all four members of Artificial Pleasure. “We don’t get compared to bad bands, so that’s fine. We get compared to people who are our heroes and they’re probably some of the most brilliant music you’ll ever listen to. You’ve just got to be like, ‘Yeah we are influenced by them,’ and then you’re sort of taking the power away from them.” Phil offers. “For fans though it helps people place what you’re doing and people will make up their own minds when they listen to it anyway,” agrees synth player and producer Dom Brennan.
Meanwhile drummer Lee Jordan is still revelling in a comment made after a show they played just before Christmas last year. “A journalist tweeted that he’s never seen a band channel Sid Vicious and Bryan Ferry before. I’d never heard anything so perfect and so complimentary, it’s absolutely spot on.”
The band’s name quite literally alludes to finding pleasure in the least natural of commodities. Originally inspired by the Brutalist architecture of the Cromwell Tower outside of the Barbican where the singer used to work, Phil explains it’s a theory that can extend to almost anything. “Things like Red Bull – it tastes nothing like anything that’s natural, it tastes really fucking weird, but there’s immense pleasure in things that don’t represent the everyday.” And with such a contagious and stirring musicality threaded into their current back catalogue it’s not difficult at all to find immense pleasure in what this quartet are doing either.
What: An engaging electronic indie-dance fusion with sultry synths and hammering riffs
Get 3 Songs: ‘I’ll Make It Worth Your While’, ‘Like Never Before’, ‘All I Got’
Fact: Bassist Rich was born into the toilet in the house his parents still live in now. “It’s the circle of life whenever I have a bath now,” he says of the occasion.
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Words: Shannon Cotton