…Le Galaxie, Ireland’s No. 1 dance act, are back with their long-awaited third album, Pleasure. They talk about frantic studio energy, a summer of festival headliners, repealing the 8th, and taking on former Fight Like Apes singer May Kay as their newest
The dance heroes talk about their long-awaited third album, Pleasure, their summer festival headliners, repealing the Eighth, and taking on May Kay as their newest member.
“See it’s like they’ve changed the game now with this one, as opposed to always trying to beat their own high score,” says May Kay, hands flailing outwards as she talks. “They’re doing everything different.”
“Pulled the plug out of the old machine,” says Michel Pope, the picking up the vibe, delighted at May’s simile. “Getting rid it of it. Installing a new one, you know?”I do, in fact. But if you’re a little bit lost, have a listen to Le Galaxie’s third album then come back for the rest of the interview.
Over coffees and Cokes in the empty upstairs area of Honest To Goodness café in central Dublin, the band’s long-established frontman and their newest member are all hand gestures and caffeine as they explain how they landed on a diamond mine for Pleasure.
“The focus has shifted,” May continues. “And I think that’s pretty impressive! Normally the focus shifts on the second album. But it’s just kind of where they…where we are at now.” She paused and thinks. “Where they are… with me…as well.”
For those didn’t already know, MayKay has risen from the ashes of Fight Like Apes disbandment and has officially joined Le Galaxie as a full-time member. It’d been a long time coming; she’d already given her vocals to ‘Carmen’, one of the standout tracks from Le Galaxie’s previous album, and her voice is undeniably a ready counterpart to Michael Pope’s. Evidently though, it’s still difficult to get those possessive pronouns right.
“They’ve slagged me about since day one!” she
exclaims. Michael isn’t disagreeing. “If I ask something simple like ‘Are we still doing that thing on Friday’, they’ll be like ‘Weeeee?’ Sorry? Who’s this ‘Weeeee’?”
You’re in the official Le Galaxie Whatsapp group though, right?
“Yes yes of course,” says Michael.
“BUT I’M NOT CONVINCED!” she protests. “I’m still convinced there’s a secret official one that they’re not letting me in on!!”
“There’s no secret Whatsapp,” says Michael, a wry grin forming under his bristling red beard.
May shakes her head. “Not convinced.”
I’m not either. I’m not even sure how we arrived on the subject. And as the two members laugh amongst themselves for a minute, I have absolutely no idea what my next question was.
“Sorry, sorry,” May giggles. “We got completely railroaded there. Where were we?”
….The album! Yes, that was it.
As Michael explains, it wasn’t long after supporting Faithless in Kilmainhaim approximately two years ago that plans were laid out for their third LP. They began in the summer of 2016, and pieces fell into place quite conveniently after they recruited Swedish producer Johan Blende to help them out – a move that seemed natural, considering his stunning remix of ‘Humanise’ from their last album.
“We just thought that remix was awesome,” beams Michael, “almost better than the actual song itself. And it kind of got us thinking that if he’d been there from the start, we might’ve gotten rid of a lot of our bad habits. “See we were tired of producing our own music and I think we needed some objectivity, ‘cause we get into a bit of tunnel vision and narcissism sometimes. You become very defensive of things you’ve written, so you need someone outside, with a tougher edge.” “It was amazing,” adds May. “Obviously with any producer it should be a good relationship, but Johan was hands-on in the right away. The lads would have something really, really beautiful that they’d written, something that, to my ears, would sound complete, and then Johan would say get out, leave me alone for a couple of hours to work on it.
“So we’d come back-”
“Yes, with wine. We’d come back and Johan would’ve deconstructed and reconstructed the track and changed it in ways I can’t even explain.”
“He’d take Mary’s vocal and separate it and pitch it up and down and we were like –what have you done there?? We all have a fairly good sense of production but even we were amazed by it all. He brought this real modern picturesque to the album.”
This all fitted in nicely with that ‘Le Galaxie-esque’ simile of changing the game rather than beating the high score. Whereas the 14-song behemoth of Le Club had been recorded and produced by the band themselves and was geared completely to the live performance, the slimmer, leaner Pleasure was very much a studio effort.
“We wanted a really tight studio record,” says Michael. “None of the songs had been played before. We flipped it, did the studio work, rather than going out and auditioning them live.”
Did that change the creative process?
“Definitely. I mean a lot of the songs on Le Club were written separately, as in the ideas were filtered into the studio by us at different times, but this one was written by all of us. Any ideas were coming there and then and we were able to start manipulating and editing right away.”
“But it’s not as if that ‘four-to-the-floor’ element is missing,” adds May. “That’s an unconscious thing with Le Galaxie anyway. It’s part of the trade. So when you’re sitting writing in the studio you bring all that already, but
"One thing I really love about Le Galaxie is that they were very vocal about the marriage referendum, now they’re very vocal about Repeal the 8th"
also you’re physically calm and you’re thinking about the journey of the song, rather than how it’ll play out live.”
That much is apparent. Songs like ‘Day Of
The Child’, ‘L.I.E.S’ and ‘Demi Moore’ seem hardwired to fill every nook and cranny of your headphones as much as they’re made to be club-ready bangers. Were there specific things they were going into the studio, lyrically or stylistically, that influenced the writing?
“I just keep thinking of the makeshift booth that we have in our studio,” says Michael. “I’d spend hours and hours working in there with Dave – who’s kind of like our engineer in the band – and he’d sit there and have no problem with my crazy repetition. He’d listen to the same thing over and over again and he’d know exactly how to edit.
“But to answer your question, a lot of the lyrics came to me while I incubated in that booth. It was sort of like a sensory deprivation chamber in there. You’re just free-associating and letting your mind wonder and writing and singing about whatever you want, trying not come close to madness.”
Free-associating lyrics – with winks to big ‘80s synth bands and nods to obscure pop culture references – are part of Le Galaxie’s hallmarks (as is staying on just about on the right side of madness).
Michael’s co-singer, who’s been nodding fervently as speaks, picks up: “For me, my experience before Le Galaxie was that we were afraid of space in our songs, so we’d have lyrics squished on top of lyrics – no wonder we split up! – but with the lads it’s all above the minute when they’re in that vocal booth. There’s that frantic energy there, and it addresses love and lust without overstressing it in the lyrics and in a very pure way. You just know that’s all gonna come across live.”
VANTASTIC NEWS THEN?
It certainly seems so. And for anyone who’s looking forward to seeing Le Galaxie live, they’re at the likes of Vantastvival, Indiependence, Sea Sessions and a handful of other festivals this summer. They’ll also be headlining a few of them, which is a remarkable testament to a band that’s worked their way up for over a decade.
“It’s always felt special doing the festival circuit,” says Michael. “Even from our first festival, we knew something was going right by the way the crowd was reacting. And God, I mean every year festival season comes around and it offers something new. It’s great to be able to headline and play as late as you can and really know you’ve earned it, but none of us in the band have egos to bruise either – we all know that you can sometimes get your best audience at three or four in the afternoon. We’re absolutely OK with that.”
Just before that all gets underway, though, there’s a generation-defining vote taking place in Ireland next month. And despite having a considerably high profile, Le Galaxie have been unabashed in their views about issues like repeal the 8th.
“I’m not getting on my soap box here,” says Michael. “If you’re a band and you have nothing to say about these issues, or you do have something to say but don’t want to – that’s your choice. But for us, I think it’s a waste to have a platform like Twitter, where we have nine or ten thousand people following us, and not do something with it. I mean there’s a big moment is coming up in May and I think we’d be remise not to use our angle.”
May continues. “It’s like Mick says, when you hear a really shitty voice, you just feel compelled to at least balance it with something just decent. I mean the one thing I really love about Le Galaxie is that they were very vocal about the marriage referendum, now they’re very vocal about Repeal the 8th. And I actually do think it’s important for people like that to share their voice, so that – whether its gay rights or repealing – it showing that it’s not a gay vs straight, man vs woman issue, it’s a human rights issue. As far as I’m concerned, we can’t shout men down who are working hard to be allies in this, because we all have a vote and it’s equally important that all of us use it.”
Pleasure is out now via Red River.