Dan W of Art vs. Science talks about their influences, new work, and playing during COVID-19 pandemic.
Art vs. Science are an Australian electronic dance trio based in Sydney. The band consists of Dan McNamee on vocals, guitars and keyboards; Jim Finn on vocals, and keyboards; and Daniel Williams on drums and vocals. Art vs. Science began playing many live shows in Australia, performing at several festivals (Parklife and Falls Festival) and touring nationally with The Galvatrons. Around this time Art vs. Science’s first two singles, “Flippers” and “Hollywood” received significant airplay. Art vs. Science’s self-titled debut EP was released in May 2009 on the Green label. The band released two more EPs on Green the following year: Magic Fountain and Parlez-Vous Français? gaining international recognition, following the inclusion of “Parlez Vous Francais?” on a BBC 1 compilation disc. In 2010, Art vs. Science toured the United Kingdom in support of La Roux. The Experiment, their first proper full-length album was released on Kobalt Music Australia in early 2011, peaking at number two on the Australian charts. In early 2014, Art vs. Science released a psychedelic single, “Create/Destroy”, which received wide airplay, as well as releasing a music video for a new song called “I Was A Child Once”. In 2015, they released their LP, Off The Edge Of The Earth and Into Forever, Forever (MGM). The trio returned in 2019 with “Zeus In The Architecture” and accompanying video. Art vs. Science have a new song coming out Friday, May 15 called Icycle Bicycle.
- What are your main musical influences? Who were your icons and heroes? What are your favorite records?
When we first started the band back in 2008, we were vibing hard on Daft Punk, Justice, The Presets, Midnight Juggernauts… Groups that were making dance music but with so many colours and such an epic scale. And a lot of their music is very elemental, minimal. It was a really inspiring time. At the same time, we had been vibing on a lot of bands that really knew how to rock the crowd and put on an amazing show. So we were really also channeling in a lot of The Hives and their brand of sartorial swagger and energy onstage. And then also we were going for the sheer epicness of something like ACDC. And we’re also big Beastie Boys fans which sometimes poked its head through when we were thinking of vocals and other stuff like band photos and the art. It was a real melting pot.
- How has your sound evolved over the years?
Well, when we first started we really didn’t know what we were doing. We’d come from playing in live rock and punk bands, yet we were really into dance music and those aforementioned style groups. We wanted to do something with that danceability and power and feeling but completely live. We had drums, some old cheap digital 90s synths which we plugged into our old guitar amps, and we set up and wrote the first songs in a garage. And I suppose things we just as simple as they could possibly be because Jim and Dan had to play synths and sing at the same time, which can be hard! At least it looks hard from my perspective on the drums. Maybe they make it looks easy…
Over the years I’d say we’ve each learnt a little about recording ourselves and writing with the studio in mind. This has had its benefits and shortcomings, and I think has made us write some really cool stuff but also some stuff which is perhaps less instantly in your face and minimal as when we first started. Good and bad.
- What is your creative process when writing a song?
Well, we had a studio until recently in Sydney’s inner west where we had all our studio gear and instruments set up and we could just go and jam together. There’s no real consistent methodology. One person might bring in a piece of an idea and we work on it, or they might have a completely written song with the arrangement and parts solid, or we might make one up on the spot. We kind of just go with whatever we’re feeling at a particular time.
Obviously now with Covid19, we cant get together to jam, and we’ve had to let the studio go and moved all our stuff out. So now we’re sharing DAW sessions online and collaborating that way, which has been interesting and kind of a new weird fun way to do it.
- What is your greatest ambition as a musician?
Would love to be able to keep making music that I think is cool and that I like and be able to play it to people! I mean that sounds pretty humble or unambitious maybe but that’s the truth for me! It’s pretty great to make something you really like and have people respond to it well. We’ve managed to play a lot of great shows all around the world to thousands of people over the last 10 years, so we’ve ticked a lot of our original boxes in a way. But still always keen to play to people and have them hear our new music.
- Can you share with us any meaningful story from the backstage?
Not sure what meaningful would be! We try to keep fairly calm and relaxed before shows. I used to do a lot of nervous pacing about, not talking to people at all, just wanting the show to begin. I’m more relaxed now. We like running into friends or other bands that we like if it’s a festival or something like that. I’m always nervous meeting people I respect or who’s music I like. Most people are pretty awesome and willing to have a chat or something. We’re all music fans at the end of the day.
- What’s your next project?
Well, Art vs Science are obviously always making music in one way or another. We have a new song coming out Friday, May 15 called Icycle Bicycle. Check it out! We have a bunch of other stuff close to finished too, and we’re probably gonna release a few more things over the next few months, even though we can’t really tour it at all! Also, Dan Mac has his solo project Swirly Train releasing some new tunes soon too. Jim also has a solo project that he’s working on that’s really cool. Until COVID-19 I was keeping busy playing drums with some other artists, namely Thelma Plum from Brisbane and Maddy Jane. And also my other band Philadelphia Grand Jury is about to release some new music too. Keeping busy!
- What do you do during the COVID-19 lockdown? Could your sound be somehow influenced by this time? How do you think the coronavirus will impact the organization of musical events? Will the mood of concerts be influenced?
Well, as mentioned before we’re collaborating musically over the internet, which is pretty fun and new for us. Can’t get together properly yet…
I think when this is all over and people can finally go to a concert again, the release of energy is gonna be massive. It’ll be some real cathartic times. It’s hard to say how long that will be or how long it will be until we can have a major festival Down Under again with International acts… Some say it might be years before that happens. I hope not.
- The lyrics of “Create, destroy” and “With thoughts” present a positive message. Do you think that from COVID-19 it will be possible to build “something beautiful”?
Of course! I think people will be able to appreciate everything they took for granted so much more than before. Just being able to meet up with your friends and hang out and listen to music… The first concerts after this will be quite a sensory overload after all this time spent at home. I think it’s gonna be great!
Matteo Damiani is an Italian photographer, author and motion designer. Matteo lived and worked for ten years in China. During his stay in China, he paid attention to social issues apparently of secondary importance, but which influenced heavily the Chinese domestic policies over the years.