The last time we spoke to the Midnight Juggernauts they were beefing with John Travolta and in the throes of a national tour for their debut LP “Dystopia”. Fast forward 18 months and the interstate trio are penciling in collaborations with Solange Knowles, Beyonce’s sister, and on the cusp of releasing their sophomore album. My how the times have changed. We spoke to drummer Daniel Stricker about working on the new album, receiving underwear from Japanese fans, touring the world and the importance of doing things independently. This is a fucking juggernaut of an interview so let’s dive into it shall we?
P: What have the Midnight Juggernauts been up to since Dystopia?
MJ: Well we’ve toured a lot and I’ve been trying to improve my cooking skills in my time off. I’ve been enjoying my time at home. (Laughs) Nah, we were touring all of last year overseas so we got back in November and Dystopia only came out overseas in April of last year so since then we’ve just been kind of writing, recording, demoing and yeah, cooking.
P: Yeah? What have you been cooking? Do you cook for Vin and Andy?
MJ: I have cooked for Andy once and he didn’t like it, he didn’t eat it. But yeah, I’ve been cooking.
P: How’s the reaction been overseas?
MJ: Overseas was really great last year, we didn’t really know what to expect but it’s funny how far music can travel – as I said we put the album out in April. But it was crazy how much it had already grown just from being online. It doesn’t really matter so much these days getting the physical product out, it’s good because you get the whole package and it’s something you collect and everything, but it had already built a lot before that.
All in all it was really good, we played some massive shows, we did pretty much every festival you’d dream of doing. And it was amazing, I’ve got great photos, my iPhone is full of photos.
P: So the staggered release schedule internationally didn’t really change anything?
MJ: No not really because it was online. I mean you want it to sync up, and on this new record I’m pretty sure it will, but the online thing – it does its thing these days.
P: So where are the Midnight Juggernauts big around the world?
MJ: It’s really weird, it was really good in Europe. It’s funny because we were in France a lot last year, we actually had an apartment there for two months and I was checking some statistic somewhere, I can’t remember where it was, but it said in France the fans were double that of Australia. It was just really crazy.
P: Based on album sales?
MJ: I can’t remember what it was, it was somewhere recently that I saw it. Someone sent it to me, which is just insane. But Europe was great, UK was great, the US was great, Japan was great. I mean it was pretty great across the board. Japan was really cool â€ cause we did Fuji Rock and people go crazy as soon as you finish a song and then it’s dead silent, super quiet. And I remember getting there and the day before we walked around the festival and it was all these people coming up to us that somehow knew who we were, I have no idea how.
P: Myspace pictures?
MJ: I don’t know. There must be all these terrible pictures out there. But they gave us these presents. And this one girl had this cardigan on that had MJ embroidered on it, it was pretty funny. It’s the only place in this world where you actually feel like The Beatles.
P: Who owns the MJ cardigan?
MJ: She does.
P: She didn’t give it to you?
MJ: Nah. But Japanese fans gave us underwear and all this crazy stuff, I still have a pair of boxer shorts that I wear, which are awesome.
P: Well let’s talk about the new album, what’s the vibe?
MJ: It’s pretty different, it’s probably better if people just hear it. I feel like it’s weird to talk about it and the other thing is I’ve lost so much perspective on it. I mean we were recording a couple of months ago so it’s pretty much finished but we’re still kind of working on it.
I can say that it sounds different because all three of us really worked on this one, it’s a lot more of a live sounding record. And the last one, I worked on it but because I only just officially joined the band right before we went into the studio I didn’t really work on it as much, but this one’s been from start to finish.
In terms of what it sounds like, it’s a mix of a million things. It’s 70’s sounding, it has this big washed out sound and it’s pretty lush.
P: What were you guys listening to while you were in the studio?
MJ: Lots of different things. But the one thing I’m happy about is people’s initial reactions. They’ve said it doesn’t sound like anything that is happening at the moment so I’m happy with that. I take that as a positive response. Even if the sound is different you can tell it’s still us from the chord progressions – it’s in our style. But it’s very different, it’s like a band playing in a room – it probably sounds more like we sound live.
And in terms of what we were listening to, lots of classic pop from a long time ago. I dunno, I guess you’ll just have to hear it.
P: I’ve heard some new stuff live, the first thing I noticed was Vin’s vocals – they seem a lot more laboured over and melodious…
MJ: Yeah in this record there’s a lot more vocal harmonies, huge harmonies. We really made an effort to explore that cause it’s such a great thing from all those classic pop tracks.
But also because there were a lot more minds working on it together it goes in a lot more directions. From one song, just from playing it live for instance, we can each be doing three different things in one song and that’s because there’s so many layers and it goes in so many different directions within the one track.
And with the live show we’re trying to play them all live, 100 per cent live, so it’s a lot harder to do it that way. More organic with a whole bunch more toys and pedals and samplers.
P: You mentioned that you used a lot of instruments on the album, how does that translate live then?
MJ: Well its tough, but I think it’s a challenge.
P: Have you worked it out yet?
MJ: Well we’re kind of working it out, it’s so exciting, well for me anyway, I think for everyone, it’s so exciting having a bunch of new songs that are challenging to play live. It’s the best, and we like to reinterpret it live anyway, which we do a lot. By the end of our tour for Dystopia the songs were sounding completely different to when we started touring it.
P: There was that closer that you guys had, that was always never on an albumâ€¦
MJ: We have to record that one day.
P: Yeah I like that track Andy goes nuts on the synth – is that the one I’m thinking of?
MJ: Yeah I know the one.
P: Put that out as a single and I’ll totally buy it.
MJ: Okay, I’ll do it just for you Ash (laughs). Yeah we should record that one day. It’s just a fun song to play. There’s a track on the record now which is kind of similar to that, its got this ending that goes for about 10 minutes. It’s just Andy going crazy on a Moog, we’re touring now with a Moog, and it’s kind of a similar vibe.
P: Vin in a few live shows gets a bit metal on the guitar as well…
MJ: Yeah, touring last year we definitely thrashed it out a bit more.
P: Does that work its way onto the new album?
MJ: Not as much as you would think, but I’m sure when we play live it will creep in. We’ll probably do some metal thrash version of an old song. I’d actually guarantee we’ll do a thrash metal version of an old song, because you play the songs so much.
P: It’s like playing a new song.
MJ: Yeah, like ‘Road To Recovery’ as 400 bpm Gabba with screamy vocals.
P: And double kicker?
MJ: Double kicker yeah.
P: Tell us about recording the album with Chris Moore (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, Liars, Foals).
MJ: Well we produced it, we were throwing around ideas of how to do it, and we decided to produce it again. But we wanted to get the best sounds we could. So we got an amazing engineer, Chris was really great. And we definitely tried things we wouldn’t have done with him, but at the same time we definitely produced and did it in our way. He’s a really cool dude and it was great working with him.
P: Yeah, is that important to do? It seems like independence is a big part of what Midnight Juggernauts is all about.
MJ: Yeah and as well, just the way that everyone writes stuff, the way things get changed…Even now things are getting changed – I think Vin was redoing some vocals two weeks ago. And we were in the studio in April/May so it’s definitely the way things get written – they get rewritten and tweaked so it’s important for us to do that on our own.
P: Is it important to not have the normal label pressures and deadlines that other bands would have at majors?
MJ: You have your own deadlines, though I think any type of deadline on a creative process is not a good thing. It does force you to focus though. We wanted to get it out there as soon as we could after our last record and I think the first single comes out in two weeks or something.
P: It also seems like the climate of Australian popular music has completely changed in the last two or three years to the point where dance music is the most popular music now…
MJ: Yeah it’s crazy. But at the same time, we didn’t look at that and go well now’s our time, we didn’t even think about it. And in hindsight we’ve written this record that’s not an electro record at all, it’s more like electronica. It’s got electronic elements to it.
P: Well the first album wasn’t even electro either.
MJ: Yeah I guess so. But this one is even less than that. Way less.
P: Can we dance to this record?
MJ: Yeah definitely but it’s not as dancey a record, it’s got as much dance elements but not as much dance production if that’s make sense.
P: That makes total sense. Can you tell us about the “Into The Galaxy” video the Surface 2 Air guys did?
MJ: That was a pretty crazy experience actually, that’s probably one of the craziest things we’ve ever done.
P: How did that come about?
MJ: Well it was shot in the Pyrenees in the South of France. The overseas label paid for it and we’d never done a big budget clip before so it was such an amazing experience. We actually played on top of this marble quarry looking over these mountains and stuff so what you see is what we were seeing. It was nuts. And we stayed in this little chalet hotel.
P: Are you going to revisit that kind of visual epic-ness?
MJ: I guess this album is really epic, I don’t know if we’ll revisit those epic budgets (laughs). But probably the visually epic part yeah.
P: I also wanted to know, I was looking at your Myspace, why is Beyonce Knowles’ sister in your top friend?
MJ: Haha, that’s pretty funny. We went to some show we were DJing in Paris last year, and we went to some fashion show or some ridiculous thing where we totally didn’t fit in. And we were hanging out and this girl came up to Vincent and like jumped up on him and it was Solange – Beyonces sister – and they’ve been talking, they were talking for ages. We’ll do a collaboration someday.
P: That’s crazy.
MJ: Yeah it’s ridiculous. But that’s just the stupid thing. At that thing it was Kelly Rowland, Usher and Solange and we were sitting there thinking what the hell are we doing here?
P: So wait, did she recognize Vin?
MJ: Yeah I think so, I don’t really know, I can’t remember exactly what happened, and they’ve been friends and I think she’s coming to visit soon or we’ll go to visit her, I don’t know.
P: So you’re two degrees away from Jay Z?
MJ: Oh I don’t know about thatâ€¦
P: Well speaking of collaborations, did you guys collaborate with anyone else on the record?
MJ: We were going to with a couple of people but we just decided for this album we wanted to do it ourselves. There’s certain people who have sort of added bits and pieces to it, like friends, which is always nice â€ cause it’s good to get other people involved.
I think we’ll do some collaborative stuff, there’s a whole bunch of people we’ve been meaning to release stuff with for ages, but we’ll probably do it all separately and release it as one offs.
P: Can you tell us who that is?
MJ: Well, Solange for oneâ€¦.
P: Are these all hypothetical?
MJ: Well that one will probably happen, but there’s a bunch of people like a lot of bands we met last year, we were actually going to do a track for this TV show last year with Late of the Pier.
P: Have you guys sourced remixes for the singles?
MJ: Yeah for the first one we’ve got this great Emperor Machine remix. Nile Delta did one, Juan MacLean, CFCF, Memory Tapes, this guy called Babe Rainbow who’s really cool, he’s signed to Warp, he’s new.
We’re doing a limited edition release on Acephale records, they’re this great record label that do Salem, Memory Tapes, Air France. They’re putting out Memory Tapes’ album and their EP, they’re doing an EP for Air France. We’re doing a limited edition thing, it’s going to come out next month.
P: How about the other way around are you guys remixing anyone else?
MJ: We get asked at least a couple of times a week, but we’ve just had to say no to everything. One remix we’re going to do though, Health asked us to do a remix for them and they’re going to do one for us hopefully.
P: Yeah I think they fit well with you guys.
MJ: Yeah they’re really cool and they seem like really nice guys. We’ll see, we’ve talked about it and it’s going to happen but maybe I shouldn’t put it out there because it hasn’t happened yet. It’s confirmed but it hasn’t happened.
P: Just finally, about Siberia, are you guys going to do anything with the imprint?
MJ: We were actually talking about it the other day about putting out a 12 inch from someone I won’t say yetâ€¦
P: Are they Australian?
MJ: They were actually Australian, but we were talking about doing this other group from France before and we’ll probably do that still. We’ve talked to them before about it and they’re into it. But it’s definitely in the pipeline, but we’ve been so focused on the album it’s kind of tough.
P: Thanks for your time dude.
MJ: No worries man.
Title Image Provided by Midnight Juggernauts