Unclasping the Fuck Buttons

Photo credit: Alex de Mora
Photo credit: Alex de Mora

Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung each make up one half of the London-based Fuck Buttons, probably one of the most memorable, successful experimental/electronica acts of the past ten years. Aside from the shock value associated with their stage name, the pair (who is signed to the English label ATP Recordings) has made some serious waves since the release of their debut album Street Horrrsing in 2008.

Not one but two of the band’s tracks from their second album, 2009’s Tarot Sport, were single-handedly chosen by world renowned film director Danny Boyle to be included in the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony and athlete’s parade, while their latest, self-produced third album, Slow Focus, topped a number of accredited end-of-year lists in 2013, including being featured at # 3 on Rolling Stone‘s Top 20 Dance Albums of the Year.

Listening to any one of Fuck Buttons’ records, it does not take long to understand why these talented yet extremely down-to-earth guys have been propelled into the international experimental music spotlight so quickly since the band’s inception. Despite the evolution of their sound throughout the years, Fuck Buttons’ music is at times haunting, effortlessly pulling the listener in and taking each of them on their own all-encompassing, otherworldly adventure.

Hours before the final show of their North American tour, which saw them pack 12 shows into a three week period, Vancouver Weekly sat down with a tired but happy and extremely entertaining Benjamin and Andrew, along with their friend and Grammy-nominated producer/music engineer, Matt Gill, at Fortune Sound Club.

Vancouver Weekly: Welcome back to Vancouver, guys! And congratulations on your rankings on some pretty well-recognized top ten lists recently!

Andrew Hung: Oh, yeah, thanks!

VW:How was that? How did it feel?

Benjamin Power: It felt good, yeah. Definitely. It’s always nice when somebody blows smoke up your arse for a second!

VW: For a second?! Those were some prestigious lists!

BP: It was good; they are very prestigious, I guess!

VW: Where were you guys when you found out about your place in Rolling Stone Magazine‘s Dance Album of the Year list for example?

BP: I’m not too sure where I was when I found out actually. I think I may just have been at home.

AH: I was in a bar with my friends, and we all had like, Jägerbombs straight away when we heard about it, it was fantastic!!

VW: That was my next question actually: how did you celebrate the good news, but you were already out partying?!

AH: [Laughs] Oh, yeah!! I also celebrated by just lying on the floor afterwards.

VW: Your new record, Slow Focus, is a bit more foreboding than your previous two records and has been described as potentially being this year’s “most expansive loner’s album.”

AH: Seriously?

VW: Yeah! You hadn’t heard that?

AH: No, not at all.

VW: Yes, the tracks have been described as leaving the listener feeling very introspective and self-contemplative. Would you agree with that description? Had that been your intention with this album?

AH: The intention wasn’t there, but I think, you know, [that’s] definitely the feel of it. I can imagine listening to it at night would be fantastic, I think. After a few drinks maybe… when you are under the table!

VW: You guys use various unconventional tools including children’s toys when creating a record. Could you give us a quick example of what some of the more simple instruments you have used in your music would be?

BP: Yeah. I mean, I used to use the inside of a washing machine drum. We use all sorts of pretty cheap stuff.

AH: I don’t use anything that is worth more than $100. I think my case that all the stuff we use is in is more expensive than the actual stuff itself.

VW: And you do use children’s toys too?

BP: Oh, yeah, even tonight I will use a Fisher Price karaoke machine.

VW: This is pretty awesome! Your music is categorized as being experimental, but you seem to have really pushed some boundaries with this new album. Despite how positively Slow Focus has been received, did you guys ever worry it might not have been received so well considering the difference that lies between this record and Tarot Sport?

BP: No, I don’t think so. If you start to worry about things like that, then you’re only going to be doing yourselves an injustice and not approaching the song-writing with the honesty that you should, probably. So we have never let that kind of thing influence the creative process. As long as we are happy with our output, then that is the most important thing.

VW: So you’re saying, “Take us as we are, and tough luck if you don’t like us”?

BP: No, not exactly like that. It’s like… take it as it is. We are quite lucky in the sense that other people have taken to it as well. So we feel very grateful for that.

VW: Did you expect this amount of success with this album?

AH: We didn’t expect people to like what we do, actually.

VW: At all!?

AH: Yeah, we still don’t really! It’s a cliché, but you know, we started this band to indulge our own sensibilities, and it is fantastic knowing that other people are enjoying the music. As much, we hope, as we do.

VW: That’s awesome. Where do you guys actually draw inspiration from for your new tracks?

AH: Jägerbombs…

VW: So mainly when you’re well on it then?

AH: [Laughs] Yeah!

VW: How long on average does it take for an idea to develop into a new track?

BP: It differs – it really does – from track to track. One particular track may go through various different evolutions until it actually reaches the finished piece. It could seriously be anything from three days to three months.

VW: And at the end of it, are you both 100% satisfied with the finished product?

BP: Yeah. Otherwise, we would just keep carrying on with it, I think, until we both were 100% happy with it.

VW: Where did you come up with the concepts for your music videos on the latest album? They are pretty interesting!

AH: It was fun, and wanting them to be fun was a very big part of it. We didn’t know if the video for “Brainfreeze” would actually work or not because it was very lo-fi. But we said, “Let’s try doing this.” And it made us laugh, so that was it, really!

VW: Yeah, that video portrays you both as not really taking yourselves too seriously, which is a nice change from the many pretentious music videos out there.

AH: Oh, we are very pretentious though [laughs]!!

VW: Oh, yeah, absolutely. That pretentious vibe is coming right off you! Okay, moving on. I have read some extremely strange and interesting comments and compliments from your fans regarding how your music affects them. For example, today, actually, one guy referred to your song “The Red Wing” as being the music he masturbates to.

AH: Really?! Where did you read that?

VW: YouTube! The comment section on that site is fantastic, a world of fun!

AH: Oh, god, I have to try that!

Matt Gill: “What? Masturbating to your own song, or reading the comments section?”

BP: [Laughs] Oh, don’t be disgusting!

AH: Stay out of this, Matt!

VW: Another listener mentioned that your music sounded like “enjoyable impending doom.” Can you yourselves recall the most out there, strangest compliment you have received about your work?

AH: You know, these must be recent comments because we used to read the YouTube comments, and one guy said listening to the music felt like he was lying in a pool of blood surrounded by bones.

VW: Do those kinds of comments not freak you out even a little bit?

BP: Not really. There is no set of rules as to how something makes you feel. Also, those people are behind a computer somewhere across the world in another country, so the chance of you meeting them, if they are psychopaths, is pretty slim!

VW: That is fair enough! What is next for the Fuck Buttons?

BP: Well, directly after this tour – tomorrow, in fact – we are flying to Iceland for the ATP festival that is happening there. We are going to be there for about ten days. Then when we get home, we’ll be at home for about a week, and then we have some more festivals that we are playing at. So yeah, we are quite well into the middle of touring and festival season right now.

VW: So you don’t have much time to relax between each project then?

BP: Not a great deal, but we have always kept ourselves pretty busy with everything that we do.

VW: And you like having it that way?

BP: Yeah, we do.

Fuck Buttons’ third album, Slow Focus, is available now at local record stores and iTunes.

Sharon Allman

Sharon Allman

Sharon Allman enjoys writing often, frequenting rock/ metal shows and a well made cup of tea. Sharon does not enjoy missing the bus by just 10 seconds, when her tea gets cold and falling flat on her face while ice skating. Follow Sharon on twitter @sharlovesapples