AlunaGeorge: on first name terms
When Aluna Francis and George Reid first met, it was musical love at first sight. They talk about the joys of making “flopsie wopsie” pop
They make a striking pair, Aluna Francis and George Reid. Sitting in a stuffy boardroom in their record label’s offices in London for another day of answering questions, it’s easy to see why and how these two have become a successful partnership. This is one of those telepathic working relationships where the other person is always around to fill in the blanks or, in the case of Francis, do most of the talking.
She’s gregarious and giggly, a woman who takes great pleasure in flummoxing an interviewer with how she describes her music, as we’ll see below. Reid, on the other hand, is quiet and studied, the stereotypical bedroom producer with a fierce, deep enthusiasm for and curiosity about his electronic music influences and peers.
You’ll find both sides of this collective personality on Body Music, their debut album. It’s an album of rich, off-kilter, strange sounding pop music, full of simple radio-friendly melodies, r’n’b flickers and experimental wibbly-wobbly loops. It also has some devastatingly infectious ear-worms.
If AlunaGeorge had a mission statement, says Francis, it would go a little like this: “How can we get elements like interesting sounds, weird flopsie-wopsie beats, vocals and song structures to go together? That’s been our goal from the start. The common ground was this thing that we hadn’t heard yet.
“George might start with a weird sound like this (she squawks like a demented seagull) and we’d go from there. Or I might say ‘I’ve got this ballad and it goes like this’ and he’ll go ‘do you mean something like flopsie-wopsie?’”
Interviewer and interviewees collapse with laugher. “I don’t know how you’re going to transcribe flopsie-wopsie, mate,” guffaws Francis.
They first met when Francis’s bandmate in her old band, My Toys Like Me, came across Reid, formerly of math-rock band Colour, on MySpace.
“Gus said ‘this guy, this producer, I don’t understand him, you gotta meet this guy,’” remembers Francis. “I was like ‘OK, this is interesting, I like the sound of it,’ so Gus brought me to meet George at this café. Gus was in the middle of us going ‘you two should get in the studio and write some songs for the band,’ so George went ‘OK . . . what is your name again?’
“I went along to George’s house to write songs for my band and we bumped heads for half a day and it was just not working so we decided to scrap all that and start working from scratch. He’d already done the music for Double Sixes and when he played that, I went ‘woah! Scrap that other idea, this is amazing’.”
Reid had worked with vocalists before, but this was different. “None of them had an unique voice like Aluna. It was a very instant result and I couldn’t believe it. Double Sixes had a particular melody for Aluna to sing and she came up with some wonderful words right away. We cheated our way into it.”
Their relationship to date has been fairly row-free, says Francis. “We’ve disagreed as opposed to fought. Our opinions on music are so similar so we’re lucky. We trust one another’s judgement so if someone has a convincing argument or a bee in their bonnet about wanting some sound in, we tend to agree.”
Reid already had plenty of sounds in his head that he wanted to get out there and had a good inkling of how to go about making more of them. “I was into acts like Flying Lotus, Caribou and Aphex Twin and I was really into instrumental hip-hop. When it came to putting songs with that bizarre mish-mash of sounds, I was looking at stuff that the Neptunes and Timbaland produced.
“That was the last time you had these amazing pop songs with great weird noises in the chart. Often, they were ridiculously simple, too, and that’s something we’ve tried to do. It’s amazing how people can write songs off the back of something really simple and instinctive.”
For Francis, it was about keeping the songs as pop as possible. “I think we’ve stayed very much on the side of pop. Even though we’re getting played on the radio, it’s still strange music and I can’t believe it has gone this far. But it’s about songs when you break it down and you want people to listen to it again and again and find different things every time.”
She’s also found that the band’s biggest fans are attracted by such differences. “People have got to the point where they want something different and as a musician creating something different, you’re banking on that. Before this, you had stuff which was different like this going in and out of fashion, but I think you now have pockets of people who are constantly interested in music like this. They roam the internet and share what’s happening with everyone else, which means music has been taken out of some hands and put into everyone’s hands.
“When we first started, people in the industry were like ‘that’s nice, er, what is it?’ whereas people on the internet were like ‘this is great, this is just what I like’. They’re our people.”
It probably helps that they’re not the only ones making pop music with a twist at the moment. Reid sees a DIY spirit as the common currency between the acts who’ve emerged such as themselves and Disclosure. “It’s like a self-sufficient music because everyone can make it themselves and turn their visions into reality without having to rely on third parties. That’s the common thread I see.”
For Francis, it all makes sense on the festival circuit. “I remember when we first started writing that we couldn’t even think of one other act who we could play with on the same bill. Now, I see the links between the bands making sense at festivals bcause there’s now enough bands being pulled from different corners who are making roughly the same kind of music to fill a whole stage and people are coming to hear and see that.”
yyy AlunaGeorge play the Longitude festival Friday July 19th at 6.45pm