What do glow sticks, teenyboppers, and the occult have to do with Klaxons? Not much, as it turns out. With the band’s debut album, Myths of the Near Future (released last year on Polydor), recently taking home the Mercury Prize — Britain’s most coveted and prestigious music award — the members of Klaxons have been basking in the warm glow of critical recognition yet simultaneously trying to avoid getting burned by the hype machine’s rays. Vocalist/keyboardist James Righton and drummer Steffan Halperin recently sat down to set the record straight on some of the rumors swirling around the band.
Myth: Contrary to certain media reports and photos showing three individuals in the band, there is actually a mysterious fourth Klaxon.
Steffan Halperin: I recently joined, yeah.
James Righton: He is officially a Klaxon. But he always has been a Klaxon.
Myth: Klaxons hails from London.
Righton: I would say we are a London band more than anything. It was London where we all met and where the ideas were conceived and where it all started for us. London’s the place to be if you want to start a band and get signed. But Stef is the only real Londoner — the rest of us are from various parts of England. London’s home.
Myth: The band was named for the Greek word for “to shriek.”
Righton: Jamie [Reynolds, vocals and bass] came up with the name, and he thought it began with a C originally. It [meant] a loud, intrusive noise, and the idea of it when it’s spelled with a K is very kind of Germanic and hard and strong. I dunno, it just fit what we were doing — that’s how we sounded.
Myth: Klaxons not only started the “new-rave” movement but also coined the phrase.
Righton: It was something that we started kind of as a joke, and it was something I don’t think any of us thought would ever really take off the way it has. It was about rehashing a genre — the last known genre to exist that hadn’t been rehashed — and to kill it off, really. But the whole sound of the band wasn’t anything to do with the tag “new rave,” and it never has been. It was just something on the side that exploded. Everybody started talking about it. Suddenly fashion labels were getting involved, and before you know it there’s kids wearing “new-rave” T-shirts. There is actually a movement of sorts, but it’s a kind of confused movement that we have very little to do with.
Halperin: We’re not against it in any way. Some people think that we hate it, but that’s not it at all. You get bored of hearing about it when you feel like it doesn’t have much to do with the music you’re playing.
Righton: And there’s nothing worse than being pigeonholed as a band. As soon as you’re pigeonholed, you’re backdated. It’s something we stopped really talking about a year or so ago, and it’s still going on now.
Myth: Klaxons have a notorious and well-deserved reputation for overindulgence and “revelry.”
Halperin: I think we’ve earned it!
Righton: I think we have earned it over the last couple of years. It’s something that we’ve gotten better at, honed our technique and our skill. I enjoy it, on or off tour. Last night was a good example — I can’t remember much about it.
Halperin: We were in Washington, D.C., yesterday and we got shown around at night after the show by a friend of our friend. We went to see all these sights, and none of us seem to remember anything we saw. Luckily we took some photos, but . . .
Righton: It was weird, because we were awake, but we were asleep at the same time. I can’t work it out, but I remember seeing Lincoln, being outside Dave Grohl’s house —
Halperin: Yeah, we went to Dave Grohl’s house, but he wasn’t in.
Righton: It’s quite messy. It’s coming back now — Capitol Hill?
Myth: Myths of the Near Future was recorded under the influence of lots of drugs and alcohol.
Righton: We were going out a lot. We were spending a lot of time playing and writing together in the day, and at night after we’d finish we’d go out into town. We weren’t doing psychedelics. The partying that we were doing maybe had a slight impact on the record, but I wouldn’t look too much into that.
Myth: With songs like “Magick” and “As Above, So Below” heavily influenced by famed occultist Aleister Crowley, it’s evident the Klaxons are practitioners of black magic.
Righton: We’re not occultists, we don’t practice magick. It’s just a case of not writing about reality and nine-to-five jobs and the usual things that bands write about, of just writing about the fantastical and getting some ideas into pop music that aren’t usually seen there or haven’t been there for awhile. Just playing with things and seeing what we could do. But it naturally came out like that. It was never really forced. It’s just what we do, what we write about.
Myth: Most of the Klaxons fans in the United Kingdom are not old enough to shave, let alone drive, vote, or legally drink.
Righton: It’s a bit of a mix even in the U.K.
Halperin: We do have a lot of young fans, but I think there are just as many older fans.
Righton: We have a lot of twentysomething or thirtysomething fans. It may be since Mercury that we get more recognition from an older audience. In France we’ve always had an older audience — there are never any kids there really, it’s always thirty- or forty- or fiftysomethings at our gigs in France, and in Europe as well it’s a good mix. Still, it’s really important to keep young fans. It’s the age when music means so much to you and has a bigger impact. You can lose sight if you distance yourself from the kids who get excited about music and are so passionate about it. We’re not going to grow up and write a mature record for the next one — more adolescent, if anything.
Halperin: We’re regressing!
Myth: Klaxons exclusively date fellow rock stars.
Righton: Really? Um, no comment. Simon [Taylor, guitarist] and Jamie have girlfriends who are in bands [Simon is engaged to CSS frontwoman Lovefoxxx; Jamie currently dates New Young Pony Club keyboardist Lou Hayter], but everybody knows about that really. It’s not like we have a need to date rock stars.
Halperin: You just get put in a position where you meet lots of other people in bands and spend a lot of time with them.
Righton: Mostly people who are in bands or in media. It’s weird: Being a band, you’re just a magnet for celebrity faces who have similar lifestyles. I don’t know if we’ve got much in common with them really, but they’re just always around. It’s always the same old faces you see in London, always.
Myth: Klaxons are BFFs with Erol Alkan, Justice, and Soulwax.
Righton: The music industry is a small, small world. There’s like a web of people — it’s literally Erol, the Justice boys, Tiga, LCD Soundsystem, Soulwax, the Modular [Records] lot — we’re all interconnected. We see each other all the time at festivals, and we’re all always in London. You’ll go to a club and there’ll be like Erol or Simian Mobile Disco deejaying. It’s quite funny, because everyone’s on iChat, so I can always say, “Hey Dave [Dewaele from Soulwax], have you got any good tunes?” He’ll send over a remix, and I’ll send him a remix that we’ve done, and before you know it everyone around the world’s got it.
It’s quite weird how there is a movement or a scene, but it’s never been contrived. It’s not something that has territories, like we’re all from a [particular] city. I don’t know what the bracket is — you can say these bands in the same sentence almost, but it’s not like we sound anything like each other. We’re all friends, but we’re trying to do different things. For some reason we’re all lumped together. It’s quite nice, though, because it gives you a feeling of belonging to something.
Myth: Despite appreciating the dance-oriented music of those aforementioned friends/peers, the members of Klaxons have a special place in their hearts for swirly, dreamy, psychedelic rock.
Righton: I like Beach House — they’ve got a new record out that I can’t wait to get — and this guy called Harumi, who was a ’60s Japanese psych singer-songwriter. I love Amoeba Records in San Francisco. Every time I go to San Francisco, there’s always this guy there who recommends five or six records, and they’re always great. Like the Left Banke — just an amazing, kind of trippy, melodic ’60s psych band I really like.
Myth: James Righton has formed a group with Lily Allen, Dizzee Rascal, and Alex from the Arctic Monkeys.
Righton: It’s not real [laughing]. It’s fantasy. These are people we know, and if you’re seen talking with them . . . . I think that probably came about at Glastonbury Festival, because we ended up having a big night out with Alex and Lily and somehow Dizzy got thrown into it, but there’s no truth in that. We’ve got to get back to collaborating with each other first. We’ve got to get the second record done. We haven’t written together for about a year, so we need to get back to that.
Myth: Klaxons will be working with Dr. Dre on its next album.
Righton: No, because he’s way too expensive and busy, but we are probably going to do a track with Focus, who’s part of the Aftermath label. And we’re going to go back with James Ford [of Simian Mobile Disco, who produced Myths of the Near Future]. We want it out by next September.
Myth: The next album will have the very imaginative title Myths of the Near Past.
Righton: Is that a fact? I like I’ve heard so many different names for the second record, and none of them have come out of any of our mouths. Not Myths of the Near Past. It might be called Cedar Point, after a theme park we went to the other day. It’s got the number one and number two roller coasters in the world. We’ve become roller-coaster enthusiasts over the last couple of days.
Halperin: We might just call it New Rave [laughs]!
Righton: Keep it going for a bit longer.
Myth: Klaxons are aiming to go down in history as the world’s most remixed band.
Righton: The reason we get remixes is for B-sides, to get a different interpretation of our songs, and to get our tracks out onto the dance floor — and that’s certainly what’s happened. The Soulwax one [for “Gravity’s Rainbow”] is one of our favorites, and there’s a new really good one with Justice [for “As Above So Below”]. It’s not the usual Justice hard French track; it’s very disco and kind of subtle, kind of like the Doobie Brothers.
Myth: Klaxons recorded a serious, straightforward cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”
Righton: Yeah, it’s really good. It was for the BBC Radio 1’s fortieth-anniversary compilation [Radio 1: Established 1967]. They picked a band for each year to do a cover from that year — our year was 1996. It’s cool: We stuck quite close to the original in the sense that it’s based around a loop, so it would never really work live. It was honor to be asked to do it, and we’re proud of it.
Myth: The members of Klaxons are hell-bent on conquering America in the same way they’ve taken over England.
Righton: I think we’re all kind of happy how it’s going. It’s slow and more gradual here, but that’s a good thing — we don’t want to blow up and then just disappear. There’s a lot of loyalty in American fans. If you build it and come over here a lot, they’ll stick by you. I think a lot of the “cool crowd” or “hipsters” are coming to see us in America; in England it’s crossed over to, you know, your mate in the pub who’s into his football. We’ve got lad fans in England as well now — it’s quite fun when you cross over like that.
Halperin: Especially when you’ve got songs with lots of oohs and aahs.
Righton: Kind of singing about Atlantis and things they shouldn’t really be singing along to [laughs]!
Myth: Klaxons’ U.S. gigs are far more subdued than the band’s European shows.
Righton: I think the reactions at gigs are so much different in America than in Europe and in Japan. It’s not a bad thing — the reaction from crowds is slightly more standoffish and can be a little bit reserved. In England, every gig we play is mental — crowd-surfing, moshing. People aren’t scared to get taken away by the music. But when gigs here are good, they are so good. It just takes a couple of songs here before [people] really get into it. You’ve just got to work a little harder, not rest on your laurels and sit back and expect people to get into what you’re doing. I think that’s why a lot of British bands don’t even make it over here. It’s a challenge and it’s not as easy as it is other places. They see it as, “Why bother coming over here when we can sit back and have thousands of people come watch us in the U.K. and Europe and Japan?” But that’s not fun, is it?
Myth: The band is having a really excellent time right now.
Righton: We’re having such a good time. The last two or three weeks have been flying by. The gigs have been great, especially the ones in the middle [of the United States] — Boulder, Colorado; Lawrence, Kansas — places we’d never been before, places in the middle of nowhere where we didn’t think anyone would turn up have been packed with people really loving it. And we’ve been having fun on the days off as well. We’ve been doing things like going to theme parks — went to Disneyland, went to Las Vegas. Some of the drives in America are so long that you have to stop off somewhere.
Halperin: We stay at hotels sometimes, but mostly we’re on the bus.
Righton: Steffan had a bad time last night on the bus —
Halperin: I felt like I was suffocating in my sleep. It’s really hot on the bus and really dark in the bunks. It’s basically a coffin with no windows, so you can think that you’re dying. I was trying to climb out of something, I don’t know what.
Righton: We woke up last night to [panting]: “No, no, no! Where am I? Where am I?” and all of us were really worried. We thought somebody broke into the bus or something. There is a bus driver. He’s tough, but you could have ’em!