Looking to get into some synth-heavy jams, but have too much self-respect to listen to Skrillex? Then Data Romance is just what the musical doctor ordered. Striking up a melodious mixture of electronic beats with cinematic production values, Ajay Bhattachayya and Amy Kirkpatrick have spawned a fresh sound that borderlines on club thrasher, laced with a certain gravity.
In preparation for the February 19 release of their first full-length album, Other, I sat down with the duo to talk about band name changes, the creative disparities the new album benefited from, and high-stake ice cream theft involving Steve Aoki.
Discorder: I read that Data Romance comes from an Ellen Allien song by the same name. Do you want to elaborate on why you chose to leave behind your old name, Names?
Ajay Bhattacharyya: We were Names when we first started to collaborate with this kind of sound and the label that we signed with said, “We can’t do that. We can’t market something that’s completely ambiguous and not Googleable.” It’s also confusing to talk to people about.
Amy Kirkpatrick: It’s like a “Who’s On First” skit and they say, “Names!” “What’s the name?” “Names!”
D: If you had to describe Data Romance’s sound to someone who has never listened to you before, how would you describe it?
AB: Electronic is easy to say, but then as soon as you say electronic-
AK: I get defensive when people say electronic.
AB: People think of EDM and Deadmau5 and we’re so far from that. It’s singer/songwriter stuff that just happens to use electronic means.
AK: I’d say Björk, but to a movie soundtrack or something to that effect.
D: How is this album different than everything else you’ve released?
AK: We’ve only released a couple of singles and an EP of four songs that we loved, but they were very detached. We just went, “Here’s our sound,” and, “Here’s another way we sound.” With this, we really wanted to show that the songs connected.
AB: Sonically, I did a lot different than what I used to do. I would just layer upon layer old stuff and really build these grand things.
AK: We couldn’t play it live, or it was harder to play live.
AB: You’d end up going onstage [to perform] and having 95 per cent of the track do its own work and I’m only playing a tiny element of it. I’ve only got two hands. I really tried to pare it down and base things off of one synth instead of a ton layered on each other. We tried to use a lot more real instruments because we had time to record and time to re-track. So I would write string parts on a keyboard and we’d re-record them with real string players and we’d get them to play their own embellishments if we wanted. I also tried to leave more room for the vocals.
D: How has working with Street Quality Entertainment been?
AB: With the new album, they let us have so much free reign. We took all of the money that we would’ve normally spent on a studio space and fancy stuff and we spent it on mixing by Michael Patterson. He did The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtracks. He totally got what we were going for. Any budget that would have normally gone to us sitting around in a $1,000 a day studio went to him. I like doing records like that because it gives you a little bit more time. I don’t feel the crunch or if I write a shitty song one day, it doesn’t feel like I wasted the studio costs for that day.
D: How was touring with with Dragonette last September/October?
AK: It was a really dancey, fun tour. We’d play our stuff and the response would either be people were into it or people just wanted to dance to Dragonette.
AB: It was nice finally going through Canada and finding little pockets where we actually have kind of a following.
AK: Saskatoon really pops out. This guy came up and I think he bought one album and wanted us to sign it. Then he came back and bought a few more, and eventually he bought seven. He goes, “I’m going to sell them on eBay.” In my head, I said, “I hope he’s from the future. He knows something.”
AB: That validated everything we do.
D: What are your touring plans for the year?
AB: We haven’t gotten any final dates yet. If touring plans happen, it’ll be largely Canadian and German focused.
D: What’s your craziest tour story?
AB: Craziest story…
AK: God, we’re so boring.
AB: I have a bad memory. That’s my downfall.
D: Maybe something awful?
AB: There must have been something… At IDentity Fest in Atlanta, Steve Aoki stole my ice cream.
AK: I glared at him and he called me on it. I didn’t mean to.
AB: He didn’t, like, take it out of my hand. There was catering and there was a buffet thing and there was one last ice cream. We were both heading for it and he just cut me off. It was a hot day, too.
D: So do you have a grudge against him now?
AB: Totally, huge grudge. If I ever thought that I could one day work with him, I would probably lie about the grudge and say it doesn’t exist. But I’m sure we won’t, so I’ll start a war.
D: The year is 2018. Where is Data Romance?
AB: Hopefully we have a couple more albums under our belt. I’ve never had horribly ambitious goals. I’ve always said I wanted to be able to do music successfully enough that I don’t have to work a side job and this band allowed for that to happen. I can’t hope for much more.
AK: I’ve always dreamt big. I still want to keep some crazy goals. I want to win an Oscar. I don’t know how, but that would be pretty cool.
Other drops on February 19 and the duo play the Media Club on February 28. Check out data-romance.com for show details and more.