ABOVE: NEW BUILD. IMAGE COURTESY OF LINDSAY POLLOCK AND SAM LAWLOR
A new band with familiar faces, New Build features Al Doyle from illustrious British electro-pop group Hot Chip and recently disbanded LCD Soundsystem, as well as fellow Hot Chip member Felix Martin and engineer Tom Hopkins—yet manages to find its own unique voice within layers of steely electric beats, synthesizers, and fuzzy waves of sound. Though often masked by a dance floor-worthy beat, there’s a wistful, melancholy undercurrent to the band’s music: Doyle croons cryptic lines such as, “And when you’ve burnt your paper crown, do you not feel loved?” and references failed relationships, addictions, and loneliness. Somehow, the subject matter is not as depressing as it is strangely beautiful—something to revel in through larger-than-life music. New Build debuted their first single “Misery Loves Company” in late November of last year, and since then have released a new single, “Do You Not Feel Loved,” as a 12-inch—the vinyl medium reflecting the inherent nostalgia seeping through this electro-house tune. They’re playing in New York tonight, at Mercury Lounge (to a sold-out crowd, no less), but we caught up with Felix Martin in the land of the Queen and Topshop to ask about his latest endeavor.
BUILDING NEW BUILD: Well, Al and I have been working together actually for around 10 years. We actually met each other before joining up with Hot Chip, and ever since then, we’ve been making some bits and pieces. We recorded many songs over the years, none of which actually feature on this album, but Al and I have always been working on music together. We’ve had quite a close friendship and musical collaboration. But we’ve been on tour for years [for Hot Chip] basically, [laughs] and it’s been hard to find the time to finish the album to our satisfaction. With the help of Tom, who’s kind of worked as an engineer for Hot Chip, we were actually able to get the album finished.
HOT CHIP VS. NEW BUILD AND THE MULTI-TALENTED AL: It’s definitely different, because Al and I actually have to write all the songs now and produce the music. This is a lot more personal to us, and we made it in a different way from how the Hot Chip records are made. Al is really the kind of frontman of the group, so he’s the lyricist and he writes the songs, basically. He’s also the main instrumentalist, so a lot of the tracks will be multi-tracks of him performing all the songs. He’s such a gifted musician; he can play anything from drums to guitar to trumpet to steel pans, everything. So all of the acoustic lines and singing, most of these things will be performed by Al, and that leaves me and Tom to do a lot of the production and more of the engineering and working on more of the sonic landscape of the songs and the synthesizers and the electronic stuff.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: It’s inspired quite a lot by Brian Eno. He’s always an inspiration for us because, first of all, he’s English, and he was part of Roxy Music, but doing his own thing as well. It’s quite eccentric, and he was making music that sounded like pop music and rock music, but with eccentric English lyrics. Also, the Human League was a huge influence. Al is a Northerner as well, and their use of synthesizers to create arrangements is something that we’ve been inspired by quite a lot.
DO YOU NOT FEEL LOVED?: Well I guess that came more from the club music angle. Al and I DJ almost every weekend as well, so that’s a big part of who we are and that’s informed our music quite a lot, so we wanted to include a track that a DJ could play as part of a house music set that would create a unique moment at a club. In fact, I think there was probably more material like that we had written and produced, but in the end, we only included one track like that on the album. I’m not really sure why it ended up that way, but we definitely will create more stuff like that in the future, I think.
THE SHOW: The show is going to bankrupt us! We have seven musicians on stage—crazy for the size of venues we’re playing and the small fees we get paid! It’s probably because Al is used to playing with LCD and Hot Chip, where you kind of have everyone playing everything and there’s not much in the way of sequenced or computer elements. So as you say, it’s bringing that depth and layering of sounds alive, with humans playing as much of everything as possible.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: We’re coming to New York in March. I think it sold out a while ago, and I think the reason for that is that Al has been part of LCD Soundsystem, and they’ve got such a massive following in New York. They’ve got a lot of fans that want to see what someone from LCD is doing on their own. I know Al really cares about—well, we all care—but particularly Al has been really focused on making this large show something that’s really special, and I guess something that can have its own life as well. It’s all quite exciting, and I’m pretty confident that they’ll be good shows. I think we’re going to certainly be really busy, but we’re really looking forward to playing with John Wilkins, the guy that’s supporting us in the first show. We’re also looking forward to DJing with Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem on the first night we get there and just hanging out. I haven’t been there for ages, so I’m really looking forward to coming back.
BEGINNER’S SPIRIT: Yeah, it has been weird, because obviously Al and I are kind of used to it, but we’re also touring with five other musicians, and a few of them have never done it before, so for them it’s a totally new thing, and they’re going crazy and getting totally wasted. [laughs] For them it’s a really novel experience, and it’s actually weird and nice to go back to that level because you know, it’s like going back to the beginning of Hot Chip basically by playing in the same kind of small places and traveling around in a little van. It’s like going back to your roots. It’s kind of nice.
NEW BUILD IN THE FUTURE: This is really just the first step, and I think it’s got a lot of ideas in it and potential ways that it could develop. So I definitely see it as ongoing project. But I’m also aware that we’re releasing another Hot Chip album soon, and that’s going to take up another couple of years of our life, so it’s a project that’s only going to emerge very slowly. I hope that it will have some of its own followers and people that look forward to a new album, because we’ll definitely continue to make music together. It’s something we do anyway, so we don’t have much choice about it. [laughs]
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: The album’s coming out in April, and you can listen to the tracks on our website. We don’t have a record label, that’s one thing that makes us a bit different from other bands. We’re doing everything ourselves, so it’s nice that people know that it goes straight to us producing more music and there’s no middle man.
NEW BUILD WILL PLAY MERCURY LOUNGE TONIGHT, MARCH 13, AND THEIR DEBUT ALBUM YESTERDAY WAS LIVED AND LOST IS AVAILABLE NOW. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.