Call & Response: Madrid

Local indie electronic duo Madrid are back after a long hiatus. They released their debut record Warm Waters to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic back in 2003.

Duncan Christie and Adam Perry are finally back with ---First Message---, a six-song EP giving the public a sneak preview of their upcoming second full-length record.

This new EP contains four amazing tracks that show Madrid taking their mellow, organic electronic sound in a more upbeat direction. The EP also contains two superb remixes - one by German sensation Ulrich Schnauss and local star-in-the-making Vitaminsforyou.

I spoke with both Adam and Duncan about their new EP, their live show, and sign language.

Keep reading for the complete interview.

blogTO: Why are you called Madrid?

Adam: The word Madrid has always resonated with our sound and aesthetic. It just works for us.

Duncan: There's just something cool about the word Madrid, the way it sounds. It sounds drippy and globular...like our music.

How would you describe your sound?

Duncan: This is a hard one. We sometimes envy bands that can say "we're hard rock" or "techno". We don't really have that luxury. We take all our favorite elements from everything we've ever heard and blend it together. I know that sounds like a ridiculous explanation but it's true. We have a strong brit-pop/shoegazer influence (Spiritualized, Stone Roses) but we also have a strong electronic influence (early Chemical Brothers, Depeche Mode etc.). I'd say there's elements of Skinny Puppy and Simon & Garfunkel in there too. Someone who just saw us live said we sounded like Jane's Addiction crossed with New Order. You get the idea...it's hard to pinpoint. But overall it's familiar...the sound of something warm and familiar and emotional.

Adam: Electronic, layered and warm. I guess the broad umbrella of musical genre we usually fall under is "electronic". No doubt that we wear our influences on our sleeves sometimes - people pick up on hints of everyone from New Order to Stone Roses to Boards Of Canada. We have a great love of analogue synthesizers and the warmth that they bring. We aspire to keep song writing as our main focus, whilst incorporating these other elements of electronics and programming. Best of both worlds really.

You released your debut record four years ago. Why the delay in releasing new material?

Duncan: Part of it is wanting to get it right, part of it is our process. The songs start out as little riffs and ideas or moods and then they get crafted over many months in our home studios....we also pass them back and forth between us and add our signature parts and production. Day jobs sometimes get in the way too.

Adam: The new album has actually been completed for a while now. We have been trying to secure a good fit with the right label to release it. These things take longer than expected sometimes.

Why is your EP called ---First Message---?

Adam: Our full-length album will be called ---Original Message---. This EP is really a first taste of some of the new songs so ---First Message--- just seemed natural.

How did you hook up with Ulrich Schnauss and Vitaminsforyou?

Duncan: I've been a fan of Ulrich's for many years and made contact with him when he first played Toronto with M83 back in...'05 was it? We also did a Spiritualized cover song for a UK compilation called "Never Lose That Feeling" on the AC30 label. Ulrich's in tight with all those guys and was actually a big fan of our track. Anyways, we kept in touch and i just flat out asked him for a remix. And he delivered. And Vitamins...i just sent him the track and he loved it and did a wicked remix. He said he's been playing it down in South America recently on one of his DJ tours and it's been getting great response.

What's the significance of the sign language in your EP artwork?

Adam: We were playing around with the visual idea of eye charts, when we tried incorporating American Sign Language. Apart from our logo, there is no English text on the front or back cover. It's akin to a Japanese import or something - all foreign characters. Apart from looking cool, we also liked that our EP is completely deaf-friendly. Music is generally assumed to be for the hearing only. Most people don't realize that deaf people also listen to music - or, more precisely, 'feel' music vibrationally.

Duncan: Well, we were going for a communication theme. ---Original Message--- has that feel to it - messages, expressions, communications. Sign language, I suppose, was probably one of the first forms of communications.

How does living in Toronto affect your songwriting/production?

Duncan: Well, we'd probably be more prolific if we lived in the mountains!!! Lot's of distractions here...BUT lots of wicked influences in culture and art and music.

Adam: Toronto is a great place for making music. Everything we need is here, and extremely accessible - gear, repair, studios, rehearsal space... it's all at our fingertips. It's an affordable city to live in as well, which also helps.

What do you like best about Toronto?

Adam: It's home!

Duncan: I like the sense of community, I like the seasons, the food, my friends, my work, my studio, my girlfriend, the proximity to the nature to the north...and the familiarity.

What do you like least about living here?

Duncan: The lack of ocean.

Adam: January to March.

What is your preferred method of transportation in Toronto?

Adam: Bicycle. It's the best way.

Duncan: I like my bike and skateboard and feet.

How does your live show compare to your recorded material?

Duncan: Well, it's heavier. Eric on drums brings it all up to a new level. We take it farther sonically and inject the energetic parts with a lot more energy. A bassline that will be almost implied on our recordings becomes a huge lead line when we play live.

Adam: There's a lot of musical multi-tasking taking place switching between traditional musical instruments and vintage analogue synths and other electronics. Playing live really keeps us on our feet, which makes it even more fun.

You're screening a new video at the Drake. What's the story behind it?

Duncan: We're super happy with this video. We wanted to do something that was story-driven, with no performance. Benji (Benjamin Weinstein, the director) came up with this great little story of a skiier training for the Olympics who gets hooked on pills by "the man" and ends up losing his ability to ski. It has a great authentic 70's look and feel to it. Thanks Bravo! Look for it on the Wedge on MM.

When do you plan on releasing your next full-length record?

Duncan: We're gonna ride our EP for a bit, get people hooked and then drop it. Sometime in the first half of 08...look for it.

EP release and "Out to Sea" video premiere
w/ Off the International Radar, Vitaminsforyou (DJ set)
Wednesday, November 28
The Drake Underground
1150 Queen Street W
9pm Early Show

Call & Response is a weekly series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo by Jennifer Rowsom

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