Dollars to Pounds: AlunaGeorge

September 13, 2012

I can’t stop listening to AlunaGeorge. With George Reid responsible for the crisp clarity of the beats and glitch tech flourishes, while Aluna Francis’ girlish tones add raw sensuality, songs like "Just A Touch" and their breakout tune "You Know You Like It" recall Timbaland’s heyday mixed with a dubby, downtempo R&B-pop flavor that’s distinctly British and very now. With Aluna hailing from St. Albans (home of Friendly Fires) and George from the leafy west London enclave of Hampton Court, the pair eventually hooked up via MySpace. At the time Aluna was in another act who favored atmospheric, leftfield electronica. “I loved the stuff I was doing then because it opened up a whole world of opportunity for my voice and it helped me work out what I wanted musically,” she says. “So when I then met George it was like, ‘Ah! This is what I want.’”

Read my interview and check out this FADER exclusive, a sick remix of new single “Your Drums, Your Love”  courtesy of Lil Silva.

Stream: AlunaGeorge, "Your Drums, Your Love (Lil Silva Remix)"

The new single is ridiculously excellent. What’s it about? ALUNA: Unrequited love. It’s kind of cheesy, but it’s coming from a genuine place. That first line, You can’t say I’m going nowhere because you don’t know where I’m coming from, is about trying to say to that person, I might just seem like no one, or not that much to you, but I’ve come a long way to get to this space and if you knew that, you’d love me!

Has the object of your affection heard this? ALUNA: I don’t think that person will ever care what I do! Haha! But it’s not about me—I didn’t write it about me!

Are you sure? ALUNA: It’s just a story. Fictional! Well, everyone’s had a past, everyone’s had unrequited love!

George, what kind of music were you playing before AlunaGeorge? GEORGE: Electronic stuff, downtempo instrumental hip-hop. Really time-consuming glitch. [Prior to that he was also the guitarist in skittish indie act Colours.]

I’m getting kind of concerned about all these bedroom producer boys spending all this time being heartbroken and pale and bent over their computers making music. Was that you? GEORGE: Basically, yeah. But maybe without the heartache. It’s one of those things though, by and large you can just learn by trial and error on the computer. There’s so much information readily available on the internet, you can teach yourself in your bedroom. If you hear something amazing on the piano or the guitar, you can’t learn it if it’s outside of your capabilities—that’s hours and hours and days and days and weeks and weeks of having to practice. It’s just much more attainable when you’re working with software because you just click buttons, hope for the best and learn like that.

Is London a big influence on your music? ALUNA: For me it’s a massive influence. I found it very stifling in St. Albans. As soon as I moved to London I was able to explore what I wanted to do rather than going with whoever I met. London was massive freedom, it was inspiring, but also really tough. You have to squeeze all your efforts into the one thing that will help drag you through all of this. GEORGE: It’s a weird one because musically I’m not sure that London has the influences that some other big cities might have because it’s so diverse and there’s so much going on. I guess sometimes there’s a general undercurrent, a scene, but the last one of those I can remember would have been the indie British guitar bands like The Libertines and The Rakes. Especially with the internet as big as it is, everyone’s looking everywhere. It must influence me on some level, but the good thing about London is there’s so much good music going on. ALUNA: I wonder if there’s an understatedness about certain things. Musically, we never go that extreme in one particular direction, maybe because of our melting pot tastes. So if we’re doing something that sounds a bit retro, it’s not going to be full-on replica retro. It’s going to be what’s good about that retro thing when combined with something else. That might be the London thing. And not taking yourself too seriously.

Do you think it’s funny that R&B is now the genre that’s influencing everyone from pop to electronic artists to guitar bands? ALUNA: It’s definitely funny in that I rejected R&B for so long. Even right up until we released “You Know You Like It,” the words weren’t mentioned to describe our music. Then suddenly there’s this revival and it’s like, you’re making R&B. GEORGE: We definitely never went, “Let’s make a smooth R&B tune.” It was just because I really want to work on more downtempo beats and I sort of encouraged it out of Aluna by accident and that’s how it ended up sounding.

Can you remember the first time you realized you could sing? ALUNA: It must have been when I was little. But I never really thought of it as a career. I was sitting in Sainsbury’s [supermarket] carpark getting ready to go in and apply for a job and my mum was like, “Do you really want to work in Sainsbury’s? If you want to sing, try and do it properly.” I was like, Oh, she thinks it’s a real job! So I got singing lessons. She can’t remember this conversation, but she said it! Now she needs to stop telling me to go learn how to be a nurse!

What music did you bond over? GEORGE: We’re both huge Radiohead fans.

That’s totally evident in your music. ALUNA: Right! It’s all over it! Ha! Thom Yorke won’t believe it if he ever hears our stuff. GEORGE: I was the classic English teenage boy who was in awe of everything they did. I can probably still play a couple of their albums 80% of the way through on the guitar. ALUNA: I’ve got the songbook at home. GEORGE: Same here!

My friend lived in Oxford and was a Radiohead mega-nerd, and he once saw Thom in a charity shop and followed him down the street like a stalker. ALUNA: I would do that! I cried at his gig and everyone around me was like “Are you okay?” and I was crying going, “I’m fine! I’m just a really big fan! Just don’t look at me!”

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Dollars to Pounds: AlunaGeorge