With every ‘unmissable’ album, and ‘must see’ movie you’ve heard about, but are yet to get round to - piling up like homework -hype and hyperbole can often seem one and the same. Curxes, however, are one band that won’t leave you wondering what all the fuss is about. This electronic post-punk duo are making genuinely interesting and innovative music, wholeheartedly earning them their standing as ‘ones to watch’. We were lucky enough to talk to Roberta Fidora and Macaulay Hopwood about their musical beginnings, composing over email, and worthwhile artwork.
On your new track you’ve really stacked the proverbial deck. Could you maybe tell
us a bit about how you develop a basic song idea into the fully fleshed out sound of
something like ‘Valkyrie’?
Macaulay: “Stacking the proverbial”. I like that as a descriptive phrase!Our song ideas start in totally different ways; sometimes it’s a beat or riff, other times it’s a
basic chord progression and vocal melody played on a piano, sometimes it’s one of us just messing about on a toy keyboard. We like using sounds which wouldn’t normally be associated with pop songs; the most obvious in “Valkyrie” being the trumpet which sounds like it’s being inserted into the ar*e of an elephant. Whatever the idea, Roberta will go and write lyrics and vocal melodies whilst I programme the backing, then we’ll just rehearse and refine it until it feels finished.
Roberta: In the beginning, some of the ideas like "Spectre" and "Haunted Gold" were bleepy, haphazard arrangements on my computer that I wasn't really willing to change in any way but I think now, we tend to both work from little sections and snippets as opposed to wading through those files. That way we can make sure we're each putting in what's best for the song and cut out unnecessary textural elements. Lyrically, I'll rewrite the entire song down on paper each time there's the slightest adjustment as I find it helpful for finalising ideas. If you're embarassed to read something written down, then you probably shouldn't include it. Tip for Johnny Borrell there.
What part of the process do you find most challenging?
Macaulay: Trying not to repeat yourself.
Roberta: Not tripping up onstage, unplugging myself or being horribly apologetic. When
we supported TRST, I must've tripped over the same cable three times in front of them and
apologised each time.
Why is it you decided to start writing/performing together? What does your respective bandmate bring to the table that you value most?
Macaulay: We were previously in a post-punk band and found we shared a lot of the same tastes and ideals in music. When that group didn’t work out, we decided to try again as an electronic duo and found the dynamic really worked. I definitely value Roberta’s integrity and emphasis on the music representing us as people, rather than being a bit pretentious and just writing music that’s fashionable. Also her lyricism, and skill of telling me that what I’ve written is too cheesy and I may need to rein it in a bit. Oh, and obviously her pipes.
Roberta: I find programming beats frustrating because it interferes with the actual writing and solidifying of structures sometimes, so I'm glad that I don't get involved in it that much and it's probably lucky, as they're such a big part of the sound. Although that doesn't mean that I won't say "it'd be good if it had this or that sound" or contribute a sample/loop. I'm also a bit of a cyclical thinker when it comes to just about everything, so I appreciate someone else being there to lighten everything up and offer up a different perspective with ideas. It balances out the sound. There are a lot of dualities in Curxes as a result of how we are individually.
Did you have an idea in mind when starting the band of what you would eventually sound like, or was it something that emerged more spontaneously?
Macaulay: We spent a few months scheming. We watched the BBC’s Synth Britannia on repeat, made a mental list of who our influences were and started meshing their ideologies and sounds with our own songs. As a result, the early material was a bit nostalgic-sounding but we've naturally developed towards a more electro-punk sound now which better represents us musically and as people.
Roberta: I think we felt a connection with the artists featured in the programme. There are a few political and artistic mirrors, except I think there's a bigger issue of privelege and entitlement now. As the kids of a navy officer and teacher plus an electrical engineer and fast food manageress, we're probably not the kind of folks who generally do well in the music industry these days...
Since you two are based in different cities, are songs ever written/developed over email? If so are there any benefits to doing things this way?
Macaulay: Our songs are always developed over email. We start them separately and then do a “show and tell” over a pot of tea and a biscuit, then the best ones are taken away and worked on further. I suppose the benefits of being in separate cities is that when we meet up to hang out or practice, we make the most of the time we’ve got to be productive.
Roberta: It's definitely better for the style of music we write as we can sit with ideas for longer and give more consideration to each other's contributions before making suggestions.
Do either of you remember a specific moment or event where you thought the band
had really started to gain some traction?
Macaulay: For me it was when Chvrches got in touch and asked us to do a remix for their debut EP. That was pretty exciting and we got some nice attention off the back of it. Though I’d like to think our best moments are still ahead.
Roberta: When we got our first negative YouTube comments and people started criticising how I look, haha. In all seriousness though, I find it exciting when people from other parts of the world listen to our music and get in touch with us. It's all well and good when you get supportive press or tempting offers from higher profile artists but it doesn't match up to human interaction.
Roberta, what female vocalists do you think have influenced you?
Roberta: When we started, perhaps Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet for technical skill but there's a lot of women fronting projects or bands and that's all they're recognised for. Then there are all these other female musicians who are doing loads behind the scenes as well. Of those, I'd list innovators such as Grimes, PJ Harvey and Bjork as major influencers for being uncompromising in their approach and embracing their strengths. I respect and admire their passion, grit and vision rather than liking them for being just another female vocalist and it's important to recognise all of their qualities as musicians, producers,
contributors, etc. too. Leila Arab and Cold Specks deserve wider recognition as well.
What are your earliest memories of music?
Macaulay: Dancing around to Queen whilst playing with a model train set. I was probably about five.
Roberta: Hearing "Bohemian Rhapsody" re-enter the chart and feeling a tremendous sadness without really knowing why. Also, singing along to Pet Shop Boys in my younger, slightly squeakier voice. As a kid, I liked their weird pointy hats and costumes. I still do actually.
Besides the band, what is you favourite thing to?
Macaulay: I wish I could say something really rock’n’roll like hang-gliding over massive tanks full of sharks, but really I’m pretty domesticated and just like just hanging out listening to music, watching films, cooking, reading books and then arguing about them all with friends. And The Great British Bake-Off.
Roberta: I like to listen to records, go to car boot sales, rant about sexism, draw and
design (http://robertafidora.com) and run my online shop.
Your Instagram is well furnished with artwork, do you guys do your own album art? How important to you is artwork as a visual companion to the music?
Macaulay: Very important. Music is an art-form, right? The visual aspect should be just as considered as the music. I love it when punk bands like Parquet Courts and Blood Red Shoes do their own artwork and emphasise how it’s an extension of their band – the artwork often suits the music so much better too. It also shows that they’re not one-trick ponies and are creative in other ways aside from the music. Multi-faceted artists are always more interesting in the long-run.
Roberta: I think it's vital to convey your music through your aesthetic output as well otherwise you could end up with any old shit on the cover, like a picture of us, scantily clad. Nobody wants to see that.
What is next for Curxes?
Macaulay: Putting the finishing touches to our first album – it’s all recorded so it just needs to be mixed and released in the most imaginative way possible.
Roberta: Playing Southsea Fest then writing the second album, which is already in progress over email and I've got a title and artwork ideas that I'm quite excited about. We're both quite impatient like that.
What are you currently, listening, reading, watching?
Macaulay: Listening: Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World. Reading: A Game of Thrones – George RR Martin. Watching: Bates Motel – Norman
Roberta: I'm really enjoying Fuck Buttons and Colonel Abrams again on the music front and I've just finished reading David Dunn's "Try Giving Yourself Away". It's a beautiful book about sharing spirited exchanges with people even if you don't feel like it. I don't really watch TV, although Bojack Horseman was fun viewing on Netflix - more for the visual gags than the dialogue. There was a budgerigar in it too. Top marks for that.
If you could have a swimming pool filled with anything what would it be?
Macaulay: Number 1 hits.
Roberta: My enemies' tears. Or single malt whisky.
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