PNAU Back In Adelaide To Play Spin Off

Adelaide fans rejoice because PNAU will be back in Adelaide on Friday for what will be a big performance at Spin Off. PNAU is the multi-platinum-selling, ARIA award-winning electronic act of Nick Littlemore (Empire of the Sun, Vlossom, Teenager), Peter Mayes and Sam Littlemore, famed for their extensive career born out of the underground clubs and festival dancefloors of Australia. With a catalogue of their own hits and multiple albums behind them, PNAU have enjoyed a powerful renaissance over the past few years, with multi-platinum hits Go Bang and Chameleon becoming inescapable on the airwaves and climbing the Billboard Dance charts in the U.S.

2019 singles Solid Gold and All Of Us, embedded PNAU as the most cutting edge electronic act to watch on a global scale, finding a loyal fan base amongst the most influential decision makers at BBC Radio 1, triple j and streaming services across the globe. Collaborations with Ladyhawke, an interstellar banger with Budjerah, providing a fresh remix of an Elvis Presley song retitled Don’t Fly Away for the Elvis feature film are just some of the things the music mavericks have been up to. PNAU also joined forces with Troye Sivan with an instant pop hit You Know What I Need, and hold the acclaimed title of giving Elton John his first UK No.1 album in 22 years when they collaborated with the legendary performer on the 2012 album Good Morning to The Night, a collab that has continued with their remix of Elton John and Dua Lipa’s Rocket Man. Prepare for an all-mighty banger set when PNAU return to Spin Off. Peter Mayes talks to Hi Fi Way about returning to Adelaide.

Spin Off in Adelaide and Splendour In The Grass, you must be pumped for these big shows?
Really looking forward to it. I mean, it’s always great to play Splendour. We haven’t done it in a while and it’s always great to play Adelaide. I think it was the last time we played Splendour that we played Adelaide. I might be wrong, but I think it’s around five years ago.

A lot has changed in that time.
Exactly right. The whole world has sort of changed I guess. I guess touring was put on hold for a few years there, but super excited to be back in Adelaide and as I always say it’s a special place for PNAU. We’ve made a lot of music there and done a lot of creative work over the years. One of our favourite studios in the Hills called Mixmasters and shout out to Nick Wordley if you’re listening. We’re excited to be back and we haven’t done a show since months ago, but we’re very excited to be back.

Do you approach playing sort of festivals any different than your own headline club shows?
Yeah, because your own show you can play a bit longer, you might or might not do an encore and you get a sound check, which is always nice. Also, you can go a bit deeper into your catalogue in terms of what you’re going to play. Maybe play some weirder moments, some lesson known tracks and you’ll do like ninety minutes to two hour kind of thing, whereas a festival, it’s like give it all you got for sixty minutes, throw everything in there, we’ve been doing this for a minute now, so try and get all the most exciting moments of your musical career squished into sixty minutes. The good thing is that that’s changing all the time. We’re still putting out records all the time. We’ve put out three in the last six months, and I think there’s another three coming in the next six months.

That’s exciting for us to be changing the set around and adjust the flow of the energy and the tempos and everything. I like festivals. We do generally play festivals, it is kind of our thing and even when we’re writing, when we’re collaborating with people, we’ll often tell them that we do festivals. We quite often think about how the song is going to be presented in that setting. That is our thing and in a way it’s like a competitive sport, you’re up there with all these other artists but in a really friendly way. I think there’s a friendly level of competition on the day, but obviously you want to give it your all. These days artists are paid a lot of money to be there at a festival and I like the fact that fans are generally really excited to be there to see a whole heap of different bands, DJs and whatever. There is that special energy and there’s certain times of the day that are really magical, like sunset and obviously if you’re playing last, that’s really cool as well, but yeah, we love festivals.

It must be a nice problem to have trying to squeeze everything in to fifty or sixty minutes?
You do become like very critical of your work when you have to do that start thinking about whether this is going to keep people entertained for the next three to five minutes or whatever. When you’re planning it out you ask how is this going to work? Is this going to be exciting enough? I’d like to think that we don’t have to plan it out, but I think it’s much stronger when we do, when you have a set list, even the loosest punk band will presumably plan out their set list to a point, you know what I mean? I think everyone likes to think about the flow of that and how it works with the audience.

Congratulations on Stars, you must be pretty stoked with the fan reaction to it and how plays it has clocked up on Spotify?
It’s very exciting. It’s done really well. The last few songs have done really well and it’s just an exciting time for us after the success of Cold Heart. We’ve creatively had access to a lot of new avenues and opportunities and that’s just a really nice thing to have after been doing this for so long, to be exposed to a whole new audience of music listeners, but also music creators and just a great time to be in a city like LA where there’s a lot going on in terms of producers, songwriters, artists, everyone is here at some stage. It’s nice to dream big and to think, oh wow, we could actually approach this artist and they might actually have heard of us, you never know. So, we always like to try things because you never know the, some of the last people you would expect have said yes and you never think they would necessarily want to work with an artist like us, but sometimes they do.

Do you think that’s changed a lot, particularly having worked with Elton John? Is the list of people wanting to work with you ten miles long now?
It’s definitely longer! Most of the time it’s what you make of it. I think it’s more that the opportunities are there, there are people approaching us, they’re not always the people you want to work with for whatever reason. We are able to approach other people who may not have ever heard of us before Cold Heart. It’s just opened a few more doors, which is nice.

Do you have the ideas in mind before approach people to collaborate with?
Most of the time, but it depends. A lot of the artists that we end up using on our records or collaborating with on our records, they quite often will want to write a little section, if they feel something is missing. Ozuna wrote his bridge for Stars, Troye rewrote the bridge for You Know What I Need. Khalid is an incredibly creative artist and we’ve written many, many songs with Khlaid. He’s fantastic and very, very quick, which is astonishing to watch someone work at such a high level but super-fast. All the melodic ideas for The Hard Way would’ve come out in ten minutes. He would basically just run down a take the first time he’d heard the song and most of the ideas would come out in that first take. The whole song just come out of him. It’s amazing. Then he would do a second take and refine it a little bit, but really just honing what he’d already done, what his first impressions were, and then we would sit down and maybe change a bit of arrangement and work on the lyrics. Then he probably spent like an hour recording it and he’s really good at producing himself when he sings. He knows when he’s got a line perfect, and he’ll just keep doing everything over and over until he gets it and it’s amazing to watch.

Sometimes you get an experience like that where you are really in there in the room with them and other times someone does a vocal in a hotel room when they’re on tour and it just gets sent to you in an email and there it is. It’s different every time, but it’s always for the most part, the songs are formed when we send it. With Khalid it was different because he’s a big collaborator and we wrote a lot of songs with him and picked the best one.

Are there any other exciting projects on the horizon?
Well I can say, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, but Empire Of The Sun is making a lot of new records. I’ve been working on a few of them for those guys. There’s always a lot happening, needless to say. Excitingly enough things do come out a lot quicker these days for us. I feel like from the point that a song is finished, we do get it up onto Spotify and streaming services quicker than we used to. That’s really cool for us. I guess I have a nice feeling of urgency or immediacy.

With the immediacy of singles on Spotify do you still believe in the concept of an album? Is it a dead concept or do you still see a place for albums?
I do, I think it doesn’t necessarily resonate with everybody, and I’ll be honest, it’s rare that I myself will sit down and listen to an album of one artist. As an artist making records it is nice, we came up in the time of albums, when albums were still the thing that you did. I still kind of believe that despite the way that music is digested, it is still nice to release a body of work. With the way that we experience music now., it is a very single space world, which is exciting and it does mean your work needs to be of a certain standard, that something worthy of a single. It is nice to put out an album every few years just because there will be a bunch of tracks that maybe weren’t radio singly kind of moments that you still want people to hear and you still want to get them out there and you still want to play them in your show. It’s just like a timestamp. It’s a snapshot of a a period of time in your life creatively, and it’s good to capture that.

It’s definitely true that when you put out an album, the singles will be the ones that get on a lot of playlists hopefully, and get streamed a lot more. When you look at the way it breaks down the album tracks don’t initially get listened to that much, but over many years they can bubble up to the surface and get added onto certain types of playlists that are maybe less singles driven. It can sometimes surprise you the ones that become more popular, because obviously with the streaming world you have access to all this data that we never really had access to. In those days of CDs and vinyl, someone bought your record and you had no idea how many times they listened to any of the songs or if at all. It is interesting to see what people gravitate to in the longer term when they’ve had a chance to live with it and which ones they saved to their to playlists or to their liked songs or whatever. To answer your question, I don’t think the album is dead. It is just not necessarily entirely compatible with the way we digest music now, but I still think it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch PNAU at Spin Off on Friday 21 July, tickets HERE

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