INTERVIEW: Warm Digits | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For a duo who’re not so much a traditional band as an ever-evolving performance piece, it seems apt that Warm Digits’ latest thrilling kaleidoscopic rush should go by the name Flight of Ideas. A typically bustling, technicolour krautophonic delight, the pair’s fourth studio effort raises the bar once more following 2017’s breakout Wireless World – unleashing a blizzard of ravishing hooks, yet never forgoing bold design for the whims of an ever-swelling audience.

“Something we’ve always been interested in is the aftermath of the culture of the second half of the 20th Century,” details Steve Jefferis, the duo’s guitar and electronics wizard. “The original idea was to look at the culture of ideas from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and where that idealism ended up. There were all kinds of ideas that had something new, exciting or important about them – but what seemed to happen is that proponents of particular ideas hung on to them so tightly that they then became blind to where they were going wrong or what the limitations of those ideas were. We started to feel that there was some contemporary resonance to this theme. We’re living in a time where we’re all digging in our heels about what we believe and what we understand about the world, often at the expense of our capacity to hear and take seriously people who hold different views to us and come from other sides of the narrative. It feels like we’ve become estranged from the truth; the rhetorical quality of an argument is often what carries debate, even if it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the facts.”

Whilst rarely overt, this timely manifesto plays out over the course of 10 superlative, quintessential Warm Digits bangers, brimming with a vim and rhythmic charge now transcending the role of best kept local secret. Conceived remotely between their bases in Newcastle and Manchester, it’s also a record with which Steve and irrepressible sticksman Andrew Hodson repeat and refine the formula introduced by its predecessor, augmenting their characteristic instrumentals with a diverse roster of guest vocalists.

“There was much more back-and-forth between us and the vocalists this time, but the exact process was different for everybody,” Steve reveals. “Rozi Plain for instance did her thing, and then our job was to work out how that music could speak for what we wanted to achieve with this album. Others were much keener for us to shape things for them. For the song we did with The Lovely Eggs, they were in the thick of recording their own album, so Holly was keen for us to get involved with the lyric writing and vocal melodies.”

We’re living in a time where we’re all digging in our heels about what we believe and what we understand about the world, often at the expense of our capacity to hear and take seriously people who hold different views to us

Perhaps most fulfilling of all was The View From Nowhere, a collaboration with esteemed Scottish singer Emma Pollock, issued as the record’s lead single. “We both enjoy people like Robyn and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and we’ve had the idea for a long time of doing a slower, melancholic disco song with a female vocalist. We thought Emma could work well; the emotional quality of her voice is what’s always got me, both with her solo work and with The Delgados. The song had a title and a very rough idea to it, which she then took and translated into something which to me feels like what she does best, with lyrics which are elusive and emotionally powerful, but quite difficult to pin down as to what they’re actually about. The View From Nowhere turned into more than the sum of its parts, I think, which is exactly what we hope for with these collaborations.”

“Then comes the issue of how we represent it on stage…” he continues, delving into the song’s visual accompaniment. “Obviously a lot of our guests can’t join us for live dates, so the question for each song becomes ‘how can we do this in a way which doesn’t pretend the vocalist is there?’ For The View From Nowhere, illustrator Josie Brookes and animator Tom Madge went to film Emma recording the song. They printed out 600 frames of her singing, then hand animated them, so you end up with something that’s physical and has an unreal, stop-motion quality. It’s another joy of what we do – finding people who do things which are consistent with our visual language, which is quite graphic and colourful.”

As the record races to a full-throttle conclusion, the stonking space disco of False Positive (a future live favourite if ever there were one) is followed by one last – mysteriously uncredited – vocal on the propulsive closing title track. “That’s me!” Steve admits. “It’s the first time either of us has sung on one of our records. With a couple of tracks where we were sending melodies or lyrics to the guests, I did a guide vocal to give an idea of what we had in mind. Then Andrew started to say ‘well, y’know Steve, you can actually hold a melody, I think you should sing a song!’ I wasn’t very keen on the idea, but then he started using examples of people – like my favourite band, My Bloody Valentine – who stick their vocals through all sorts of distortion and delay, and have them as part of the mix rather than sitting above it. I still feel slightly ambivalent about it being on there, but Flight of Ideas wasn’t quite working as an instrumental. I think we’ve just about gotten away with it!”

Warm Digits’ new album Flight of Ideas is released on 3rd April. The band’s album release show has been rescheduled to take place at The Cluny, Newcastle on Friday 11th September



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