Here are the essentials: these three American Men are in fact Scottish, their second gig was to 8000 people at Sonar and they are making some of the most exciting rock music of 2010. It’s a daring fusion of live instrumentation and the plasticised synth gymnastics of contemporaries on their label, LuckyMe. They call it Miami Lazer Rock, but when I chat to Stuart from the band he has something to admit: “When we first started the band it existed as a page on MySpace and I just wanted something to offset it against the post-rock genre. Something about the band not being that serious. We’ve never been to Miami.”
They’re not American, they’ve never been to Miami…the plot thickens. It seems what they’re going for is more of an imagined Miami, all retro-futurist digital imagery, flashing lights and bright colours. It suits the music down to the ground; the bright buzz and epic melodies of a track like Claude Speed are very visual, conjuring up a kaleidoscopic rollercoaster ride through a computer game in your mind. This is intentional: striking visuals have accompanied all the band’s performances to date and the vivid aesthetic is carried through in the artwork of their debut EP, ‘Cool World’ (download the almost-title track above).
Whilst Stuart might protest they aren’t serious, make no mistake this is music to be taken seriously. Essentially the slight tongue-in-cheek approach is necessary in railing against the albatross that is ‘post-rock’ as a genre. Yes, the American Men sound so far dips its toe into the cavernous spaces and sweeping vistas of the best in post-rock but it has a whole foot somewhere else. That other place is the distinctive synthetic world of Hudson Mohawke, Rustie and others from the Glasgow scene and beyond. It would seem natural that their sound fed into this EP, but surprisingly the answer is yes, and no: “I’d always been into Boards of Canada and other electronic music so that was my first reference for synths making the music originally but I was also influenced by Rustie, Hudson Mohawke and Mike Slott,” explains Stuart. “What happened is that the EP was almost done but then finished up all in one go at the end so as I was going to those parties and listening to that music some of that influence crept in at the end.”
Obviously Hudson Mohawke et al are well known for destroying clubs with heavyweight DJ sets but are American Men making music to dance to? “I’d like to hope with do it without thinking, there’s a tension between the prog element and wanting to be complicated and having something in there people can visibly enjoy when they are playing.”
The balance between simple and complicated, brash and subtle, bright and dark is beautifully played out across the five tracks on the EP (also featuring stellar remixes from Hudson Mohawke, Ikonika, Machinedrum and Falty DL). Modest to the end, Stuart sums up how their own music fits into the mix of styles the LuckyMe collective promote as follows: “I think a lot of the music like crunk, juke etc that LuckyMe DJs play and produce is like stupid music made by clever people. If you look at Lil Jon for example it’s all a persona; he knows what he’s doing. I would say our music is the opposite: complicated, clever music made by stupid people.”