Masks Interview: “It’s quite inorganic really.”

03.02.10, Words by: Ruth Saxelby

My intentions were good. Hold the New Year hangover at arms length, drag myself to Victoria, deposit myself on a train to Brighton and curl into a ball. Comfortably ensconced, I would drift off and dream up interview questions for MASKS. Forever Dancing (listen on the right) is their perfect soundtrack to forlorn journeys hurtling towards a darkened seaside. I’d gaze out the steamed-up window whilst basking in the looping street-lit keyboard-guitar collisions that gently build and scatter into pockets of deft, giddy euphoria. I never made it that far though, so the Brighton duo had to settle for me curled into a ball in my Hackney flat whilst I telephoned them as they were loading up their car for that evening’s performance at The Freebutt.

James and Luke started the project last July after spending their teenage years in a series of “shit metal bands”. Inspired by the worldmaking intensity of HEALTH (we found out their favourite noises here) and dancefloor guile of FUCK BUTTONS, as well a desire to incorporate the polished glimmers of RATATAT, the breathy leap into noise territory was the obvious next step.

“We make music on our computers separately, loads of individual drum patterns and rhythmic loops on Cubase, free software synths. We spend nothing basically.” says Luke. “It’s quite inorganic really, we then come together and work them into songs. I like David Lynch soundtracks, the way Angelo Badalamenti creates layered synth sounds with all these melancholic nu-form melodies is amazing.”

These erratic musical advances found themselves masked (literally) by a cautious aesthetic. “The name and aesthetic came about because we didn’t want any of our friends to know what we were getting up to. Some other friends had been in this band (Sorry Sire) that got hyped up way too fast, so we thought we’d play it safe and wear masks. We’re going for that Venetian look really, whilst ripping off The Knife while we’re at it. ”

It didn’t stop them getting noticed by Fear & Records though, the management team/label behind !Forward Russia, Gold Panda (we interviewed him here), GoodBooks and Rolo Tomassi. “Working with those guys has been exciting, the artwork for our first EP is going to be designed by the artist working on Rolo Tomassi.” At the moment the pair don’t see each other regularly, with Luke at university in Aberystwyth and James whiling away his days at a congestion charge company by the seaside to cover the cost of more synths. Plans are afoot to meet in the middle and start gigging in the capital in the coming months. Built around looping stations, guitars, drums and trademark black and gold masks, it sounds likes a veritable feast for the eyes and ears.

My two day hangover still preventing me from catching anything, let alone a train to Brighton, I get the boys to recall their favourite gigs of all time, Luke plumps for The Flaming Lips, “a glorious deluge of raining confetti, everybody dressed up as aliens and Santa Clauses.” whilst James goes misty-eyed for a night spent at KOKO with electro party-powerhouses of Justice (watch our film about them) and Late of the Pier. The mere thought of that scuzzy bass, emblematic of the decade just gone, is enough to turn my stomach slightly, so we chat idly for a few minutes about bands from Brighton before I hang up and bury my head under the duvet, headphones still attached. As a parting shot, I whack on another standout track from the duo, Tribal Fangs. A throbbing yet strangely soothing behemoth, its balmy embrace leaves me yearning for the dancefloor again.

The debut EP from MASKS will be out as a digital release on Fear & Records on March 22nd. They play live in Aberystwyth on Feb 9th and make their London debut on April 2nd.

MASKS’ myspace

Like this? You should also check out our interview with Hounds of Hate.