“It’s always been a rock scene here. Rock bands still patrol the city, prowling like dinosaurs… And people look at our keyboards and it’s very intimidating.” Well, hold on a second there. Where is this strange place? Didn’t everyone get over guys playing electronics instead of guitars in like 1981? “It’s just something about Atlanta”, says David, speaking almost apologetically about his home town, “the 1970s was a huge time and it’s never gone away in that sense. We have some very loyal people who are into what we’re doing, but most people are still confused”. His band mate Drew laughs. “People are excited when they see David play guitar. People in Atlanta love guitars…” David joins in “yeah! For all they know it might not even be plugged in. But as long as they see it…”
It’s this rather, as they paint things, archaic setting that makes Roman Photos such an interesting proposition. On the one hand, they’re your classical band, trying to make it big through lots of hard gigging and word of mouth, “We’ve played very regularly since we started… It’s important. It’s another way to reach out to people… And I like playing live. I don’t want to be a bedroom project.” Yet they’re defiantly non-retro in both sound and outlook, pillaging ideas and mood from varied and disparate areas of dance music. “We’re kind of obsessed with Detroit techno, and darker dance genres like dubstep, in terms of atmosphere it’s been an influence… a lot of the stuff we do uses some kind of disco backdrop, but we were never like, let’s get vintage synthesizers and recreate what Giorgio Moroder did…. We just started out with the idea of bringing a mix of both live and electronic sounds together to create an actual dance music hybrid”.
They recognize the benefits of bedroom production, assembling a song out of synthetic beats and sounds. Out Of The Sun for example, the stand out on their free to download ‘Into The Night’ EP, came about with Drew emailing a loop over to David which he then built up. “At the time I was listening to Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald and I was like, I’d love to do something sort of Acid House influenced, and I sat down and came up with the beat and the keyboard came in later, and I thought we’ve never done anything like this, let’s try it out live”. This last part is where they’re different. How a song translates when in front of a live audience is still the big test. “That whole essence of you’re in a room and there’s a moment that can’t be replicated…”
Essentially, it’s all about the instant. Making electronics live and breathe. “Many years ago I read that Metalbox by PIL was recorded with insane first takes and then they’d do all this post-production on those first takes. And I just loved that concept. These live first takes… There’s some things you just can’t get on a computer. Things that just happen. I think there are some great things you can get from a computer, and that’s the flipside of it. But if you combine both those things, you can get the best of both worlds.”
So how are they looking to make an audience react? “I’d love them to dance…” says David, a little wistfully, “Atlanta’s not really a dancing town… I love going to really great DJ sets. I mean like Matthew Dear came to Atlanta once, and my brother and I were the only people I knew there. It was funny because there were all these people who were like really into techno, and I’d never seen them before. I mean, where did they come from?”