Drawing on the UK’s rich heritage of scattered snares, sub low rumble and breakbeat culture, Brighton-based duo Max Wheeler and Victoria Port (aka Anushka), produce the kind of sun-tinged electronica that make you feel as if you’ve been transported to Garland’s The Beach. On the day of their Distorted Air EP release, we caught up with the duo to find out more about hurricane dodging in Vietnam, vinyl shopping in Texas and tonight’s gig at Under Canvas.
Are you excited for the EP release?
Victoria Port: Definitely! It’s our first proper bit of vinyl which is always exciting isn’t it.
Max Wheeler: I think there’s something about us that’s a little bit old and a little bit new. A part of me has always been waiting for a physical release. I’ve currently got my copy at home on the mantelpiece!
It’s vinyl only, how come you chose to take that route?
VP: In the lead up to the album we didn’t want to leave a massive gap without having released any music. Going for vinyl was something new for us, something a bit more exclusive almost.
MW: Since we’re on Brownswood, Giles likes his vinyl, so it made sense for us and for him. I don’t know it’s also sort of a statement that we wanted these to physically exist in the world.
Do you collect yourselves?
VP: I don’t no, but Max does.
MW: Yeah, it’s funny when I first started out I used to make music by sampling sounds from vinyl - whether it’s weird Polish jazz or the odd bit of rock - so I’ve got thousands of records. The tricky thing is, I don’t have proper decks set up, I’ve got like a little portable handy tracks record player in my studio, but you can’t carry stacks of records around with you all the time.
VP: When we were in Texas for SXSW and went vinyl shopping whilst we were there which was fun.
MW: Ha, I think Victoria inadvertently reawakened my vinyl addiction!
Do you have a favourite record?
MW: Probably my favourite - and I reckon Victoria’s probably down for this one too - is a Betty Davis record. Everything about it is amazing, the cover art, the music, the story. I bought it years ago in Yorkshire because there were some drum breaks on it that I wanted to chop up and make a beat out of. The guy in the shop started telling me about Betty Davis, her marriage to Miles Davis and her affair with Jimi Hendrix, you remember exactly where you bought it and the background behind it.
VP: I’m really rubbish at looking for new music (thankfully I now have Max to help me) so I’ve got maybe 3 albums that I play on repeat? I’m a massive Erykah Badu fan, I could never get bored of listening to her.
Where else do you look for inspiration when writing music? Do you think your productions sound quite ‘Brighton’?
VP: I think that Max and I are both quite summer people. My family are from the Caribbean, so anything that captures that whole dance hall, carnival, happy vibe.
MW: For me I think a lot of it is Victoria’s voice. I can give her a beat that sounds wintery in my head and it’ll come back with a strong island vibe to it. Neither of us are particularly moan-y people on the whole, we try not to take ourselves so seriously, and I think that comes across through our music.
VP: I think on the full album there are maybe one or two tracks that are slightly darker but as Max was saying, in general we make music to make us happy. Almost like a legal high.
What’s your creative process like?
VP: When we first started working together Max was sending me beats and I was working with what he’d given me, but now it’s much more collaborative. We work in lots of different ways, which keeps things interesting. It’s not just the vocalist top lining a track.
MW: Each song has a slightly different process. We tend to do them in batches, so for some Victoria will have written all the chords, other will be more ravey, and some are a more obvious combination of those two things. It’s not just a template where we’ve just smashed out the same song 10 times in a row.
How do you incorporate that into your live performance?
MW: At the moment I’ll DJ with some live beats on top and Victoria will sing live. We’re looking at bringing in backing vocalists, possibly other instrumentalists and so I think if we tell you what the live shows are like now, by the time people read this it may well have changed. I think the bottom line is, that we try to recreate a rave wherever we go.
VP: You have to make it personal for each audience, whether there are 5 or 5000 people, you have to give it 100% of your energy. Some of our best shows have been slightly smaller but you could tell the crowd were really into it.
Best and worst show you’ve played?
VP: We played a few shows in Vietnam – one of which was the best, the other was the worst. They were within the same 48 hour stretch, it was a weird feeling to have this crazy high, and then a sudden low! One of the backing dancers did a back flip and kicked Max’s laptop off the stage. We lost all sound, this is just before the drop, I’m was jumping about, all plugged in, and then all the power got cut off …
MW: Yeah, and that was the same day that we’d flown around what felt like the biggest hurricane in the history of the world. We’d also had a gin-fuelled karaoke battle with this Scottish indie band the night before so the whole thing was pretty intense really.
Are you excited for your gig at Under Canvas tonight?
MW: The line-up looks pretty amazing so I’m excited about that! With XXXY and Ossie it sounds like it’s going to be a good party.
VP: I’m a bit of a loser and like to scope out the venues and shows that we do, so I’ve had a little look. It’s certainly a cool setting!
Any other festivals that you’ve particularly enjoyed or are you looking forward to this year?
MW: I’m super excited about all the summer festivals this year but I think Soundwave and Outlook will be two of the best. Outlook will always remind me of how it all started. I’d just met Victoria, we’d finished ‘Yes Guess’, I went to Outlook with a group of friends and that’s where I crystallised in my head what I was trying to do. It feels like we’ve come full circle playing on stage there, so yeah that’s one I’m definitely looking forward to. And Lauryn Hill’s opening it, what more could you ask for?