Released earlier this year on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label was ‘Broken Circuit’, the debut release from the forward thinking, genre blending duo ‘Anushka’. Serving up a colourful cocktail of ‘vocal bass music from the future’, the LP blends Victoria Port’s soulful sunshine vocals with Max Wheeler’s sublimely constructed basslines, resulting in a refreshingly harmonic balance of ‘producer’ and ‘vocalist’. Shuf caught up with one half of the duo – Max – to chat beats, Brighton and being on tour.
How's the tour been going?
Really good so far, we’ve had three dates and they’ve all been pretty much sold out, packed dancefloors, so yeah pretty happy about it. We started in my hometown, one of the first places where I performed when I was starting out, so to start the tour there was really nice. The London show was great – the label’s there and a lot our friends are there, I think it’s sort of like our adopted home. It’s just nice to be sharing your music with people really.
You both have fairly strong roots in Brighton, has this played a big role in the music that you both make?
I’m still in Brighton now. We both studied down here and have ended up sticking around. Brighton’s a really nice place to develop something and be experimental; it’s close enough to London and the scene up there, but then there’s less pressure, more breathing space. It’s not as relentless, which at the start of a project is really nice. I think it’s done us proud. The majority of our music’s been recorded here, so by and large it’s Brighton where it all happens
Victoria has quite a jazzy soul background, what influences the moodier and bassier side?
Victoria’s influences are more at the soul end of the spectrum, but when we met I was interested in the weirder end of electronic and dance music, getting really heavily into people like Theo Parrish, Joy Orbison and early Julio Bashmore. But even then there were a lot of tunes that were chopping up R&B vocals. So some of it’s inspired by all that kind of bass music, and in some ways inspired by Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, coming together and refusing to listen when people say that it shouldn’t work.
You both have worked with lots of vocalists and producers before, what made the two of you gel together so well?
On one level it was just that we were both in a place where we both really wanted to work, but as soon as we met we had a couple of tunes. We just worked so quickly. I think sometimes you get collaborations where it will be really stop-start, but with us as soon as we started writing I think it just kind of clicked. But I think also we’re both quite respectful of each other. Sometimes you get the dynamic where it’s either a big producer calling up a vocalist and going ‘do something on this’, or maybe your vocalist is so established that everything has to be exactly how they want it. But with us there’s always been quite a bit of give and take, we’re usually pretty good at letting the song win, that’s what we try to do anyway, and it’s worked quite well like that so far.
Your album lends itself both to gigs and to clubs, where if any do you prefer playing?
I think that depends on the day and what kind of mood we’re in. We’ve had really brilliant ones in both, and the line between the two is starting to blur anyway. Most people going to a gig want the sonics of a club system, they want to feel the bass. But say we are performing a bit earlier in the day and it is a sort of a ‘gig’ crowd, we still manage to turn it into a bit of a rave anyway, we tend to take a bit of the rave with us wherever we go. But even in in the rave we will try to slow it down, even at two in the morning where everyone’s kind of going mad. I think we try to do what we do wherever we go and hope it works.
Fred butler designed some of your album artwork, what was it that drew the two of you together and how does her artwork represent your sound?
We’ve got quite a few mutual friends, and we’ve always loved her work. She started to get involved bit by bit, making a few bits for boiler room when we performed there. And as that all started to happen we realised that we needed artwork for the album, and we thought she’d be a great person to really show who we are. Fred drew from all the different things that influenced us and did something pretty big. The thing I really love on the CD artwork, on the inside, she made these mechanical space helmet things for us, with transmitters and receivers. There’s something about our sound that’s a little bit throwback and retro, but also something about it that’s trying to be futuristic and forward looking. With her style, she understood that we were looking at both directions at once, and it wasn’t just a ‘straight retro’ thing, but it wasn’t trying to be ‘this week’s club sound’ either. I think she did an amazing job of it.
Lastly what can we expect from you in the up and coming year?
I think probably lots and lots of gigs. We’re definitely out and about all over the place at the moment, we’ve got the rest of the UK tour. We’ve spent the summer travelling all over Europe and the world really, and I’ve got a feeling there’s gonna be more of that. More trekking around, meeting people, seeing different countries. But we’re back in the studio as well, we’re starting to write some more material. Hopefully people will get to hear the album as we take it around the world.
Words: Josie Roberts
Find out more about Anushka here