You never quite know what to expect when a Document One release comes along. Could it be that freaky jazz-tinged funk a la LSD? Could it be that stretchy elastic space funk like Reaching Out? Or will it be a heavier, juggernaut groove like Pulse?
The Document One sound casts a wide yet tightly woven net. A net that’s flung even wider on their self-titled debut album. The broadest Document One document presented to us so far, the Oxford duo tapped into their live music backgrounds during the process. As a result, it ranges from some of the darkest designs they’ve ever whipped up to some of the most soulful. It was also created over a rather intense nine month period of their lives.
Now blasting out of studio hibernation with all summer guns blazing and a fat 14 track album to waggle under our nostrils, here’s where Matt and Joe are right now. Spoiler: it’s a pretty good place.
The album’s out. This must be a relief after lots of studio hibernation?
Matt: Yeah it’s good. Things are happening again, the sun’s out and people are into the music. Now we’re sat here holding the vinyl and it’s done. You’re right, it’s great.
Joe: Definitely. The last nine months we’ve just been heads-down trying to get as much done as possible. If we got to see a minute of daylight, great.
Nine months? I’d have thought it would be longer!
Joe: We were lucky. We had a load of sketches and ideas that might not see the light of day and Shogun suggested an album, if we could get it done by the deadline they gave us so we jumped at it. It was nine months from the moment we picked what we wanted from those ideas and got serious.
I imagine that’s a thrill, when you look at those sketches and see what picture you can paint and what else you need to make it happen…
Matt: Totally. At any one point we’ve got hundreds of sketches and ideas. We’re constantly writing. So it started with us looking at everything we were working on. Half the album came from a pool of sketches and the other half we wrote from scratch. They’ve all changed to the point they’re unrecognisable to their original ideas now but tried not to overthink things and wanted to keep the whole process quite instant.
It captures a moment in time in that way…
Matt: A snapshot of time for sure. People say you write your debut all your life then spend a year writing your second, that old cliché, but it was different for us. We’re an electronic outfit, we write and release as we go. We have things in the bank every now and again but we tend to finish everything we write and release it. At the point of doing this album we didn’t have any finished tracks we could put into it – just bare bones projects but it was like ‘we’re going to write this material now, all now’
There are so many different shades to your sound, you could take it in any direction… Or all directions, which I think you do well.
Joe: It was quite a luxury. Usually we’re working on an EP or singles. There’s not much space to show more sides to what you do, you have to stay true to the sound people want to hear from you. This was the first time for us to go ‘let’s try some liquid, let’s try some live band-oriented stuff’. Just like the last tune on the album.
You mention liquid. Temporal is a persy for me. Just didn’t expect it, it’s quite disarming. And the last track you mentioned – Newborn – is such a triumphant ending. Almost gospel. Some albums taper off and fade out but that track is a massive full stop.
Matt: Thank you. We were really blessed with the vocalist Cimone. She came into it last minute and took it to a whole other level. We had what you’d call demo-itus, we’d heard it so much and were accustomed to how it sounded but then she took it beyond and raised the bar. We tweaked it again and added further bits to give it that uplifting outro. It was important for us for us to do that. End with that big uplift.
Joe: It literally is just one big outro. The whole track is an outro to the album. Matt was more responsible for that track. He wrote a lot of that before I even touched it, it’s a live thing. You couldn’t ever drop it in a drum & bass set. It’s a personal listening track. Headphones. At home. It’s very harmonic, we spent a lot of time writing the chords and experimenting with strings. We used Kontakt, so we didn’t just drop samples in there, we composed each line. We’re really proud of it. It’s something very different. It’s almost a soul tune, like you say, kinda gospel vibes. Cimone influenced that whole direction, we love that.
You’re musicians anyway. Joe I think you have a jazz background? Matt maybe you play various instruments? That must have tapped into your roots?
Joe: Yes, Matt’s grade 8 on the piccolo
Matt: Just to clarify, I do not play the piccolo. But it does tap into our backgrounds. Joe’s a pianist, I’m a guitarist and we do a lot of things. So when the album came up we knew we’d have a chance to bring that aspect into our music more. We got the guitar out, the piano, writing the strings and brass on Kontakt.
Joe: And I’m glad you pointed out Temporal. We’ve got so many libraries on Kontakt from all over the world and it always inspires us how work goes into those instruments; it’s a piece of magic to touch a keyboard, use these sounds and see what we can make. I think the chant is from Indonesia and the instruments are from all over the world. Geographically it’s probably a mess with instruments from every continent but it’s about how they sound isn’t it? I think Bonobo does that incredibly well for example and it’s something we’ve wanted to explore ourselves but not had the chance to until now.
And on the flip side you’ve got the heavier stuff. 1964, Holy Moly… That’s the other extreme of the album…
Matt: Definitely. We’ve dabbled in it before and wanted to explore that side of what we do for the album – again for continuity with what we’ve done in the past.
Never get a second chance to make a first impression, right? Was that important for you considering your debut album?
Joe: I never really saw it like that. I didn’t have any big ideas of what I wanted the album to do. It was way more playful than that for me. Like I said earlier, it’s a luxury. We’ve got this time, let’s get stuck in and make some music. That’s the live musicians in us; we’re used to sitting down and jamming and coming up with something. The drummer might kick off a beat or you might come up with a little riff and you build around it. We’re used to that improvisational approach so we don’t plan anything, we’re just working on the music and seeing what comes up.
I knew I wanted to have some piano on there, Matt knew he wanted some guitar on there. We wanted to experiment with different instruments. Matt especially wanted to do something a lot more live sounding. There were little bits we wanted to grab and include in the album but there wasn’t a big narrative in mind – just nice to write music and not worrying too much about boxing it in. Live music happens that way, you just see where it goes. So the one thing the album had to do was be fun for us to make.
Matt: A lot of the songs came together in such a natural way. Our personal favourites fell out of the sky and came together very quickly. Suddenly they’re just there; the idea didn’t change too much over the course of the album. The idea wasn’t a slog and a lot of it was fun which is how the album’s taken shape. It was just a melting pot of our ideas. Like by saying ‘we’re doing an album’ we’d given ourselves that energy and mindset.
Love that. So looking beyond the album, are you still sitting on a load of ideas or is the pot empty right now?
Matt: There were a lot of tunes that didn’t make the album because they didn’t fit the picture. We’ve wondered what to do with them. Should we use some for an EP? Or should we scrap it all and just start over again? We’ll work that out in due course…
Nice. But first, a busy summer?
Matt: Oh yes. We’re just back from Liquicty, we got Let It Roll, an Australia tour, loads more dates around UK and Europe, promoting the album and just enjoying ourselves.