Archipelago are a band with links from Mexico City to Osaka, Japan via Liverpool. Producer Andy and vocalist Shannon have constructed an album of acid-infused, micromusic bangers that are worthy of your attention. Read on to find out more about this upcoming duo’s work and partnership.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. What’s the story behind ARCHIPELAGO and how would you describe your sound?
Shannon – I’m Shannon. Half Mexican, half Irish. I’ve been singing since I was 7 years old, doing musical theatre. Later on I became really interested in jazz music and that’s what I’m currently studying in La Escuela Superior de Música in Mexico City. I was very lucky to hear about Andy’s project, it sounded really interesting so I got in touch with him and we began to plan it all.
Andy – I’m Andrés/Andy, I’m half Spanish, half British in no particular order. I was living in Mexico City last year and – after many false dawns with former bands – I decided to knock it on the head and do an album. Being a huge Frankie Knuckles (RIP) fan I knew I wanted to do something soulful so I did the very lazy, modern thing and did a Google search for gospel singers in Mexico City and sent e-mails out. People recommended people, Shannon got in touch and we took it from there really.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
Andy – Around the same time I made the decision to start work on an album I spent an evening watching the ‘Pump up the volume’ documentary about Chicago house. It really struck me as the first, what I guess you would call ‘modern’ style of music in terms of how it was made. Punters going down Ron Hardy’s club the Warehouse then using cheap technology in their bedrooms to make records for him to specifically play on the dancefloor. It was very practical, single application music that became timeless.
With Archipelago Shannon’s voice is such a big part of it, I just try not to meddle too much on the production end but at the same time do something sonically interesting. I used to train in a pro wrestling school and they drilled it into your head that during a match you’ve got to make your partner look good at all times. I’ve just extrapolated that to music really.
Aesthetically… I really like the pompous, verbose, Big Idea prefaces you get when you go see exhibitions in proper art museums so I came up with the idea of the record being about geographical and geological structures being entities in themselves and the sequencing/arrangement thereof via borders, peoples, cultures and languages. I just left it up to Hiro-kun (Tabinary) to interpret that as he would do and he produced a stunning series of pieces and art objects.
Shannon – Well all the credit goes to Andy on this album, he was kind enough to let my voice be a part of it. But as a jazz singer what inspires me are all the great artists that left amazing music behind, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Duke Ellington; it’s a never-ending list.
Although Andy’s from the UK and currently living in Liverpool, I know your EP was recorded in Mexico City with Shannon then finished and launched in Osaka, Japan. How did moving around so much impact on the album’s production?
Shannon – There were no problems at all, nowadays it is so easy to be in touch with people. So we really just had great communication, he sent me the songs he had, I studied them and then we recorded them!
Andy – Yeah, exactly. Modern technology and that.
In terms of ‘regional’ influences as it were… If you spend any amount of time in Mexico City you’re going to be spending a fair bit of it in taxis and if you spend time in a Mexican taxi you’re going to have banda blasted at you, like it or lump it. I really liked the modulation the horn players could get on their trumpets which I thought was very Princely and funky so I decided – pipe dream ahoy – that if we ever got to do a live Archipelago gig it would be boss to do it with a live horn section, so I wrote horn parts into basically all of the songs.
Breakcore is really popular in Osaka and knowing this I did a breakcorelite track with ‘Bassline and the breakbeat’ as something of a love letter to the people I know there. Same thing could be said for sampling the conductor announcements and trains going past on the Hanshinsen, the railway line that connects Osaka and Kobe, on ‘Umeda acid’. I felt like a proper producer getting mic levels right on my portastudio as the express trains roared past at what felt like 1000 miles an hour.
Then of course ‘Euroballad’ was inspired by the current social and political climate in the UK. The ‘share-holding friend who cashed in’ was based on real-life experiences working in the translation industry and the big row with the court interpreting contract being awarded to a company whose owner promptly sold it off and moved to the Bahamas. Rightly or wrongly I wanted to try my hand at a message song.
The instruments and sounds on your debut album MMXVI are lovely and diverse and I’m picking up a definite lo-fi, micromusic undercurrent. Did you have a set of tools and sounds in mind when you started writing it?
Shannon – You’ll have to ask Andy about that one…
Andy – Oh yes, absolutely… I’d amassed loads of micro kit over the years: the Korg DS software, Pocket Operators, a TB clone… That’s basically everything on the album, it’s all hardware which was really nice as it meant I never had to get out of bed to programme sounds and sequences.
The initial idea was only just to do the one track (‘The other side of the world’) but the day before we were due in the studio I just kept coming up with musical sketches. And Shannon was great about improvising lines and doing loads of takes so I could go home and flesh ideas out without the pressure of the studio clock ticking. Really it’s her vocals that define the album I feel and give us an identity, even with the instrumental tracks I was writing with her sensibilities in mind.
Outside of ARCHIPELAGO you’ve had a pretty varied musical history, producing and DJing in various guises. What advice would you give anyone starting out making or performing music?
Andy – This is our first release, I don’t think either of us are qualified enough to be giving anyone advice.
What’s next for the project? Are there future releases in the pipeline?
Andy – I’ve already started sketching out ideas for the second album, I’ve got a theme and everything.But for future decisions… There’s two of us in Archipelago.Shannon’s a busy girl with uni and her own projects and we live on two different continents… at the minute.
In the meantime I’m going to work on becoming a better producer and arranger and doing remixes for other people is a big part of that. Then there’s my label Lorenzo Music where we’ve got loads of bonkers stuff coming out – a hardcore band that does nothing but sing about tennis, Portuguese wrestlers’ intro themes, maybe something when I go back to Osaka in autumn as well.
Shannon – I hope this isn’t the last time I get to record with Andy, I had a blast. As for me, I’m continuing with my studies, trying to become a better artist on the way.