In this week's issue of Phoenix New Times, we profiled 10 new(ish) bands we expect to dominate Phoenix iPods and boomboxes this long, hot summer. We'll be focusing more deeply on those artists over the next couple of days on Up on the Sun.
See the entire list: 10 Phoenix Bands You Should Be Listening to This Summer
In the late '80s, Keith Walker was rocking it (and a sweet orange-toned mullet) with Power of Dreams, an Irish pop rock band that British taste-making magazine NME once named as one of its "stars of tomorrow." Power of Dreams' chiming pop melodies were a far cry from the dark, synth-ridden sex party that was taking place in London's seedy underground, where Depeche Mode and New Order were mastering the delicate concoction of leather and drum machines.
Fast forward a few decades and Walker, now drumming for Tempe indie rockers Sister Cities, is downing a bottle of Jameson with Andy Rourke of The Smiths and William "Fucking" Reed, the hipster DJ king of Phoenix, celebrating a successful guest appearance at Reed's weekly dance night Sticky Fingers. His future girlfriend and musical partner, Tiffe Fermaint, was just seats away. It was the night that sparked a relationship, both musically and romantically (Rourke and Reed excluded from the later).
The pair formed Being Cool Is Lonely, which skillfully combines the sounds of '80s synth pop with sexual shades of nu disco and electronica, with songs like the tingly-in-the-pants, moaning epic "Your Love" and "Find You," a meant-to-be ditty that would be too sweet if it didn't have a healthy dose of "fuck you," too.
Up On the Sun: So here's the unavoidable question. You and Tiffe are in a relationship. How does being in a relationship affect your songwriting? Does it help or hinder you in any particular way?
Walker: Honestly, it's affected my songwriting in a very positive way. I feel she has broadened my horizons as a writer and turned me onto new music that's been an influence on what we're doing. All my previous bands [and] music projects have always been music only, so making music -- sweet, beautiful music -- with Tiffe has been very fresh and exciting for me.
What do you and Tiffe each bring to the table that winds up blending into your sound?
We both have quite similar musical taste, and I feel that's a huge factor in the sound we are creating. I feel we both bring ingredients that are essential to our sound. I play multiple instruments keys/drums/guitar/bass and I sing. Everything we do is live; we don't use any samples. There's nothing wrong with samples, but for me, creating and playing all the parts live allows my musical DNA to be part of the music. Tiffe has an amazing understanding of music, how it works and how it all fits together. She also has an awesome voice and understanding of melody. We have a small studio set up in our home and bounce ideas back and forth all the time. Writing together is pretty effortless, really. It's not always easy writing with other people, but, thankfully, we have that connection.
Obviously, this project is far different than Sister Cities or even Power of Dreams. When did you get into electronic music and what sparked your interest?
I've actually been into electronic music for a long time. Around the same time Power of Dreams began recording 2 Hell With Common Sense -- the band's second album -- I started to take a real an interest in keyboards and drum machines. This was the early '90s, when indie guitar music was leading the way, and although electronic music was present, it wasn't getting much attention. That all changed, however, when the indie kids discovered ecstasy and their new found love of dancing for hours on end to thumping bass drums and hypnotic bass and keyboard riffs. It seemed like overnight everyone was into it, and so began a very exciting and innovative time for electronic music.
Around this time I went to see Nine Inch Nails play their first Dublin show as part of the Pretty Hate Machine tour. I was completely blown away and amazed at the energy electronic music was capable of producing. It was after that gig that I started messing about with music recording software and analog synths. As time went on, I began to discover more and more electronic music and realized that I related very strongly to it. I've always wanted start an electronic band but it never felt right for some reason? Not really sure why, so I didn't, but when I met Tiffe that all changed.
You could call this type of electronic music "80s revivalist." It has the same dark, sexy feel as Depeche Mode. Was that the direction you wanted to take, or is that just how it ended up?
We never set out with an agenda on what we wanted to achieve sonically other than perhaps wanting to make music that we both liked. Our latest single, "Song for Nico," is quite dark, but also really beautiful and shimmers with subtle sexiness. The '80s [were] indeed a flood with many great electronic bands, but also some really shit ones, too. Depeche Mode we regard as true masters of electronic music, we've always loved what they do. We feel our sound does lend itself to '80s electronica. However, Being Cool Is Lonely is very much a band of right now.
You employed the work of Andy Rourke from The Smiths recently. That's pretty huge. How do you know him and what did he have to say about your work thus far?
My teenage years were spent listening to The Smiths. Andy is a true gentleman and one of my favorite bass players of all time. His stamp on The Smiths sound is unmistakable. I first met Andy last year when he was in Phoenix for a guest DJ spot at Sticky Fingers, the weekly dance party run by my good mate William Reed.
William invited me to dinner with himself, Andy, and a few other friends ([including] Tiffe, who I had never met before and was one of the other guests). Andy and I sat next to each other at dinner sipping on pints of Guinness. We got along like a house on fire. Andy, William, and I polished off a bottle of Jameson during Andy's DJ set and I had one of the best nights I've ever had in Phoenix.
Andy returned six months later for another DJ spot at Sticky Fingers. William and I were roommates at the time, so we picked Andy up at the airport, stopped off for a few pints of Guinness, and then back to ours for a BBQ. Andy was keen to hear Being Cool Is Lonely, so I played him "Your Love," our first single, which he really liked. He commented "This is really good, Keith. It's got an early New Order vibe to it with a really fresh cool sound."
After I picked myself up of the floor from fainting [laughs], I played him a cover version of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" I had started working on for BCIL. He looked at me and said "Keith! This is fantastic, mate! Do you have a bass guitar here?" Luckily, I did and Andy recorded bass on the track, which sounds brilliant. We plan on releasing it as a future BCIL single. Getting to know Andy and recording music with him was an incredible experience.
What's next for you guys?
We like the way things are going. Releasing a new track every few months works for us. We're working on a number of new tracks at the moment while also developing the concept/storyboard for our first music video. There are a bunch of new re-mixes of our track "Find You" in the works, from some really cool re-mixers from all over the world. We've recently been asked to remix other artists too, which is something were considering.
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Can we look forward to any shows in the upcoming months?
We definitely plan on playing shows at some point later in the year. I come from a very strong live-music background and want our shows to be as strong as possible. We really want to find the right people for the live band and will take the time it requires to do so.