Robbie Byrne talks to Le Galaxie frontman Michael Pope about breaking into the festival mainstage scene, Kung Fury, and all that facial hair.
It’s easy to get your band name horribly wrong. The Beatles is an idiotic name. Think about it; it’s just a dumb musical pun drawn from a species of insect. Now take Panic! At the Disco – why is that exclamation mark there, why? And why throw ‘disco’ into the mix when you’ve spent the past decade peddling a dilute brand of commercialized pop punk? And who could forget El Paso’s sole groove-metal quartet Pissing Razors, or 60s space-rock outfit Evil Edna’s Horror Toilet?
But sometimes a band absolutely nails it. Conjuring images of neon skylines, 80s sci-fi and cosmic synth odysseys, Le Galaxie urges us to own the night. Still, if the band’s bearded frontman is to be believed, it’s a name born out of necessity. “We had spent six to eight months writing these instrumental songs when the opportunity arose to play in Dublin’s Voodoo Lounge,” Pope says. “After we took the owner up on the opportunity we were like, Jesus, we have no name, so on a whim we called ourselves Le Galaxie – after the first song we wrote.”
That was 2008, and though the band released only two singles in the interim, including the vocoder-driven, indie brilliance of We Bleed the Blood of Androids in the midst of a cliché debut small venue tour slog, Le Galaxie were beginning to feel the momentum sway in their direction.
“It really doesn’t matter if the venue holds 50, 100 or 1000, but when you sell out your first gig, I think that’s the sign that people like what you’re doing. For us, it was selling out our Laserdisc Nights II LP launch at The Workmans.”
This wouldn’t be the first epiphany the band would have. Their second, at 2013’s Electric Picnic, was where I, along with thousands of other revellers, were exposed to the band’s live brilliance for the first time. “The best part was turning so many strangers’ heads,” Pope laughs, before pausing. “I swear our Facebook following had doubled by the next morning. Honestly, I hardly remember much of that night, but to have thousands of people around us was a special moment.”
It was off the back of this momentum that Le Galaxie crafted the bulk of Le Club’s material. An early shoehorn for Irish album of the year, Le Club plays true to the band’s core strengths. Progressive, yet nostalgic twilight beats meld with Pope’s mechanized vocal delivery and a smattering of guest spots – succeeding where Laserdisc Nights II failed; by delivering an album laced with danceable synthesized gold throughout.
It’s a brilliance emphasized by the LP’s immaculate production. Pope admits Le Galaxie hit the jackpot in bagging one time LCD Soundsystem member and in-house DFA producer, Eric Broucek. “From the outset he knew what to do with our sound. He wanted to make the album feel like we were playing in the same room as the listener, which was totally cool with us,” Pope says. “Although we had the writing and live aspects nailed, we’ve always struggled to capture our live sound in the studio.”
Broucek’s influence is peppered throughout Le Club, notably in the pulsing arpeggios of CNNXN. But despite his fame and know how, Pope notes that Broucek was a breeze to work with; “Eric is a really simple guy. If you’re an independent artist and he likes what you do, he’ll do it.”
Fresh from playing Longitude and its UK sister festival, Michael Pope is just reeling in from a hugely successful, albeit hectic weekend. “It was our first time playing on the main stage of any festival. Just to see people come out and see us in the middle of the day was mind-blowing. We really tried to expand our set for it by bringing Senita and MayKay on stage,” he says, before moving on to how the outfit juggled performing in two separate countries one day after the other.
“The night before mainstage at Longitude we played the Other Voices tent at Suffolk’s Latitude Festival – two completely different gigs. Between scheduling taxis for our guest vocalists and flights for our equipment, we had to deal with tension headaches – constant stress. It’s worth it though, especially when we meet people who never heard Le Galaxie six months ago.”
The brand of 80s-infused futurism peddled by Le Galaxie for so long is enjoying something of a renaissance of late, much thanks to the popularity of the Swedish viral sensation Kung Fury. So with a script seemingly pulled from Pope’s late night android fuelled lyricism, is he a fan?
“I just couldn’t have taken Kung Fury seriously if it was another one of those poorly made b-movies. But seriously, the jokes are great and the whole thing just looks and sounds so cool. It’s one of my favourites.”
With a major label record deal behind them, Le Galaxie are now setting their gaze across the pond, having already embarked on a small 2014 UK tour that ended in London’s NME sponsored KOKO venue. “The British crowds have been kind to us, they seem to be liking what they’re hearing so far,” comments Pope, hopeful for what the future holds as yet another festival season begins to wind down.
As our own conversation draws to a close, I prompt Pope to impart some of his beard-growing wisdom onto us mere mortals. After all, the Dublin native sports the best facial hair in the business. “Advice?” Pope questions. “Right, first you’ll need to fight your way through the itchy phase. Second, look after your beard – buy decent beard oil. And third – third, always condition while showering; then and only then will your beard be as soft as a sheep coat.”