Recorded in one fateful day at Abbey Road Studios, About Group’s 14-track mini-opus “Start and Complete” is a beautiful, semi-improvised, bluesy pop record that brings together the multiple talents of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, John Coxon from Spiritualized, polymath drummer Charles Hayward and veteran keys player Pat Thomas. Centred around a hypnotising 11 minute cover of the legendary minimalist American composer Terry Riley’s ‘You’re No Good’ (who Hayward cites as one of the most important late-20th Century musicians), “Start and Complete” blossomed from a collection of songs that Taylor gave the group the evening before the Abbey Road sessions. With only a handful of live gigs as About Group (including Gang Gang Dance support and Glastonbury), their mysterious live performance is a brazen expression of independent musicianship.
Dazed Digital: Can you tell us how About Group first came together?
Alexis Taylor: It was John’s idea really, why don’t we make a record together? I’d been a fan of John, Charles and Pat, even though I’d only met Pat a for a few seconds before we started recording. When we first played together we didn’t know what it would sound like but we knew that we would improvise. There was a massive shift when we decided to make this record which features song after song. That shift made this record exciting, we really didn’t have a plan.
Charles Hayward: It’s almost between degrees of order and degrees of chaos and those are the things that interest me. This record has a mix of those two different places and that’s the way I tried to react to the music, to just let that happen.
DD: How does this translate to your live shows?
Alexis Taylor: We’re changing the approach to performing live every time we play. The last three gigs have a song at the beginning and at the end and ‘You’re No Good’ in the middle and the rest is open ended. Right now we’re just figuring it out without fixing on just one way of playing live.
Charles Hayward: The really important thing is that we’re in a really interesting place with the audience that wont last for long. No-one really knows the material. We’re not addressing memory, we’re addressing now.
John Coxon: You’ve got to train yourself to want what you don’t expect. What does William Burroughs say? ‘You cannot want, what you want.’ I don’t know how meaningful that is in this conversation but it just crossed my mind.
DD: You’ve played with Gang Gang Dance too, what is it that you love about them?
Alexis Taylor: The first time I saw them they were like nothing I’d ever heard before and they radically change their own sound each time they play. With Tim Dewit on drums who is an amazing but sort of awkward drummer playing with Brian who simultaneously plays drum pads and keyboards with Lizzie Bougatsos who has a really strange vocal style. They’re into Krautrock as well as UK Garage. I like all of those things too but I never thought about combining them in a band.
DD: So you see a connection to what Terry Riley does?
Alexis Taylor: I know that Brian Degraw really loves Terry Riley. I know how excited they were to play on a bill with him that Terry organised for his birthday in America. I was with Brian in New York and the first song in his DJ set was ‘Rainbow in Curved Air’, he’s obsessed with Terry Riley.
DD: Is there an overarching theme that connects About Group?
Alexis Taylor: Some of them are the first songs post the first Hot Chip album whilst some are quite recent. They all make sense to me to that they’re all very straightforwardly about your feelings in relations to someone else, and that’s what every song I write is about, whether it’s Hot Chip or About Group.
About Group is playing Dazed Live on Saturday April 9, 2011. The festival takes place at several occasions in and around Shoreditch and is presented in partnership with Levi's and Absolut Vodka. Find out more about the Dazed Live HERE and buy your tickets HERE