Exploratory UK synth punks Freak Genes are releasing their fifth full-length album, Hologram, through the always reliable Feel It Records later this month. Today, we have the pleasure in sharing the album's second single and title track, which shows the duo descending further into angular electronics with an arsenal of supersaturated synths and robotic vocal affections. Along with the premiere, we caught up with members Charlie Murphy and Andrew Anderson who tell us more about the new track and their synth-centered flirtations across the new album.
When we last spoke with the UK duo Freak Genes in our first print issue, they told us how they were already on the move with their fifth full-length album in five years. This was just shortly after the release of last year's Power Station and the thing about these synth punks, is that they don't slow down; each release acts as a rendezvous for the next one. Last week, the duo announced their fifth album, Hologram, and shared the album's rapid-fire lead single, "Strange Charm." Today, the duo have shared us with the new album's second single and title track, marking their trajectory even further down the line of perplexing electronic music with scads of sci-fi paranoia and noise-infused weirdness. Along with the premiere, we caught up with members Charlie Murphy and Andrew Anderson who tell us more about the new track and their synth-centered flirtations across the new album.
Paperface Zine: Take me through the origins of your new single, "Hologram." How did this track come about and what did you envision when initially composing it?
Charlie Murphy: "Hologram" was the song that gave us the mood for the rest of the album. I remember it being a particularly beautiful day in Falmouth (In Cornwall where I live) when I was writing my part of it. I was surprised that this ominous piece of music had come from that setting, but at that time, I was just about to lose my wonderful mum to a terminal illness. Although none of the songs on Hologram are overtly about that, something so life changing obviously makes its way into anything you create.
Andrew Anderson: Yeah, on every album we have a song that kick starts the whole process…a track that makes us think "This is what we need to do," and the rest follows. That was the case with "Hologram." Charlie came up with the main part, and then I wrote the coda based off of that. It sort of grew and grew, and formed the template for how the rest of the album should sound — both sonically and in terms of songwriting.
PZ: This is the second single following the release of the new album's lead single, "Strange Charm." What was the overall recording process like for the new LP? I feel like it picks up right where last year's Power Station left off.
AA: That's right — we made both these albums in a similar way. Charlie started half the songs and sent them to me, I started half and sent them to him. The only difference this time is that we spent a lot long adding layers and textures. Mainly because we'd already done Power Station, so we needed a new challenge. Again, this is something we've repeated on every album…we work best when we sort of know what we're doing, but sort of don't at the same time. Usually we do this by working with instruments we don't fully understand, or by trying a new songwriting thing that we've not fully mastered. Also, because we're working with synths and a lot of it is recorded to a click, we can spend a lot more time on arranging. It's good, because it allows us to really get into the details and totally rework songs if we want to. It's bad because you suddenly realize it's 3:00 a.m. and your eyes have turned square.
CM: I think the two albums are certainly similar. But Hologram to me, has a more cohesive quality — it felt like we locked into this strange atmosphere for the songs, very early in the process of writing and recording them. I think with Power Station it was more eclectic. We've always completely embraced that eclecticism, but with Hologram, it sort of felt like it wasn't necessary — like the songs were naturally pulling in the same direction.
PZ: Your heady post-punk and synth-pop styling involves nervy guitars and an onslaught of swirling synths and drum machines. How do you approach experimenting with your music as a duo? Last time we spoke, you mentioned recording music as pure play and running into unfamiliar territory as you're being instinctive with your electronics.
AA: Yeah, exactly this. It has to be new and fun and a challenge. The thing I really got into this time was trying to understand how dance music works…because I love dancing around like an idiot. Now, I don't really know the process, so I just kept messing around with some of the songs until they felt like dance tunes (there was also some watching "How to Make Dance Music" tutorials on YouTube, which were actually kind of helpful, strangely). I can't speak for Charlie, but on the songs he started, it felt, at least to me, like he was experimenting more with texture, and matching textures to lyrics. But that could just be pretentious bullshit and he meant no such thing :).
CM: Total pretentious bullshit, haha. Nah, I definitely was enjoying writing lyrics with less of a concrete song structure in mind. I wrote the music and the lyrics at the same time, so that there was never much separation between the two. I tend to write lyrics in a stream of consciousness, which feels like an experiment, because it often tells you things you couldn't have come out with consciously. Although Andrew and I have a lot of similar influences like: DAF, The Units and others, we never go into recording with a clear idea of what we want to make. There is always a thread that appears once we start, but I never know what it's going to sound like when it's done or what it'll sound like to other people, and that feels a bit like an experiment too.
PZ: What are you most excited about playing at this year's Gonerfest in September?
CM: I've never been before, but for years I've been looking longingly at the line ups — so I can't wait for the whole thing.
AA: Unfortunately, I don't eat meat anymore, otherwise I would have said BBQ. But mainly I'm looking forward to seeing old friends — it's been 15 years since I first played Gonerfest with the Hipshakes, and I'm still in touch with lots of the people I met back then. They're just very nice people, and they treat us like we're important (even though I know we're not). It's a very rare thing, and you can completely understand why people come back year after year.
PZ: Gonerfest 19 is just one of the stops during your short run of U.S. shows which includes some stacked bills especially those Chicago and Cincinnati shows. What are you looking forward to the most while playing here? Any favorite spots you enjoy hitting up in the cities you're playing in?
CM: I am really excited to see all the bands we are playing with on this tour, the lineups are really something. After the pandemic, I am desperate to see more live bands, and we are so lucky with who are playing with. Thanks so much to Sam from Feel It Records for running such a great label and for arranging the whole thing so well.
AA: I always really like being in Chicago, so I think that has to be the highlight. And although we're playing with tons of cool bands on this tour, Spread Joy has to be right up there…so yeah, Chicago.
PZ: You both mentioned a while back how you both never really stop making music. Aside from this new album and being the punk veterans that you are, is there anything else you're working on at the moment whether that's Freak Genes or another project?
AA: Right now I'm playing in a band in Bulgaria (I live there) called KAKE? We released our first album, ZLE!, a few months ago. And then I have a new solo project called Queasy Pieces — the first LP is out in November on Fat Cat. Plus I'm doing a few things for some other artists here in Bulgaria, which is a new challenge for me. As for Freak Genes, we made the mistake in the past of starting the next album before the old one was released…it just got frustrating, so we don't do that anymore. But we have talked through some ideas of what we might do next — what's the next challenge, what's the next thing we can misunderstand and…by accident…put our own spin on — but nothing concrete yet.
CM: I currently play in five bands which has been just what I need, after a few years of not being able to play live music. Isolation has an EP, which we've spent a long time working on, coming out next month on Crew Cuts. Life Forms, which started out as a solo lockdown project, now his a full band and has a tape out on Silent Kill Records. Fresh Specimen has an album finished and coming out later in the year, we've just recorded some new songs for a split too. And finally, Gamma, which is a new hardcore band I am doing with some friends in Brighton, has a tape coming out soon. With Freak Genes, It's never long before Andrew and I start working on something new together — it's a bug we both have. For now though, I am really happy to have Hologram out there in the world.
Hologram comes out August 19 through Feel It Records. Pre-order the new album here and check out their U.S. tour dates below.