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Beyond reality

Bandmember Jono Grant of the British EDM band Above & Beyond talks to Ananya Ghosh about their new album, We Are All We Need, which is inspired by real-life situations

The British Electronic Dance Music (EDM) group Above & Beyond is considered one of the best in their field, with fans across the globe who love to groove to their throbbing beats of trance.

Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki of EDM band Above & Beyond
Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki of EDM band Above & Beyond

The band, comprising Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki, is equally good with the turntable and has been a staple on the DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs list in the past decade. Last week, these men in suits released their next album, We Are All We Need, their first since Group Therapy in 2011. The album features collaborations with Alex Vargas, Zoe Johnston, Justine Suissa and Gemma Hayes as well as some instrumental tracks. Excerpts from an interview:

Q. How did you put together We Are All We Need?
A. Writing down the songs didn’t take much time, but the production and tweaking did. Once you have a song, you have to work out exactly where you want to take it. Most of our songs are about real-life situations, such as All Over the World, which is about Alex’s estranged father, or Peace of Mind which is about Zoe’s life coming together and then her offering a sense of perspective to the listener. Blue Sky Action is a song about the materialistic world we live in, while Out of Time is an instrumental track I started on my laptop on tour when I was jet-lagged in a hotel room in Buffalo, New York. I had this piece of music in my head, and wanted to get it down. But as luck would have it, I didn’t have my keyboard and ended up drawing notes on the computer!

Q. Unlike other works in this genre these days, your albums are rather melodic and emotional. How do you manage to strike the right balance?
A. It’s tricky actually. Dance music needs to work on the dance floor, but at the same time, you want to have hooks that people remember and get attached to. One of the hardest challenges in the studio is finding this sweet spot. That’s also why sometimes we like to make the odd out-and-out club track (Walter White for example). Sometimes squeezing a whole song into a dance track is a challenge. I think the key is to try and keep things simple, and that is our eternal battle as there’s a propensity to layer more and more sounds into a mix.

Q. You headlined the Vh1 Supersonic 2014 in Goa last December. How was the experience?
A. Thanks to the Internet, these days, it seems everywhere we go, our music is well known. The show itself was fantastic with a great crowd reaction. The Indian audiences are one of the best in the world to play to. They seem to know their music, and it is the music that drives the parties here.

Q. With so many EDM bands mushrooming, how do you guys keep reinventing yourselves?
A. I think it’s important to just make music that comes naturally to you. Who knows, maybe next year we’ll make something completely different. In essence, dance music is a carrier for our songs.

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