Forget bands. The girl-boy duo format is fast becoming a favourite mode for the delivery of pop music (H & Claire from Steps were blatantly ahead of their time). We've already featured New-York twosome, MS MR, whose combined tunesmithery dazzled XOYO last month and now we bring you OK Go’s Tim Nordwind and electro popstrel, Drea Smith, who have joined forces as PYYRAMIDS, an outfit dedicated to catchy melodies and memorable beats.
Nordwind and Smith were introduced to each other remotely by a mutual friend and began engaging in textual intercourse via e-mail, geeking out to (their shared love of) British post-punk and 80’s Manchester groups.
With their debut album, Brightest Darkest Day, coming out next week, the duo will celebrate its release with two shows in London, one at Shacklewell Arms and another at KOKO. By way of homage to the first stages of their musical relationship, we initiated an e-mail exchange with Tim and Drea and found out more about their new album and their live shows.
You started making music together before you even met in person - what sparked things off?
Drea: At the time, I was looking for a new project to work on and my friend felt that Tim and I would work well together. We started off kind of like e-mail pen pals. We talked about music, art and films for about six months before ever really getting into making music.
How did your initial way of collaborating work in practice?
Tim: I sent Drea skeletons of songs via e-mail. Usually, the skeletons were a beat, chord progression and an element of production that defined a mood. Drea then put the song into Garageband and worked out vocal arrangements that she'd send back to me. We'd go back and forth like that until we both agreed we had a song that felt complete and conveyed emotion.
Did you get nervous sending each other snippets of music like that and were you worried about what the other's feedback would be?
Drea: I felt surprisingly comfortable with Tim right away, never nervous. We'd been talking for a while before we'd gotten into the music making, I felt like I knew him pretty well. We were on the same wavelength early on and we have a great mutual respect for each other's opinions. I felt if he had any critiques or suggestions it would be for the betterment of the music.
Has the collaborative process between you changed substantially after you started working together in the same place?
Drea: It's changed a little. We still write the way we started, with Tim sending me a track and me writing the lyric and vocal parts. The difference now is we share our ideas face to face. We've also started building songs together with just a guitar or keyboard and some sort of recording device.
What made you decide on PYYRAMIDS as the name for the project?
Drea: As we were making the first songs, we noticed a common moodiness in all of them. We liked the mystic element of PYYRAMIDS.
From start to finish, was Brightest Darkest Day a long time in the making or did you find the process fairly straight-forward and quick?
Tim: Once we decided to make a full length album, Brightest Darkest Day felt incredibly quick. Getting to the point where Drea and I decided to make our first EP, Human Beings, felt a little bit more like a long time in the making in the sense that a lot of the songs on the EP were written a year and a half before getting them out into the world. We had such a nice response to Human Beings and from playing like that I think the momentum of all the positive feedback got us writing and recording quickly for the next one. We had a much clearer picture of the sonic world we wanted to create for Brightest Darkest Day.
There's been a great response to the single Don't Go. How many singles do you reckon this album campaign can sustain?
Tim: We've been really excited by the response to Don't Go. We're getting ready to release a video for our song, Paper Doll, which is directed by Ericka Clevenger, who also directed the videos for Don't Go and That Ain't Right. We have plans for a few more singles as well. In this day and age it's hard to know exactly what releasing a single means anymore, but we're excited to share as much music as possible.
Annoying question but… do either of you have a favourite track on the record?
Drea: I can honestly say I love all the songs.
Annoying answer, Drea!
Drea: They're like my babies and good mothers never pick a favourite! That being said, our next single, Paper Doll, is really rad and I can't wait for its release.
Would you say that there is a common thread, a theme or a concept to the songs on the album?
Tim: The common theme on our record is love and the struggle to hold onto that feeling.
You recently performed songs from the album at SXSW - what was that experience like?
Drea: Performing the songs at SXSW was amazing. It was really cool to see what people thought and felt about the songs up close like that. To see them react instantly, whether it was a head nod or dancing, was confirmation to us that this is a really good body of music. It also got me really stoked to play more shows.
How easy do you find it interpreting studio recordings into live performances?
Tim: The process of translating studio recordings into the live setting has been an interesting and a fun one. We originally thought of ourselves as a studio project, but started getting offers for shows when our EP came out. There's a really nice high but dark energy that comes through when translating these songs from under the studio microscope to a slightly more human feeling environment like a show. It's been great to see the crowd react, move and dance to the music.
What can we expect from your forthcoming London shows?
Tim: We're coming to London with our full band. The shows are extremely high energy and bring feeling. Probably the most important thing to us is that people feel the music.
Drea, is it true you've never been to the UK before?
Drea: Yes! This is my first time travelling to London!
What are you most excited about seeing here?
Drea: I'm excited to see everything! The pubs, the shops, the people – everything! I can't wait!
Brightest Darkest Day is out on 15 April. PYYRAMIDS play Shacklewell Arms on Wednesday 17 April and Club NME, KOKO on Friday 19 April.