Exclusive interview with New York disco-house group

COMING off stage at 3am this morning after an epic 3 encores, Hercules and Love Affair were the main draw at Clash’s event at Liverpool’s Barfly, rocking the theatre to its absolute core.

Clash met their dignified leader of ceremonies Andy Butler in Parr Street Studio for a chat.

I’m a musician, DJ and songwriter

The gig, an all-embracing hoedown of classic disco, early house and trumpets, set the dance floor ablaze with a mash up synthesisers, brass, drums and two spunky female vocalists who echoed the vampish decadence of Grace Jones in her prime.

From an observer’s point of view it seemed Butler was orchestrating the show from his elevated position behind the synths and decks at the rear of the stage. This sense of leadership is agreed by Butler who, nodding as he takes a bite from an energy bar in the studio’s lobby, said: “I’m a musician, DJ and songwriter. I have written most of the songs really with a little help from Antony (Hegarty). I’m a central figure behind what we’re doing in terms of the concept but everyone brings their own essential ingredients to the table without which the sound wouldn’t be right.”

The gig was notable for the absence of the band’s most famous member Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons, who, as Andy explained, doesn’t tour with the Love Affair: “Antony is his own artist. He is the kind of artist who thrives on collaboration – the more open minded the better in his eyes. He isn’t actually touring with us as he only sings on five of the album tracks.”

When asked how Hegarty came to be involved, Butler points to friends in New York, evoking an image of social whirls and tight-lipped, incestuous scenes where like-minded souls congregate: “The collaboration happened through a chance meeting with friends of Antony’s” said the musician as he slurped on mineral water on the leather couch.

The whole concept of the band, musically and culturally, appears to be drenched in the decadence of the seventies disco scene where, at clubs like New York’s Paradise Garage, Larry Levan span shimmering disco while a sexual and cultural revolution unfolded in the background. It was at clubs like Paradise Garage where the city’s gay communities, forced underground by mainstream society’s prejudice, found a home. Andy, a member of a band that counts two gay men and a transsexual among its numbers, agrees with the Garage comparison but adds more pointing to house as a key influence: “I grew up going to warehouse parties in Colarado, listening to acid house and rave and also the masters of Chicago house, DJ Pierre and Derrick Carter.”

The next project is already being planned

Signed to DFA, Butler talks with affection about the label which ‘has enabled him to realise his ambitions’. Discussing the influence of the DFA team on the actual sound it becomes clear that Hercules were an almost finished product before DFA arrived on the scene: “with DFA it was about meeting a group of people who understood the music. The songs were already written when we met but it was DFA who gave us the capacity to make it real in terms of distribution, touring, advertising.”

Taking Butler’s yawn as an example of a polite man letting indicating he was ready to leave without causing embarrassment, I bring the lengthy interview to a close, but only after taking the opportunity to gauge the band’s thoughts on Liverpool and the Barfly’s manic crowd. Still coming down from the gig and the energy bar, Butler wipes the sweat from his brow with a sodden towel before disclosing that Liverpool has been their best gig yet: “ The audience is the best we’ve played to so far, very sweet and tender and responsive.”

Walking out of the building, one final question on what is next for the Love Affair gets a passionate, enigmatic response from Butler who, creating an aura of mystique around any future material, adds: “The next project is already being planned. It will be a big departure from this record which won’t necessarily be laden with disco – it could go in any direction.”

And with that he disappeared onto the tour bus which, with band mates, including vocalists Naomi and Kim Ann Foxman on board, disappeared into the night to begin the long crawl to Leeds. As they pull away the surreal thought of a bus packed with the most flamboyant and decadent members of New York’s underground club scene prowling across the brooding Pennine landscape under the cover of night fills me with illicit delight.


Follow Clash: