Written by: Sam Murphy

AlunaGeorge: “I Have Something To Say And I Want To Say It”

AlunaGeorge may just be the busiest act in dance music. As well as playing major festivals like Coachella this year, they’ve toured with Sia and Miguel and have just wrapped up an Australian tour that included Falls Festival and Field Day. On top of that they managed to release their sophomore album I Remember jammed with collaborations with Flume, ZHU, Pell and more.

It was one of the most successful dance releases of last year because they managed to expand on their individual aesthetic while still remaining intimate and personal. As a lyricist, front woman Aluna Francis is the most direct she’s ever been, delivering stories of relationships and successfully crafting intelligent anthems about empowerment and consent.

As Aluna told us during a chat while on Australian soil, she’s not interested in the abstract. Rather she want clear, concise messages that communicate straight to her fans. And given the crowd reaction out here in Australia, it seems like she’s done what she set out to do.

How have the new songs been going down under?
Yeah, one of the highlights from the set was Not Above Love which is our most recent single. We’ve got some radio play which is really nice.

The past year for you guys has been massive. You kicked off with Coachella, then moved onto the Sia and Miguel tour and now you’re here. Has there been any highlights?
I think definitely it’s been a year of learning and that’s I guess one of my favourite things especially moving from basically putting on a show at a festival or our own show to moving to the level of putting on a show at an arena. That was a massive learning curve for us. I think that’s been my highlight really, getting the live show to the highest point this year. We finished off by playing at the Belasco in LA where we had musicians flown over from New Orleans and it was so magical that whole night.

Did you learn much from watching Miguel and Sia perform on the tour?

I’d say I learnt more from Sia because she has put on such a unique show and she’s kind of done so many things that I’ve never seen done before which ultimately made me think about a fundamental philosophy which is, if you’re gonna change your live show and upgrade it, do something really artistic or something that hasn’t been done before because it takes the same amount of energy to come up with some visuals for the screen and if you can make it really part of something special that’s in your imagination, it’s so much more fruitful. That’s what I’ve learnt in terms of looking forward to how we might develop our live show because at the moment we keep it really simple just the band and me. If we were to put some bells and whistles on it, is there any point in adding the odd, already done thing? Maybe not.

Is it tempting when you have the capabilities and money to add stuff to just add stuff for the sake of it?
It can be, yeah but you have to really think about, did that actually really add to the show? For example, at Coachella we just had so much fun throwing loads of ideas together. A lot of these things we were doing for the very first time because all of a sudden we had a huge slot at the Sahara Tent. We had dancers, we had visuals, we had lighting, we had guests. It was absolutely nuts. Looking back on it, I thought we threw so many things at once during the same show that as a viewer it was probably a spectacle and fun but it wasn’t like you were seeing a cohesive idea come to fruition.

When you were recording I Remember did you think about the visuals and the stage show before you’d finished the album?

I don’t have to restrain myself because they’re two completely different artistic mediums that don’t necessarily play into one and other. I definitely know that there’s a couple of artists like Flying Lotus and Metronomy who did have that really conceptual element to a couple of their albums and I get that but for me one song is its own entity and so it’s really not necessarily going to work with a whole kind of overarching album concept. That’s something that could change but I personally don’t tend to think so far ahead with music because I’m letting the music guide me in some way to where it wants to go. I’m following a story, I’m following a vibe and things like that. My roots in songwriting do come from improvisation.

I actually saw you perform in LA just before Coachella and saw you at Field Day in Sydney. It’s interesting to watch the song from I Rememebe go from unknowns to suddenly having everyone singing the words. Is that really exciting for you to watch?
Yes! That’s a massive thing. Especially with Not Above Love, the start of the song came across quite immediately even if you didn’t know it but there’s still such a difference to coming here where it’s got radio play and people actually know the words. And things like I Remember, the response here is so much more potent and you can really feel it on stage because it is a romantic song and if everyone is feeling that because they know the lyrics then you can taste it in the air.

Also, a part of that is having Flume on the production who is a bit of a poster boy for us here in Australia. Is it fun to see how people respond to his music here?
It is. I remember we had such a funny conversation. I said, “it’s so interesting how everyone loves this down-tempo song,” and he was like, “Down-tempo? I think it’s up-tempo.” And I was like, “really?” It was that clash of the different worlds that we live in where because people are used to the sort of pace of his music going from much, much slower to that tempo, then that is fast for them. I could see what he meant, performing in Australia, the fact that it does feel a little bit more of a normal tempo for people here.

One of the coolest things that I Remember as an album does so well is that you used so many collaborators but still managed to keep it personal. Did you ever worry that so many people would dilute the intimacy of it?

We did for the first album so we completely rejected the idea of it altogether and then we dipped our toe in the studio with other people and we found that me and George have such a strong songwriting style and message that we didn’t even notice ourselves but once we were in the room with other people we would find that even though they were there they would stand way back and not really get involved too strongly. They would tend to just bounce ideas off and say whether they liked something. So, then it didn’t really feel like we needed to worry about the integrity of our sound. I write other lyrics anyway regardless of whether someone else is involved. All those stories and lyrics are from me. Strangely enough, it’s actually quite rare for me to find a lyricist who is as obsessed with lyrics as I am at the moment. A lot of people are more interested in production and lyrics that are maybe about surface or abstract ideas. I’m like, what is the point of that? I have something to say and I want to say it. I don’t really need to muck around with abstract ideas that nobody gets because that is artistic and poetic but it doesn’t really say anything from me to my fans.

That comes through in I Remember. It’s a dance/pop record but there’s a deeper surface to it. Was there a producer in particular that ignited your flair for collaboration?
I think ZHU was really fun to work with because it didn’t actually come easily with us. We had to really learn how to work together. Same with Flume as well. I’m just so used to working with George. It’s fun to be challenged on how you work with a new person. All you need is for someone to have enough variety of skill set for you to find a place where you can both get on the same level. If someone has just one thing they do, that’s really, really tough for me. I’m a broad spectrum musician in the studio. I’ll be interested in lots of different things. I can’t just stick to one thing unless I was deciding I wanted to go into the studio and do a drum ‘n’ bass song which I never do really.

What’s on for AlunaGeorge for 2017?
I’m going to be recording until April. A friend of mine has a studio in New Orleans so I might pop down there that would be really good fun. Then kind of do a few festivals over the summer and do some touring with the live show in the later part of the year. Oh, and there’s one more thing. The plan that we have is to release at least 12 songs this year as well. So look out for new music kind of on a monthly basis.