The Subs Lose Decontrol

Getting arrested was never on the agenda for Belgian electro outfit The Subs as they touched down in Australia last month.

Jeroen De Pessemier, The Subs newest addition, managed to get himself pinched by Canberra Police at the airport on their nationwide tour with Future Music Festival.

As Jeroen rode the baggage claim conveyer belt at Canberra airport, one can only imagine what was going through his mind.

He recalled in an interview with ABC: “It’s a federal offence so it’s serious but so funny. I went through to the back room and then came out again.”

Apparently Canberra’s finest failed to see the humour in the incident.

Far from an isolated occurrence, controversy seems to follow The Subs wherever they go; whether it’s getting arrested for driving mopeds through a busy shopping centre or die-hard fans ripping their clothes off during a live set.

The Subs took some time out from their whirlwind tour to chat with LUNA about their upcoming album, vomiting on stage, the future of electronic music and why their live sets are like “good sex.”

Words such as rambunctious and filthy are thrown around when trying to encapsulate the essence of The Subs. In reality, it’s difficult to pigeon hole their particular sound as it varies significantly between tracks.

“It’s kind of thrashy, it’s electro-ish but we don’t only go for the dirty sound, that’s not enough for us. The important part with the sound is that we’re a band so we play live and if we play live it’s a live sound we have. So there’s a difference between the studio sound and the live sound. We try to go for big melodies and stuff whilst having a modern, alternative style. Sometimes a track calls for a filthy kind of dirty sound, sometimes a track calls for a more open smooth sound.”

“That’s the main thing; we’re a band in this world of dance music. It’s actually something that defines us.”

It’s this tendency towards live shows that sets The Subs apart from the conventional DJ sets of mainstream dance acts.

“Well it’s totally different to a DJ set in that you play everything live and you play your own music. DJs make up a selection of music that they like from others and from themselves. You also try to go for a good flow and all the tracks are mixed into each other. So in that way, it resembles a DJ set. The sound is clearly that of a DJ set because we play with a lot of electronic music and electronic instruments. The sound is really pounding and punchy and as tight as a DJ set but there are many things which are played live so, you can manipulate much more. Now we have a second album, so we have two albums from which we can draw. Really it’s like a live band but with this kind of electronic, DJ, club music and in that way, I think there aren’t many bands in this area.”

Whilst there may be a lack of electronic artists performing live at this point in time, there seems to be a gathering momentum towards more immersive live performances. In particular, The Bloody Beetroots have proven themselves to be pioneers of this modern movement with their Death Crew 77 concept taking the world by storm. This progression is perceived as being imperative to the development of electronic music and live music in general.

“I think that what Bob [Rifo of The Bloody Beetroots] does is really good, I really like his live show and he’s also searching for new ways to bring this kind of music. So the Beetroots, I really respect them a lot and we really like what he’s doing. He’s trying to bring this new kind of music live, that’s like the next step you know and you also have to develop. The sound of electronic music develops really fast so you have to develop your own sound constantly and that’s a big challenge if you play live because it’s not so easy to immediately adapt to all the new styles. It’s like double work, you have your productions but you also have the live show to maintain. A DJ can immediately make a new track and put it into a DJ set but a live band practices of course.”

Speaking of their live show, The Subs are known to get absolutely out of control. When you have fans trying to tear your pants off in the middle of a live set whilst you’re vomiting on stage, you know you’re doing something right.

“I don’t know why it happens, it just gets so crazy! We really build our set which I think is one of our best assets. It starts a bit moody, a bit melancholic and we build it, build it, build it towards the end where it’s really punky and trashy. We don’t start with punk and then end with it because it gets a bit too much after a while. We really build it and that’s what the audience responds to is that building up. It’s like good sex, like fucking. With a build-up the orgasm is much better than if you just ride away. That can also be good but it’s better if you build it.”

After setting high standards with their debut album Subculture, the pressure was on to make a more memorable record whilst maintaining the same fundamentals that made Subculture such a hit.

“Well it’s much more melodic and we tried to have that theme. So we messed around big time with the album and had to learn the ropes on the first album. Basically, we learnt to make really good dance tracks, good club tracks and tracks that people really react to. So it was a collection of maxis. We were doing maxis, maxis, maxis and the best ones we kept.”

“The sound was really important and we put a lot of time into that. It’s always the sound that changes not really the music so that’s why we put a lot of time and effort into sound because the big changes and innovations are always in the sound.”

Never strangers to innovation and experimentation, The Subs crossover track, Kiss My Trance, began as nothing more than a joke, blossoming into a hybrid hit that united large portions of the dance scene.

“There was no real idea behind it. We just made something and it turned out trance-y because of its beautiful melody. If you use melody it tends to be trance-y very quickly. But of course, it didn’t suit us very well so we tried to work on the production and the sound until it suited and sounded modern in a way and til it was a Subs track. That was it! At first it was a bit of a joke and we called it Kiss My Trance instead of ‘Kiss My Ass’.”

It is tracks like Kiss My Trance that demonstrate the true genius of The Subs. Their unpredictable nature and love for the music itself is overwhelmingly refreshing in comparison to the commercial success that captivates a vast majority of modern artists

“We don’t care what people think, it’s more natural. We try to follow our intuition more than thinking: OK. We need this kind of track because this is going to be successful, blah blah blah..”

“We just follow our gut feeling and then afterwards we see what happens. Some certain tracks get popular. It’s really difficult to predict because we make alternative music. It’s not like we’re meant to be commercial or something. If you make real commercial music then you can kind of predict what’s going to be a hit but even then you don’t really know. I mean it’s a weird thing, what is a hit? We try not to think about that. It’s really wrong to try to be commercial. It’s not how we think. We try to make what feels best for us and then certain tracks people relate more than others. We just try to make good music and music that feels good for us. And yes, it was a total surprise that Kiss my Trance became a big hit really.”

The Subs’ latest album Decontrol is currently available in major retailers and online.

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