To the uninitiated, Groove Armada's return to making underground house music might appear something of a change in direction. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. Andy Cato and Tom Findlay have found themselves, thanks to a solid decade of commercial success, stuffed clumsily into all manner of pigeon holes; from dance-pop to pop-dance to chill-out to stadium-dance to ragga-dance and any number of other sub genres you might care to mention.
They've collaborated with Richie Havens and Bryan Ferry, and toured the globe with their live band for over a decade, followed around by their more radio-friendly hits. But beneath it all, as anyone who has seen them DJ on the terrace at Space in Ibiza or some after-hours party in an east London warehouse will attest, their roots are in the deepest throb of house music.
They cut their teeth at the free parties thrown by the likes of Nottingham's DiY, and under aliases from Big C to Sugardaddy, have long been immersed in underground club music. It is in their veins. Cato and Findlay's hook up with the Hypercolour label at the beginning of the year has proved an inspired collaboration.
It has seen them re-embrace this passion and the stunning 'No Knock' (featuring the formidable track 'Oh Tweak To Me') and 'No Ejector Seat' EPs showed them to be on some blistering, career-defining form, while smartly aligning themselves with some of the hottest producers currently turning it out.
“We've always been DJing, right from the beginning,” says Andy. “After we did the last GA gig at Brixton, we decided to go back to the decks, where it all started. It's always been a big part of what we've done, but in terms of press and headlines, if you're closing the second stage at Glastonbury with the band, that's the thing that most people notice. “With the 'Black Light' album, which in terms of album material was our best record and the live tour was amazing, we decided to leave it at the top and for it to be our decision.”
The logical step, they reckon, was to apply some of the things they've learned out on the road and amalgamate them with the sound of their origins. Plus, the lithe, dynamic nature of working with an independent label means that they can get their new material out there rapidly. This suits them just right at the moment.
“There will always be a bit of you which misses those moments, whether it's closing Glastonbury or playing our last night at Brixton Academy,” says Findlay. “But when you're on a major label, so much of your time is filled with gubbins. Getting caught up in all the processes. Now 90% of what we do is at the sharp end, and that's where we want to be. There's not all the guff, and that was the down side, all the guff you have to deal with.
The process of making a tune in the studio, uploading to Andy who's mixing it down, then it's out two weeks later on Beatport, that feels really vital.” These days the pair live in different parts of the world for much of the time. Andy is 'in the middle of nowhere' near the Pyrenees in France, while Findlay has stayed in north-east London.
“We've been working with each other so long, that one thing we've always had from the off is that joint understanding of when something is going on in a tune. I can't think of a single occasion where we've disagreed on that, so that's a pretty good start for 'remote' working,” says Cato.
While it's hardly a new direction, it does feel something like a new chapter for the pair who made 'Superstylin'' and 'At The River', tracks which feel a million miles away from where they are now. And you can feel that they're as buzzed by it as everyone else is.
“We're in a nice position,” adds Cato. “We've always done things on our own terms. We can do what we want, make the music we want, work with who we want, and normally get enough people through the door to make sure we have a good night. So long may that continue.”
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