For Paavo Siljamäki, Jono Grant and Tony McGuinness, 2011 has been all about 'Group Therapy'. Which, of course, was the name of their second album (or third if you count 'Sirens Of The Sea' as OceanLab), released in the summer. But oddly, there's also been an element of therapy that has come with it, both for the band and for their fans.
“We kind of got lucky with the idea of group therapy,” says Jono. “It's one of those things where you come up with a name and then post-rationalise it later. But it seemed to fit with what we were doing.”
“It's good knowing what our music has done in people's lives,” adds Paavo. “People have gone through some proper, horribly difficult times, or really, really amazing times, and they let us know how the music has helped them through. That brings it home to us. That is what we do.”
Indeed, the new material has already been embraced wholeheartedly by the fanbase. New track 'Sun & Moon' is already apparently getting the same reaction to their staple crowd-pleasers like 'On A Good Day', the track they made under their alter ego OceanLab.
We speak to them as they prepare to play Rock In Rio, sharing a bill with the biggest acts in the world (Coldplay, Stevie Wonder, Metallica, Rihanna and Elton John make up the varied line-up). They will be headlining the dance stage, the second biggest stage at the event, but they're not phased by big crowds anymore. They've been touring their DJ show since the spring, all around the world, and have it honed to a fine art. In fact, they take these landmarks in their stride.
The 400th instalment of their Trance Around The World is approaching, and they have big plans for it.
“The 300th show we did in Moscow, the 350th we did in LA and the 400th, we're going to do it in Beirut. And we just can't wait. It's one of the biggest things we do each year, and this time we're going to the heart of the Middle East. Beirut has always been one of the places where we've had an incredible following. We want to take this well-oiled machine, this really well-rehearsed show and show it to them. If there's a year we should do a big party in the Middle East, this is it.”
Jono admits that, although it's like 'hearing your own voice', he sometimes checks out the fan footage of their shows on YouTube to see what they can do to improve them. Paavo even attended their show at the SW4 festival in London as a punter in the crowd, to check out the Above & Beyond experience for himself, so tweaks and fine tunings could be made for future gigs. All this so that whether they're at the residencies for Cream at Amnesia in Ibiza, or at the Marquee in Las Vegas, or their forthcoming Asian tour, they can give it everything.
But the single question fans will doubtless be keen to know the answer to, is when will they be back in the studio? Well, let us field that one.
“Well, we've been remixing tracks off the album, and we have a new club track we've been playing out a lot that we're going to release,” says Jono. “It's nice to get a block of time, and really focus. So we're going to take a couple of weeks off after Christmas for some studio time.” They're even talking about the possibility of some unplugged shows. And yes, you read that right.
“It's just a fun thing we'd like to do,” says Jono. “The one thing I miss with all the DJing is playing the piano. Paavo plays the cello and piano, and Tony plays guitar, and I miss that aspect of live music. It's something we may well do in the future.”
Trance unplugged. Watch this space.