Enerate are perhaps best known for their synth pop debut Unstoppable, which received a lot of presenter love on Triple J Unearthed. It’s loveable music video premiered in prime time on ABC TV’s RAGE alongside Tame Impala, and Flume. In addition, the song was featured internationally on MTV’s teen drama ‘Awkward.’ Enerate’s latest single ‘Transit Lounge’ (released on November 16) is a spacious ethereal synth pop song about moving forward from uncertain times Futuristic synths and a down tempo house beat move the track along under the anthemic soaring vocals of Josh Graham and Therese Watson. Enerate’s talented multi-intstrumentalist Josh Graham recently sat down for a Q&A with us
What was your first keyboard?
It was a Casio PT-20. It was about 30 centimetres long! I can still remember sitting on my parents’ bed playing with it, I must have been about 3 or 4 years old. I would just mess with it for hours. Going through all the different sounds, and playing with the little inbuilt drum machine. I remember vibing hard on the “16 beat”. The drums sounded so 80’s Casio. It was beautiful. I actually resampled some recently. Sadly since, I pulled this beautiful tiny keyboard apart to get some parts for my own instrument. I would love to replace it one day. I always do that. I pull instruments apart to see how they work or get parts. I did that to my MPC 1k as well.
What do you use on stage generally?
Lately I’ve been using somewhat of a frankenstein instrument. My own creation. It’s called the “Electro Foxxxy Girl Deluxe” which I conceived and built. It’s essentially a hollowed out Fender Squier Strat. There’s a 12 button drum machine in the body and 24 buttons I’ve inserted up the neck where the strings would usually be. I’ve also converted the tuning pegs and all of the volume and tone pots into midi pots. It’s basically a Midi controller that I can ware and jump around with on stage. My first instrument was guitar, and I loved the freedom of playing guitar on stage. Then I started getting into synths and electronic music heavily. And I hated being locked behind a keyboard stand on stage. I couldn’t get my groove on properly. So this is why I built Foxxxy. It integrates into ableton live. There’s also an LCD screen in the back of the guitar which pulls in the track info from Ableton live, so I know what samples I’m loading. It’s designed in a way that we don’t have to touch or even look at a computer during our set. From my guitar controller I can drop in vocal effects on-the-fly. Change samples for the whole band at once. It’s a beautiful thing. And I nerded out hard on it for like 6 months. Haha it was worth it now. Because it’s purpose built and does everything I need it to.
Is it the same for recording?
I’m starting to use the Electro Foxxy Girl for recording. Just as it puts me in a very different headspace, so different things come out. But I usually head straight to my hardware synths. I use the Moog Little Phatty analog mono synth in probably every song I’ve made. It’s my favourite. I also use the Moog Opus 3 quite a bit (I bought it a few years ago because I found out that’s what Jonti uses) and he just has these amazing fluttering synth lines and oscillations that were just magic. It’s a beast of its own the Opus 3, it’s all back the front, it’s such an odd signal path. But that’s what’s so fun about it. It’s hours of fun, you get lost in it. Sometimes I use the MicroKorg, and a few soft synths, especially for pads or polys. I use some Massive, Sylenth and some of the stock Ableton synths.
What’s your latest recording and when will you be back in the studio?
Our latest single “Transit Lounge” comes out on the 16th of November, along with our debut record “Good Times Airlines” I’m very excited to get it out there! It comes out as an interactive visual album, so that will be fun. We’ve actually got another one or two brand newies that are almost done, So I guess they will come out next year at some stage.
I’m always in the studio. Every day. It’s my home away from home. In fact sometimes I spend more time at my studio than my home haha. It’s called Summer. I just rented out this space in Newtown, It was this perfect, really odd shaped room with gross brown carpet. I fell in love with it and turned it into a studio. We got some of the old panels from the old Studios 301, made a sweet vocal booth. It’s set up with everything we could ever need. It’s my favourite place. Although it gets ridiculously hot in the warm months, hence the name, Summer. I need to invest in an air conditioner.
What gigs have you been playing lately?
Our most recent show was Oxford Art Factory on October 5. It was lovely! We were launching our video for “Half Asleep”. I love playing that room it’s got such a dope vibe. It was the Foxxxy’s first on-stage run and she worked a treat. We got some amazing support acts as well. Merpire opened for us, her single “Holding Breath” is stunning. I’ve been doing some production work with her in the studio. She’s amazing. Julien Mier was 2nd on. Also incredible artist. He’s got a new record coming out very soon as well.
Most memorable gig?
It was probably a show we played on our first tour. We were in Melbourne and we were playing the Gaso. It was our first tour adventure and we were so unprepared! We hadn’t done enough promotion and we started playing and the venue was pretty much empty… But a few songs in, there was suddenly people there! Like people we didn’t know! And then some random was doing the crab dance from the Unstoppable video! And then a few people were doing it! It was incredible! Ha ha, it just ignited us more, we finished the show and went out to celebrate. It was one of those defining moments where it all clicks, and it was like, we did this! We’re on tour! We obviously got a bit too excited because soon after whilst bumping out Matty jumped on the bonnet of a cab and stripteased the driver to the sound track of R Kelly’s remix to ignition, which actually ended up popping his knee requiring surgery.
Worst stage nightmare?
At the moment, it’s probably that the electro foxxxy girl will short out and stop working during the set. My rudimentary electronics skills are somewhat limited, and a bit messy here and there. Yeah a tech failure of any kind. It’s hard with electronic music. But with Enerate, I feel like it’d be ok. It’s like, if all else fails, I can just pick up my regular electric guitar, and finish the set with no midi or electronics. We all play piano/guitar/ bass, so if the system died, it would just be a different iteration of the songs.
Album that changed your life?
Oh wow… so many… I think Demon Days by Gorillaz had a huge effect on me and my music. It was pop. It was beautiful songwriting. It made you want to dance. The best bits of indie, hip hop and dance music, all blended together in this cacophony of sound and production. And then there were the visuals! And anyone who knows Enerate knows we are also very synesthetic in our approach to the band. Visuals have to be as good as the music itself. I love how Gorillaz challenged the industry to what a band could be. I’m such a fan of everything Damon Albarn has done. I love pop music. And at the time it came out I thought. This is the best damn pop music I’ve ever heard, and it actually got me a lot deeper in to hip hop and electronic music.
What gigs are coming up in the next few months?
We’re just locking in our album tour now, early 2018. An east coaster. But I can’t confirm all the details yet, but don’t worry we’ll be playing in Denman. Early 2018.
A keyboard tip for the kids?
I think it’s just to play. Have fun playing with sounds. Manipulating them. Finding new ones. I got into synths like most people do these days, soft synths. But I only really started learning about them when I saved up and bought an analog hardware synth. There’s something about that tactile response of an analog synth. To know that you’re simply creating waves, an audio signal out of thin air from electricity. It’s very exciting. I’m obsessed. I wake up in the night thinking about it.