- Tue, 2010-02-23 09:32
When Pete Cafarella and Nate Smith combine they become Shy Child, purveyors of synth-pop, ‘80s revivalists, and boisterous champions of the much-lampooned keytar. With Noise Won’t Stop, 2007’s album, the pair saw their single Drop the Phone galvanize dancefloors across the UK, success that they capitalised on by way of a support slot with scene-favourites Klaxons.
I Like Music caught up with Pete to talk about his love of synths, ‘80s pop sensation Sandra and partner in crime Nate. Plus we get the low-down on new album Liquid Love.
"I Like Music because… it enables me not to have to get a real job.” Pete, Shy Child
ILM: What can we expect from Liquid Love?
Pete: It’s more classical pop in terms of its approach to structure and harmony. It’s a more accessible record. Our friend Chris Zane produced it having just produced the Passion Pit record, which I love. He was in the same pop mindset as us. We were really fortunate that everyone was on the same page aesthetically from the beginning. There didn’t need to be a lot of experimentation.
ILM: How did the writing process compare with previous albums?
Pete: I spent way more time on the lyrics than I have before. I really got into the craft of writing words. That’s not something I’d really considered previously. Our last album was more a glorified jam. It was based on grooves with vocals being somewhat secondary.
ILM: Was there a particular song that made you turn that corner?
Pete: I think it just evolved from talking and reading. Just exploring the world of feelings more. That sounds really cheesy and abstract! I find that if you attempt something specific with writing lyrics then it comes off insincere. It’s better just to be natural and colloquial with it. People respond to that better.
ILM: Was there a certain track that you particularly enjoyed working on in the studio?
Pete: Our first single, Disconnected, was fun to work on. Musically it’s really simple. It’s about a memory of someone that keeps repeating in your head. You re-live that pain and pleasure in your mind whether you want to or not. That’s the general concept of the record. That’s why we called it Liquid Love. It’s a metaphor for the fluid nature of love and relationships. Love isn’t a solid and achievable thing. It’s indefinable and amorphous.
ILM: What’s the secret to a successful musical partnership like yours and Nate’s?
Pete: Duos have always worked really well in music. On projects that involve lots of people it’s impossible to share your full vision with everyone. It tends to be a democracy, and the majority always wins. That can make things difficult. But when it’s just two of you it’s 50:50 and the decision process works differently. Everybody agrees or nobody agrees. It’s a big ‘yes’ or a big ‘no’. There’s no compromise.
ILM: Do you agree most of the time?
Pete: No, we disagree most of the time, but it’s still all about love! It’s a healthy kind of arguing that we’ve developed over the past few years.
ILM: What’s your studio set up like?
Pete: It’s completely disorganised. We’re fortunate enough to rent a studio space in the basement of an apartment building in Soho, Manhattan. The location is great. It’s like a big cement tube underground, and it’s filled with old keyboards, drums and computers. We spend a lot of our days there.
ILM: What’s your newest musical toy?
Pete: I have an unhealthy obsession with vintage keyboards. It’s not beneficial for me or anyone else! I just got a Jupiter 6 analogue synth, which sounds really cool. We put it on the record. When we play live we’re afraid to bring these analogue synths with us though, ‘cos they break. We just use digital stuff live. Things can get a bit hectic on stage.
ILM: Out of all the shows you've played, which have been the most memorable?
Pete: We did a bunch of completely insane shows in China about a year ago. Very rarely do Western bands come to China, but we were fortunate enough to get hooked up with some shows. It’s just a completely different universe. They’re not used to bands playing at all. They don’t even really have venues, just night-clubs with huge LED walls. Every single wall is like an LED video screen. No-one knew what to make of us. It was completely confusing for everyone in that country.
ILM: What are the stand-out memories from your musical career so far?
Pete: There are quite a few. We played a show at the Sydney Opera House, opening up for Björk. She was great. Really serious about her show. Meticulous with the soundtrack and the stage set-up. Very specific about her sound. We also played at Wembley arena, which was memorable and surreal. Actually, the whole thing is somewhat absurd when I look back at it!
ILM: Do you have a big music collection?
Pete: Absolutely, it’s way too big! It’s all mp3s these days mind you. I’m mad about underground late ‘70s, early ‘80s pop. I have an obsession with Sandra, that European pop star from the ‘80s. She’s the woman of my dreams. I also just got the new Gucci Mane mixtape put out by Diplo which has a lot of great hip-hop remixes.
ILM: Out of all the live shows you've seen, which have been the most memorable?
Pete: There are so many. It happens a lot. I’m not very judgemental when it comes to bands. I just like to watch, I always love it. Last night we played with a band called O Children in London. I was really into them.
ILM: What lessons would you pass onto others about working in the music industry?
Pete: Just pretend. If you feel like something isn’t working, just pretend like it is, and then it will be.
ILM: Have you got any plans beyond the release of Liquid Love?
Pete: A lot of touring, including a week in the UK starting off in Liverpool. We’ll be doing festivals and that sort of thing as well.