Bag Raiders: Shooting Stars

30 Nov

‘When I see your face / it’s like sunlight dripping’ sings UK pop artist, Dan Black on Bag Raiders’ track, Sunlight. Cheesy lyrics aside, this may be one of the hits of summer, following on from last years, Shooting Stars, both of which appear on Bag Raiders’ self-titled debut album released just last month.

When I chat to Chris Stracey, one half of the talented dance-pop duo, they are “rehearsing up a storm” in preparation for their upcoming national tour, which are mostly live performances, with the occasional DJ set thrown in.

“Over the last four days we rented out rehearsal space, which is just a big room with a PA system and carpet all over the walls and we’ve been practicing day and night,” Stracey says.

“It’s just me and Jack (Glass) and we have two workstations set-up on stage. Each of us has two synthesizers and Jack has these tom drums and I’ve got a big floor tom and some wood blocks and there’s a glockenspiel and I’ve got this sampler pad, which I also hit.”

Both Stracey and Glass will be sharing the vocal duties on stage too, replacing the guests that appear on the album, which along with Dan Black includes Rhys Taylor from Ted & Francis, Simon Jones from The Holidays, Martin Solomon from Wim and Gisselle Rosselli who sings on the track Crave You by Flight Facilities.

“For most of the songs we would just record a demo vocal over the top and then send them off and we were like, ‘so do you want to sing on this song’ and if they liked it, and thankfully they did, then we recorded them doing it,” Stracey says.

“But with Dan (on Sunlight), we had another song almost written, but then he came to us with some ideas and we ended up re-writing that song with him. So that was more of a collaboration, which was really fun to do over the Internet,” Stracey says.

“I remember one time we were at an airport in Malaysia in a noodle shop and we were singing into the laptop microphone trying to record this idea to send to him, but we got into this ambient mode of people slurping noodles in the background,” he laughs. “So there were some fun, memorable moments during the writing process.”

If you’re looking for an upbeat, summery album, that’s oozes with cheerfulness and makes you want to dance, well, Bag Raiders’ debut fits the bill nicely. Using mostly vintage synths, computers, and some live bass, guitar and percussion, the dance-pop songs deviate into styles that have influenced them over the past three years.

“At one stage we were into this African phase, so I think you can hear a few jungle-y kind of influences in the percussion,” Stracey says. “And with the funk stuff, we didn’t go, ‘let’s make a funk jam’ and then ‘let’s make a 90’s piano-house jam’, but I think the stuff we were into shined through in our production.”

A trip to India was also inspiring for Stracey.

“I wasn’t so directly influenced by the music in India as I was by the experience,” he says a little sheepishly. “The track, Snake Charmer… I saw a few snake charmers in India and my friend got to play that horn thing, which was pretty funny, and I got a little idea and it ended up being the flute on that track.

“So little things like that, picking up things on our travels, you just throw it all together and program a beat under it and you’ve got a song!”

THE PLUG Bag Raiders’ self-titled album is out now. They play a live show at Scarborough Beach Amphitheatre with Tim & Jean and Flight Facilities on December 5 and a DJ set at Cuban Club 2011 on January 1.

[Edited version published in The Wire, The West Australian, Issue 76, 04.11.10]

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