Though they are fresh out of the gates in the music scene, Def Neon has already landed on one of the UK's finest record labels Analoguetrash and is already pushing out their debut, self-titled album. Moving at the speed of light and not looking back, I chatted with the duo behind Def Neon, Mickey and Emily, about their influences, their debut album, and other such things. Not only that, but we have an exclusive pre-release stream of the track 'Nightvision' from their debut album! So click play, listen that song loudly, and get to know Def Neon!
Synthpop. Electro. Indie rock. You guys have a lot of genres mixed into your sound. But, before we get into your music let's have a little introduction. Who is in Def Neon, what kind of music do you perform, and what's your favorite brand of liquor?
Mickey: Def Neon are a two-piece band from Wales and we play electronic-based rock/ dance music. We like fantasy films, Sci-fi, Horror, Star Wars, Comics/Anime and Cartoons. Emily likes Unicorns and glitter too.
We don’t get to drink very often, but our favorite liqueurs and liquors are Kaluha, Baileys, Smirnoff and Absolut Vodka, Cherry Southern Comfort, Cherrys Sours, and that Cinnamon stuff’s really good too. We’re both bang into cocktails too – try Cherry Sours mixed with Coke and Vodka. It tastes like cherry-cola but it makes you want to fight people.
From what I read there are two of you in the band: Emily and Mickey. How and when did you guys meet each other and when was it that you decided to start Def Neon?
Mickey: I run a rehearsal and recording studio in North Wales called Vic Studios. Emily came to do part of her student placement at the studios. At the time I was jamming with a drummer, playing alt rock/post-rock type stuff. We were looking for a bass player and a singer so we invited Emily to a rehearsal. We began writing material immediately but within a few months we got tired of generic rock sounds, so we started integrating electronics into what we were doing. Several drummers came and went before we decided to just move forward as a two-piece. That decision led us to change direction and really guided our sound into what it is now.
If you could name five bands that have influenced you throughout your life, which would they be and why?
Mickey: Chemical Brothers. Having been obsessed with guitars and rock music through my teens – seeing the Chemical Brothers perform live completely changed my attitude to live music. I became obsessed with trying to find out how to make and perform electronic music in a live setting. Seeing the Chemical Brothers also turned me on to other live electronic acts – all of which have influenced what we do as a band now, such as Orbital, Underworld, Justice and Chicane.
Emily: Garbage. Shirley Manson was my first female musical role-model when I was growing up. I remember seeing her on the cover of the Big Issue, and I felt really inspired reading about the second Garbage album. Garbage 2.0 was one of the albums that I listened to a lot as I was growing up.
Mickey: Prince. My favourite guitar player, and favourite songwriter. I got to see him play twice and got close to the front each time so I could watch how he played his guitar. Records like Dirty Mind, Controversy, Purple Rain, 1999– all records that combined drum machines and synths with electric guitars . Looking back on these records gave us confidence to make records using a similar pallet of sounds and instruments – if it’s good enough for Prince it’s good enough for us.
Emily: Peaches. I love her energy and her uniqueness. I love the way she has independently created her own electronic sound and signature style. I guess I love the confrontational and lurid aspects of her music.
Mickey: Daft Punk. I still find the first two Daft Punk albums particularly exciting. They made their first album when they were both nineteen in one of their bedrooms – so it just goes to show what can be achieved with limited resources. Their use of robotic-voices have directly influenced our sound, being that we use a lot of vocoder on record and we also perform with a talkbox when we play live. Getting into Daft Punk also got me into other French producers such as Fred Flake, Alan Braxe and DJ Falcon – then subsequently all the Ed Banger stuff such as Justice and Kavinsky.
When did Def Neon officially kick off? And where do you see Def Neon in five or so years from now? Do you see yourselves as international rock stars?
Mickey: It officially kicked off in January/February 2016 once we’d settled on the band name and announced the release of our debut album. There had been a lot of work leading up to that point as we had been previously performing and writing under the name Jed Is Dead.
Five or six years from now, we see ourselves with a few more albums under our belt and an international – possibly inter-planetary legion of devoted fans. We definitely see ourselves as international/intergalactic rock stars. Just look at us – you can see the threat we present.
What was the first song you ever put out for audiences and was it received well?
Mickey: The first track we put out as a two piece was ‘Chocolate’. It seemed to be well received and is one of our favourite tracks to perform. It seems to get the livelier crowds jumping.
Let's jump into your self-titled debut album Def Neon. You signed to AnalogueTrash for this release. How did you get signed to the label? Did you approach them or did they approach you?
And how has it been working with AnalogueTrash?
Mickey: We’d been stalking them for a while and listening to their radio show on FAB.fm. Since the nature of our sound is so hard to pin-point it’s always been hard to know who to send our music to. We saw a post on AnalogueTrash's Facebook asking people to send in new music for the show so we sent a couple of tracks: ‘Rotoscope’ and ‘Destroy’. They got back in touch and played the tracks on their show.
After that we wrote a long email explaining that we had an album pretty much finished, and asked if they’d consider releasing it on their label. We met for a drink in Manchester early in the year, and we’ve been close friends ever since. Working with AnalogueTrash has been an invaluable learning process. They have opened doors, provided opportunities and offered moral support and advice. Their work ethic and drive is inspirational and we’re very lucky to have them onside.
What kind of gear did you use to record the album? And what type of sound were you aiming for with this release?
Mickey: Studio gear we used: Logic Pro X, 48 track Behringer Eurodesk, Digidesign 003 rack, Focusrite Octopre LE, Native Instruments stuff - Massive, Guitar Rig and Maschine, IK Multimedia stuff - Ampltube and the TS Rack series. For mics we uses SE electronics sE2200, Rode NT1, AKG D7.
Instruments we used: Fernandes and Ibanez guitars (all with sustainer kits installed), Peavey Basses, Korg Kaoss Pads (V2, V3, V3+) and a Roland MC909.
And how about the lyrics? Is one person in charge of the lyrics over the other or do you each contribute to them? And what do the lyrics on the debut album revolve around?
Emily: I usually write the lyrics as I like to decide what I’m going to sing. Some of the lyrics on the album cover a range of subjects such as human apathy, rebellion and being an outsider. Others however are more lighthearted.
I've seen some reviews of the album so far and they're all pretty positive. Have you read anything that contradicts the good praise so far? Anything negative at all?
Mickey: We haven’t read anything negative yet, but we’ve had our fair share of gigs where we’ve cleared the room - sometimes before we’ve even started playing. We understand that you can’t really expect to please everybody, and if you set out to do so you’ll just end up making music without any passion, and that you don’t even enjoy playing.
And how do you feel about the album yourself? Are you proud of what you accomplished, do you see room for improvement?
Mickey: There’s the famous Da Vinci quote ‘ Art is never finished – only abandoned’, and it’s definitely the case with the record. Perceptions can get quite muddy when you’re not only performing on tape, but also taking care of the mixing and production. Your tastes, your mood and your ears change everyday so it can be very difficult to draw a line under a finished mix. Luckily we had AnalogueTrash involved to instill that confidence and reassure us. It’s so difficult to be objective when you’re so involved with a record, and there’s always going to be room for improvement, but the finished product is something that we’re proud of.
And what's next for Def Neon? Have you any live shows, tours, gigs, or future music in the works?
Mickey: We have a few gigs left this year – the most significant being our album launch at Foundations Festival in Manchester on November 26th. Next year we’ll be going on tour with our label-mates, Syd.31 and Ded.Pixel – we’ll also be gigging extensively around the UK to promote the record. If we get the opportunity to perform overseas we will take it.
Thank you for your time and answers! I wish you the best for your future and leave the space below for you to say anything more!
Mickey: Thank you very much for interviewing us ! You guys are the best. Pre-order the album HERE.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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