Vancouver-based electronic duo HUMANS recently released their debut full-length album, Noontide, after multiple EPs over the years. Members, Robbie Slade and Peter Ricq are known for their experimental and ambient sounds. We caught up with these two to discuss the charts and how they’ve guided each other to create their original sound.
CULT: How long have you two known each other?
Peter: 6 years – we met at an art show.
CULT: Have you been making music together the entire time you’ve known each other?
Peter: Pretty much! We met and then we talked about making music. Robbie had a band and he got me to do some artwork. Then we jammed a little bit – and starting making music a few months later.
CULT: Did you styles mesh right from the beginning?
Robbie: We both changed and merged styles a lot.
Peter: Yah, Robbie was not into electronic music at all. He didn’t know what his role was. I had a really good idea of what I wanted HUMANS to be. But Robbie not knowing how samplers work and all that –well – how would you say you felt Robbie?
Robbie: It’s similar to when I’m explaining to people what HUMANS is and what we do on stage – it can be hard to explain to people who don’t know what a drum machine or a sampler is. They know what the word is but they don’t actually know the function of the equipment. And so I was up on stage surrounded by all this shit and I didn’t know what to do. I guess I was a little bit out of my league, out of my element.
CULT: Would you say Peter was a bit of a mentor to you?
Robbie: Yah totally, and being outside your comfort zone is pretty good for your creativity I think.
Peter: It was good what Robbie was bringing to me – I usually would just do a house beat but he would come with beats I wouldn’t really have ever thought about doing. And so it was interesting – meshing two worlds together.
Robbie: We were kind of counterpoints to each other – because I still understood music.
Peter: Just different ways to play it.
Robbie: But it is kind of the same – just how to get there is bit different. I heard that Daft Punk write all their songs on the guitar first. It’s kind of like widening your arsenal and putting more tools in your tool belt as a songwriter.
CULT: Both of you had other creative interests before landing on music, filmmaking for example, what do you feel music provides you with that these other interests didn’t?
Robbie: Music is my main artistic outlet and it might be weird but it feels like the same part as what I need to be happy. It’s just a big piece of the puzzle. I like working too. I like to stay busy and fulfilled in different parts of my life.
Peter: Music was something I really liked doing as a kid – when I was in college and high school I would write a list of things I wanted to do in the summer and it was always ‘do an art show, write an album’. It was always both of those things back to back. At the beginning I was better at art than I was at music and I had some friends that were saying you should really just focus on your art – your music is just very mediocre. But I kept doing it because I liked it and I could see the progression happening.
CULT: How do you two go about planning a set? Do you keep the set the same for the entire tour? How do you decide when to change it up?
Peter: We usually start with the same song. Sometimes its jumps around – depending who played before. But we have all the tracks we know we’re ready to play –maybe 15 tracks. Then we usually gage upon the reaction –this went well so we can keep doing that kind of stuff. It also depends on the length they want us to play that changes the set obviously too. It is always the same structure. Usually by the end its completely different but it always starts with the same tracks.
CULT: I saw on Earshot National 50 top dance/hiphop albums that you guys were two places below Purity Ring and beat Ghostface Killah for best electronic/hip-hop album for Noontide. Do you guys follow the charts a lot? Do you find that placements like that really validate you career choice for you? Is it important to you?
Robbie: You know what – its nice when the news is good – we used to get really good reviews on Exclaim but then they randomly gave the album a bad review and it kind of taught us to not pay heat to any of it. Otherwise if you get excited about the highs you kind of have to let the lows in to bum you out too.
Peter: The good thing about the charts is that if someone gives you a really mediocre review that is one person. The charts, that’s not just one person it goes on who plays what all over the country. So its nice to know that okay this one person may not like us but the charts show that most people do and they play us all the time. They think we’re as good as Ghostface who I listened to obsessively growing up.
Photo: Lauren D Zbarsky
Humans play at CRSSD Festival in San Diego Oct 11