Earlier this year, The Knocks gave us the magnetic Comfortable EP, packed with spacious tracks and wobbling synth blends, almost like a rosy fever dream. While it would be easy to group them with other forward-thinking producers, The Knocks’ songs are hypnotic in a distinctive, submerging way, transcending electronic platitudes and fusing multiple genres with striking consistency.
Producers Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson are one of the most intriguing duos in the electronic arena. Over the past three years, the producers have been sharing stages with the likes of M.I.A., Chromeo, Grouplove and others, while producing spiked minimalist funk tracks that have racked up a legion of fans. The duo conjure their addictive tunes in their Lower East Side studio called Heavy Roc, melding their backgrounds in soul, funk, trip-hop and hip-hop.
To appease their fans, The Knocks have released a blissy, mesmerizing transmission as a taste of their forthcoming debut album. “Classic” is a sultry, distinct and luminescent track—a plunging, pulsating mosaic of undulating synths and imperial vocals, reaching past its deep dance roots and embracing something entirely new. Refined and self-assured in its completely idiosyncratic sound, “Classic” is unlike anything else you’ll hear this year.
NICOLA WALI: To get right into it, how do you guys think you’ve grown the most throughout your musical career?
JPATT: We have more fans!
B-ROC: I think we’ve just become better. I mean, it’s just one of those things where practice makes perfect. Touring and doing this as a profession kind of makes it a thing that becomes not like a job in a bad way, but you know, you work at it a lot, and overtime things kind of start looking a lot better.
WALI: How would you guys describe your style of music or your sound?
JPATT: Kind of like a combination of early Daft Punk and little of X-Ray, that’s electronic, but with an organic twist.
B-ROC: We’re very kind of soulful, disco-like, classical influences, but with a future kind of touch to it.
WALI: What are your biggest inspirations and influences? What do you guys always look to?
JPATT: I try to be inspired by whatever is around and not always go back to one or two things because if you draw off from those same inspirations too many times it starts sounding the same. So I try to go for everything.
B-ROC: Yeah, I’d say everything. I think with me, the whole time our music is the most helpful. If anything, I think it’s more helpful to pull inspiration from things that aren’t just music because then you’ll start making music like the music you’re inspired by.
WALI: If you guys could collaborate with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would you say it would be?
B-ROC: I’d probably say Michael Jackson. He’s the best.
JPATT: No, he’s the greatest.
WALI: So you guys premiered Classic a few days ago. What was the germination of that track?
B-ROC: That track happened kind of randomly. Our album was over. I mean, it was done, we were able to hand it in and mix and master everything. Then, we met up with our friends Powers, who are the people we did the song with. We were in LA, and we’ve known them for years, actually, just through music and friends and New York. They moved out to LA, and we were out there on tour and stopped by their studio and, out of nowhere, just kind of started a song. That’s how it happened. It was kind of a natural thing. We just kind of had one night and we started it, and it sounded really good. Obviously we didn’t finish the whole thing, but we got the base of it down and took it back to New York and kind of went back and forth with it and had to sneak it on the album, obviously, and it ended up being the single, which is awesome.
WALI: The song has a little bit of a different vibe from your old work. Are you guys moving in a different direction?
B-ROC: Kind of. I think in the past, the last couple releases we’ve done, I mean there was this one and then the last EP, we are steering towards less just straight dance music, and a little more of full songs and organically influenced things. Like we were talking about earlier with the whole theme for our album, it’s kind of a whole taking a very classic sound and making it a little future and putting our future touch to it, but still trying to keep something with soul and something that involves some emotion, and less of just kind of like dance bangers. This is definitely more of a new direction.
WALI: Is there anything you can tell us about your debut album?
B-ROC: It’s called Endisco and it’s got some of our old singles on it, but a lot of new stuff, too, and a couple features. One feature is Rozzi Crane, which is Adam Levine’s artist, as well as Adeline Michele, who is this singer from the band Escort, who we are big fans of. Other than that, we’re going to wait until it comes out. Hopefully, it’ll be out in the fall.
WALI: Do you think beats can capture stories as evocatively as lyrics?
JPATT: It depends on what story you’re trying to tell. If sounds could be more specific, you could convey more, or more than you can without words, actually. But it can be cool, too. It’s a different kind of change, more of a mental thing. It can be more vague if you want to have someone, whoever’s listening, to kind of like, would make up their own, whatever the music says to them rather than saying it to them straight on.
B-ROC: Yeah, I think they definitely go hand in hand. Obviously, I think, different stories in lyrics can come across well have to have the right music behind it. So they’re kind of codependent on each other, I think.
WALI: What would you guys consider your biggest success?
JPATT: Putting out “Dancing with the DJ.”
B-ROC: When we put that song “Dancing with the DJ” out. Well, I don’t know if that was our biggest success, but that definitely set the bar and brought us to the level that put us on the map. But I think this song, to be honest, is going to be a big one for us– this song “Classic.”
WALI: On a final note, what’s next for you guys?
JPATT: We’ll be on tour right around the time the album comes out. We’ll just keep making music while we do a headline. We’ll play next year, hopefully, in bigger venues than we did this year.
B-ROC: Right now, everything’s just focused on Classic, and we’re playing at a bunch of colleges and heading up tours around the album. So we’re just getting ready to probably not have a life for the next couple months!
THE KNOCKS TOUR DATES
August 8th – New York, NY @ Full Moon Festival ^^
August 15th – Montreal, QC @ Isle Sonic Festival (DJ Set) ^^
August 23rd – Lawrence, KS @ University of Kansas (DJ Set) *
August 29th – Burlington, VT @ University of Vermont *
August 30th – Ithaca, NY @ Cornell University *
September 1st – Washington, DC @ Georgetown University *
September 6th – San Diego,CA @ University of San Diego (DJ Set) *
September 20th – Monterrey, Mexico @ Hellow Fest (DJ Set) ^^
November 17th – Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre #
November 20th – Boston, MA @Royale Nightclub #
November 22nd – New York, NY@ Terminal 5 #
November 24th – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of the Living Arts #
November 25th – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club #
Supporting St. Lucia #
Headline Dates * | Festival dates ^^
Photo courtesy of Big Beat Records