“There's this struggle for relevance that a lot of artists go through, and I think a lot of my recent development as an artist has been trying to move away from that.” Three years on from the release of his debut album, ‘Light Of The North’, Julian Corrie aka Miaoux Miaoux hasn’t bowed to second album pressure, in fact, he’s chosen to ignore it. The Glasgow-based, Nottingham-born producer is back with one of our favourite records of 2015, and like the highly-danceable, super-catchy hooks he’s known for, it seems he’s been having fun with it.
Featuring 10 electrifying pop gems, ‘School Of Velocity’ is an album which blurs the boundaries between bedroom and club. There are moments of wide-eyed reflection (‘Mostly Love Now’), moments of dancefloor friendly fun (‘It’s The Quick’) and moments which embody both (‘A Flutter Echo’). But throughout the album there is a common thread of accessibility - a sense of inclusiveness. 'School Of Velocity' is a record which wears its heart on its sleeve; what you take from it depends on how intently you listen. It can be the breezy album you throw on during a sunny day in the park, shiny synths and punchy beats providing the perfect feel-good summer soundtrack, or it can be an album you slowly discover, uncovering something new each time you hear it. Either way, it doesn’t sound forced or in any way restrained.
“I hate lazy song-writing and production, or something that doesn't take risks” the producer tells us. “It's in that balance between the familiar and the freaky that perfect pop lies, and it's really difficult to get right.” With ‘School of Velocity’, Corrie has come damn close.
Check out the album trailer for ‘School Of Velocity’ below, as well as an in-depth interview in which we talk more about the struggle for relevance, perfect pop and Julian’s affinity with club music:
SynthGlasgow: It’s been nearly three years since you released your debut album and it’s great to have you back! When did you begin writing ‘School of Velocity’ and what was the motivation behind it?
Miaoux Miaoux: Thanks! It's good to be back, aye. I started writing and producing ‘School of Velocity’ in August 2013 when I realised it was probably time I started making another record. That was the motivation really - I had a bunch of ideas I wanted to get down, and I always thought I'd do another one. I'd been struggling to get an EP done, but decided to have a crack at an album; so I drew this ridiculous schedule out, thinking I could do a track a week and I was convinced I was going to get it finished before the end of 2013. Obviously it didn't work out like that, and thank goodness it didn't; it would probably have sucked.
SG: For some artists three years is quite a long time to leave between albums, especially for those who are anxious to remain relevant. Do you feel you’ve grown or changed as an artist in the intervening time?
MM: Yeah, there's this struggle for relevance that a lot of artists go through, and I think a lot of my recent development as an artist has been trying to move away from that, really. This has gone from being something that I'm totally desperate to 'make happen' and become successful (and being really depressed when it doesn't), to something that I expect I'll be doing for the rest of my life in some form or another, whatever the consequences. There's this constant air of desperation around a lot of the industry, a struggle to the top, and obviously a lot of bullshit I can't really be arsed with. The internet has made it possible for anyone to release music, and obviously that widens the market massively, but it's also really freeing and gives you an audience and a voice without needing to rely on empty promises. I know that's old news, but I'm only just getting around to realising it! Obviously I wouldn't recommend three years between albums, but the record wouldn't be what it is if I hadn't taken my time to make it, and I'm glad I did, rather than feeling rushed into releasing something less good to try and stay relevant.
I'm also lucky to be a solo artist and pretty self reliant; I've got a decent studio and I can work by myself - this approach doesn't work for everyone. The support of the label's been invaluable too.
SG: There’s a really strong electronic backbone to your music which makes it highly danceable; do you take any inspiration from club music with regards to production techniques?
MM: Yes, definitely. Club music is one of my first loves; I'm a big fan of all kinds of techno and house. It's really interesting how music like that can be produced for a certain space - like when all that dub-techno started getting popular: Andy Stott, Modern Love and all that; I remember listening to it at home and not getting it at all. But on a big system it really, really works. So that's something I'd like to explore a bit. It's helped me to understand bass and arrangement with a small amount of material; I mean, 'It's The Quick' is pretty much a one bar looped stretched out for 6 minutes, but with every trick in the book thrown at it to keep it interesting! I've had to consciously stop myself doing the white noise build up too much, haha.
SG: To us, ‘School of Velocity’ is a pop record at heart – it boasts pop hooks and melodies which could easily be heard on daytime radio. For you, what constitutes the perfect pop song?
MM: I guess melody is really important to me. I want to be singing the hook for days afterwards. I want it to finish and immediately be like 'holy shit, I need to listen to that again'. Interesting production and a good lyric is always helpful. But I want it to be different enough to be interesting - it's easy to tell when someone's rehashing the same stuff. I hate lazy song-writing and production, or something that doesn't take risks. It's in that balance between the familiar and the freaky that perfect pop lies, and it's really difficult to get right.
SG: This is only your second album, but it’s clear how confident you are in your sound and the appeal it has. Is breaking through on a mainstream level something you think about?
MM: Yeah, I've thought about it before with the first record, but I really knew nothing about the industry or how it works. I just thought you wrote a decent hook and then got played on Radio 1, but it's a bit more complicated than that. I think breaking through to the mainstream is something that would be great to happen, but I'm not sure I want to actively pursue it right now, at least with Miaoux Miaoux. It's a very personal project and I'd rather focus on that; developing it myself and seeing where it goes, rather than pushing it in a particular direction. As I've said, you need a strong will and a well-tuned bullshit detector to swim in those murky waters, and plenty of artists have been swallowed up by the machine. I'm happy to focus on writing and producing songs as well as I possibly can.
SG: One of our favourite tracks on the release is ‘Giga Shrug’ which has a really futuristic synth-funk quality. Were there any songs which were difficult to nail down or had an impact on the rest of the album?
MM: Oh cheers! Actually that one was quite hard to nail down. The demos were pretty rubbish right up until the last minute - maybe a week before we went to track the vocals - and I did a slightly quicker version, adding those fast rolling hi-hats in the chorus (nicked from S-Type). It was a complete production overhaul, really. By contrast, the early demos of 'Luxury Discovery' were pretty great, and we struggled to find that sweet spot when it came to the final version. I think we managed it though.
SG: We’ve been really impressed with the aesthetic of ‘School of Velocity’, from the cover art to the 8-bit video by James Houston. Did you have any input in how the album was presented? Do you think about visualisation while writing?
MM: I mean, James should probably take all the credit for the aesthetic - he's a genius. We started with a thread that he'd found of screen-grabs from 80’s Japanese games consoles and were both really into it and wanted to imitate that, but without going too 8bit / pixelart with it as the chiptune guys have that sewn up. They have these amazing gradients to them, and a really epic, lonely feel which we wanted to reproduce. I knew I wanted a strong visual aesthetic across the board; it's important for every release to have a corresponding visual language I think.
SG: You now have a full band playing alongside you which must really bring music alive; what shows have you got lined up in support of the new album and how has rehearsing been going?
MM: We had a small tour of Scotland at the end of last month, then a bunch of festivals over the summer. I'm thinking about booking some dates in England around the time of the second single. 6Music have been playing quite a bit of the record which I'm really grateful for, so that makes the possibility of some gigs in England more realistic. Yeah, the band is excellent, and the rehearsals have been great - it's definitely a lot better than how I used to do it! Some of the material is just so much fun to play, and I think that comes out in the shows.