– October 25, 2011; Harrison Dahme, Howl Staff
Ever watch Lifecycles and think “Damn, that’s awesome music”? Well it was done by Data Romance, a duo made up of Ajay Bhattacharyya and Amy Kirkpatrick, both of whom have an immense talent base and are in the middle of a cross-Canada tour. Never heard of either of those things? Stop watching your 10 hour Nyan Cat videos, and Google this. You’re welcome. Doubter.
By now, you should either be watching glorious epicness, or listening to the audio equivalent of crunchy Reese’s Pieces on ice cream, in a baconweave wafflebowl. Fucking smart.
They were just in town for a show at Wrongbar, which, to the great disappointment of all, was cancelled. While they were here though, I got the chance to ask them about the past, present and future. Super nice people. They’ll be back with Digitalism on November 29 at the Mod Club. Check out one of their singles here.
So how’d you guys get started, you have this awesomely unique sound, you were Names, you’re now Data Romance – how’d you find it?
Ajay: <laughs> I don’t. I mean, we knew each other and got together in high school. We were involved in other projects, but as soon as I started writing electronic stuff I got Amy so sing on top of it, and I worked out pretty well. Obviously, we were called Names, our stuff sounded a little different. It’s evolved and I think it’s still evolving a little bit. We’ve been influenced by artists along the way and have settled on something we really like. We’re in a happy place right now.
That’s good! So – Names, Data Romance – I heard somewhere there were like 20 names in between.
Amy: <Laughs> yeah, I think we have a list…
Ajay: They were mostly while we were on tour. We were in different cities, and we’d send whole lists to each other, it was mostly a process of elimination.
Amy: And everything he sent me, I was like “no…” <laughs>
Ajay: Cities and Years was one of them I think.
Amy: But that’s kind of like City and Colour
Ajay: It’s hard because you want to pick something you’d be happy living with, but at the same time, it’s hard to condense it into two words or one word.
Haha, yeah. Earlier we were speaking about evolving, and Names sounded lighter, dare I say, loving, and Data Romance is a little bit crunchier.
Amy: Yeah, it’s funny because there wasn’t this band change, the name change just happened in the middle, and around the same time the writing got a bit darker, and we started playing around a little more. Jay was working on the beats, and I was working on the writing, maybe I was tired a little, it might’ve been therapeutic. But you write stuff you want to listen to, right.
Right, and visually you’re very light on dark, lots of contrast. Is that sort of what inspired that?
Ajay: It’s a dichotomy. I mean the band name is about a split of the hard electronic stuff and the softer emotional, romantic stuff. It’s all about contrast. I can’t articulate it well, but we’re not the most similar of people.
Amy: And Jay gets inspired by learning the craft of new instruments.
Ajay: So yeah, dichotomy is the closest word I can use to describe it.
Speaking of the instrument, like the Monome..? Sorry, I don’t know how to say that…
Ajay: <laughs> Neither do I. I say Monome, but a lot of people don’t hear the “m” so they think I’m saying mono. That’s just one thing I’m using though, but it’s such a finicky device, I mean I’m sure you know through coding, that if something’s not bullet proof in the way it’s scripted, then it’s not something you want to perform with live. It’s software written by independents. It’s great for home use, one-off’s, y’know, but for a tour I wouldn’t rely on it. But I’m always running around looking for new gear, new sounds.
Yeah, for sure. But switching gears a little bit. Lifecycles. Awesome soundtrack. How’d that happen? Did the filmmaker approach you?
Ajay: Kind of, I was just finishing off sound design at Vancouver Film School, and my TAs, whom I became friends with, were doing the sound design for the film. And they were doing the sound in post, the tires, etc. So they heard my music, and the guy the film makers had chosen, apparently that wasn’t working out too well, so they suggested me to the film makers. And it turned out to be way more impactful and lucrative than I ever thought it would be. I mean, at the time I took it for a bit granted, as “Yay, I have a job and it’s going to be so much fun”, but no, it didn’t end up like that at all.
Since then have you seen a lot more support from gnarly dudes with tattoos?
Amy: It’s funny, at our shows, that these big guys will go straight up to Jay, and go “man, that was so cool!”
Ajay: <laughs> Yeah, that’s how it works, I get all the burly guys.
Amy: <laughs> It was cool, at one show there was this metal head, and he came up to us and told us how we converted him. That was pretty cool.
Haha, neat. Well a lot of the tracks were older, remixed instrumentals, but then there were some newer originals. Did you take inspiration from the film? They were just so different.
Ajay: I don’t think they’re that different. The newest single, The Deep, was obviously Saskatoon. We were just so proud of it, we wanted to put our own stamp on it. Bullets is also on the B-side, but film makers said “it’s good, but we don’t want it for this one section”, so Amy sang on top of it. I don’t think we’re that far off from where we were on Lifecycles.
Right, so then EP is a whole range of stuff. Different tones, different timbres. Is that where you guys are right now then, or is that a shortened lifespan of Data Romance?
Amy: Yeah, that’s us at the time, but there will always be new sounds. This is just us right now, we’re going to keep changing, but this is just where we’re at right now.
Ajay: We’re never going to settle on a specific sound, we’re not the kind of people to go “that’s us” and not change from that. We just do what comes naturally on a given day.
So then why those songs for the EP, I mean you have a whole tonne of stuff – I think –
Amy: <laughs> Yeah, we do. I think we have 17 out right now, and then those four , wanted to show different sides of us. We didn’t want to put on four which were exactly the same. Streetlights is more of a pop structure, while The Deep is more of an orchestral instrumental. We didn’t want to release a bunch of songs which could just be on the radio.
Ajay: I think we’re lucky that we’re not limited by instruments or band members. We’re not just programming beats either. We just do what comes naturally. We’re not in the studio, recording, and then stop ourselves and go “uh oh, that’s too many layers”.
Do you also play instruments then, Amy?
Amy: Yeah, I do, I was brought up with classical piano, and was taking some bass lessons, but I knew more theory than my teacher. I used to play my guitar and sing at shows because it’s just such a great way to get out and show people what you can do.
Absolutely. So then Jay, what do play, aside from the Monome?
Ajay: Well I’m a drummer, I was teaching for a while, and then maybe five years ago my mom started to teach me piano, but it’s the worst to have your mom for a teacher because then you can say “no” <laugh>. But it gave me a good background in jazz theory. But in terms of jazz theory it’s really useful because it’s not all chords, there’re a lot of numbers. But it’s not like I have no skill, I’m a good drummer.
Haha, no doubt. And so, looking forward to the future a little bit, the LP is coming out sometime in the future. Any word on that?
Amy: Yeah, we’re not rushing ourselves though. We don’t want to talk to the press and say “November!”, and then “February!” and then “March!”, then “Next year!”
Ajay: We’ll probably put out another EP first. We’re playing the Digitalism tour in November and December, which will be through Canada and the States, lots on the West Coast. We’ll want to get more stuff out there. It’s a very slow release cycle, with writing and touring, but an EP will come eventually, but no promises. We’ve stopped doing that <laughs>. We’re working hard, we never stop.
And you guys were just in town – do you ever stop touring and working, or are you buys all the time?
Amy: We’re always writing, recording, working hard. Especially with this Digitalism tour. I like the mix between the two, it lets you get your head out of one for the other.
Ajay: Yeah, but with this Digitalism tour, we’ll be back in town soon. November 29 at the Mod Club, I think.