Busting the ‘Myths’: An Interview with the Klaxons

Or one Klaxon, if you want to be technical. Rock star magnet Caitlin Boersma catches up with James Righton, keyboardist of the Pynchon-referencing “New Rave” outfit.

Myths of the Near Future, the debut album from British band the Klaxons was released in January this year, and the group has been on tour ever since. The three-piece consists of bass guitarist Jamie Reynolds, guitarist Simon Taylor-Davis, and keyboardist James Righton. I caught up with Righton at Chop Suey in Seattle.

James Righton of the Klaxons

James Righton; courtesy of Annie Nguyen

Bygone Bureau: How long have you been touring?

James Righton: Eight months, nine months. It was literally the day after we finished recording the album at the end of September. It’s been non-stop since.

It’s a great debut. It takes most bands a couple of albums to really get a following, but you seemed to have one right away. Did it feel that way?

I think we’ve been lucky in the sense that people have turned up to our shows, but we have been to these places a lot of times. In the U.K. we started at the bottom and constantly toured. Just like America. We’ve only been here a couple of times now, but we started out in small venues only playing to 60 to 80 people. But we definitely made it a priority to go to these places and show up and play, show that we actually want to be here.

I think that’s always the thing with English bands. They think that because of their reputation in the UK, they can just stroll over here to America, play New York, L.A., go home, and they’ve cracked America.

I just sat today on the plane and looked at the map of America. I was thinking that every state has about two or three massive cities in it. It’s such a vast country that you’ve just got to be here. And we love being here.

So you’ve had a good reception?

Yes, San Francisco was amazing. Sold out, same as L.A. Everything’s been sold out. We’ve been playing for 700 to 900 people.

It’s such a progression from the last time we’ve been here. We came just before the album had been released. Now everyone knows every song and all the words. The gigs are bigger. It’s been a very natural progression.

You have a lot of literary references in your songs. Who writes the songs and where do you get your ideas?

The three of us go away individually and bring in small fragments, pieces and ideas. It’s a very cut and paste approach. We put things together with the music and sing melodies over the top, then Jamie and Simon write the lyrics.

We made it a priority to write about and sing about things that maybe should be in pop music. Things that aren’t so obvious and seen in everyday pop music. I think pop music has become so limited in what it can be about. Usually it’s just standard to be about girls and boys and pubs and work and towns and the usual dissatisfactions and pleasures that people get. We just kind of look elsewhere, really.

The Klaxons

The Klaxons, from left to right: touring percussionist Steffan Halperin, bassist Jamie Reynolds, keyboardist James Righton, and guitarist Simon Taylor-Davis; courtesy of Annie Nguyen

Klaxons have created a whole new world of music with your style, music videos, and lyrics. Did you mean to create such an image?

We knew what we didn’t want to be like and what we didn’t want to sound like. Music is very limited in what it can be. Labels seem to only sign bands with jangly guitar music or emo bands. Bands that you hear on the radio and it’s just like a hiss. Nothing stands out. It’s just like a drone. I think we all kind of felt that.

We just wanted to make something different. Strong rhythms, strong melodies. Quite bottom-ended and bassy. Kind of driving and hard at the same time.
We were lucky that we just stumbled across our sound. We had a natural chemistry that worked.

What do you think about the New Rave scene that has been created around your music?

It’s a term we came up with when we started. It’s something that the press, and the NME [New Music Express] especially, took aboard and started branding around. Before we knew it, it was something real. It’s not something we feel particularly affiliated with even though we started it. It felt like we put the idea out there and then flew away from it.

There’s still people who dress in neon and listen to certain bands, but none of the bands we got branded with sound anything like us.

How are Simon and Lovefoxx [lead singer of CSS] doing?

I think Seattle is the place where they should move to, if anywhere. They both got tattoos of each other’s names in Seattle. When we were here last time he got “Lovefoxxx” tattooed on his chest and then he flew out to see CSS in the states and she got “Simon” on her belly.

That’s quite a commitment.

I was saying “What were you thinking?” but they’re a really sweet, good couple. They get on very well. It’s interesting. It’s great. I’m happy for them.

Tattoos mean business, though.

(laughs) Well, yeah, for me it’s more than marriage, isn’t it? You can get a divorce and get the papers, but with a tattoo it’s there for life. I can laugh at him in twenty years time if it all goes wrong. Although, it won’t go wrong (knocks on wood).

When is the next record coming out?

We’re going to start on it in December. We’ve got a couple weeks in September and November to write. We’re going to start writing more at the beginning of next year. We’re hoping it will be out between June and September of next year.

We want it out as quickly as possible, but we have to go away and come up with something different. We never want to write the same thing twice. So, we need to go away and get some new reference points.

Caitlin Boersma is studying political science and English, but spends most of her time analyzing pop culture. Her premise for a new reality TV show, Killing Andy Milonakis, has yet to be picked up by VH1. She is notorious for spending a week’s wages on a ticket to see Morrissey live.