Translating an electronic and sample-based style into a live performance is hard enough to plan out and perform, but Classixx makes it seem effortless. They bring you into an 80s synth world with perfectly synced, colorful, and geometric animated graphics to match the music and album artwork. Openers Harriet Brown and Alex Frankel add to Mike and Tyler’s energy and the performance seems like good friends getting together and jamming out. Also, what bands nowadays have a vibraphone player? Just take a moment to appreciate that. Get ready to dance and feel the summery vibes with Classixx, currently on their North American Fall Tour. We got to chat with Mike David before their DC show with Neon Indian.
Mike David: That’s a good question. I think that collaboration can always just take a song in a completely different direction than ever conceived otherwise. For example: Tyler and I sing a little bit, but we have limited range. But when we worked with someone like Nonku on our recent record, she just has a profound understanding of her vocal capabilities and harmony. And it’s just when we’re working with her, tracking her vocal and stacking it with these pretty intricate harmonies, it was just like this song came to life in a way that would have never happen with anyone else. I guess things become pretty limitless when you collaborate with other people.
Is there anyone you haven’t collaborated with yet that you hope to work with in the future?
MD: I’ve always (laughs) said Chaka Khan, so that would be cool.
That would be a very interesting song!
MD: Yeah, yeah. She has a powerful voice that always like, I just can’t believe it sometimes.
You’re currently touring in support of your latest release, Faraway Reach. How is this release different than past ones?
MD: It’s not so different. I think in touring, it’s a little bit different just because we developed a live show a little bit more. So, it’s a little bit more live. There’s some more dynamic visual content. I think it doesn’t feel dissimilar than the first record because we’re still playing a little bit of both. I think similarly, we’re going out there and presenting new material. Sometimes that can be daunting but I like when there’s a challenge – live – when you’re faced with something challenging where you’re not simply appeasing people or playing like a jukebox.
Do you guys have band members on this tour?
MD: Harriet Brown is opening for us but he’s also performing during our set as a vocalist on some songs and he plays bass on a song. Alex Frankel from Holy Ghost! is opening for us as well and he also sings on a song. AND we have a vibraphone player so yeah, it gets pretty fun up there.
I did some research and saw that you and Tyler have been friends since you were kids. How does that relationship come across when you’re producing or performing together?
MD: When we work together, I think there’s a lot of shorthand that we’ve developed over the years. A lot of stuff goes without saying sometimes…but that can always lead to saying more because (laughs) sometimes things can get more dramatic than they need to be just because we’ve known each other for so long – but that’s the exception.
Definitely has its advantages and disadvantages?
MD: Yeah I’d say mostly it’s advantageous. For example, if bands decide to break up, it can occur because there’s just not that much on the table; there’s not that much keeping you together outside of the music. But for Tyler and I, should we have a disagreement on a number of issues pertaining to Classixx, the friendship is always going to be there. It makes Classixx very difficult to walk away from. That’s how I feel sometimes.
How do you choose songs that you’re going to remix?
MD: Usually the artist will approach us with a song and then we’ll listen to it and try to find elements that we can shape and correspond with sounds and tones we like. I think we’re mostly open to anything; I think a vocal will have a lot to do with whether or not we take on a remix. We very rarely like to remix beloved classic songs or hit songs. We try not to touch anything that people have a lot of profound love for because it feels taboo when you do that. We mostly like to find an element or two that really connect with us and go from there. Sometimes we get the stems and realize we’re not bringing much to the table and that’s a conversation we’ve had to have with artists in the past. We don’t like to just put out a remix for the sake of it.
Right, there has to be a purpose.
MD: Yeah! Exactly. There’s so many purposeless remixes out there.
And you can definitely hear it in the music – it just sounds, “whatever”.
MD: Exactly and that bums me out.
Going back to live performance, what do you think is the most important aspect?
MD: For me, if you’re going to call something live, there should be some humanity: live playing, the potential of hitting a wrong note, the potential of falling off; those things I think are important if you’re going to be playing live. Some people disagree and that’s fine but I think musicianship should at least be a component in live music.
Where do you see yourselves headed next?
MD: Maybe doing another remix? We haven’t done that in awhile. That might be an interesting thing to do. And maybe doing some collaborations with producers who are vocalists. That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a little while.
Don’t miss Classixx when they’re in your city. Tour dates here.