The early stuff on your Feel My Bicep label was released on vinyl only. Now all the releases are available digitally, too. Was there a change of heart?
Andy: We felt it’s not right to do vinyl only when we’re playing USB ourselves. That was basically the point.
Matt: There are loads of reasons we stopped playing records. One is, previously we’d make a track and then it would be waiting for months to be mastered and pressed.
Andy: We were starting to look at cutting dub-plates for certain tracks we just made. But it’s 100 quid and they last 20 plays.

You are DJs, producers, label owners, bloggers and promoters. Which role suffered the most when you started working on your debut album?
Andy: We took a lot of time off from DJing, but at the same time we prepared [tracks] in advance. It was the summer [of 2016] and we were like, we’re going to work on the album, so let’s prepare. Let’s make a lot of edits, so we don’t get bored of the tunes we play. That was the only saving grace, because after a while it was like, nobody could get the tunes. We never sent them to anyone, so we were able to play a rotation of tunes that kept us okay.
Matt: We took two months off. No DJing at all, no gigs. We basically shut down everything. All of the tracks that came out last year were actually made a year before that. They were delayed releases. The two remixes [for Isaac Tichauer and 808 State] were really delayed, but in the end they came out at the right time. That was great, because there’s nothing more stressful than having a gap, where you need to be relaxed in the studio, but you’re feeling like everything else is slowing down around you.

Are you still able to make time for the blog?
Matt: The mix series [FMB Mixtapes] has taken over the blog. It’s quite hard to find the time to maintain it, because of the way we’ve always run it. We upload all the music, so it is a bit time consuming. But also, the blog has shifted its purpose. With all the Spotify and YouTube playlists, the whole way of digesting music has changed. People need to be able to listen to music on their phone on the bus or on a plane with no Internet. Spotify is just so well designed, it’s hard to ever compete.
Andy: We’re talking about integrating Spotify within the blog. So instead of having our own player, we’ll do themed playlists. We’d definitely love to do a hundred posts a month again, but I guess that won’t happen, but I don’t want it to die fully. So we’re going to try and rethink it a little bit. We just need to get back into digging again. We didn’t have much time while we were making the album.

Speaking of the album, it’s full of these beautiful and grand melodies. They’ve become a bit of a Bicep trademark in recent years, haven’t they? Is this due to your love for Italo Disco?
Matt: There are loads of influences there. Both of us love Ambient music. It’s one of my favourite genres to listen to. It’s just pads and melodies, very pure. Then we also listen to a lot of Italo disco, and the Italo we like is extremely melody-based – big riffs and over the top. I suppose, if you combine these two genres and then add in house and techno, you have our sound. The sound design is also very important to us, but the time we spend the most is playing with melodies and chords. Sometimes we’d sit for hours playing around with them.

Are you trained musicians?
Matt: We’ve taught ourselves to play piano. We’re really into music theory, we love to read about complex chord inversions and stuff like that. If we have a bass line coming from one direction, we try to write a melody that creates chords so that they both move together without hitting the same notes.
Andy: Sometimes we create a chord and we’re like, that’s too obvious. So we’d invert another one, then keep one straight. We’re trying to make it sound slightly different. I don’t know if it comes across, but when Ninja Tune signed us, they picked up on that. They were like, “We love how you juxtapose the chords and how you can keep the same progression, but it develops.”
Matt: It does blow my mind that some people would not even want to at least learn basic piano if you want a career in music. For us, the musicality has to be there. That’s what we respond to when we dig for music now.
Andy: That’s why Aphex Twin is so popular. He could probably play a beautiful piano piece in a concert hall, and then he could also play gabber music. But he can find a perfect balance between them both.
Matt: He has always been one of our favourite artists. The musicality and complexity of his tracks is mind-blowing. The way he plays with time signature is extremely interesting, it’s crazy.
Andy: With the album it was the first time we really experimented with time signatures, too.

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