July 28, 2014

Triple The Pleasure: Lee Foss, MK, & Anabel Englund on Pleasure State

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Based on seamless pairing of Anabel Englund’s sultry vocal stylings and Lee Foss’ trippy tech house productions and DJ sets, it’s hard to believe there was a time before the duo had met. Before Englund had even dreamed of donning the leather catsuit for her role as a vocalist on “Reverse Skydiving”—the single from Foss’ underground house supergroup Hot Natured —and subsequent world tour, she was an aspiring singer-songwriter and avid club goer in Los Angeles, CA.

However, all of that changed when Englund and a friend snuck into Foss’ show at The Standard Hotel, leading to a chance encounter between the two that led to an immediate working relationship.

Now, the pair is on the verge of launching a trio with DJ/producer Marc Kinchen (MK) dubbed Pleasure State. Designed to act as a raw counterpart to the interstellar euphoria of the duo’s work with Hot Natured, Pleasure State is a dark, sensual combination of pulsing beats, passionate vocals, and uncensored subject matter.

Fans who have caught Englund singing atop the mixer during one of Foss or MK’s DJ sets have been treated to a preview of the supergroup’s upcoming single “Ghost In The System,” a chilling vocal house cut ripe with a heavy low-end and bouncing basslines. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the group, who talked to us about their origins, performances, and upcoming work.

Read our chat with Lee Foss, Anabel Englund, & MK below.

DJ Times: You two met after Anabel snuck into your show and got backstage. How did you find out she could sing?
Foss: After we had been hanging out all night—this is six or seven hours later—and were at the afterparty, her friend went “Anabel, you need to sing for him!”
Englund: I was with my friend Angela, and I’m not one of those girls who’s going to come out and say “I’m a singer!” He hears that all the time.
Foss: I was just hanging out with them because they were cool. But her friend asked her to sing for me and I was blown away. From that second, I was thinking about how we needed to record. She’s someone who could go any number of routes and be offered any number of types of careers on a platter. The fact that she came and was interested in what we were doing, which—in my mind—is a far more abstract type of electronic music than the average American is listening to at that age and had that innate talent were what really got the wheels turning in my brain immediately. The sky’s the limit with her.
Englund: And the sky’s the limit with what we could do together.

I thought the other day what would’ve happened if I didn’t get on my knees at BPM Festival 2013?

DJ Times: And you recorded “Electricity” right after that meeting?
Foss: Yeah, we did “Electricity” the next week in my kitchen with MK.
Englund: It wasn’t us sitting down for an entire day writing something. He already had the basic idea with the first lyric, and I got a melody just like that.
Foss: The initial take was done within hours that night and we just wrapped it up the next night.
Englund: We never even went to a studio to do a professional vocal take. We used pantyhose as a filter for the microphone!
Foss: If you want to talk acoustics, my loft is a converted greenhouse with a 16-foot glass ceiling and cement walls. But a lot of times, it’s the vibes that are the most important thing for music, and the vibe on that song was electric.

DJ Times: How did you decide to form Pleasure State?
Foss: I had [Anabel] sing for MK, who’s worked with so many huge pop artists. The first thing he said was: “That’s possibly the best voice I’ve ever heard.” And then immediately his wheels started turning, saying we need to start a group and get things rolling. Over time, we’ve become really fast friends, even though we’ve had very little time to work on it due to my commitments to Hot Natured and Hot Creations. MK’s also been busy since his No.1 in England.  The group has just grown even though time has been at a premium, though It’s taken us very limited amounts of time to write what I consider to be excellent music that’s also dramatically different from Hot Natured. 

DJ Times: How would you describe Pleasure State?
Englund: It’s Pleasure State, so it’s not all about spaceships and aliens [like Hot Natured]. It’s our outlet. For example, [Lee] loves hip hop, so he’s going to be rapping on the new EP. He’s wanted to do that but hasn’t been able to because that doesn’t fit the vibe of [Hot Natured]. This is a chance for all three of us to come together to create something we really like.

DJ Times: What are the inspirations for the lyrics coming from?
Englund: We’re singing about things that are going on in the world.
Foss: Not necessarily the things that you’ve heard. Some of them are very geo-political or are related to our crumbling infrastructure and institutional dysfunctions.
Englund: Like GMOs.
Foss: The thing is that most people find the documentaries and reading too dry to do and they don’t want to listen to somebody singing “War is bad! You shouldn’t do that! Peace is good!” People need it to be relatable and cutting edge but about something that matters: the human soul, the human condition. Then it will resonate. Young people’s social media in 2014—as we enter this new era of spiritual enlightenment—are littered with these things; it’s time for people to start talking about them in a way that’s relatable. It’s too boring for them to sit and watch an old guy talk about Illuminati or the issues in the medical industry. But there are other things we’re writing that are just about—
Englund: Pleasure! Like having sex, getting whipped, and love!

DJ Times: How does Pleasure State differ from Hot Natured?
Foss: It’s less of a literary allusion than Hot Natured is. Hot Natured is a concept about bringing positivity from these aliens and the storyline that it’s about. [Pleasure State] is more direct; it’s more hip hop and R&B influenced. It’s about whatever you’re feeling at that time. It stems from a need to express how the world is or the world needs to hear.
Englund: We’re putting influential words into music that people want to listen to. They can be on the dancefloor listening to these amazing beats, and even if they don’t listen to the words at first, they’ll realize what we’re talking about when they hear it again. 

People need it to be relatable and cutting edge but about something that matters: the human soul, the human condition.

DJ Times: You’ve been recording new Hot Natured material in Los Angeles recently. How are these sessions different from the original ones?
Englund: They’re not. [laughs]
Foss: They’re only different in some of the intent due to what we know about some of the few—but possibly legitimate—criticisms of the previous album. It seemed pretty universally well received, obviously with a few critical exceptions. I think that we needed to at least take a listen to what those people thought. I take it as constructive criticism and a chance to look at what we could have been more efficient about. There are some differences stylistically, but we wrote some good stuff that I think fits in well with the ethos of the group and the first album.

DJ Times: And this time you’re writing just singles instead of a new album?
Foss: Yes, which I guess is the main stylistic difference. Instead of sitting there and trying to write a concept album, we’re trying to write a couple things that would be singles to release this year. There are a couple singles that will be mixed in with older songs that didn’t come out in the way or version we intended.

DJ Times: What goes into the planning of sets when you’re both performing together during your DJ sets? It’s not a common sight in dance music today.
Foss: Well, we haven’t had a ton of time to plan them.
Englund: I thought the other day what would’ve happened if I didn’t get on my knees at BPM Festival 2013? To me, it was common sense. There’s no stage, obviously, but there’s DJ decks. It was an impromptu thing, but I thought what’s the point in performing in front of hundreds of people if no one can tell I’m singing? I thought, “I’ll move this shit over because I want to sing, and I want people to see me.” There’s what I consider to be an iconic picture of myself from that performance, and it’s iconic to me because I love it and I’m proud of myself. You’ve got to give yourself a pat on the back every now and then.
Foss: That was your first time performing in front of that many people! You need to carry that part of ego—not in a bad way—to be able to perform and sing in front of thousands of people for the first time.
Englund: And now it’s become my thing to get on my knees up there!

This past month, the trio made its official live debut at the UK’s We Are FSTVL. Packing MK’s Area 10 tent to its brims, Pleasure State soared through a mix of both smash hits and unreleased tracks, many of which the crowd knew all of the lyrics. In the weeks following the performance, we caught up with MK, who detailed the group’s organic creative process and the crafty scheduling that allows them to find time to record.

DJ Times: How did your idea of creating an official trio as Pleasure State come to be?
Marc Kinchen: It was really surreal since it was never a plan of mine to be in a group, at least not since I was in my teens in my first band.  We started hanging out and making music, and it just seemed like the plan made itself. Our chemistry was undeniable and we totally vibed off each other like magic. That kind of magic is rare: if you are lucky enough to recognize the magic when it is in front of you, then you have to take action and nurture it.

DJ Times: Sonically, from where does Pleasure State pull its influences?
MK: Thus far, we are still learning about each other, so being together is still a pretty open experience that is constantly evolving. The sort of openness we have with each other is what makes our individual input so much more interesting and flexible.  I can say that my influences come from house, hip hop, and trip hop. Deep, dark melodies sometimes prevail, and there always seems to be a strong undercurrent of an undeniable bass and drama. As far as influenced by actual artists, Prince, Nas, Massive Attack, Portishead, Phantogram, The Verve, Lamb, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Chvrches, Kevin Saunderson, Daft Punk, Disclosure, Lee Foss, Hot Natured, Jamie Jones, Eats Everything, Jay Z, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Die Antwoord, Alicia Keys, Shadowchild, Duke Dumont, Rudimental, Sia, Bootsy Collins, Hot Since 82, and so many others.

DJ Times: What’s the average creative process for Pleasure State?
MK: First, we all have to go to the Google Calendar. The three of us have so much going on now, finding the time is probably harder than the creative process. Then we get together and somehow the music starts to happen.

DJ Times: How much do you, Lee, and Anabel each bring initially and how much is purely the result of chemistry when you’re together?
MK:We each have so many ideas that we bring to the sessions and there are usually at least three or four things that we already started work on, so we just kind of pick up where we left off.

The three of us have so much going on now, finding the time is probably harder than the creative process.

DJ Times: What is the Pleasure State live experience like?
MK: Well, we just had our first real group performance at the MK Area 10 Tent at We Are FSTVL outside of London and it was amazing.  We rehearsed all week and decided the best setup would be me and Lee on keyboards. Lee also had a drum machine on his rack and Anabel was on vocals with some backing tracks as well. We were good to go and there was no lip-synching. We had a great time.

DJ Times: Between all three of your schedules, how have you found time to write and record?
MK: It has and continues to be a challenge, but we can record almost anywhere. Even while we were rehearsing in London, we were able to put some ideas together.

DJ Times: How is your approach to Pleasure State material different from your solo material?
MK: First of all, with Pleasure State, I have two other people I am vibing with in real-time. When I’m working on solo stuff, it is usually just me in the studio—even if it is a vocal record—so the infusion of all of Lee and Anabel totally makes it a really different experience. Exchanging ideas with two other people when it’s right is amazing.

DJ Times: What does Pleasure State have planned for the upcoming year?
MK: We already have three singles finished and just about ready to go; we are going to approach this in a very natural and organic way.  We will get the remixes done, decide how and when we will release the music, and make a greater effort this year to be at the same gigs so booking Pleasure State will be a natural extension of what we all do as solo artists.

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