Fuck Buttons

The Art of Noise

Apr 02, 2008 Photography by Lucy Johnston Spring 2008 - Flight of the Conchords
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"When the band first started, we were both really excited by the concept of ‘noise’ music as a confrontational tool,” recalls Benjamin John Power, who, along with Andrew Hung, formed Bristol, England’s Fuck Buttons in 2004. “Over time, the sound has developed into something more embracing. It wasn’t a conscious decision on our part to head in this direction. It kind of happened along the way and just seemed right. We still have the same sonic sensibilities as when we first started, but we now tend to try and focus on the more positive side of things when experimenting with sound.”

From the first track of Street Horrrsing, Fuck Buttons’s debut album, the listener can’t help but experience that sense of being embraced. Actually, on “Sweet Love for Planet Earth,” it’s more like Powers and Hung wrap you up in a cocoon of synthesized twinkling, monolithic keyboard chords, and a sublime dread that gathers like vultures around a carcass. Even at its most melodic and transporting, Fuck Buttons’ music courses with a wild-eyed mischief that constantly threatens to erupt into unabated malevolence. In some ways, the structure of these colossal compositions may have something to do with the band’s backgrounds. Hung’s interest in electronic music may explain the songs’ atmospheric expanse, while Power’s love of punk and hardcore might account for the way they seem to burn up or implode. If Fuck Buttons turn a blind eye to decades of pop convention, it’s for the express purpose of using music to communicate in new ways.

“With many experimental groups and musicians today, there seems to have been a departure from the recognized ‘song’ structure,” says Powers. “That leaves the writing process completely open to experimentation with shape and sound and allows for a very open approach when sculpting pieces of music. I think this is an exciting idea as it provides an ‘open canvas’ and the outcome will often surprise the writers themselves.”

That Powers lapses into visual arts metaphors in describing the band’s songwriting process is telling: The two met while attending art school in Bristol and the first Fuck Buttons song was created to score a short film by Hung. Although Powers, an illustrator, points out a mutual love of all things “bright and colorful,” it seems the pair’s art school tenure honed their strategies for making music in intuition and spontaneity. For Fuck Buttons, composition is an exploratory practice; it might lack direction at the outset, but they seem to know when they’ve reached their destination.

“When writing new songs, we tend to ‘jam’ a lot with whatever equipment we can lay our hands on,” Powers explains. “We create a big ball of sound together and when things start to sound right, we pick it apart, start to structure the layers and refine things. We never have any preconceptions as to what the finished piece is going to sound like. I think it’s a great way to work.”



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