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Kids of 88: Sam McCarthy on their new album Modern Love

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While their hit-laden debut album Sugarpills reveled in the joys of being a teen, Kids of 88 founders Sam McCarthy and Jordan Arts have so far shown a pretty grown-up approach to the business of pop: one of the first things they did when the money started coming in was to thing of investing in their own studio called Creature Clun.

And follow-up Modern Love, most of which was at their new studio, is informed by a similar mix of youthful enthusiasm and maturity. So while it is still stacked with joyful electro anthems, there are also few darker tones and textures, like on the brooding electro of ‘Raza’.

“It was a bit of a rabbit hole that one,” McCarthy recalls. “That was from the tail-end of the writing. We had started writing all the songs in late Summer, early Autumn 2011. We had just come off the Big Day Out tour and we had been to the States and we had a really, really amazing time. So all the songs started out quite sunny. But as we started going through the realism of making album two we did find a few dark spots.

“There are a lot more interesting textures there. It gives you the opportunity to tune in and find your little favourite part about a song as well as having of the foundation of the vocal melody and the beats.”

There’s also more variety in the singing with the duo harnessing the talents of British soul singer Sharlene Hector, who has worked extensively with Basement Jaxx, and Alisa Xayalith from The Naked And Famous.

“We were really lucky we managed to get that because they had managed to become really famous in that time and they were in a position of turning down approaches from bands that were probably way better than us,” McCarthy laughs. “It turned out really cool.”

With the album getting a simultaneous release around the world, Kids of 88 will be busy touring for the rest of the year, although the level-headed McCarthy knows a lot will depend on how Modern Love is received.

And in a world increasingly obsessed with glorified karaoke talent contents, sometime catchy and intelligent pop is not enough. Does McCarthy fear for the future of pop?

“Not really,” he replies.” The only reason I say that is that if you look out the history, that kind of pop music has always been around. If you look at the most popular artists of all time, they haven’t been bubblegum throwaways. Michael Jackson, Elton John, Madonna, Abba… those are some of the most clever pop songs ever written. I am encouraged that’s where pop music will go [back to that]. And that’s what we are trying to do.”

This article first appeared in the September 2012 edition of Stack Magazine

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