Interview: PNAU

PNAU have been providing us with all our favourite party starter tunes since they came onto the scene in 1999. From Wild Strawberries to Embrace to more recently Chameleon and Into the Sky, the electro pop trio continues to create dance floor anthems. Although their sound has changed over the years, they have always maintained their fun positive spirit. Their new album, Changa will be released on the 10th of November 2017. We caught up with Peter Mayes to have a chat about it:

Your latest album Changa will be released on November 10, which is just a week away now, how do you feel?

I feel great about it to be honest because it’s been a while since we’ve had a record come out in its entirety. We always finish these things a long time before they come out and we’ve just been waiting for it to drop basically, and I’m really excited for everyone to hear it. You guys have obviously had a bit of a taste because we’re on our third single now and we released another few tracks a few months back so there’s been a few things out there but generally the reaction has been really good so I’m really hanging to hear what everyone else thinks of the rest of the record.

Yeah absolutely, well if your first few tracks are anything to go by, it’s going to be fantastic! Chameleon was the first single released and it has been incredibly popular, were you surprised by the reaction?

Yeah, I mean I never really expect anything to happen. The pessimist is never disappointed, so basically, I always really believed in ‘Chameleon’ but you never know if it’s going to work. So yeah, we were surprised and it’s been such a great response to that song. It’s been nominated for a couple of ARIA’s and a few other things, so it has been really great. Also, we have had the most support from radio than we ever had. We have always had a lot of support from Triple J and stations like that but it’s been really great to have all across the board radio support which we have never really had, and it’s a new experience.

And you guys have been on tour recently to Listen Out and Adelaide’s own Oh Yes festival, how has the new music been received in a live setting?

It’s been really good, it’s always tricky to incorporate new records into a set especially when people haven’t heard them all, but it’s been really good. They haven’t walked out which is the main thing. As long as they stick around, you can always just tease them with a few that they might know here and there. But yeah, we’ve actually been playing a lot of the new songs and the reaction has been really positive.

Changa is your sixth studio album…

God is it?

Do you think your sound has developed over the years?

Well we started off as teenagers making music in a shed in Nick’s backyard, so I think it’s developed a lot from those days. Our first record had a lot of styles on it but it was largely based on samples. But that’s not how we started making music, it was just something we were really into at that time. We were really into a lot of the records coming out of France, the UK and Chicago that were based on samples. We didn’t have a lot of vocals on the first two albums, so I think that is how our sound has definitely developed. There is now much more importance based on the vocals, there will always be a lot of importance placed on the music because that is first and foremost what we do. But yeah, that is how it mainly developed, in the sense that it is much more vocal than it used to be.

Also, back then PNAU were a duo and you are now a trio, how has that change been for you?

Yeah, it’s been great. I mean we have always collaborated with people and always placed a lot of importance on that because it always keeps you fresh and keeps you inspired to have a different set of ears in the room. We were in a place with PNAU where it felt like the right thing to bring in Sam and we’ve worked with him before and obviously he’s Nick’s brother so he’s family and I’ve known him since I was a kid, so he’s like a brother to me as well. So, it seems like it was a really great thing to do now that we have got this new record. We have definitely worked him really hard, and we worked ourselves hard as well. He lives in Australia and we’re in the States now, so we had to fly him over and work very intensely for 4 to 6 weeks at a time. Then he would go back and we wouldn’t work on it for quite some time. It would be 6 months or more sometimes, and then we’d come back and when you come back after that period of time, you’re entirely fresh. In some ways, if you haven’t been listening to the record for some time, you have forgotten a lot of it which is a powerful place to be in as a music creator because it puts you in a position of freshness and it’s almost as if you’re the listener and it’s brand new. You get new ideas again. You hear something which you haven’t heard in a while and you’re like, “I know exactly what to do with this.” And that was great, it’s very rare that you have that luxury of time when you’re making a record. I think it was a great decision bringing in Sam, he’s always been there in the background and we’ve worked with him before, so it felt like a natural progression.

Speaking of breaks, you did have a bit of a break between albums, what were you guys up to in between?

We do spend a lot of time on Empire of the Sun and on those records. Especially the second one which took a long time. It’s a really big pressure that you put on yourself and that the band put on themselves to follow up the first record which was such a big success. So, that takes a while to really get your groove back. And again, we were in a different part of the world, we did our first record in Sydney in my studio and then Nick and I moved to the UK, then we moved to LA. But yeah, we’re always doing things, film work here and there and always collaborating with other writers. There’s always something.

Now, Changa, can you tell us about the name of the album and how that came about?

That sort of came from Nick and Sam actually. It’s the name of a song on the record basically that we didn’t have a name for, so we called it that. Then we didn’t have a name for the album, so we called it that. We we’re going to name the album Into the Sky, but then we put out Into the Sky as a single, so then we just ended up calling it Changa.

Is there a story line which follows through the album?

Well I mean, musically speaking, there’s a lot of Kira’s [Divine] vocals, so that kind of helps tie it all together. To be honest, we’re always preaching a certain brand of positivity to the world and it comes into the shows when we play live. We want to bring a lot of energy and a fun positive spirit that people can hopefully react to. If the crowd reacts, then you react in turn and it becomes this fantastic energy being transferred between the stage and the audience. Sometimes it’s truly remarkable when you whip everyone into a frenzy and they go with you.

What are your plans for the coming months?

At this stage, the album is about to come out in a week and we have some shows over the New Year’s period and we’re just constantly writing. So, there will, hopefully, be another PNAU album and not such a long wait this time.

Changa will be available for streaming and to buy from this Friday, November 10.