Hercules & Love Affair
The labours of Hercules
David Pollock looks forward to the disco-house revival in the company of up-and-coming club stars Hercules & Love Affair
So this is where the disco-house revival starts, hopefully. After the garish indie-aided excesses of new rave in 2007, wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing to see and hear classic dance music stand proud again?
Certainly, with his/their gorgeous debut single ‘Blind’, New York’s rather oddly-titled Hercules & Love Affair blend all the ingredients for that most elusive of musical passages, the year-soundtracking club anthem. The song doesn’t just capture a moment, it condenses generations of dancefloor styles with an alchemist’s touch. Swooshes of space-disco float in on grooving Moroder rhythms, and the synthesised horn chorus and soulful diva vocals betray roots from house music’s earliest and greatest era. That the ‘diva’ in question is sometime tender balladeer Antony Hegarty (sans Johnsons), only adds to the track’s cachet.
‘Growing up, I was so excited by the model Massive Attack laid down,’ says Andy Butler, the fulcrum of H&LA, by way of explaining what might be described as both a group and a solo project. ‘Blue Lines inspired me when I was 15; it was a project which had a revolving door for singers, so there were many voices coming through on the one record. I also used to just like the way that house producers’ identities were kinda vague, so there was a certain mystery which overcame the ego of one individual.’
While Butler is the driving force behind H&LA, a collection of vocalists take almost equal billing alongside him, including Hegarty and fellow New York creatives-come-club kids Nomi and Kim Ann Foxman. How did he come to work with them all? ‘The easiest answer is that I love working with my friends, and it happened very naturally.’
More than that, Butler and Hegarty have been friends since before either was famous. The former, a Midwestern boy who learned piano as a child, discovered decks as a teenager and soon after arrived in New York to study music production, was actually introduced to Hegarty twice. The first time the singer was an unassuming guest at a mutual friend’s dinner party, the second he was this unearthly voice on a tape played by the same friend. Butler remembers seeking him out after this, and the pair’s friendship formed while walking the streets of Manhattan in the week after 9/11.
‘Blind’ itself was actually recorded four years ago, although Butler anticipated it would start to receive attention once Hegarty’s career took off. And H&LA are now signed to James Murphy’s DFA Records, and the eponymous debut album is due this month.
‘Classic disco house is what excited me when I was young,’ says Butler. ‘The album was driven by memories of getting up on various dancefloors. But then Antony and I bonded over people like The Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush, and there are simple, atmospheric songs there too, which might surprise people who respond strongly to ‘Blind’. I love disco, I love house, but you can’t get freaky all the time.’
Hercules & Love Affair DJ at Death Disco alongside headliners The Glimmers, the Arches, Glasgow, Sat 15 Mar.