It has been six years since HEALTH last released an album.
When their debut, Get Color, was released in 2009, the Californian noise-cum-experimental-rock quartet were met with a winning combination: praise, and fascination.
But although many years have passed for Benjamin Jared Miller, Jake Duzsik, John Famiglietti and Jupiter Keyes, this in no way means the four have had idle hands.
They released an album of remixes and scored a deal with videogame giant Rockstar to appear in Max Payne 3.
MM spoke to HEALTH’s bassist, John Famiglietti, who said: “We can’t live that long without doing a new album again.
“This time we will definitely have a reasonable amount of time.
“Six years is a really long time and we’re happy to still be going. Obviously in six years, you change a lot personally too.”
HEALTH :: LEE BANNON :: DEATH MAGIC OVER EUROPE AND THE UK :: OCT 9-30 2015 https://t.co/OhxlbCrCRG
— HEALTH (@_HEALTH_) October 5, 2015
Whereas Get Color finely toed the line between noise and dance, new album Death Magic is a lot more palatable for those less keen on the experimental aspects in the band’s previous work.
Speaking about this change of tone, Famiglietti said: “This album came about very naturally. It is more melodic music, and it is good because people have responded well.”
In a recent episode of the podcast Song Exploder, the band discussed how when making Death Magic, they had been more influenced by tracks such as Lady Gaga’s Telephone than perhaps other heavier music more likely to be affiliated with HEALTH.
Famiglietti is hesitant to cite Lady Gaga as an explicit influence, as much as say Haxan Cloak who produced the album for example.
What he does clarify though, is that ‘Telephone was heavier than the heavier tracks that year’.
He said: “For us, what is interesting about the reaction [to songs like Telephone] is that in the US, underground uber hip music fans listen to all this mainstream pop and hip hop that is in the charts.
“In Europe, they have a very different relationship to this, like, ‘Why the fuck are you listening to that?'”
Leaning towards a more ‘mainstream’ sound, HEALTH, who formed a decade ago in 2005, are not afraid to embrace a larger audience with Death Magic.
And on this subject, Famiglietti does not believe that this more accessible style of music will impact the band’s credibility.
“It is not an evil thing to want people to like your music, and it is not like we follow all the rules. Rules are weird,” he said.
Examples of not following rules include putting a mobile phone number for the band at the end of the music video for their song New Coke, something which Famiglietti owns to ‘definitely regretting for the first two weeks’.
A pretty ballsy move by most standards, some months later, his phone still rings about twice a day, but Famiglietti still picks up when he can and will ‘always reply to texts’.
We are in EUROPE right now. Do not call the HEALTH hotline at this time. Txt only please.
— HEALTH (@_HEALTH_) October 7, 2015
HEALTH plays Gorilla this Tuesday to a crowd of both loyal and new devotees.
Commenting on Manchester, the bassist tells of how ‘so many bands that we idolise have come from here.’
He said: “Playing Manchester is great. It’s a big music town, and has been important right from the beginning for us.”
With so long between albums, and with such a difference in sound between the two, you might ask if touring Death Magic is not a completely different experience for the quartet.
Sure enough, Famiglietti describes this tour as a ‘new 2.0 show’, and far from fans wishing for a return to their earlier days, ‘people really like it’.
“Going back to live is going back to home. We got in the game to play shows and go on tours.”
But while the band’s music is experimental, the idea of reflecting this with a more experimental stage show – such as adding more musicians and instruments – is something that does not appeal.
When pitched to Famiglietti, the cost of performances like these is one factor that would sway the band away from this.
But more importantly, he said: “We would have to deal with other people; I don’t want to deal with other people and new personalities.”
Famiglietti cites a member leaving the band as a similar change in dynamic. The group as it is works well, so a line-up change – or expansion – is not something likely to go down any time soon.
At its core, although their sound may vary, HEALTH are a band that are secure in themselves and the directions they take.
Something that heavily influenced their decision to score the third instalment of the Max Payne videogames.
“It was a very creatively cool thing,” Famiglietti, an avid gamer, said of the experience.
While the theoretical idea of one day scoring a film absolutely appeals, the reason why securing Max Payne ‘worked’ for the band creatively, was down to Rockstar’s happiness to let the band remain true to themselves.
“If a studio gets involved, it becomes very generic,” explains the bassist, having heard a plethora of stories from others in the industry that have gone down this path, only to be met with disappointment.
Fans who live to see HEALTH score a film should not totally despair, however, as there is one name who pops up as a potential game changer.
“David Fincher”, muses Famiglietti. “He could let us be us.”
HEALTH play Gorilla on Tuesday October 27. Tickets available here.
Image courtesy of youwillloveeachother via. Youtube, with thanks.