- An Interview with Information Society Jammerzine Exclusive 31:42
Today Jammerzine has an exclusive interview with the absolute legends of synth-pop, electronic, MTV Generation, and, above all, original music, in the form of Information Society. Today we talk to Paul Robb, cofounder of INSOC and their new album titled ‘ODDFellows’ (preview videos below). What makes ODDFellows special is, and you will get the information about this in the interview, that this is a spatial collaboration with THX. Yes, that THX. The ones that make everything sound cool, and rich. This is, in fact, the first collaboration between THX and a musical artist. And this is one of the many reasons INSOC is considered pioneers in the music industry. Not just to be the first, but to be willing to take the risk.
And, in regards to ‘ODDFellows’, we get plenty of risk. As stated in the interview, there are times where this is a different band and there are times where classic INSOC is there at the forefront. And, to be that original after all of these years is what makes them last. Because its fun.
‘ODDFellows’ releases on August 6th (Hakatak International (digital); and Negative Gain Records (CD/vinyl); release date: TBA).
Check out our interview with INSOC’s Kurt Harland Larson HERE.
About Information Society & ‘ODDfellows’
One of electronic music’s most influential bands, INFORMATION SOCIETY (or INSOC as they are affectionately known) return with ODDfellows, one of their most diverse and artfully-crafted albums since their Twin Cities, MN inception in 1982. Just as groundbreaking as they were in the early beginnings of New Wave and Electropop, INSOC are breaking ground again with this album.
The very first complete album to be released with a headphone version rendered in THX Spatial Audio, ODDfellows takes advantage of the same THX Spatial Audio technology used in gaming platforms to provide audio that sounds like it’s coming from ‘outside your head.’ “We’ve always been a technically adventurous band, and I think this is just another example of that,” says founder/producer/synths Paul Robb about how the album simulates the 5.1 environment. “We like to play around the edges of what’s possible in recorded music, and so we are excited to provide our music to our fans with deeper immersion and a 360° soundscape experience provided by THX Spatial Audio!” (The album will also be available in standard stereo).
A chart-topping band whose experimental hits have incorporated elements of new wave, electropop, freestyle, industrial and darkwave, INSOC’s new album tackles each of those genres with grace, easing into them seamlessly. “In the band’s original incarnation, we were, as all young artists are, heavily influenced by what was going on around us,” Robb explains. “This meant that we were participating in musical (and visual) trends, almost without knowing it. Styles like new wave, electro pop, freestyle, Miami bass, and electro-industrial were the waters we swam in. Nowadays, we aren’t part of any new trends, or even aware of them honestly, so we find ourselves exploring and revisiting what has become our own distinctive style, and there’s plenty of room to play around there!”
From the freestyle trappings of “Would You Like Me If I Played A Guitar” to the Brit-flavoured electropop of “World Enough” to the majestic darkwave of “Nothing Prevails” to the slinky pop of “Down in Flames,” ODDfellows treats each genre as a different colored thread woven into a rich and vivid tapestry. “Everyone always has their own favorites on an album, but for me ‘The Mymble’s Daughter’ is a high point,” admits Robb of the orchestral pop closer. “We don’t often write love songs, but when we do, they are always dedicated to Finnish cartoon characters from the 1950s. Also, ‘Grups’ has a special place for me. Composed exclusively of found lyrics (you guess the source), this one could be thought of as our pandemic song.”
A collective highpoint is the swooning new romantic pop of “Room 1904.” Anchored by a driving, propulsive beat and festooned with Kurt Larson’s distinctive super-crisp vocals, the track is classic INSOC, armed with enough meaty hooks to snag fans old and new. “’Room 1904’ is one of those songs where the track came first,” he explains. “I wrote the original track in 2019, and it was my fourth song of the year, so according to my super-OCD file system, I called it ‘1904.’ When I sent the track to Kurt to write the top line, he was amazed because he had already been writing a set of lyrics called ‘Room 1904’ about a doomed romance of his past. So… kismet!”
Also included in the collection is the dramatic electropop of “Bennington.” As is customary of all INSOC albums to include a cover song as a tribute to an artist they admire (2014’s _hello world included a cover of Devo’s “Beautiful World”; 1997’s Don’t Be Afraid included Gary Numan’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”), “Bennington” is a cover of John Maus’ hypnagogic pop masterpiece. “Ever since I was introduced (belatedly) to John Maus, I’ve loved his dreamy retro post-vaporwave vibe,” lauds Robb. “It is amazing to me how compelling his music can be, especially since (or maybe because of) his highly constrained style choices and garage sale gear list. Also, he’s a Minnesota boy, so there’s that.”
Circling back to the conversation about how revolutionary the spatial version of their album is, Robb adds, “I love the roomier sound of the spatial mixes. Kasson Crooker, our collaborator on these mixes, really did a great job of putting the songs into a different, larger space, and I think it really helps you get lost in the music, if that’s your thing. When I was an impressionable teenager, the local rock station in Minneapolis had a show at midnight on Fridays called ‘For Headphones Only,’ where they would play ‘spacey’ music and Pink Floyd and that kind of stuff, which I was way into at the time. So I think of these as our ‘For Headphones Only’ mixes.”
The current iteration of INSOC is actually the original incarnation with founding members Paul Robb on synths, Kurt Larson on vocals and bassist James Cassidy. Zeke Prebluda (aka Falcotronik), who has been performing live with the band since 2009 joined the band as the official fourth member in 2019.
Questioned about the unique stylistic spelling of the album title ODDfellows, Robb laughs, “We just thought it was an appropriate summary of the three longtime members of the group. The initial capitalized letters definitely do not stand for Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”
Storming the mid ‘80s with their Freestyle debut classic “Running,” Information Society has enjoyed multiple Top 40 hits including their Number One smash “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)”, “Walking Away”, “Think” and “Peace & Love, Inc.” Their infectious appeal translated the world over with Brazil, Spain, Mexico and their native U.S. leading the charge.
ODDfellows will be released digitally for streaming and download on Hakatak International Records on August 6, 2021 and will be available physically on CD and vinyl via Negative Gain Records later this year.
Featured image by Jonathan Shelgosh.