After a well-received debut album, holding down opening slots for The Rolling Stones and Arcade Fire, and touring non-stop across the globe, one could forgive Public Service Broadcasting if they decided to rest on their laurels—or simply rest. But the English band, known for inventively blending dynamic instrumental performances with archival audio samples, show no signs of slowing down.
In January the duo released The Race For Space, one of the most interesting and ambitious music projects of the year. The instrumental album recounts in quirky fashion the healthy competition between NASA and their Soviet counterparts during the heyday of space exploration in the 1950s and 1960s with the help of samples taken from historic films and archival recordings.
opbmusic’s Matthew Casebeer caught up with PSB’s J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth after a recent show at Doug Fir Lounge in Portland and chatted with them about the new album, their writing process, and the band’s interesting beginning.
On how they first met:
Wrigglesworth: We just met on a reupholstering course. [Laughter] It’s not that funny. Yeah, well it did get interesting because he managed to with the staple gun, he stapled his hand to the sofa. So I had to run over and rescue him by pulling the staple out. I don’t know how we got onto music from that but…
J. Willgoose, Esq.: I know. I said “Oh my God, I just stapled my wrist to the sofa. How will I ever play guitar again?”
On creating the song Go! with its signature samples taken from Apollo 11 mission control recordings:
J. Willgoose, Esq.: Apollo 11 was obviously always going to be on the album but I didn’t want to do it the obvious way. As soon as I heard those samples and those callouts, and they’re very handily in groups of eight as well which for conventional music is very handy, I was just like “That’s it. Done. That’s the song.” Even before I’d written a note, I [knew that was] going to be good. I [had] faith in that one.
On the flashy video for Gagarin, a song written about Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who was the first man in space:
J. Willgoose, Esq.: It’s supposed to be a fun celebration of his achievement. Somebody came up to me at a gig the other night and said “I love the way you went full rock star for Yuri because that’s what he was. Bam! [You] gave him that massive sort of 70s cop show theme.” That’s the idea behind [the song], but sort of coming at it from an odd angle.
On how they dance so well in space suits (watch the video above):
J. Willgoose, Esq.: It’s very difficult. It’s very hot in those.
Wrigglesworth: Years of practice. Years.
J. Willgoose, Esq.: Really? How long have you had that space suit?
Wrigglesworth: Since I was three.
J. Willgoose, Esq.: You were practicing in that when you were three?
Wrigglesworth: These things don’t happen overnight.