A&E » Music

HUMANS ascending

electronic duo open for Young Empires Wednesday



HUMANS hate solos.

Not all humans, just the humans comprising the East Vancouver-based indie-electro duo HUMANS. Guitar solos, drum solos, keytar solos — it's all nonsense. They please the performers playing them more than the audience they're playing for, which makes for some dismal music.

HUMANS play it another way.

"By the time we get good enough to solo an instrument, we usually get bored and try something new," says co-HUMAN human Robbie Slade. "We're always using new gear or incorporating new percussion. We're discovering new instruments and that results in most of our songwriting."

Since the dawn of punk rock, musicians have had to use creativity to compensate for a lack of technical ability with their instruments. Some of the finest indie and electronic music acts from the past decade have been for precisely that reason — they've discovered new ways to tease notes out of their instruments.

HUMANS, then, are in good company. Their live show balances the best parts of a raucous rock show with the mind-bending raves from a decade ago.

Their studio tracks are mere blueprints for what's created live, where they magnify the trippiest, danciest aspects of their tracks to maximize the dance floor experience for the audience.

They've managed to straddle the boundaries of electronic and indie music while satisfying fans of both. They'll finish their North American summer tour with two shows in Squamish — one at the Basscoast Music Festival, followed by another at LIVE at Squamish, two festivals largely rooted in disparate genres.

Slade says they're cross-audience appeal has been a "happy accident." When the two first met, Slade wasn't even in to dance music.

"He was writing songs with a guitar," Ricq says, who was recording electronic music on his own before they met. "I've always thought that musicians that write with guitar always sound a bit more melodic and that's probably what I needed a bit more of in my own music."

They met at an art show in 2009, where Ricq, a Montreal transplant, was drawing characters that shared an uncanny resemblance to Slade. They struck up a conversation and Slade hired Ricq to produce some artwork for his band, Family Room.

Shortly afterward, the band invited Ricq to jam with them.

"He brought out these samplers and we were like, 'Pfff, what are those? Weird.' We had a really fun time though," Slade says.

Ricq asked to record live samples of the band for his siolo project, but only Slade showed up for the session. They wrote their first track together that night.

The following year, they released Avec Mes Mecs in 2010, a heady, if a bit ragged, take on electro-based dance-rock. They followed that up with Traps, released in May, where the duo has fine-tuned its grooves and stepped up the beats.

They're currently writing their next album, which they plan to record in the fall and release next spring. At the same time, they're also scoring a film, which he says allows them to experiment with ambient sounds, freeing them up to explore other avenues of electronic music that don't necessarily have to sound like "the latest HUMANS song."

"We don't have to think in the back of our heads that people have to keep dancing so we can take our time with very atmosphere-y, bassy sounds, which I like to do a lot," Ricq says.

But, despite the detour and perhaps a couple of mellow HUMANS tracks, Slade says the new material will be "100 per cent dance floor for the album."

"I think it will always be that way, at least for HUMANS," he says.