It seems like in music these days it’s impossible to be original. Datarock will be the first ones to admit that they are an exercise in original unoriginality. Calling themselves “a mediocre band with great communication skills,” the self-deprecating humor rolls right off the tongue. “We’re like a great cover band that forgot the original songs,” says Frederic, one half of the Norwegian band. Seven years deep with only one album and 350 lives shows in 25 countries under their belt, Datarock represents a new business model for bands worldwide, selling custom jumpsuits for $200. They have figured out how to make a living without selling records â€“ hats off to them!
â€œA-Trak looks like a nu rave kid.â€
Format: Who the hell are Datarock and how do you guys get away with the matching jumpsuits and sunglasses?
Datarock: The cultural references of our imagery is kind of an accident. The first video for “Fa Fa Fa” was done without a budget at all. We released the album on our own label so we made a video ourselves. We happened to know these guys that ran this Norwegian snowboard company called White Out. So for the video we asked them if we could have 40 track suits so everyone could look the same, because everyone was supposed to be Datarock partying in Norway. Because of that, we used the track suits for press photos and then we started using them live. Ever since we’ve started using the jump suits, people have reacted in a very positive way.
Format: Yeah, those track suits are amazing, but for $200?
Datarock: We only produced 100 of those and the ones we sell on our website are the same ones we wear, how cool is that? When we played in Denmark, at the end of the show, we jumped into the audience, and when we came back up, we were one extra person. Someone in the audience had bought one of the tracksuits and gotten back on stage with us.
Format: How did you guys come up with your sound?
Datarock: We started in 2000. Back then we were a little bit different, but every song sort of paid homage to all of our favorite artists. We are kind of like a cover band with the wrong song. Each song is sort of based on a different artist. I mean, we used “Fa Fa Fa” from Talking Heads “Psycho Killer,” but then Talking Heads took that from an Otis Redding song. It’s just layers upon layers of geekiness. Devo has also been a huge influence on us, too. The three main influences are Talking Heads, Devo and Happy Mondays.
Format: Have you ever performed with David Byrne or has he ever seen you guys live?
Datarock: He hasn’t. I think I would have known. But his label, Lukka Bop, approached us a few years ago. I don’t know exactly what happened. But we’ve met with all of our other influences. We are doing a remix for Happy Mondays and then we’ve been collaborating with Devo on some stuff. But if you could see a show like the one in the film Stop Making Sense, you would be blown away. I mean, Devo is inspiration in a similar way. They broadcast a show over satellite to different outlets in 3D back in the `80s.
Format: So do you guys wear the jumpsuits at ever show?
Datarock: Yeah. We are a mediocre band with great communication. They help us communicate. Sometimes we take them off because they get too hot.
Format: What’s your fashion like off-stage?
Datarock: Like Anthony Edwards in the motion picture Gotcha, very new wave.
“I don’t want people to think we are selling out, but co-branding and merchandising is the natural progression of music today.”
Format: And the sunglasses â€“ are they vintage Boeing and Carrera?
Datarock: I wish I could say yes. We kind of found them by accident. They reminded me of Yoko Ono’s glasses from the early `80s. We’ve had as many as 32 people on stage so we had to buy a lot of them. I’m not going to tell you what they are, but they aren’t expensive and we are going to start selling them.
Format: So not like the tracksuits?
Datarock: Well, the tracksuits are expensive, because they are limited edition.
Format: Are you into vintage shoes, sunglasses or clothes?
Datarock: We stop by vintage stores a lot but sometimes it’s not necessary because think a lot of modern brands that are using the same aesthetic as stuff from 20 years ago.
Format: Would you say that clothing is more exciting than music right now?
Datarock: Not really. I think there are a few great bands out. I’m actually surprised you haven’t asked me about nu rave.
Format: Nu rave?
Datarock: It’s a heading that has been used to lump a lot of dissimilar bands together in one group. It’s not that the bands are similar, but they garner a similar reaction from the audience, which I guess is dancing. The lead singer of the Klaxxons coined the term when he said, â€˜We don’t play new wave, we play nu rave.â€™ We have been doing the same thing for almost ten years but all of a sudden what we are doing is more modern now than it was when we started over five years ago.
Format: What are some other bands you really like?
Datarock: Bonde do Role and CSS from Brazil. From the UK: Klaxxons, Shit Disco, New Young Pony Club, The Gossip. From Paris: Justice and then the whole Ed Banger label. Digitalism and Boys Noise from Germany. Lo-Fi-Fnk from Sweden. Shy Child from New York. I think the re-emergence of dance bands and alternative dance music is very exciting. The world would be a sad place if fashion was more exciting than music.
Format: Yeah, but fashion is pretty interesting right now.
Datarock: Yes, I think there’s something really interesting happening in fashion. Nu rave kids are taking colors and iconography from the `90s and re-adapting it. You have colorful hoodies and shoes and New Era caps, which are hip-hop clothes, and then you have kids mixing it with skinny jeans. I mean, you have all over prints which are from the Billion Dollar Boys club, mixing with skinny jeans. A-Trak looks like a nu rave kid.
“Ever since we’ve started using the jump suits, people have reacted in a very positive way.”
Format: What kicks do you guys wear with the jumpsuits?
Datarock: Red Vans. We have a collaboration with Vans and hopefully we will have our own model coming out. We’re hopefully going to be having a lot of collaborations coming out, like our own Datarock headphones. I don’t want people to think we are selling out, but co-branding and merchandising is the natural progression of music today.
Format: There’s no money to be made in actually selling records these days.
Datarock: I don’t think people understand how dramatic it is. We’re not talking about five to seven per cent. We’re talking about like 90 per cent for some artists. We’ve only released one album but we’ve done 350 shows in 25 countries. I would say Datarock is more of a live band than recording artists. Get your fashion competence elevated and go for merchandise.
More Info: http://www.datarock.no/