Storey’s meticulous beat programming is at once functional and funky and the melodic elements Appleblim adds into the mix really bring the tracks to life, giving them a tangible warmth and soul in the midst of all this technical prowess. For the boundary pushing label R&S, the duo’s signing makes perfect sense when you consider their backgrounds: Appleblim (aka Laurie Osbourne) came through with Shackleton and the Skull Disco movement pushing a superlative and skeletally iconic percussion driven strain of techno infused dubstep whilst Alex Storey started out making club music under the Al Tourettes moniker before changing his name and signing to our very own Houndstooth imprint. But the signing of their ALSO project to R&S also seems to have more than a little personal significance for the pair.
Starting our conversation, one that’s being conducted ahead of the duo’s appearance in the R&S hosted Room Two this Saturday (21st March), Osbourne opens by noting just how enthusiastic the Belgian label was from the off: “I got an email to back to say ‘we really love it, I'm sending it to Renate’ [R&S’s founder alongside Sabine Maes] and then, about another hour or two after that, it was like ‘Renate loves it as well and said ‘sign it!’’ It was kind of a weird thing to happen because, obviously, we're big fans of the label from years ago”
The Appleblim & Second Storey present ALSO project itself was reportedly born out of a booking with Ibiza mega-club, Space with whom Osbourne had been enjoying a supportive relationship and following an earlier back to back DJ set, the pair wanted to present something different for that season. So they committed to writing a whole new live set, just for Space.
“It was like ‘why don't we try and do something a bit… more?’” Osbourne says, noting their combined desire to push themselves out of their comfort zones. After discussing their processes and the possibilities they hit upon the idea of developing the project as a live set, rather than writing a stock of tunes and then trying to figure out how they could be recreated in a live environment. “When we started doing it and started writing stuff we found were having such fun doing it we were like ‘hang on we've already got like four tracks there, why don't we just do a whole live set?’”
“Al takes it to another level. He’s not just programming the drum machine, he's like a human machine!” – Appleblim
“So it kind of went the other way around,” Storey offers to expand the point; “we didn’t write the tracks and then turn it into a live set. And that was the start that led us to the whole sound [of the project] as well. It didn’t need to be so structured, so we sort of set about chopping things down and after that it became quite loose.”
“When we’d worked together before it has always been with Al in the driving seat,” Blim reveals; “him engineering and sequencing and me just hovering over him going ‘try this’ and ‘try that.’ But because we were doing this live thing, it was like ‘why don’t we try and sync our two laptops together?’ I had to learn Ableton so Al kindly showed me the ropes and gave me a version of his live set which we then built our own live set into. I hadn’t really used Ableton on my own before so it was a new creative process for me. It meant that we were jamming more, together with the tunes, because I could actually do stuff!” he continues, visibly enthused about the opening up of their writing process. “We had the two laptops running at the same time and I was trying out sounds whilst Al was doing something else, whereas previously we’d always been working on one thing at a time.”
Backing up the point, Storey agrees: “it was a much quicker and more natural way of doing stuff.”
Their first set as ALSO arrived at the peak of the Ibiza season at Space and proved somewhat to be a baptism of fire for the pair, who found themselves in club’s 3000 capacity room for their first ever public live performance. Emphasising that Space had given them a huge opportunity and kept a large amount of faith in their left of centre sound, Osbourne recalls the event saying: “we were one of the further out bookings that have been put on there because, obviously, that club is mainly Carl Cox on Friday, someone else on a Saturday then We Love… on a Sunday.”
“Yeah, it was pretty out there,” Storey chides, mentioning the duo’s fear of not delivering what regular Ibizan crowds have come to expect from the venue. “It was just really, really good and great to see Mark [the booker] come up afterwards saying ‘that was fucking mental, they stayed!’”
“We played at the time when they closed the outside bits,” Blim embellishes. “They can't have the terraces open when it's not light anymore, so around one o'clock they close the terraces and you get this natural passing through of crowds and if you're playing something interesting then they'll stay. We kind of feared that because it's not four to the floor stuff that they'd be a bit spun out but actually pretty much everybody stayed and even though not everyone was jumping up and down, people were still watching and viewing it. They weren't leaving, which was quite shocking!”
Even though the pair’s releases so far contain heady elements, it doesn’t seem so shocking to us that they worked on a dancefloor that wasn’t perhaps optimised to their sound. Underneath the sonic noodling there’s often a solid groove. Take the track ‘Formation’ from EP2, its synths might swell and swirl for a while in the intro but that kind of a compelling beat could engulf any crowd. And that’s the beauty of ALSO; its music for the head as much as it is a tool to move the floor.
“There's a real humanized funk to the beats,” Appleblim muses, “because, well… a human programming a drum machine is always going to sound a bit human but I do think Al takes it to another level. He’s not just programming the drum machine, he's like a human machine!”
In the aftermath of their Space debut, it took the duo a while to properly sculpt their handfuls of tunes into the finished products that will appear on their album. It ended up becoming a fairly long process owing to their rapidly filled up schedules. During this period Storey released his debut album for Houndstooth, Double Divide, a long player that took him in several new directions, production wise, essentially showcasing his attention detail and passion for expansive soundscapes. The process also gifted him the advice of Houndstooth’s A&R, Rob Booth, who urged him to concentrate more on getting the edit right.
“I really learned from the album writing process,” Storey admits candidly. “Most of my tracks before had been eight minutes long and ALSO’s tracks were getting pretty long as well. Rob was always telling me ‘we need to make these shorter’ so we cut all of the tracks down and made them more concise.”
After the pressure of the live set and the consequent editing process, the pair were left with just five finished tracks, but this rather drawn out process had actually been of massive benefit to the duo. As their sound developed, so did the differences between the tracks.
"We don't really know what we're doing, so we’re almost making these hybrids of tracks that you don't really expect..." - Appleblim
“There’s a gap of probably two years between the first tracks and the last ones, maybe more? And that’s why the album’s got such a big variety…” Osbourne starts before Storey jumps in, saying “later on we started to develop more of a process of what we do.”
”Your head [space] changes as well,” nods Osbourne, rounding off their collective thought; “and your skills change over a six month to a year period. Anyway, Al had all the knowledge from when he was doing his album.”
Storey’s very quick to maintain that it’s a two way relationship though. Whilst Appleblim praises Storey as a drummer, whose sense of rhythm and command of programming can feel like an impossible science, they both concur that they help ground each other’s ideas. Storey’s tendency to think big and sprawl out his arrangements can be reined in by Osbourne whose simplification of what he lovingly dubs “Al’s craziness” is undoubtedly at the heart of the ALSO project.
“The control surfaces have changed,” Storey notes as our conversations shifts to their imminent live set in Room Two this Saturday. “I’ve got the Ableton Push now, which is really good for triggering stuff but then I’ve got another controller that does more effects stuff and my live manipulation synths. And then I’ve got my Machinedrum as well, that’s a really nice drum machine and then there’s another drum machine as well, so that’s triple drum machines… Then Loz on Ableton…”
“Yeah, I’m just kind of jamming the delays and the reverb and stuff like that,” Osbourne says, oversimplifying his role a touch; probably. “Just being quite abstract and dubbing stuff out. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to extend sections, reduce sections, combine bits of different tracks and that's what we've found most fun. We don't really know what we're doing, so we’re almost making these hybrids of tracks that you don't really expect; there’s a real element of chance basically and we’re able to keep something rolling if people are really into it, y’know?”