❉ Deluxe/Debris is the perfect soundtrack for complicated times, writes Ange Chan, who talks with the band about the album.
The next big thing on the synth circuit are Tiny Magnetic Pets, described by Bandcamp as “something of a treat”, and are Irish trio Paula Gilmer, Sean Quinn & Eugene Somers. They have a refreshing and forward-thinking sound for a new generation of synth fans, and yet have also been compared to many of their more established synth peers including Goldfrapp, Chvrches, La Düsseldorf, Berlin-era Bowie, OMD, St. Etienne, and Kraftwerk. They embrace social media whole-heartedly, and are extremely responsive to contact with their fans.
Named after the collectable Japanese toy, the Dublin-based trio are an unusual concept on the current Irish music scene because their inspiration hails from an eclectic mix of Bowie’s Berlin period, 70s krautrock and early disco, with a good measure of 80’s synthpop thrown in. With the quintessential pop vocal delivery of Paula Gilmer they lie musically, if not alphabetically, somewhere between Kylie and Kluster.
Tiny Magnetic Pets are an established live band and have recently completed a twenty-date tour of the UK and Ireland as special guests of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. They were invited to play just one night’s support, which they were thrilled about, but Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphries were so impressed with what they heard, they asked the trio to stay on with them for the whole tour!
“I love the whole album but there were tracks that blew me away – so beautifully crafted, so emotional, such clever writing with perfect emotion so we offered them the whole UK tour…” – Andy McCluskey, OMD
Subsequently Tiny Magnetic Pets played to full houses every night; rare for a support band, and they got a phenomenal reaction from the OMD fans which consequently stirred up a merch frenzy, represented in post-gig sales of their material via numerous outlets including Bandcamp and Amazon.
Shortwaves recorded live at The Roundhouse, London during UK leg of OMD’s “Punishment of Luxury” tour:
Hot from the OMD tour, they then headlined at the Artefaktor/ SynthWave2 Live event in London a few months ago to a rip-rousing reception. Prior to that they have also supported Michael Rother at the Electri_city Conference in Düsseldorf, and most notably, have supported Wolfgang Flür (ex Kraftwerk) when he played in Dublin and he said the following of the band.
“Working with Tiny Magnetic Pets was great fun for me. I like the Irish band very much, we are friends. Paula Gilmer’s voice reminds me of a young Debbie Harry. Wonderful music, I can only recommend; turn you “Radio On!” – Wolfgang Flür
TMP have recorded two albums and two EPs, and they are featured on the Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music album (Groenland). Their current album “Deluxe /Debris” featuring Wolfgang Flür, was released in September 2017 via boutique London indie label, Happy Robots.
Deluxe/Debris is a brilliant encapsulation of what they do best. Drifting effortlessly between blasts of perfect pop with songs like Guiding Light to ten minute epics such as live favourite, Semaphore with its krautrock beat and electronic flourishes.
Cold War Neon is a moody suspenseful instrumental that in a perfect world would soundtrack series two of cold war thriller Deutschland83.
Never afraid to experiment, there are two versions of Here Comes the Noise; Part One is atmospheric and reflective in a Berlin-period David Bowie way, whereas Part Two is like an infectious Pet Shop Boys hit sung by an exuberant Sarah Cracknell. On top of this are the two collaborations with Wolfgang Flür Radio On and Never Alone both of which give a Germanic seal of approval to the Irish trio’s cutting-edge pop excursions.
We Shine from the Stalingrad EP proved to be a very popular live song; the EP sold out during the tour & has continued to sell resulting in an impressive two additional re-pressings.
With each track segueing into one another, Deluxe/Debris harks back to a period when albums were listened to in their entirety, as a complete piece of work. It’s breezy, optimistic take on the electronic pop sound, is both reassuringly familiar and effortlessly fresh. Deluxe/Debris is the perfect soundtrack for complicated times.
I caught up with the band just as they were finishing off their next album in the studio…
You seem to be doing phenomenally well over the past few years. How has it been for you?
Hi Ange. It’s been brilliant. We got off to a slow start after the first album but since Una sent Rusty Egan the Stalingrad EP, we’ve been on a bit of an upward trajectory. We were just saying that exactly a year ago we’d just delivered “Deluxe/Debris” to Happy Robots and Andy offered us the OMD tour and here we are putting the finishing touches to the new album. We’ve actually done the old “album-tour-album” thing and it’s been great but the year has just whizzed by.
Tell me about your new studio album…
Nearly finished it (we think) – in fact, we’ve just been listening to the rough mixes in sequence and we’re very happy. We have too many tracks for a single album though – so, do we do a double album or a single album preceded by an EP?
Do you plan to tour with the album? Are there any places you’d like to play but haven’t so far?
Definitely, as we see ourselves as a live band. We love the studio but we all need to play the material live. We haven’t played Cardiff, Brighton, Edinburgh, Berlin, Paris, New York, Tokyo – tell me when to stop…
What excites you about the current synth scene?
Well, there are a lot of good synth bands around at the moment. I always felt that synth pop/synth rock was criminally under-explored as a genre but the new wave of synth artists are correcting this and it’s great to see so many new artists.
What is your view on the future direction of synth music?
I don’t really know but I have a feeling there’ll be more rock elements to it. Rock music is dead, sadly (killed off by suits and bean-counters within the industry) but there is much to be learned from it, for example; arrangements. In my opinion Rock music (not rock ’n’ roll) tends to have the best arrangements as all the dance-heads of the 90’s knew. Just ask the Chemical Brothers…
In Ireland, is there an established synth scene or are your trail-blazing the genre?
Absolutely not! Synths are taboo in Ireland – you just don’t play them and if you do, prepare to be totally ignored by radio & TV. Electronic music never caught on in Ireland so in that sense we, along with the few other synth acts are trail-blazers. Anyway, music always feels better when you’re doing something the powers that be disapprove of…
Where is the majority of your fan base?
The UK is our biggest fan base, followed by Germany and since both those countries are the giants of electronic music – we are extremely happy and honoured to have a following in both countries. We’re slowly picking up American fans as well. We got a royalty statement which showed some band somewhere in Russia had done a live cover of “Girl In A White Dress”.
Who are your favourite acts at the moment, synth or otherwise?
Established acts: OMD, Fever Ray, Goldfrapp, Depeche Mode, Numan, Roger Waters.
Underground acts: Battery Operated Orchestra, Cult With No Name, Hot Pink Abuse, Rodney Cromwell and a Russian synth-rock band from the 80’s called Alyans, who were quite brilliant. I’m sure I’m missing somebody…
Chris Payne recently cited you as ‘acts to watch’. How do you feel about garnering such a ringing endorsement from an established synth legend such as Chris? Did he play a part in your history and influences as a band? Who else did?
Thank you Chris. Chris is a bit of a hero to us, so we were very honoured for him to say that. It was such a thrill to play Fade To Grey with him at SynthWave 2. He definitely has a part in our collective history and certainly influenced us as you will hear from my solo on one of the new album tracks. We all had a “pinch me” moment playing Fade To Grey on stage with him at SynthWave 2.
As far as other influences go: Between us we listen to a pretty broad spectrum of music but we all listen to Krautrock (Kraftwerk, La Dusseldorf, Tangerine Dream, NEU!, Can, Harmonia, Cluster etc.), Bowie, Eno, OMD, Depeche Mode, The Beatles. Paula listens to Moby, Goldfrapp etc., Eugene is into the whole Ska/Two Tone thing, plus the Smiths. I listen to the Monkees, Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, JM Jarre. All these filter into the TMP sound in some fashion.
Which is more important to you; commercial success or creative satisfaction?
Creative satisfaction always comes first. Commercial success would be nice but it has to come with creative satisfaction otherwise it would just be a hollow experience.
Is there anyone that you would like to work with in the future? Are there any collaborations in the pipeline?
Yes to both of those but can’t answer as I don’t want to jinx it. Sorry – not being evasive…
You recently played at SynthWave2; how important do you think these types of events are, to bolstering the synth scene?
As mentioned earlier; we live for playing live and coming from a country with virtually no synth music – or history of electronic music – even in the 80’s & 90’s, we believe any platform for presenting live synth pop in all its wondrous forms is a great thing. It’s also great for fans of electronic music to get together and have the craic. Long may it last!
What are your thoughts on revivalist 80s festivals?
It depends what’s being revived. Is it bands from the 80’s showing that they can still deliver the goods creatively or bands re-hashing their heyday. But to be honest – if it makes people happy, where’s the harm? On one proviso: NO YAMAHA DX7s! But let’s not get into that here…
Thanks for the chat. I’m really looking forward to hearing your new material and seeing you all again soon.
❉ The Deluxe/Debris album was released 25th August 2017. Sampler: www.soundcloud.com/happy-robots/sets/tiny-magnetic-pets-deluxe-debris
❉ To find out more about Tiny Magnetic Pets:
❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist and is a frequent contributor to We Are Cult. Her latest poetry collection “Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak” was published in October 2017 and her third novel “Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots” is currently a work in progress.