You may have heard of Yolanda Be Cool from a fairly well known track of theirs scattered with cheeky trumpets, Latino verses and general dance-floor swashing. The pair has just issued a product recall claiming that “the beats are no longer fresh” and that the song has taken over their entire image – just in time for the release of their album Ladies and Mentalmen. We got speaking to one half of the Sydney-based dance duo, Johnson “Durango Slim” Peterson, on the creation of the album and freaky fan interpretations.
“I think there are a billion, to be honest. I mean some funny ones are like seeing a group of Arabian men in their gear, dancing to the songs – it’s kind of funny. There’s definitely a few.”
If you haven’t checked out the press conference – basically we’re urged to destroy any digital or analog version (“if anyone still has a CD player! – Johnson questions) of the infamous track. Two years on, despite the international craze Yolanda Be Cool has surpassed the fame of that one hit. “I’d like to think an album establishes you in some way or another past ‘emerging’. A good two years of our lives have gone into that.”
Ladies and Mentalmen has only been purchasable for a week or so, but it seems that so far the reception has been positive. “The people that have been telling us they love it have been saying they love that it’s not what they expected. We listen to new music everyday so it’s sort of inspired by all of the new and old music around. I think people are definitely vibing on the fact that it’s really eclectic and offers something for everyone.”
Everyone - is not far from correct- with the boys already having harnessed fans from all corners of the globe. This year touring locations included Tokyo, Budapest, Paris, Johannesburg and summer staple Ibiza. For Johnson, it’s hard to remember off the top of his head since they’ve covered so much ground. “We’ve definitely seen some cool places but it’s equally exciting to be home, we’re really happy about that.”
Maybe they’re so happy because they have escaped their Swiss lovers.
“I think the weirdest thing was when we played in Switzerland once we had these two old guys, I’m sure they weren’t really fans because they just didn’t seem like people that were into music. They printed out big A4 posters of ourselves and were waiting in our hotel but they wanted us to sign that and they were probably hoping that one day it would become valuable. So I guess they’re still waiting for that day but it was kind of weird at the time, like how do you know we’re staying here?”
Back home, Johnson agrees that it’s a great time to be in the Australian dance scene with 2012 bringing less commercial acts to the surface. In terms of artists to watch – he rattles off a list: Playmo (definitely), Casino (really exciting, we’re loving it), Indian Summer and What So Not as well as Ajax, Danny T. and Parachute Youth. “We’ve been back for a few weeks and seeing all the parties that are springing up, it seems that the commercial scene is taking a back step to cool, good parties.”
And at these cool, good parties where the two perform, it’s usually formal on top and party on the bottom. Johnson says that the tendency to suit up! references the vibe of the song recalled. “It’s how do you distinguish yourself from every other DJ wearing a black t-shirt and black jeans. There’s nothing wrong with looking good! We don’t wear suits to an office so we may as well suits to the club from time to time.”
When asked about the dynamics of working in a duo, Johnson finds expression from Ajax: “We always use his quote, something like ‘sex is pretty good by yourself but it’s better with someone else.’ It applies especially when we do spend a lot of time on the road. God, I’d hate to be that guy in the airport queue by himself for two hours. Whereas, with Sylvester, we’re just constantly talking shit or making plans or going over stuff but it’s definitely a lot more fun with someone else. And in terms of the writing process, it’s quite comforting because we know we’re going to get an honest opinion.”
Ladies and Mentalmen sees many a music guest ranging from funk/soul veteran Betty Wright to dance diva Crystal Waters. Johnson said that it wasn’t really a case of having a wish list as many of the collaborations came about from being in the right place at the right time. When the boys were working in a studio in Miami, some top-notch voices heard their beats, enjoyed, and ended up recording for their album.
“We didn’t have anything written for her but we played her some tracks and she listened, chose one, and then in one take she did a perfect recording of what became ‘Paper Girl’. So that was all pure chance.”
Never mind working with American artists - YBC also looked closer to home for talent, featuring indigenous artist Gurrumul on ‘A Baru in New York’. Johnson said that it’s their next single to be released and in the near future will be working on a music video…hopefully on Gurrumul’s island. Taking into consideration the fact that he has previously rejected collaborations with Elton John, Will.i.am and Sting, it’s no surprise that everyone went quiet when he accepted.
Johnson hopes that the variety in atmosphere makes its way to listeners. Traditionally Yolanda Be Cool tunes are for the club but Johnson said that in envisioning the album, the pair was keen to create something which could exist on its own and not just as singles.
“We kept going back to groups like Groove Armada, Basement Jaxx – artists that can write club bangers but then they’ll also write a ballad or a trip-hop track. Their albums are like real experiences that take across different genres and that was sort of our reference point.”
“We’ve programmed the album so it can be listened to as a whole rather than track by track - so it does sort of have its peaks and troughs, the slower tracks lead into the faster tracks, and vice versa and you know emotional followed by party.”
If you want to catch the guys in their hometown, YBC will be playing at the NYE Pacha Party at the Ivy in Sydney. There are also NYD performance plans in the making which Johnson can’t quite tell us about yet…
Meanwhile…some advice from the album intro: Stay cool motherfuckers y’all know the rules! Stay cool!
Published on Purple Sneakers.