With only a handful of singles to their name, Toronto-based Azari & III have been sweeping across Europe lately to prepare for their July 29th debut LP and to inject a bit of emotion into the too-often cold and sterile realm of house music. Being creative guys, I figured a more artistic approach was needed for this interview, so I gathered some paper and markers and headed down to meet them. A large, friendly dog named Bear wandered in as well, and together we ate croissants, scribbled some tour memories (or in my case, an abstract dream about towering skinless men) and chatted about the upcoming album.
So this is your first time in Germany, right?
Christian: As a live act, yeah. We just debuted the live show at the Melt Weekender. Kind of a precursor to the big festival. We had to get out of the Melt party before the other acts played really, because we had to do a DJ gig at PickNick Club, but it was a really good party.
C Yeah, but not uncomfortably so. Good production.
Has that been your favorite show so far?
AlphonseIt felt the best.
Fritz It’s interesting playing these gigs because not a lot of people know our tracks, and our sound but they’re enjoying themselves and dancing.
I saw you guys last year in New York City when I was still living there.
F At FIXED?
Yeah, I think so. Has the live act changed much since then?
Ce What you saw was more of a live PA more than a live act.
C We have a nice little setup for the live shows.
I can’t wait to see the new material from the album live, by the way.
C You’ve heard it?
Yeah, it’s really strong. Your earlier stuff was great but it had more of a ‘get up and move’ kind of vibe. I feel like the new stuff has this Aaron Carl sort of melancholy to it; it still says ‘partying owns’ but it also says ‘think about yourself, think about what’s going on.’
A Exactly, we’re trying to make art, not just music for people to dance to. Before disco, you know…the funk and soul era, all the songs had this energy. The dimension of strife or struggle, but presented in a celebratory manner so you can uplift yourself while you listen. I’m glad you caught that.
I think you can kind of feel that in your videos as well. It’d be easy to just do a nice fun video, but again, it feels like there’s this deeper subtext when you watch them.
C We’re not interested in presenting an empty party scenario. I don’t think that’s ever been necessary. People will find that themselves, you don’t need to force it on them.
Definitely, this undercurrent of emotion and real feeling is something lacking in a lot of dance music.
C You know, it’s like in hip-hop where you get to the point where you’re just rapping about yourself, and your struggle with fame, you know what I mean? So many tracks are about being in a club, and dancing…if I hear a track with the word ‘dance’ in it, I just don’t like it. I don’t need someone to tell me to dance while I’m dancing.
F It’s like modern day square dancing. The direction is in the song, do si do, swing your pardoner ’round and all that shit.
You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out.
C Exactly, I mean the powers that be are trying to dumb people down en masse, and that’s just part of the diet they feed them.
How’s the electronic music scene in Toronto? I’ve been to Canada a few times but never there.
C There’s a big techno scene, a big drum’n’bass scene, jungle scene, house. Big indie scene….they all kind of come together.
A Most of the artists from all the different scenes work together. I think people are really smart now. There’s so many choices, it’s so easy to get caught up in a new sound nowadays. You have to explore all the different sounds because there’s so much good music out there. Getting caught up in one genre is so limiting.
C Dressing like a houser…what was houser gear back in the day?
A Docs, double hoop earrings. Black and white checkered shirts, and then the button-up, kinda silk shirts.
F Bomber jackets, kinda.
C Yeah. It would have to be kinda big and bulky to pull it off. But yeah, there’s a lot of good things going on in Toronto. I think we take from all of it.
Any local collaborations recently?
CIndividually we’ve collaborated with a lot-
C Yeah, as a band. We’re always remix-swapping back and forth. Art Department has just done a remix for us for ‘Hungry For The Power’, which is absolutely amazing.
A Lately we’ve just been working with ourselves, focusing on the new record and our sound. We don’t wanna spread it too thin because we’re still a young act. Maybe that’s the strategy some people have, is to do collaborations right off the bat, but we’re kind of a niche organization to a certain degree, you know?
F Yeah, exactly. We’ve worked with Friendly Fires, we’re gonna do something with Armand van Helden for his new album. I don’t know about locally, but there’s always going to be opportunity. But basically right now we just want to work on our own stuff.
‘We were leaving the airport, and you know those guys who hold up signs with names on them? There was this one guy with a sign that said ‘Tina’ and as we were getting into the car he starting banging on the window going ‘TINA?? TINA?!!’ It’s like…no bitch, we’re not Tina.’
‘When you’re on tour and you meet so many people, eventually they just start to blur into one person. This is that person.’