Lets face it, tribute bands are pretty lame. They're generally full of ageing wannabes with too much time and too little talent. Aside from the odd verbal triumph - Nudist Priest, Earth Wind for Hire – they offer precious little to the world of entertainment.
Fleetmac Wood are not a tribute band, they're a DJ / party collective who put on nights around the UK and America. There's no dress code, line-up or headliner and their nights have only one rule – they will only play Fleetwood Mac remixes or originals.
That might sound gimmicky, but when you realise they DJ for anything up to eight hours at a time, it it's apparent just how difficult DJing within such limited parameters would be. At any standard club night it takes a number of DJs, playing a whole host of artists, to maintain the energy level and take the crowd on that "dancefloor journey" – these guys are doing it themselves, with only one band at their disposal.
I was lucky enough to catch them the last time they were in London and, while I'm a big Fleetwood Mac fan, what surprised me the most was that the set was so well put together there were periods when I totally forgot about the Mac-only music policy. Obviously when the opening bars of "Dreams" or "Go Your Own Way" kick in, you're right back in sing-a-long mode, but there were times when the vibe was more Cocoon than classic rock. I called up Alex and Lisa, the driving force behind the collective, to talk about the concept, Fleetwood Mac and how the hell you can DJ for eight hours and only play one artist.
Photo credit: Nanette Gonzalez
THUMP: Hi guys - so you were at Burning Man this year, how was it?
It was amazing! It's always just such an incredible journey. It's a trial, it's really hard work, but then when it's all over you always wish you were there for longer. That was the fifth time I've been as a DJ but this was the first time we've done Fleetmac Wood there. We had a really great crowd; people from all over the world were losing their shit, in the nicest way.
How was the set?
We played for something like six hours, which can be a tough gig at Burning Man because people tend to move about a lot. Loads of people get on bikes and travel around the site, not staying in the same place for too long, but we had a lot of people there for the full set so we were really pleased.
So how do you explain exactly what Fleetmac Wood is?
Well, first of all it's a party. There are sort of two sides to it really. There's the DJ side and the party side, which is a kind of complete sort of overdose of Fleetwood Mac. When we first put it on we wanted to see how people would react – would they stay a few hours and leave or could people stick it out all night. It was kind of an experiment I guess.
Were you surprised when people stayed for the whole thing?
Ha, well the truth is that you can listen to Fleetwood Mac all night. Their career spans so long and encompasses so many genres, that I don't think the music ever gets dull. Even we're still discovering new stuff. So the whole party is a celebration, and sort of us trying to dig a little deeper. We've all heard "Rumours" a million times, but we try to figure out how we can hear it in different ways, how we can put our own spin on it.
What sort of crowd do you get at your nights, are they all Fleetwood Mac obsessives?
The people that come to the nights are amazing. Everyone's really happy and everyone's genuinely there for the music. Nobody's there to be cool, or to be seen. They're there because they just want to hear some of their favourite tracks. That's a great reason for a party, and there are not enough parties like that.
So what got you into remixing Fleetwood Mac?
Lisa: I guess it's just really fun to play along with the Mac. It's nice to try and make them more danceable, though to be honest, everyone dances along with the originals anyway. What we like doing the most is finding weird demos and recordings from the archives and reinterpreting them into something. My "Rhiannon" remix uses an old sample of Stevie talking to Lindsey and, maybe she's high, maybe she's not, but that was a really nice find and it was less about making a dancefloor banger and more about kind of working with the mood of "Rhiannon".
Alex: I actually got introduced to Fleetwood Mac by Lisa. I knew a little bit, obviously their bigger stuff, but Lisa was just so into them. I remember when she came up with the concept and said "I'm going to play Fleetwood Mac all night!" I thought, "Oh, Okay..." But then after we did the first party, it just went crazy and I realised she could be on to something.
I know you remix a lot of the tracks yourself, but how do you go about finding other edits and remixes?
We're very open; we're always trying to encourage new producers and DJs to send us their remixes and edits. I think that doing a remix is a great entry point for productions, so we encourage new producers to give one a crack and send it to us.
When it comes to the actual nights, how do you create an eight hour DJ set and only play one band?
As a DJ it makes you work a lot harder and sort of search for more music. Fleetmac Wood is actually a very difficult set to play. It's not so much about beat matching, but about staggering essentially a six-hour set. Peppering it with hits, making sure you're taking people on a journey that feeds them enough of their favourite tracks, but exposes them to more obscure remixes and edits.
I have to ask though, why Fleetwood Mac?
I think that a lot of people have a deep emotional connection with the music, often because they were introduced to the band by their parents. So there's a multigenerational thing going on there. It reminds people of their family. I mean it's emotional music anyway, but when you add in that family connection, it's pretty powerful.
What's the best Fleetwood Mac original?
I love "Big Love" – there's something really transportive about that song. Lindsey Buckingham's got this fantastic, romantic angst that really comes through on that track. It's so intense and very sexual.
What's the best remix?
This is really hard. There are so many great ones. Psychemagik have done some fantastic remixes. Antenna Happy is sort of a bit of a dark horse in the Fleetmac Wood entourage. He took on "The Chain" which is such a huge challenge. He did a very simple version. He added this great acid 303 line that just brought this whole other level of intensity to it. When we played it at Glastonbury, the crowd went crazy.
Are there any other acts you would consider doing this with?
Actually we did a one-off set called Mix Jagger at Glastonbury before the Rolling Stones played the pyramid stage. They're a little bit harder to remix though. We probably didn't spend as long looking for edits or getting in new edits. I think not as many people have tackled them for remixing.
Do you ever get mistakenly booked as a Fleetwood Mac tribute band?
We're definitely not trying to be a tribute band. I think what's fun about it is that you listen to the music that you listen to with your mum and dad, on the car stereo, but you're listening to it in a house / techno environment and really lose yourself. If you went to see Fleetwood Mac in concert, it's amazing but you're be more of a spectator, you can't really just go wild in the corner.
You can catch Fleetmac Wood in all their glory at Santos Party House in New York on 4th October.
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Follow Matthew on Twitter: @MatthewFrancey