When Factory Floor first came to people's attention, with their debut single "Bipolar" in 2008, they sounded like Manchester's industrial past being dug up and brought back to life in an East London warehouse space—echoing clanks clung to Peter Hookesque basslines, and ghostly vocals howled at canal side moons. While their output was infinitely more interesting than the third rate Joy Division tribute acts clogging up the listing section of the NME, it struggled to escape a very distinctive and well-worn template.
Two years after those beginnings, the group reemerged with a series of songs that came on like a band determined to demolish what they'd once been. Tracks like "Lying" and "Wooden Box" sounded like the hacked up remains of Moroder-period Donna Summer being haphazardly chucked into a car compactor. 2011 saw them release the "Two Different Ways" 12" on venerated NYC label DFA, and with that they grew into a group who confidently pinged between indie, disco, techno, industrial, acid house, and pretty much anything else that piqued their interest. This wasn't White Lies territory any more.
A spare, sparse, and defiantly electronic album followed in 2013. While the self-titled LP saw them edging ever closer to the club, but with an eye still on the gloomier, scattier end of the gig venue spectrum, this month's 25:25 finds them in the middle of the dancefloor with arms aloft, a stomach full of substances and a rapacious desire to absolutely pummel the PA. Weaving between stark minimal techno—of the bleepy, Sweet Exorcist variety—and swinging, surging house, it's the sound of a group happy to spend long weekends by the booth.
As part of that sonic transformation, the three-piece that once contained live drums, bass and guitar have stripped back to a purely electronic duo. Just before 25:25 dropped, we sat down with Gabe Gurnsey and Nik Colk Void to talk about their "triumph" of a new record, their relentless progression, and their complete inability to sit still.
THUMP: Factory Floor are now a two-piece. How come?
Gabe Gurnsey: Dom [Butler] wasn't able to put in the time to it really and he wanted to pursue other projects, so we just went down to a duo. We saw it as a positive move in terms of direction.
Was there a mission statement of sorts for this record? Did you specifically want to achieve something with it?
Nik Colk Void: We definitely followed instinct for it. We were playing a lot more club nights and our set was more stripped down as we moved into electronics. The focus of the record was on dancing, not soaking it in reverb or industrial noise. When we started in East London there was all this dark wave stuff going on and we thought 'we need to duck out of this' so we moved to North London. We've continuously moved away from something where we feel that the creativeness around us is crashing into this solid foundation of one genre of music. So this record was about getting to the minimalist side of things. It was a genuinely instinctive mood of the body though; the patterns and sequences were in tune with how I felt and how I moved naturally.
Have you made this record with a club audience in mind?
Gabe Gurnsey: Definitely. When you write these rhythms that are really locking in with the synth and it's creating that movement you can kind of envisage people dancing to it. I can remember audiences we've had in places like the Berghain and that feeds back into the process when you're hitting the right spot on the tracks live.
Nik, you've described this record as being the most "you" album you've made. What do you mean by that?
Nik Colk Void: Oh god, I wish I never wrote that! I think it's because we tracked the record together up north in a space that wasn't a studio, it was just a room but we were close to lots of equipment and making a mess and not having to put it away and just coming back to it. It was almost like coming back to a workshop every day. I've always been used to having loads of materials around me and just being able to manipulate and work it into something and to create something out of it. In London you're kind of swamped by other bands and the nights you go to, and I literally hadn't been out to a show or a club night during the process of making this record, I really isolated myself, so I felt like the only thing I could pull out of this record is what was coming from within me.
So you've made this very club-sounding record pretty much in the opposite environment to that. Has that been the same for you, Gabe?
Gabe Gurnsey: Well, we get to experience that environment a lot when we finish playing at festivals, seeing DJs after us, or playing before we do. So you're sort of trapped in this world until you go and play your own show. There have always been really amazing club nights in London, especially in Corsica where it's got that really dark, sweaty, everyone-get-lost-in-the-music feel. One thing I've noticed when DJs are playing out is the simpler the track the more effective it is, so I think we were content in keeping the album really basic and keeping hold of that mind set. That's why I don't really enjoy doing off-kilter drumbeats because I think don't try and fix what isn't broken. It's a very instinctive thing the 4/4 dance rhythm, it's there, it's solid and it makes people dance. So working on top of that is the exciting bit because you've almost got a boundary to work in.
Would you still describe yourself as band?
Gabe Gurnsey: Definitely. We came from traditional instruments. I'm getting back on the drum kit soon and Nik cut her teeth on the guitar so the band might go back to that kind of more traditional set-up at some point but we'll always retain the electronic-element. But yeah, we're a band, and we treat our drum machines and synthesizers in the same way we treat playing live instruments, we're always manipulating them.
Nik Colk Void: When we play live now we're still using a certain amount of gear, it's like we have no idea if it's going to work sometimes and if I'm playing modular stuff, I don't know if I'm going to blow up the speaker because of the frequency—so there's still this shambolic element to us playing our tools live. Compared to what the set-up used to be I don't think we're that exciting to watch anymore, which isn't a problem because I don't really like being watched. We have our heads down on our electronics. We're synced together but we're still improvising with what we have and it could fall flat on its face and another time it could work—I find that exciting. I don't mind failing. I like the idea that it could all fall apart at any moment.
That's interesting to hear that instruments are coming back, I always thought you were stripping them away bit by bit?
Gabe Gurnsey: I think less is more, definitely, in a club environment. It's not been a conscious thing so much, but I don't think we like staying still on just one instrument, we like switching around as it progresses the band. A lot of bands get very comfortable and satisfied just playing their one instrument and they don't push it any further. I think we're excited by the unknown in a lot of ways. Even though we've written and recorded this record in a certain way, we don't let it stop there, if we bring back this record with a full live drum kit then it's going to morph into something else so that will then be the beginning of a new writing process. It's just an exciting way to write music.
Can you tell us about the process and set-up you had in the studio making the album and how the relationship between you works?
Nik Colk Void: When we recorded we had a big PA, so the sound was like it'd be in a club, and we were able to shout at one another across the table, like "bring the high-hat in," or something. It created a kind of dialogue you only get when you're really comfortable with each other.
Gabe Gurnsey: There was a lot of spontaneity involved. New equipment was delivered in the morning and we'd be writing tracks with it later on. We were shaping those sounds into a live PA rather than a pair of studio monitors on a quiet level. It felt like you were going out to a club in a way but having to do a bit of work at the same time.
Nik Colk Void: That set-up and volume captures the changes. There aren't many changes in Factory Floor's music but when there is a change it's quite an important thing. It's quite a hard thing for us to do because I hate changes and Gabe loves changes. So the fact we have a difference of opinion on those things kind of works out—we rely on both going against each other and being in sync with each other.
Gabe Gurnsey: We have got a trust. We have a trust in what we were putting out there and we also have a relationship where we can say to one another "that's shit" or "that's good." We're not worried about saying that to one another and I think that's important in a band. So there is a lot of trust there but just wait until I start doing the Ibiza classics, Nik...
Is that Factory Floor in an essence, change and no-change pushing against one another to find a middle ground?
Nik Colk Void: Yeah. He likes drops, Gabe likes the cheese and I like the sophisticated stuff.
Gabe Gurnsey: It is true though. I think that's why it works, that's what Factory Floor is, it's in the middle of those two things in a way.