Antony & Cleopatra are liberated from genre constraints, & their debut EP proves it
ANTONY & CLEOPATRA (the electronic project of Anita Blay and Alex Burnett) have been kicking it across the country for a few years now, perfecting their genre-defying blend of electronic sounds and dancefloor moments.
Their chemistry as a performance duo is electric, and the sounds they make absolutely back that up. They’ve both worked as part of previous projects across the years, but this one feels like the one where they’ve been having the most fun.
Despite putting out a run of singles over the last couple of years, including their explosive debut ‘Sirens’, a thoughtful, anthemic collab with Motez titled ‘The Future’ & club-heavy tunes like ‘Dust’ and ‘Twitch’. The duo have been working hard to get their debut EP up to scratch, and finding ways to translate that into a live setting too.
Well good news! Their debut EP is out right now.
It’s called Hurt Like Hell and in the most Antony & Cleopatra way possible, it’s an explorative journey into all of their favourite club sounds spanning house, disco, techno and beyond. It’s a record defined by variation, but it isn’t limited by it either.
The 20-minute listen is an instant escape to your very own dancefloor, complete with highs, lows and everything in between to make you sweat and sing along.
To get to know a bit behind what it took to put the EP together, we sat down with Anita to chat time, embracing genre fluidity and what it’s like including analogue instruments in their live setup.
Although you both been involved in various creative projects over the years, Antony & Cleopatra feels like something entirely new for the both of you. Reflecting on the project, what would you say you’ve learned from this experience comparatively to your other musical forays?
Unlike Cocknbullkid and Sparkadia, we fell into this project without a sense of knowing what we were doing or where we wanted it to go. But we were totally open to just make music without the stress of being so singleminded and ambitious. It was liberating. We also have learnt so much about danceable music and have loved throwing away all the pop tricks that we learnt in our other projects and doing more visceral and off the cuff music.
With the project being in the works for a couple of years now, it’s exciting to hear that your debut EP ‘Hurt Like Hell’ is out next week! Can you tell us a bit about what the process has been like putting this EP together & how you locked down the track list?
We are always working on bits of music for other people’s records, so when we made the call to make the EP we put aside a few weeks in the studio without breaks and just went for it. Some of the songs were from a year or so ago that needed a rethink, however the majority of the songs were completely made in that timeframe. We work best when we don’t have time to think or change too much so it was a case of having it finished by that time – whatever it took. It was a pretty mental couple of weeks but there’s a few really special songs that came from that ‘first thought best thought’ momentum.
What were some of the challenges you faced when creating this body of work?
Dust kind of came out of nowhere. We really didn’t think about it and it was written in about 20 minutes.
That song really introduced people to us so it was a bit weird trying to write the next one . We had a few stumbling blocks but ultimately we had to keep reminding ourselves to have fun and not overthink. That really has become a increasingly important mantra for us.
Your repertoire has seen such an expansive exploration into quite a few musical genres – house, techno & disco to name a few. The EP is no exception – it’s cool to see that you’ve really allowed yourself to show how much versatility your sound has throughout its entirety. Would you say that allowing yourselves to be this explorative has been limiting or liberating?
We found it really liberating. Coming from pop backgrounds we were never tied to one genre or bpm, however we quickly learnt that dance music is slightly more tied to those things. Whenever we tried to do more than one song that felt ‘house’ or ‘disco house’ it always felt a bit dull so we just made whatever came out. It’s exciting to see loads of dance producers throwing away the genre based constraints and just making whatever music makes you move. That was mad encouraging for us to follow our hearts rather than trying to be more ‘neat’ as such.
‘Hurt Like Hell’ is the first track you created via distance. How did this affect your process, and were you surprised by how the experience turned out?
It kind of happened out of necessity as I (Anita) had moved to Berlin that year. We didn’t want to slow down the process of making the record so the guys would send me what they’d made in the studio and I’d write to it.
It was actually a good way to shake up the process and do it without being too academic. The Islands and World’s Apart were also written remotely. I think you can hear that when you listen to the tracks.
It feels like this EP is really centred around creating these memorable dance floor moments. For only twenty minutes, this body of work goes through what could essentially be a night out at your favourite club -with a genre-less experience throughout that’s dotted with both subtle melodies and hard hitting bass lines.
We made the record while I mostly lived in Berlin and Alex lived in London so I think the night life and music scene in both places really influenced the sound. When Alex came to visit me for a week we went to lots of weird clubs, the music we were hearing really helped shape the sonics. Once I was back in London we focused on making sure the melodies were just as strong.
I caught your debut live set at Splendour In The Grass earlier in the year. What immediately sprang to mind was not only how seasoned you both looked up on that stage, but how consistent your creative vision has remained over the course of this project. Is this something you’ve been conscious of while putting the live show together?
For sure. We’d been putting music out for 5 years before we ever played a live show. We had very defined and lofty ambitions so we wanted to make sure it was right and achievable before we did it.
We try to think holistically when it comes to what we do. We wanted the live show to feel like a complete audio visual experience so we spent a lot of time on the visuals and lights. If you feel like you’ve just been to a sweaty rave then our job is done!
I think it’s really rare to see an analogue setup in a live performance. What does the analogue element of your live setup bring that a digital setup couldn’t?
It brings a bit of danger to the show as the machine is a bit unstable and amazing for it. We wanted to have a really danceable techno type show but throw in some elements that can change each night. Sometimes Alex will play bass on a song or run the keys through his machine and see where it takes him. There haven’t been too many nightmares so worth the risk.
Intro by CAITLIN MEDCALF