Dead Boy Robotics: Tales of the Future

Edinburgh trio Dead Boy Robotics count Blade Runner as a pivotal influence, enjoy a bit of Xbox Live and have written a funk ode to the Jaffa Cake. A band with these credentials should be celebrated – we have a word as their debut finally touches down

Feature by Darren Carle | 28 Nov 2011
  • Dead Boy Robotics

Electro-rock outfit Dead Boy Robotics have been bubbling away under the local music scene for some years now. Back in 2009 they made the cut for the T-Break stage at T in the Park, while last year they released their Tale of the Winter Kids EP to critical acclaim. Recent activity has seen a significant hike in radio play from the reliable likes of Vic Galloway, Jim Gellatly and Ally McCrae amongst others.

Throughout it all, the trio of Gregor McMillan, Mike Bryant and Paul Bannon have been writing and tweaking their self-titled debut album, a juggernaut of bleeding-edge electro and sky-high vocal melodies. These are all key ingredients that led to us having an overdue converse with all three members as they gear up for the next step.

Your name sounds like a fan-boy reference that I can’t place. Is it?
Gregor: The name is totally random; there's no meaning behind it. It was plucked out of the air for creating a MySpace music page to upload and share early demo ideas.

Fair enough. You’ve also used it as the title of your debut album.
Gregor: We're thinking in the wider scheme of things and eschewing record titles completely. People will have to refer to each album we release by the main colour on the cover. Or it could just be that none of us could come up with a suitable album title...
Mike: I was pushing for the Phil Collins style of album cover and just having close ups of our balding heads. I was out-voted.

So, what’s the potted DBR story so far?
Gregor: I initially started DBR with Mike's brother Chris when we were between bands. Mike joined one summer and we played some gigs but then Chris left to play with Meursault. Mike and I just kept it going.
Mike: I was still at University when I basically gate crashed one of the early practices. We played some pretty shambolic gigs but somehow got picked to play T in the Park before we’d even released anything.
Paul: I had seen DBR a few times prior to joining and was formally introduced to the boys by Ted Koterwas [The Foundling Wheel] when my other band Lady North played at the Versus evening at Voodoo Rooms. I hounded them for a few months until they finally caved in and asked me to join.

How has the local Edinburgh scene been treating you?
Paul: Over the last few years the Edinburgh music scene has flourished due to a continuous stream of exciting new bands popping out from the wynds. With traditional and online media taking a genuine interest in what’s going on, it’s never been better for gaining exposure for your band.
Gregor: We've met loads of great people, bands, bloggers and promoters from playing gigs in Edinburgh. You can never have too many contacts in your address book to call upon for advice and help.

Your debut album is all wrapped up and awaiting release. How are you feeling about it?
Gregor: It's exciting to finally let people hear the album after making it almost a year ago but also nerve-wracking thinking about how it will be received. Once it's released a huge weight will have been lifted off our shoulders, allowing us to move forward and start properly writing again.
Mike: It’s pretty terrifying. A lot of blood, sweat and coffee has gone into making this record. I’m looking forward to seeing how people take to it, but I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Can you give us a sample of reactions you’ve had so far?
Mike: It’s been surprisingly good. Even my Dad likes it.
Gregor: Everyone we've played the album to so far has been very positive and genuinely liked it. I find it interesting to hear all the different bands it reminds people of. No one ever compares us to the same bands.

How would you describe it then?
Gregor: Vangelisian synth-tones with the vocal harmonies of Yes and tribal drumming of Liars.
Paul: Avant-garde synth pop.
Mike: I like to think of it as a form of twisted gothic pop.

How does one write and record a garden variety DBR song?
Gregor: Songs usually stem from a guitar riff or a laptop idea and are built from there. Once we have refined those ideas into a loose song structure, vocals start creeping in. Lyrics are usually the last part to be written and vocal melodies always seem to be the last thing to be worked out.
Mike: I tend to spend hours on Ableton forming ideas and sounds. More often than not they just sound like the Blade Runner soundtrack, so I get pissed off, scrap it and start all over again. Blade Runner has definitely been a big influence on this record. I think there is an amazing depth and emotion to the soundtrack that I wanted to capture for our LP.

You’ve been doing regular gigs around the country, how have these been received?
Mike: At a recent gig in London, someone referred to our set as being “terrifying”. I like to think of that as a good thing.
Paul: We become a tribe of drummers throughout the live set, with all three of us playing as hard as we can. It's brutal, in the good way.

Making money in music is difficult at the minute, and there doesn’t seem to be the same stigma in lending your music to advertising that there used to be. Heck, Frightened Rabbit are hawking for Baxter’s soups these days. Who would DBR happily accept a big fat royalty cheque from in order to keep things afloat?
Gregor: Mike and I are avid gamers so I would say Xbox 360. Also, my own Xbox is about to “Red Ring of Death” again.
Mike: I’ve written a funk song about Jaffa Cakes. I’m hoping McVitie’s pick it up.

Dead Boy Robotics is released on 28 November via Tape Records. Playing The Third Door, Edinburgh on 3 Dec and Pivo Pivo, Glasgow on 11 Dec