For some, there has been a bubble of wonder about a young project simply called PIXELATED. Over the last couple of years, this group has reared it’s head with a diverse selection of offerings that began with a very well received remix for LA’s lords of dreamy, day-time disco, Poolside. Following up that with remix’s for My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, collaborations with Denver’s Falcon Punch as well as bootleg outings on Florida’s Whiskey Disco imprint, this mysterious combo seem to have their hands in lot of pots and friends in wide circles.
It’s at this time that Discobelle has the honor of removing the mask that is PIXELATED and revealing it’s true identity. Comprised of long time friends and band mates, Craig Pfunder and Mark Palgy, I caught up with the production duo last weekend for a short interview on the eve of their sophomore remix for obvious chummy’s, Poolside.
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So, tell us a bit about Pixelated?
Craig : Pixelated was born one night in one of our old favorite bars in Brooklyn called Tandem(RIP). We were having cocktails and i brought the idea to Mark that we should start a completely anonymous project and just put it out there. We thought it would be a great experiment to see if people would be able to gravitate towards music that didnâ€™t really have a face or history. We didnâ€™t want anyone to judge the work based on any preconceptions of our musical pastsâ€¦either positively or negatively. We felt like weâ€™d be able to achieve a sense of artistic freedom and we were right. For the past 3-4 years weâ€™ve been putting remixes and edits out at our own pace with nothing but the joy of making music as a focus. No making deadlines for labels. No stress of major career decisions. No worry of trying to get booked in the coolest rooms. We just find a projectâ€¦ sit down and write. Itâ€™s been truly liberating to work this way.
What are your roles in the group, what inspires you and how did you come to work together?
Craig :Well we both share the writing duties. There is a lot of actual real guitar, bass, piano, and percussion being played and we both handle those. Iâ€™m in the engineerâ€™s chair dealing with the recording and mixing. Marks great at catching things I miss so Iâ€™m glad iâ€™ve got him behind me to keep me in check with that stuff.
Mark: Inspirationally weâ€™ve been drawing from some of the slower tempo stuff lately and thereâ€™s an obvious French influence in almost everything we do. Weâ€™re not actually very in touch with whatâ€™s been going on trend wise. Kinda oblivious to a lot of it actually. We just write what we feel is right and natural. Trying to chase trends in dance music is something we stopped caring about a long time ago.
But, this isnâ€™t your first time working together? When was the first time?
Mark: HAH. I guess the first time we worked together was back when Craig had just moved to Louisville and I was still in high school. That must have been 1994-5? We had this band that was kinda post hardcore alternative whatever the hell you call it. That band pretty quickly dissolved and we kept playing together. Fell in love with the whole noise rock thing .. did that. Then we simultaneously fell in love with disco and house music. From then on we started a band that tried to integrate all the things we loved out of rock music and disco and house. That band was called VHS or Beta.
Wow, VHS or Beta! Yâ€™all had some pretty big hits back in the early and mid 2000sâ€¦ can you tell us about that and your experience in the group?
Craig: Ya know, VHS was always a funny thing. We felt like we were always a step too early or a step too late. Timing never felt on our side. When we wrote “LE FUNK” and toured that recordâ€¦ indie rock kids hadnâ€™t accepted dance music yet. The early 2000â€™s were still a time when people were either RAVERS or ROCKERS and that bridge hadnâ€™t been built yet. When we made “Night on Fire” that felt better timed but we got lumped into the whole 80â€™s revival scene when we thought there just so much more going on in that record than the pop singles that got big. That record was our first record on Astralwerks and we toured it for 2.5 years straight. What a blur!!! By the time “Bring on the Comets” came out, I think that music press wasn’t writing about bands like us anymore. Everyone had moved on to very intellectual bands… like whatever Pitchfork was championing that week. We were never a Pitchfork band and the mid to later 2000â€™s was a Pitchfork dominated era. We had fun touring, but we were traveling salesmen, trying to sell a product thatÂ people just didnâ€™t understand at the time. Now, everyone has that product and we look back and are like;” well damn!” When similarly minded bands like The Rapture, !!!, and The Faint gained success, it really helped break down the bridges between rock types and dance types. Ya know, we did 95% more with VHS than most bands ever get to do. Toured the world over, did all the giant festivals, quit our jobs and lived the dream for as long as we could. Iâ€™m proud of that band and what we accomplished.
So, what happened to VHS or Beta?
Craig : Time? We grew? I dunno. After our latest record, “Diamonds and Death,” we kind of just toured it and were likeâ€¦ “see yaâ€™ll around!” We keep getting offers to play as a band and fans still ask why weâ€™re not making records and touring. I just think the only way Iâ€™d want to do another record or tour is if I truly felt i had something to say with that voice. I donâ€™t wanna just put something out there because it could make money or put a tour together just for money. Iâ€™d want to be able to get on stage every night and sell it and believe in what iâ€™m selling. It also doesnâ€™t help that the economics of recording and touring are astronomical. Who knows, weâ€™ve got ideas churning, but thereâ€™s nothing yet to report on the VHS end.
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Can you tell us a bit about your remixes and how you connected with Poolside?
Craig: Jeff(ery Paradise, 1/2 of Poolside) is a homie. Like, an old friend from wayyyyy back when. I think we met at WMC in like 2003 when we played for the Astralwerks showcase with Royksopp. He was in The Calculators that eventually turned into the Rapture. Then he started Paradise Boys and hosted Frisco Disco and Blow up. Dude is a legend. We just always had a like minded approach to things and are interested in a lot of the same things.
Filip (Nikolic of Poolside) and i have also known each other for a very long time through music. IMA ROBOT was a band we felt connected with and at some point we did a remix for them. That was one of Mark and Iâ€™s earliest attempt at remixing anything. It sucked but learned it was something we could do and loved doing.
Mark: When we conceived PIXELATED, we just brainstormed about all the artists we knew and had made connections with. Poolside had a few strong tracks and were very buzzy. I asked those dudes if we could remix “Slow Down”Â even though it had been out for like a year. That was our first release and it kind of Â went viral overnight. Our next release was a remix for My Morning JacketÂ frontman, Jim James’ solo record. Weâ€™re super, super proud of that one. It did well, but i donâ€™t think itâ€™s made itâ€™s impact yet. I think like 5 years from now that track will find itâ€™s legs. Other tracks include a collaborationÂ Falcon Punch, a remix for Sam Sparro, an edit of Anita Baker thatâ€™s on the super awesome edit label Whiskey DiscoÂ and now, this newest Poolside single. We decided that our second Poolside remix would be a good time to kind of unveil our identities and tell the story. Weâ€™re just proud that weâ€™ve received a ton of support from blogs and other artists like Zimmer, Goldroom, and Tensnake. All without a back story. Just the music. So, mission accomplished.
Any future projects on the horizon? what can we expect from Pixelated in 2016 and beyond?
Craig: Well, I just went through a massive breakup and left NYC, but Mark is still there. Â Iâ€™ve landed back in Louisville, KY and have a lot of new projects down here producing and doing sessions,Â but weâ€™ve def got some projects underway. Our goal for the next year is to work on originals. Singers are always people weâ€™re looking for. Weâ€™re super open to more remixes and collabs. We just want to keep making music from a pure and positive place. I think itâ€™d be nice to DJ again as PIXELATED. We did soooo much djing together as VHS OR BETA DJS so it only makes sense to get back in that scene. I think weâ€™re both just happy we donâ€™t have to lie to anyone anymore about if weâ€™re doing music together or at all hahaha.
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L.A. duo Poolsideâ€™s debut album Pacific Standard Time was a highlight of 2012, soundtracking countless laidback hangouts in sunny spots around the globe. As summer approaches once again, the daytime disco outift return with the first taste of their long-anticipated follow-up LP. â€œIf We Make Itâ€ is just as lovely and languid as prior Poolside tracks, but with perhaps a bit more of an emotional thrust. The song plods along on a slow, heavy kick-snare pattern that recalls Sky Ferreiraâ€™s recent hit â€œEverything Is Embarrassing (produced by Dev Hynes, of Blood Orange fame). â€œIf We Make Itâ€ demonstrates the duoâ€™s ample pop songwriting chops (Filip Nikolic played bass in the chart-topping Danish electropop group Junior Senior before moving to LA, while bandmate Jeffrey Paradise fronted influential electroclash act The Calculators). At the same time, it also reflects their groove-building experience as DJs and their love of glistening, space age cosmic disco production. The track has a hushed yet euphoric introspective quality that recalls romantic 80s pop ballads from the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Thompson Twins â€“ high praise in my book.
â€œIf We Make Itâ€ will be featured on the â€œScion 10 Series Music Release,â€ a compilation celebrating the California labelâ€™s tenth year of life. A full Poolside album is due out sometime this fall.