When they’re not touring the world or bunkering down in the studio producing for some of music’s biggest names, Beau and Casey Golden also make music with one another under the name This Week In The Universe: a futuristic project that combines the brother’s mutual love for sci-fi aesthetics and crusty retro synths. Their latest track, ‘Distance’, offers a taste of what’s to come from the duo’s upcoming sophmore record, and sees them team up with Flight Facilities vocalist Ric Rufio to make for a dazzling robo-tinged synth freakout.
With the release of ‘Distance’, we got Casey and Beau to chat with one another about the recording of their latest single, as well as their shared experiences pursuing careers in the music industry, collaborating with artists remotely, and what their favourite pieces of studio gear are – here’s the conversation that followed.
Beau: Do you think there’s a clear stylistic progression from Tellurian to this new single? Has our studio process differed across both bodies of work?
Casey: I think our music has changed and progressed in a natural way. Our tastes have gradually changed over the years, but working on this new single felt more or less the same as working on Tellurian. We’ve got a lot of new gear since Tellurian and we’re always keen to record with whatever is most exciting to us so there are some sonic differences due to this but generally I feel like the progression has been natural.
Our process has more or less stayed the same although I feel like we’re getting more and more intense as time goes. Everything takes longer these days but I’m happier with the music we’re making than I ever have been.
Casey: How did you go about the sound design and production process for the recording of ‘Distance’? What elements of it do you feel were ‘your’ contributions, and what aspects of the track do you think are inherently ‘me’?
Beau: The track started with this rhythmically aggressive beat I made, placing the snare on the first beat of the bar in the verses is quite jarring in retrospect but really adds to the harder feel and push of it. I think the placement & feel of the bass line throughout was very me. I was very into the idea of displacing the drums with the bass line & synths interweaving throughout in between the vocal.
On that same vibe, I remember you were really key in a lot of those interweaving synth lines in the chorus and throughout, and texturally overall as well. The synth organ part playing fifths in the chorus which you added on the DSI Mopho x4 really changed the whole vibe for the better, and made us reassess some sonic choices. I feel like this track more than others we were on same page a lot with sound design and our approach with the gear we chose.
Beau: What about you? What did you feel were the overall inspirations for ‘Distance’?
Casey: When we started this track I was living in London and you were touring a lot, so the title and subject matter refers to this. I remember you and Dan (Ric Rufio) had the chorus sketched out before I got involved, but ultimately we ended up writing most of the song in the same room together.
The thing I was most inspired by with this track was the new context of having a guest vocalist. Our last album was completely instrumental so it was a lot of fun working with Ric Rufio and finding a way to combine our vibe with his. We’ve got some more features in the works but this was the first so it was exciting at the time and I think that we pushed into some new territory as this track really felt like the next step for us. What do you think?
Beau: Yeah, the exciting part of working with guest artists is discovering how your styles will work together. Ric Rufio brings a ’90s R&B vocal influence into the mix, and I was keen to see how it played with our electronic synth heavy sound. Ric was touring with Flight Facilities at the time spending a lot of time on the road, so the ‘Distance’ title of the original instrumental evolved from a starting point into the lyrical theme and basis of the track pretty organically.
I was very into the idea of a Justice/early Daft Punk kind of break (at 3.02 in the track), and I think we achieved something really musical and cool there.
Casey: For those who don’t know, Beau currently acts as the Musical Director for Ruel, and has previously toured with some other pretty big heavy hitters in the Australian music scene. Beau, what’s your advice for anyone out there looking to follow a similar career path?
Beau: For a touring/session musician, the best advice I think is to be over prepared and ready to deal with change on the fly. Not with Ruel, but I’ve had some big artists I’ve worked with change keys, songs, arrangements at the last minute, some literally seconds before going on stage, so being prepared and ready to deal with those things in the moment and having the confidence to pull it off onstage takes practice.
Following from that, there’s more pressure as the MD as you’re responsible for how everything sounds onstage from the arrangements, the technical execution and the musicians, to bringing the artists vision for the live show to life and ultimately letting them focus on delivering a great performance. Having strong musical convictions and confidence in your choices is a great first step no matter what you do as a musician, but this is how I ended up music directing a lot of artists over the years, it was the natural next step from just playing in the band. Strong conviction in general is a good quality to have whether it’s your own project or working with other people too.
Beau: Casey, you’re widely known as an improviser and a wizard on the keys. Do you have any top tips for improvising?
Casey: Something I’m always working on when I’m improvising is to be expressive. So I guess I would say to work towards having a degree of control over your instrument – or whatever gear you are improvising with – to minimise the obstacles between you and the music. Trying to keep expression and musicality at the front of the mind and makes it less tempting to fall back on something preconceived or superficial.
Beau: What’s your favourite piece of music gear, and why?
Casey: I’ve been getting pretty deep into the world of guitar pedals lately, so at the moment my favourite piece of gear is probably my Red Panda Tensor pedal. It’s a crazy tape effects machine that gives you control over time stretching, pitch shifting and reverse effects. It’s been really inspiring because it opens up a totally new world of sounds that can be manipulated in a spontaneous and musical way, rather than having to painstakingly edit and process audio to get these types of effects. What about you?
Beau: Yeah I love that Tensor pedal too, I need to get one! We ended up using my Moog Realistic MG-1 heaps on our new music, it’s probably my favorite piece of gear at the moment. It was a relatively cheap synth Moog and RadioShack made in the ’80s, there’s no patch memory or MIDI on this thing, so you’re dialing up sounds every time. Sonically it fills up so much space and sounds so unique in the mix whether you’re using it as a bass or lead. It’s polyphonic too, up to ten voices, which is a game changer. I try to use it sparingly as that extra special sauce. Running it through some of our pedals too is a wild ride.
Casey: How do you stay inspired when working with artists remotely?
Beau: I do a lot of recording sessions from my home studio, doing production stuff and playing keys on people’s records so I’m used to that work flow of being on different time zone, sending parts back and forth. And we finished our last record Tellurian remotely when you were living in London; that was a little hard as we’re both perfectionists so the process was trickier not being in the same room. It was inspiring though in the sense that I’d wake up with a bunch of new parts and ideas you had sent me and vice-versa, which would spark different sonic directions to go from.
Of our upcoming features we’ve got one UK based artist and one from the US, so again those were situations where we weren’t all in the one room. The process of working of those two songs was particularly smooth. The artists we reached out to understood what we were going for right off the bat which was really lucky, both worked out to be such a great fit.
Beau: On top of working with This Week In The Universe, you also work as a jazz pianist. Are there any interesting intersections between jazz and electronic music that you’ve experienced over the years?
Casey: One of the cool things about electronic music is how many different ways there are to make it. Jazz is such a big part of my musical experience so for me, there are heaps of intersections, but I think it’s different for everyone depending on your background and taste.
Personally, I find that playing jazz and producing electronic music aren’t that different from each other. Jazz happens in the moment and electronic music is a slower and more meticulous process, but the goal of stating your ideas in nuanced and interesting ways stays the same.
Mixdown: What have you got coming up in your respective careers? Are there any projects you’re really looking forward to?
Casey: We both have a few things happening towards the end of the year, but our new music with this project is what we’re most looking forward to. We’ve got more music coming with some amazing and surprising guest artists. It’s been a lot of fun working on our music with the unique vibe that each guest artist brings to it, so we’re really excited about the releases we have planned for the rest of the year.
We’re looking forward to playing some live shows too. We’d been preparing for it when covid happened so we can’t wait for the time when we can actually get out there and do it.
Beau: I’m really looking forward to be able to do some live shows. We’ve spent a lot of time working on logistics of our live setup. I’ve seen so many electronic live acts that are so backing track heavy, so the goal for us is to have the show as sonically massive as possible while played live as much as possible too.
We have some wild unexpected features that we’re very excited to release into the world, so very keen on unleashing them!
This Week In The Universe’s new single ‘Distance (feat. Ric Rufio’ is out now.