Behind the Music: Interview with Dance Lessons

‘Music isn’t just about a banging chorus and catchy lyrics; it’s about balance and giving each other space to perform.’

Following the release of funky new tune ‘Just Chemistry’, Ella McLaren spoke to Dance Lessons to find out more about how the trio are forging a path with a unique brand of ‘serrated pop’. Offering insights into their musical pasts and futures, they reveal what they believe the key to making great music is.

Hi Dance Lessons! Thanks so much for agreeing to speak with us. Can you briefly introduce yourselves to our readers? 
Ann: I’m Ann and I produce, sing and play synths. Nat: I’m Nat, I play guitar. Tom: And, my name is Tom and I play bass and sing.

What is your earliest musical memory?
Ann: My parents took me to see Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”. I remember coming back from the opera so inspired that I was trying to sing the aria by the Queen of the Night (“Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen”). Needless to say, I failed, but it jump-started my love for composing and singing. Nat: My earliest memory is of my Dad blasting Abbey Road in the house when I was about six. It sounded like alchemy coming through the speakers, and looking back, that’s what started my trajectory in becoming a musician. Tom: My whole family are huge music fans. Every meal time was a sing-off to The Beatles, Gloria Estefan and Prince.

How did the name Dance Lessons come about?
Nat: Tom and Ann met at a party and got into an actual dance-off. So when the dreaded band name conversation came up, the dance theme was already there. Add in the fact we make danceable music and the name kinda wrote itself.

You’ve just released your third single, ‘Just Chemistry’, how would you describe this song to someone who hasn’t heard it yet?
Ann: That’s a great question. I’d call it an experimental pop experience with a dash of jazz that invites the listener to ultimately reconsider their relationships. 

“To us, pop ain’t a dirty word.”

‘Just Chemistry’, and your other releases, really stand out from the crowd. We loved the sax solo especially, what drew you to this balance of instrumental and lyrical elements?
Ann: Music isn’t just about a banging chorus and catchy lyrics. Some great songs suffer because they’re overloaded in the voice department. For us, it’s also about the sound and overall vibe and giving each other breathing space to perform. It’s probably where my classical and the boys’ instrumental influences come in. And as you say, it’s that balance that makes the tracks work. 

On Instagram, your bio reads ‘serrated pop’ could you give us some insight into exactly what this means? 
Nat: To us, pop ain’t a dirty word. So we don’t shy away from bringing elements of it into our sound but we always want it to be slightly left field or abrasive, in the best possible way. That’s what ‘Serrated Pop’ means to us.

What genres of music do you find yourselves listening to and why? 
Ann: I like to think I’ve got a fairly eclectic taste that ranges from soul to indie and mainstream pop to classical and some electro. I tend to like music that stimulates me emotionally. I want to be moved by sound. Nat: When I was a kid, rock and hip-hop were the two genres that really resonated with me. But these days, I try to give everything an open-mind and genuinely love so many genres – from house to neo jazz, math rock to disco. Like Ann says, if I have a visceral reaction to something, whatever it is, I can get behind it. But it often starts with a sexy beat and bassline. Tom: No matter how much I try I can’t help but head back to old 70’s funk and soul records. It’s what gets me up in the morning and I rarely go a night without a few disco classics. Why fight it?

Each release has a photo collage as the artwork, what led you to these designs?
Ann: I was initially experimenting with different themes, shapes, and ideas. We wanted the artwork to reflect the music but not be too on the nose. The collages appealed to me because they’re deceptively simple, just like our sound. You’re drawn in. You want to take a second look and listen. 

Your sound is pretty unique, a hybrid mix of funky and zen pop, who do you consider your influences to be?
Ann: Thank you! I think my lyrics are mainly influenced by poetry while the melody is influenced by the music I grew up listening to like Kate Bush, MJ, Tori Amos, film music but also more modern artists like Solange or Thundercat. The production draws a lot more on bands like Jungle and Glass Animals. Nat: When it comes to Dance Lessons, I really lean into my love of Nile Rodgers, Roy Ayers, Prince, Crazy P and Beck to help inform my playing and approaches to the parts I write. Tom: Stevie Wonder, 70s Funk, R’n’B, Disco.

What was the recording process like for ‘Just Chemistry’? 
Tom: We recorded all the parts during lockdown in separate sessions, which could have made it disjointed but it all came together very quickly. I knew immediately when I heard Ann’s chorus vocal that we had something special, so we all went to work on making it a song. The sax solo topped it off – we even left it hanging at the end of the recording as we couldn’t get enough.

How have you found it releasing music during a raging global pandemic? 
Ann: It’s been a hell of a challenge. But, also strangely freeing in that we had more time to write and commit to the creative process. So while the writing of music may have flourished, the actual releasing of it has been difficult. We still can’t perform live and collaborate with other artists on projects because of the current restrictions. 

And finally, hopefully you’ll be able to perform soon since the restrictions in England are finally beginning to ease…Do you have any exciting plans in the works?
Nat: We have just announced that it looks like our first gig will be 4th September at Soho House, Berlin. We can’t wait to get out there and play for people! Fingers crossed they let us fly over.

Thanks Dance Lessons for chatting with us! 

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