Above & Beyond Discuss Their New Album And The Time They Almost Got Arrested In Times Square

All right, y’all know the drill. We went to EZoo, we interviewed Jono and Paavo from Above & Beyond, it took me so long to put this up because transcribing interviews is a pain the butt, okay? Anyway. If you’re not familiar. Above & Beyond is a legendary electronic music act who’s consistently ranked among DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs, they’ve been nominated for a Grammy for their song “We’re All We Need”, they sold out Madison Square Garden—basically, they’re a huge fucking deal. We got the chance to chat with them, so read below. Also, they just sold out Red Rocks in Colorado and announced their new album Common Ground during the live broadcast of ABGT250, which took place last weekend at the stunning Gorge Amphitheater in Washington State. They’ll be touring in support of the new album with shows at Los Angeles Convention Center on December 29 and Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY on January 27. Be sure to sign up for ticket presale registration here.

Are you guys excited?

-Very, actually. Yeah, really looking forward to it. I mean, New York, Electric Zoo.

-Yeah, we did the little boat trip to here and back this afternoon, and it was such a jolt of energy for 20 minutes.

-After that, it was like okay, I think tonight’s going to be great. Obviously, we didn’t expect the rain. We’ll see how it affects things, but sometimes it even makes it better, so fingers crossed.

You guys play really high energy shows, so what do you do to get pumped up?

It’s just the music really, isn’t it? And caffeine sometimes.

What are some of your favorite festivals that you’ve played?

-Electric Forest is really good fun. It’s a bit different, that’s why I mention that one. It’s not the biggest one that we play, but it’s just kind of different, because it feels very earthy and what’s that word…how would you describe it? Raw.

-Raw. And I think Creamfields is, in the UK. It was the 20th birthday of Creamfields in the UK, so we were there. Was it last week? I think it was. Yeah, so it was an amazing, amazing party as well. It’s nice that these festivals have been going on for such a long time. And people are still going there, and it’s probably the third generation of people going there, and it’s still totally happening.

Above & Beyond Electric Zoo

I’m assuming you spend a lot of time together on the road. I read that you tend to get in some mishaps, like that time in Times Square when you almost got arrested.

-Basically, we thought it would be…now it’s laughable…we thought it’d be a really good idea to play our video [for “We Are All We Need”] and to turn up in Times Square, and the police weren’t very happy when loads of people did turn up. It was kind of mob-y and people were mobbing us and [the police] were basically like, “you need to move on now.” And there were horses and stuff with them.

-It was one of those situations, where a little bit more people than anybody was expecting turn up, and it got to the point where the police got a little bit intimated. There’s so many people there, that it was one of those situations that could get a bit out of hand.

And you guys were the guys who caused it.

-It was really peaceful, like really. People were really nice and everything, but they just didn’t like the fact that lots of people had turned up to a place when they weren’t expecting it.

You all sold out Madison Square Garden, what’s that like?

-I think it’s only afterwards, when you really think about it. Sometimes with a big show like that, you’re kind of getting through the show, you know? There was so much to think about, because we had a lot of new music, and we were kind of—well I can only speak for myself—it was quite a stressful experience getting everything ready for that, so only afterwards do you sit down and go, “Oh yeah, we just played Madison Square Garden.”

Did you guys think selling out Madison Square Garden was the top?

Well, it was like, a turning point in terms of our show especially. For years we’ve been in the situation where we’re doing a lot of these shows and wanting to create a really cool-feeling show for people, and we’ve never had the budget to really do everything. When our management said, “Okay we’re going to do a show at Madison Square Garden,” that felt a little bit like, “oh my god, how is this gonna go?” And then we heard it’s sold out, and that’s when the pressure was on us, because management were saying, “Okay, now we’re doing Madison Square Garden, give us the show, it better be amazing,” so we were under crazy pressure. Going through all of that and pulling off the Madison Square Garden show, everything’s felt kind of easy after. Nothing is as difficult as doing that show. 

I know you have a new single out, do you guys want to talk about that a little bit more?

-Well, we’ve been working on a new album now, for well over a year. Over the next six months there’s gonna been quite a few new tracks coming out. The latest single is called “Tightrope,” and we wrote it with a guy called Marty Longstaff.

-But the [other] one is “My Own Hymn,” which you’re probably thinking about. That’s coming out next week.

I feel like the whole Bryan Cranston thing was huge. Do you guys watch Better Call Saul or are you more OG Breaking Bad fans?

I love it. Not everyone loves it, clearly. If you speak to people about that show, I think it’s brilliant. Because I think it’s got a bit more space in it. I don’t think it’s better than Breaking Bad. I don’t like it when people compare those things, because it’s a different thing. There’s a bit more room for the characters to breathe. It’s not quite as stacked in terms of storyline. But, yeah, I really like the show. The man has only gotten better and better, I think.

Before we wrap up, your new music, what makes it different? What makes you excited about it other than the fact that it’s new?

-I think there’s a couple of things, really. First of all, obviously, you have to be excited about ideas that you’ve had musically, but I think the challenge factor is still…Paavo and I over the last year, especially, we’ve really reworked how we work in the studio quite a bit and feel like we’re learning a lot at the moment and that part of it is kind of what makes it exciting—for me, anyway. And getting to share the fruits of our work with other people, and having other people enjoy it is a really special thing about our job. We not only get to make something, but we get to share it with the rest of the world, and a lot of people get a lot of pleasure from it.

-Making music is such a deep subject. It’s like you could never say that I know everything about music.

-No, or life.

-There’s so much to it as well, because on the other hand you’ve got songwriting, on the other hand you have our internal relationships working. How do we work with each different track? Then we obviously work with Zoe Johnston and Marty Longstaff and these other people. How do we work together? You know, how do we actually get there? There’s so much that we don’t understand; I think we never will, and that’s what keeps it interesting.

-It’s not as if you master this thing, you know? It’s forever changing and you’re forever changing and your audience is changing; everything about it is very dynamic. That’s the exciting bit of everything, really. It’s not something you can really get bored of, because it’s not static enough to do that, you know what I mean?

Above & Beyond

Do you have any dream collabs? If you had to pick someone or a few people?

-That’s a really tricky one isn’t it? I’d say Prince, ‘cause he’s dead, but…


-I don’t know. It’s funny now. We’ve kind of got onto this tip of wanting to discover new things, rather than collaborate with people who already exist. I don’t know. We kind of want to champion new talent, really, so it’s a difficult question to answer for that reason.

Is there someone new that you guys are excited about?

-One of the things we’ve been doing, because we run a record label. I think in the last six months, we’ve realized that what we need to do is collaborate more within this camp of Anjuna producers. Share knowledge, share tips for songwriting, production, all that kind of stuff. But in a way, my dream collab are all these amazing producers that we know, but haven’t really gotten down to the nitty gritty about production. That’s one of those everybody wins situations.

-The thing for me is, there’s a lot of artists that I really admire, but wouldn’t necessarily want to collaborate with. I’d rather let them do their thing. If that makes any sense, because it’s kind of a weird one. I don’t know. There’s loads of artists out there that are amazing. I don’t know.

Are there any new people that you guys are super excited about? That you’re trying to champion?

-Well, Yotto. He’s not such a new guy anymore.

-He’s someone we signed to our label.

-Yeah, Yotto is sort of right on the edge of deep and the slightly more banging stuff, so we got Yotto and Graham.

Check out Above & Beyond’s new album, Common Ground, and sign up for presale to their LA and NYC shows here!