AlunaGeorge: When Two Became One
From MySpace and mermen, to commercial radio play and isolated recording locations, The WILD caught up with dynamic duo Aluna Francis and George Reid, a.k.a. AlunaGeorge, as they embarked on their first headline tour at the end of 2012. With a string of critically acclaimed singles and an album due out in spring, this London twosome are destined for big things in 2013.
Is it right that you initially met through Myspace?
George: Yeah, I emailed Aluna’s old band and offered to do a remix for them. They said yes and they liked it. It sounded nothing like her band, but it was really fun regardless, and we found it fun working together.
So Aluna was making quite different music prior to your remix. Do you ever have any conflicts over what direction you’re going in?
Aluna: Yeah, occasionally we do. On the funk levels! [Laughs]
George: There are times when Aluna will be trying to get something out of me in the music and sometimes, through shortcomings of my talent, I’ll be struggling. There was this one time where I made this beat and I was so into it. I pressed play and was like, “Check this out. It’s wicked!” I stopped it and – it cut me in two this did – she just went, “To be honest mate, everything you’ve done in the past few weeks has been a little bit too funky.”
You need to tone down the funk!
George: It wasn’t even an argument. I guess I just didn’t realise.
Aluna: It’s just so ingrained in you. You’re a funk-soul brother. You can’t help it!
Do you think you’ve found a balance between the two of you?
George: That was the first thing. It was really easy. We didn’t feel like we were stepping on each other’s toes. Everything Aluna was saying to me I was like, “Yeah, that’s good!” And everything she was singing sounded great.
Aluna: I think we’re also quite good at just creating space where maybe if we don’t get it at first, we’ll give the other person the chance to play around a bit more and come out the other side with whatever idea it is, rather than just cutting it down too early.
How do you feel about being played on radio playlists with the likes of Lady Gaga and One Direction?
Aluna: It’s bloody surprising considering that when we started people were like, “Oooh what is that you do?” I guess as we’ve developed our sound, and somehow people have decided that they get it and have given it a name [R&B].
George: It’s a real privilege. It’s cool they’ve given us this platform. There are so many more people who we would never have imagined would be hearing our music. The music is weird. There are these songs that you can kind of hum along to, but it is a little bit bizarre in some places.
Aluna: I’m hoping that it reflects somehow that some of our songs make sense to people.
Do you still get to listen to music when you’re making music?
Aluna: When we went away to write for a week in a residential studio, I don’t think I listened to any music.
George: I tried a little bit, but I think you were in bed. It was sneaky listening.
Aluna: You sneak!
George: It was a blessing in disguise. We did a final push for the album. The deadline was coming up, and Aluna suggested we should go away and write in a residential studio and just switch off all distractions. I couldn’t get the internet to work, so there really were no distractions. The only frustrating thing was I couldn’t get “Beez in the Trap” on the sound system and I really wanted to hear it!
Would you ever request to be sent to an isolated location to record, such as a cabin in the woods or a desert island?
Aluna: It worked once!
George: It was a cabin in the woods!
Aluna: It’s good to know that when things get too busy and stressful and we feel a bit stagnated, that if that’s not working, you can just send us away somewhere and we’ll do something.
You played on the same bill as James Blake in Paris. Would you say you align yourself with pop/R&B side of commercial music, or would you like to keep in touch with the more experimental, electronic side of things à la Blake?
George: You want to hold on to everything really.
Aluna: I think that once our album comes out, we will have one foot on the electronic side, as there are tracks on there that you can’t play on the radio because they’re not pop tracks. That’s a real part of what we do. We love a good waltz, or something with the longest intro ever.
George: That’s the beauty of an album. You don’t get to do what the fuck you want, but you kind of do. You just get to be yourself. It’s still very much a bit of both because the whole pop side of it is equally important. There’s something massively impressive about writing a song that connects with millions of people, no matter what genre.
Would you say that you’ve got quite a lot of creative freedom?
George: Yeah, as it’s just me and Aluna, it’s quite a self-contained unit. We are getting the album mixed by someone else, but [otherwise] there aren’t any third parties involved.
Aluna: We’ve been pretty strict with each other. I’ve not been allowed to use the word “rowdy” and George hasn’t been allowed a funk solo!
Would you ever collaborate with someone else?
George: I think it’s foolish to say never to something like that.
Aluna: We’ve dabbled with a couple of people just for fun, haven’t we?
George: It’s [been] quite fun, because we are us, but we are us all the time. We deal with each other everyday. It mixes it up and even makes us appreciate each other more, or we learn something from it.
Aluna: But not on a permanent basis. I don’t think we’d get a third member.
Finally, what is your WILD Wish?
Aluna: You know James and the Giant Peach? Well, instead of a giant peach it’d be a giant Easter egg and I’d live in it. Yeah, I can just eat chunks of the wall.
George: Can we just keep that? That’s much better than anything I could say!
Aluna: Would you like to be a merman, so you could live with the fishes?
George: That’d be pretty sick, yeah. Aluna: You’d look good with a tail! George: What do I lose if I become a merman? Aluna: Oh shit… Everything! [Laughs]
All photos by Arved Colvin-Smith