Subtlety Isnt a Strength for Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Let's get something straight right off, okay? Does It Offend You, Yeah? is not particularly offensive, unless you're offended by stupid band names or brain-dead party music. A few purists may be chafed by the lack of originality on the band's recently released debut, You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into, but new ideas are optional when you're talking about the instant gratification you'll get when any of the disc's tracks detonates the dance floor of your favorite hipster dance party. And make no mistake: Each and every one of these songs is going to be played to death by every indie/electro/retro-spinning DJ in the business.
The members of Does It Offend You, Yeah? take some of the hottest sounds of the past five years — the ripping electro of Daft Punk and Justice; the raw, furious dance punk of Death From Above 1979; the guilty pleasures of '80s synth-pop that seem to be seeping into everything — and blend it all into a gooey, abrasive, cheeky mix. It isn't deep, and it sure as fuck isn't subtle, but faced with war, recession, terrorism and ecological collapse, who has time for any of that shit? Goddamn if it isn't the perfect sound of now: cheesy electronics, anthemic riffs and crackling beats powered by a fuck-all attitude. It's all aimed at moving your ass and having a good time, everything else be damned. It probably has less of a shelf life than organic produce, but who cares about tomorrow, even if it does come?
Does It Offend You came together just two years ago, when Dan Coop and James Rushent began writing electro-influenced tracks together in their bedrooms. They banged the first track out over a long weekend and followed it with another on each of the following two weekends. After the third one, their efforts attracted serious label attention.
"I just think we were writing the kind of music that A&Rs wanted to hear at that time," Coop muses. "I'm sure if we were in the same position this year — everyone is looking for something new now. But at that time we were sort of, like, being chased, really. It was really quite odd."
After the record labels came calling, Coop and Rushent decided it was time to recruit additional members to help them flesh out their live show rather than become stodgy electronic-wrangling dorks. Live, Coop handles synthesizer duties while Rushent plays bass and sings, sometimes through a vocoder. Adding Morgan Quaintance on guitar, synthesizer and vocals and Rob Bloomfield on drums completed the transformation from bedroom producers to full-blown band.
"We were a bit like, 'Yeah, we'd like to be signed, but we don't like being DJs — never really been into that,'" Coop recalls. "We didn't want to be a production team, where we'd have to stand behind laptops playing in clubs every Friday or whatever. So we just said, 'Okay, if we're going to do it, we've always wanted to be in a band, so we're going to do it properly.' Do whatever we've done in the past, but do it properly live. So we called on a couple of our friends that we'd known for a while and said, 'Look, we've managed to come up good and get a record deal. Do you want to come on board?' And they were like, 'Sure.'"
The move appears to have paid off. In the course of its short existence, the band has earned a reputation for high-intensity, explosive live performances, most notably drawing rave reviews for a set at SXSW that won a slew of new industry fans.
"We're not the kind of people just to...we don't like standing still on stage," Coop explains. "It makes us more self-conscious. I think the more energy you put into the show, the more energy the crowd responds. And I think we're not the kind of band that wants to stay still and create, like, a magical atmosphere. It has to be an electric atmosphere. That's what we're after, really — just a really loud and live show."
The seeds of this attitude toward performance were planted years ago, when Coop was growing up in Reading, England, home to one of the U.K.'s biggest music festivals. One year, while attending the festival, he was fortunate enough to catch a set that contained much of what his band would draw on in later years.
"So every year, I'd just sort of go along to this festival and see bands," says Coop. "And one year the lineup was Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine and Prodigy, one after the other. And I went to that show and thought, 'That is pretty much what I want to do from now on.'"
Prodigy's electronic assault and crossover appeal to rock audiences is an obvious touchstone. The Beasties' fusion of hip-hop with punk's attitude is another, mirrored in Does It Offend You's punk-rock take on dance music. And the ferocious energy of Rage's live show is an obvious inspiration for the group's on-stage antics. Coop's later experiences as a DJ and promoter provided the final pieces of the puzzle, but rock and roll always played a vital role in his musical life.
"I used to DJ drum-and-bass and techno," he explains. "I used to put on squat parties and things like that, warehouse parties. I always listened to more band music; I'd always go out and play DJ shows and play electronic music. But when I was in my own bedroom, I'd be listening to rock music. So I think that's where the sort of idea of Does It Offend You came from — just like the merging of the two things."
Despite the focus on over-the-top sound and performance, Coop says the act is evolving toward a more rounded repertoire.
"In our show now, we've got slower tracks as well," he points out. "We've kind of grown up a bit and realized that you can't have an hour and fifteen minutes of a total onslaught of electro-rock sort of thing. So we've got tracks where we can chill out a bit, we've got poppier stuff, but the heart of the band is, like, to have a raucous live show and really go through it on stage."
That evolution can be heard on several album tracks, most notably "Dawn of the Dead" and "Being Bad Feels Pretty Good," tracks that recall the more laid-back but still eminently danceable sounds of groups like the Human League. Whether these tracks will catch on with fans as well as the blistering electro anthems the group has built its reputation on remains to be seen.
"We wanted to show the yin and the yang of our personalities," says Coop. "We're not fully into electro bangers all the time. When we get home, we like to listen to other stuff. So we've shown our other influences, like '80s pop music and stuff like that. I think you'll be surprised. You might be a little bit shocked — I think a few people are — but hopefully you'll like it.
"We were just discussing this earlier today, saying in America it's not as bad as it is in England. In England, people really strive to put you in a box and say this is what this band is," adds Coop. "But in America, we found that when we're out there, that everyone, the crowds, were so open and didn't care what you were about. They just wanted to see you do a good show — whereas in England, you get, like, little scenes, little crowds of people that come to all the gigs, which can be annoying when you want to break out of a certain thing."
If it can succeed in broadening its appeal, Does It Offend You may be able to stave off the imminent expiration of its of-the-moment sound. In the meantime, the band is touring incessantly, bringing the party and living up to the title of one of its signature songs, "We Are Rock Stars."
"We've been constantly on the road for about a year and a half," notes Coop. "We just had ten days off, really, just last week, because we'd been touring so much that we kind of lost all touch with reality. We started to have a few arguments and stuff, just petty things, really. But now we're all ready to go back out again and just try and do our best in America and see what people think of us."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.