How easy is it to manipulate popular culture? Ask Klaxons' Simon Taylor-Davies. Long before the British guitarist and his cohorts, vocalist Jamie Reynolds and keyboardist James Righton, were musically proficient by his standards, they announced that they'd created a sonic style called "new rave" — and the term quickly seized the attention of trend-conscious U.K. music mavens. "We had labels and lawyers and managers after us, definitely within the space of a week of the band forming," he recalls.
In addition, the colorful garb the band wore in a video for "Gravity's Rainbow," a highlight of Klaxons' first CD, Myths of the Near Future, subsequently turned up on the racks of Topshop, a High Street fashion mecca, and then on the backs of youths throughout England. "There's a definite group of people who dress in certain ways and consider themselves new-rave kids," Taylor-Davies notes. "Which is still kind of baffling to me."
Some reviewers were equally puzzled by Klaxons' rapid rise, and Taylor-Davies understands why. "We weren't really musicians," he acknowledges. "One of us went to art school and one of us studied history, and the other studied philosophy." And while the central idea behind the trio — imposing concepts and imagery from literature and other high-art sources on mainstream youth music — was clever, the combo initially had trouble executing it in concert. When they participated in January's NME Indie Rave Tour, he maintains, "we were a horrific live band." Today he believes Klaxons have developed into a "huge live machine" simply by dint of experience and repetition: "If you play every day, it's kind of hard not to become good."
Meanwhile, critical re-examination led to Myths' being nominated for the Mercury Prize, a prestigious award for the year's best album. The players arrived at the ceremony well lubricated enough to go after scribes who'd "given us awful reviews," Taylor-Davies says. "James, especially — we had to kind of hold him back. He was absolutely taking after journalists outside. He was literally saying, 'There's no fucking way I'm talking to you, you fucking idiot.'"
The revenge got even sweeter when Klaxons unexpectedly won the Mercury, besting favorites such as Amy Winehouse and Bat for Lashes (page 78). While Taylor-Davies was thrilled by the accomplishment, he confesses, "I'm still kind of confused as to what it means. We were always confident that we'd made a great record, but I'm still trying to figure out what someone else's seal of approval means."
Nonetheless, he's looking forward to starting on a new album. And if the second one isn't as acclaimed as the first, he's not worried, since he has skills that translate to other careers.
"Hopefully, one day," he says, laughing, "we'll have high-paying jobs in marketing."