Does It Offend You, Yeah?

SPICE OF LIFEBalls-out British electro-rock band allows songwriting to take them on every whim
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From left: James Rushent, Rob Bloomfield, Morgan Quaintance and Dan Coop

Photo: Chrissy Piper

Singer/bass player James Rushent is intrigued by the idea that an uninformed listener might mistake You Have No Idea What You Are Getting Yourself Into (Virgin/Almost Gold, 2008) for a compilation disc rather than the debut full-length album from his band Does It Offend You, Yeah?.

Sure, the corrosive robo-beats and audacious posturing of early singles “We Are Rockstars” and “Let's Make Out” drew comparisons to Justice, Klaxons and Daft Punk, but DIOY,Y? had more in store than just jumping on today's hot sound. With songs like “Dawn of the Dead” and “Being Bad Feels Pretty Good,” the band channels its '80s youth and pulls off musical time warps that would fit perfectly into the soundtrack of any John Hughes flick.

Along with singer/guitarist Morgan Quaintance, keyboardist Dan Coop and drummer Rob Bloomfield, Rushent sees no real difference between dance and rock music, and they all cite The Prodigy and Rage Against the Machine as big influences on their approach to both the studio and the stage. This eclectic mindset is heightened by their lack of preconceived notions when writing their songs.

“It's been pretty much on the fly,” Rushent says. “I used to think there was some magic formula, that there was some magic way of writing a song, and there isn't, really. They just come about.”

For DIOY,Y?, the songs come about from many voices and starting points. Rushent describes the process as “sort of bits and bobs, and in the end we all get together and throw our ideas into the pot. We even let our manager contribute ideas,” he says with a laugh, adding that while their manager offers lots of ideas, most go unused. The band never worries if one song sounds different from the next, but Rushent acknowledges that their different sides do come from their varied recording setups.

The rough dance songs usually start in a digital environment, where Rushent prefers to work in Steinberg Cubase because “it might not be as good as Pro Tools, but it does the job and it does it pretty quickly and it does it pretty well.” But if the guys hit a snag or get bored with the computer, they pick up their instruments, and these sessions often lead to the retro-sounding cuts. Sometimes even the band members themselves were surprised by their own creations, especially with the thunderous “With a Heavy Heart (I Regret to Inform You).”

“That was the one that blew me away when we finished it,” Rushent says. “Is this us? It got me really excited because I didn't think we'd have something come out that way.”

While variety reigns, two sounds dominate the DIOY,Y? palette. Rushent admits they went a bit overboard with the Daft Punk-inspired vocoder effects, but they always backed them with a clean vocal track to keep the lyrics discernable amidst the distortion. The other dominant sound comes from the classic Sequential Circuits Pro-One synth, and Rushent doesn't think he'll ever grow tired of the mushroom-accented keyboard's buzz-saw tones. That was the only piece of gear the band made sure to bring to every studio they used.

Of course, DIOY,Y? is about much more than tinkering in the studio; they're always thinking about making their computer-based songs come alive. The band has built a reputation for chaos-inducing stage shows that can be so hectic, Rushent admits they have trouble settling things down to drop in “Dawn of the Dead” and their other less-riotous songs. But they're working on that; it should be all ironed out as they cross the pond this year for their first full tour of the States, or as Rushent calls it, “a proper boys road trip.” He's excited about the trip and the band's future. As he sees things, the versatility of their debut is just the start of the surprises in store for themselves and their fans. He sees the band's range as the key to surviving the new-rave hype and carving out their own place in the world of music.

“I think I could probably speak for all bands when I say no one likes to be lumped into a scene,” he says. “No one likes to be labeled with a certain type of music.”