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above & beyond
In the hours before Above & Beyond's performance in Miami during Ultra Music Week, member Jono (right) spoke with us about the group's music and lyric creation process, the evolution of their sound from album to album, and the appearance of dubstep on Anjunabeats.
Above & Beyond feat Zoë Johnston - Love Is Not Enough (Extended Mix) [Anjunabeats]
Above & Beyond feat Zoë Johnston - Love Is Not Enough (Extended Mix) [Anjunabeats]
LessThan3: You’ve been selling out a lot of Group Therapy shows, and also adding additional dates. How does this impact what you’re doing in the studio?
Jono: When we’re in town, to do an extra day doesn’t really affect what we’re doing in the studio, because we were already traveling as it is. Generally, touring does affect your time in the studio adversely so it’s important to make sure you take time off for studio work. I took three weeks off in January for that exact reason. As a group, we tend to block off times to make sure we get zoned in. We don’t work on music much when we are on the road. Working in the right environment is important to me. Some people like working in headphones on trains and planes, but it’s not really for me.
LessThan3: What are you guys working on in the studio right now?
Jono: We’ve been working on ideas for the next album—very early ideas, I might add. Last month we were doing work on the remix of Love Is Not Enough, and also remixing a track by Kaskade; he remixed Love Is Not Enough and we remixed Room For Happiness. The main thing has been trying to come up with new ideas for the next album, though.
LessThan3: What instigated the move to Bayfront Park for this year’s Anjunabeats party?
Jono: Every year the Miami show seems to grow a bit, so it seemed like the next logical step. The show at Bayfront is going to be interesting because it’s a seated gig, but apparently everyone stands up anyway. Maybe we will have a more energetic audience because people will have time to chill as well, though.
LessThan3: How do you get your old material out to your new fans that you pick up over time?
Jono: The more we play out, the more we find people who come to our gigs who don’t know our old stuff. It sometimes feel a bit weird that some of our fans don’t know our older work. There are a lot of new people coming into the EDM scene who come to check out the show and don’t know exactly what we’re about and then they discover it afterwards.
LessThan3: Group Therapy is fairly different sonically from Tri-State. What made you guys move toward the sound that is on Group Therapy?
Jono: The core of our music is the songs and the musical ideas, not so much the style of the production. The style of the production changes over the years, whereas I believe your musical inspiration remains fairly similar over the years. It tends to be the music that you listen to when you’re a kid that really influences the kind of music you write. Every album that we do is going to sound different, and sometimes that upsets some of our fans. I don’t know what the sound of the next album is going to be, but it won’t be exactly like Group Therapy.
LessThan3: Who were some of those childhood influences for you?
Jono: Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and The Smiths, to name a few. I’m also into a lot of jazz, disco, and funk music. A lot of people wouldn’t know that from our music, but it definitely comes out from time to time in what we do.
LessThan3: You’re very much about messaging—what kind of message do you hope the audience is leaving with when they come to one of your shows?
Jono: Paavo is very big on the actual verbal or “typed” messages—I prefer the message in the music. As a result of what’s been going on in the world in the last ten years, there’s a lot of divisive behavior that circulates around subjects like religion and politics. Music is a language that steps outside of all those dividers–we’re born to universally understand music. If there’s one message that we’d like to get across, it’s that when it all boils down, the same things matter to all of us—family, friends, and love.
LessThan3: Do you guys ever write your own lyrics for your vocalists or is it usually the vocalists writing the lyrics?
Jono: We almost always write our own lyrics. When we work with Zoe [Johnston], sometimes she writes her songs. She wrote Love Is Not Enough, for example. As a whole, Tony tends to write the lyrics and Paavo and I tend to concentrate on the music. We all have input into each area, though. Sometimes we will come up with concepts for tracks, like “I really want to write a song about X,” and Tony has the skills usually to come up with lyrics around that theme.

The key is writing from your own experiences, musically and lyrically. If you do that, chances are it will be true to someone else. If you try to make something that you think people want to hear, that’s secondary and not really true to the source. You might get it right every so often, but you might not. The best pop songs are ones people write from their own experiences that then become commercial, rather than a group of guys getting in the studio trying to knock out the next hit. When you get someone like Adele who comes along, people really buy into that.

LessThan3: We’ve heard a lot of dubstep/drum’n'bass remixes of Anjunabeats songs recently. Is Anjunabeats thinking about moving toward a more bassy sublabel—like an Anjunabass?
Jono: Not really—we’ve had a couple of remixes made in different styles of our tracks. With the Seven Lions remix of Love Is Not Enough, we had a competition and his mix was the best mix we got. If we had gotten a house mix that was great, that would have won, and if we had gotten a trance mix that was great, that would have won too. I’ve seen some conspiracy theories that we’re getting into dubstep. I would never rule it out, but its not something I’m personally into. I like some of the records in that genre, but I like some of the records in lots of genres. If someone does a great remix of our track, regardless of the genre, we get excited about it.