The galaxy of music genre is an infinite place, however, tucked in the far corner sits This Week in the Universe a futuristic throwback to the ways of old. Think George Méliès and John Carpenter getting it on while Genesis watches.
Every now and then, you stumble across something you’ve never really encountered before, like synthwave music. As the name suggests, synthwave is electronic music created using synthesizers and it’s heavily influenced by the music of the 1980s. The effect is both a nod to the past and a step into the future. We asked Sydney-based electronic act This Week in the Universe, a duo of two professional keyboardist brothers, what was it about 1980s sci-fi that led them to create their dense yet spacey self-titled synthwave debut album.
TBS: Tell us a bit about your brand of synthwave music.
This Week in the Universe: We actually only discovered the genre in the early stages of working on the album. We both write a lot of music and had a few bits and pieces we’d written that we liked, but didn’t fit into in any of our other projects. So we decided to put something together and have some fun with some keyboards. We discovered the whole synthwave world pretty soon after and started checking out more music related to the genre and I think this influenced our subsequent writing.
So I guess our sound is a maybe a little more varied than a lot of synthwave out there. Some of the music on the album falls very much within what might be called synthwave, and some of it is much more experimental. Putting all the disparate influences together into a cohesive album (we hope!) was all part of the fun.
Who or what are some of your influences?
I’d say the 1980s film music/soundtrack thing is mainly where we’re coming from, but there are so many. For the 1980s soundtrack stuff, the big ones for us (and for many others) are John Carpenter and Vince DiCola. Especially Escape from New York (Carpenter) and Transformers (DiCola), but Carpenter scored most of his movies and DiCola wrote plenty of other great music in Rocky IV and a few others so there is no shortage of good stuff.
There’s also a 1970s prog rock influence with bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Genesis, as well as 1980s arena rock like Van Halen and Starship. A lot of jazz and fusion from the 1960s till now, minimalism and present day film music all find their place in there I think. Not to mention some giants like Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Prince who are not only inspiring musically but also in the way they’ve used different keyboards and equipment in creative ways. We grew up with a lot of this stuff too, so besides being big fans of the music, the nostalgia aspect of it all is important for us and the music.
Your stop motion video Contest is awesome. Can you tell us a bit about how it was made?
Early on in the process of making the album, we decided we wanted to make a stop motion video to go along with it. The concept came pretty quickly since the music is pretty influenced by sci-fi, to begin with. We didn’t really know what we were doing at first, but thankfully stop-motion isn’t particularly difficult. It just takes a long long time. We enlisted the help of our uncle and from that point, the whole thing took on a life of its own.
We made our robot from an old action figure and the sets from bits of old phones and keyboards. It took quite a while (2,200 separate shots) but it was a really rewarding experience. I think having a video like this to go along with the record really helps create a bit of context for some quite unusual music. We also hope that it’ll help us build our own world for this music and our future releases to fit into, which is really exciting.
What happened to the robot?
He’ll be back very soon. He has a bright future ahead of him.