Hercules & Love Affair have always known how to tear the roof off a festival dance tent but their new live set-up takes things to a whole new level. Hercules main man Andy Butler’s longstanding love for tougher techno sounds and moody 80’s synth pop now contributes even more to the dynamic show HALA is already renowned for.
“It’s all being reworked,” says Butler gleefully, “Not only is there a different visual language but we’ve sonically injected new life into everything, reworking the dynamics.” Butler well understands the true hedonic spirit of dance music. While he’s now cleaned up his act, he spent years on the front line, developing a massive relationship to drugs and clubs. Now all his energies feed into writing moving pieces of music and bringing that ecstatic buzz to live shows, aiming to elevate audiences around the world.
Hercules & Love Affair’s new album, ‘Omnion’, has refuelled Butler’s appetite. A loose concept piece wherein Butler engages with spirituality and the uncertain times in which we live, it features vocals from a cast that includes The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, Lebanese rockers Mashrou’ Leila, New York singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten, and Icelandic sister act Sísý Ey, as well as regular collaborators Rouge Mary and Gustaph. It can also be seen as an ebullient, contagious response to his newfound sobriety.
From his teenage years, DJing at underground leather nights in his native Denver, to his escape to New York, home to the original wild gay nightworld that gave birth to rave, to inventing Hercules & Love Affair as an outlet for his songs, music was always at the heart of Butler’s universe. Throughout three albums – the retro-futurist Paradise-Garage grooves of the eponymous 2008 debut, the thoughtful elegiac songwriting of 2011’s ‘Blue Songs’, and the bumping, grittier pulse of 2014’s ‘The Feast of the Broken Heart’ – Hercules & Love Affair have nailed a body of work that bridges the dance floor and the home listening experience. Butler’s songs are unique creatures, capable of swaying clubs but also boasting a punctilious attention to orchestration and lyrical bite. This perfectionism began with his opening shot, the 2008 classic ‘Blind’, featuring his college friend Antony “ANOHNI” Hegarty on vocals, and continued through later material with John Grant and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke.
In the live arena Butler ensures there’s no shortfall in vocal talent. Butler is joined on stage by vocalists Rouge Mary and Gustaph, with Alec Storey from Second Storey on electronic drums and machines. Indeed one Guardian review had the headline ‘Who Needs Guest Stars With Vocalists This Good?’. He’s also dived wholeheartedly into the music of his early teens, an era where he describes himself as “an industrial goth kid, stockings and make-up, into more extreme stuff”. This has flavoured ‘Omnion’, which is impressively eclectic and features the gritty, propulsive groove of ‘Controller’ (feat. Faris Badwan) alongside drum machine disco stompers such as ‘Rejoice’ and the triumphant electro- pop of the title track.
The whole live experience is enhanced by wild new design from regular collaborator David Wilson who’s gathered an international coterie of vanguard artists – Andrew Thomas Huang, Matilda Finn, Bertil Nilsson, Ori Toor, Gary Gard, Johnny Chew. Patrick Church and In/Out – to create retina-frazzling, liquid-looking, kinetic visuals.
So Butler and the band are hitting the road performing a vibrant new show, armed with new sonically explorative tracks, spiritually oriented messages aimed at bringing community together and lifting audiences, dazzling them all the while. There has never been a greater time to catch them.