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From Bedroom To Dancefloor

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
From Bedroom To Dancefloor

Auckland duo Kids of 88 have domineered the airwaves with their catchy take on synth pop. Now they are releasing their bedroom-produced debut album Sugerpills. JULE SCHERER, of NZPA, talks to singer Sam McCarthy about sudden fame, record labels and making people dance.

Wellington, Aug 15 NZPA - Since Auckland duo Kids of 88 put their track My House on social networking website MySpace, life has been pretty much like a rollercoaster-ride for schoolmates Sam McCarthy and Jordan Arts.

The track, produced in McCarthy's bedroom, was played on heavy rotation on music channels and radio stations nationwide and sparked the interest of record labels around the world.

The 22-year-olds describe their music as "a cross between a late 80s police drama intro theme and a sophisticated super hussy". The synthesiser-heavy dance music combines catchy tunes with a light-hearted sleaziness and seems to have filled a gap in the New Zealand music scene.

It all started when music channel C4 picked the track for one of their promos.

"We didn't even have a music video then, but people started e-mailing to the network," singer McCarthy tells NZPA.

So they got themselves a grant from NZ On Air, shot a video and from there things took off.

"It was really this exponential expansion from just this one song. It was bizarre to handle and even just being local in New Zealand it was kind of hard to grasp.

"From the moment that it happened we didn't run out and grab the response with open arms, it was really calculated and we became more reclusive and sat inside and concentrated on writing songs," he says.

Their second single, Just a little Bit -- released almost 12 months later -- also made its way into the charts and record labels kept knocking on their door. But the band took their time before signing with major label Sony Music.

"You have to approach those things with a grain of salt because I think if we fell into this loving open arms, it would probably implode and we wouldn't have come out with such a creatively free agreement," he says.

"We did go to these bizarre places -- to LA, New York and London -- kind of like a tour of record companies and meet and greet, which was a bit of a whirlwind adventure for a couple of months.

"It was very character building and we learned a lot by just going to this meetings and then stepping back. We got to figure out quite quickly how the record labels would act, or their take on things, and which were the rogue ones."

But even with a label on the roll, the Kids of 88 decided to keep to their old habits when working on Sugarpills.

"We produced it ourselves, and we didn't go all out and buy fancy toys and what not.

"We've always worked with a fairly simple set-up and we like to keep it that way, because if we got too far down the rabbit hole of electronic equipment we would just be lost and we would never come up with any work, so we kept it the same set-up on which we created My House with."

For the first year they would be just sitting in a small bedroom in an Auckland suburb producing their music. The success of My House gave them the means to expand into a second room.

"Having a studio in your bedroom was slightly romantic and very low-key, you would never leave and all would be in your headspace but we found having this division helped a lot," McCarthy says.

The next step was to figure out how to translate their music into a live performance.

"It's tricky, especially with dance music, because it is this orchestral arrangement of machinery.

"You try to get a whole lot of people to break out of their comfort zone and dancing, that is the point of dance music, and to translate that stuff that was created in a 4 square metre room to a bigger venue was quite hard," he says.

Being heavily influenced by British dance music of the early 90s like Happy Mondays or Underworld, the duo wanted to include more musicians for their live performance.

"Even if it was the two of us who created it and worked on the songs, there was always going to be a more collective approach for playing live."

So they added a guitarist -- the real kid of 88, being born on August 8, 1988 -- and a drummer to the line-up.

With New Zealand pretty much under their thump, the Kids from Onehunga are now setting out to take on the world, starting with Australia. Over the Tasman My House has already found its way on to radio-playlists and the band recently opened for US disco-glam band Scissor Sisters. But they also promise a couple of live performances in New Zealand in the coming months.

*Sugarpills is out tomorrow (Aug 16)

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