To know PC Music is to have an opinion about PC Music. For the last couple of years, the London-based SoundCloud collective has slowly introduced the world to its warped view of electronic-based pop: it is here that Top 40’s fabricated quality shows its seams on purpose, at times unraveling into chintzy nonsense. Is it commentary, or is it no better than the inauthentic EDM it appears to mock? That’s for listeners to decide, seemingly with increasing frequency over the last six months as PC Music debuted live at SXSW and released their first comp outside of SoundCloud.
PC Music artists claim a narrative of pure pop fun as their own while acting in a way that suggests the intellectualizations surrounding their work are not the totally wrong, either. Mutually exclusive is not really an idea that translates for PC: one minute their leader, A.G. Cook, will be playing Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In a Bottle” while DJing, then next it’ll devolve into a chopped and screwed fun house set, before segueing into the sonic equivalent of bad clipart. Their sound is built on happy hardcore and Eurodance as much as it is a nostalgia for late ’90s pop, though the music varies from artist to artist (some DJ, some perform).
One afternoon back in May, when PC Music invaded New York for their Pop Cube extravaganza with label associate SOPHIE during Red Bull Music Academy Festival, we caught up with three PC Music artists of varying aesthetics during a makeshift press junket at a bar in Williamsburg: GFOTY (aka Polly), PC Music’s shameless and controversial answer to Charli XCX; Danny L Harle, the classical music type whose brings a harpsichord and 3D graphics to his show despite having just two singles out; and Spinee (aka Hana), the down-to-earth DJ still laughing along to her persona as a dog. What follows are condensed versions of our conversations.
GFOTY on the red carpet of PC Music’s Pop Cube, presented as part of the 2015 Red Bull Music Academy Festival this past May. (Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool)
I heard you guys stayed ‘til closing at Dave & Buster’s the other night.
Yeah. It’s not like we’re doing it ‘cause it’s novelty, we’re doing it ‘cause it’s genuinely a really fun thing to do. Why would you want to go to a really posh bar and feel like you need to look really fit? I lost my voice more so after Dave & Buster’s than the PC Music night.
Did you win any stuffed animals?
I got this amazing pink fluffy bird which says BFF and these weird slingshot animals. Then I felt a bit bad because obviously I was having the best time of my life but no one else was. Everyone just started giving their tickets to me, so I was wearing them as a scarf. I was loving it.
Your live show stands apart from the rest of the PC Music crew; you tap into elements of very commercial pop shows — like back-up dancers and big inflatable props — but in a more DIY way. What inspires you in that area?
I never watch music videos, I never watch tours, I never do anything as such to get influence. But, I know what I like. I love Kay Perry, for example. I like how tacky all of her shit is. So, although I don’t watch all that she does, apart from the left sharks, I just like things to be extreme and ridiculous because that’s what’s going on inside my head. That way I can live it out, because you can’t just walk around the street doing that or you’ll get arrested.
How does one achieve “girlfriend of the year status”?
You have to find a guy with loads of money. You have to go to Barbados or Miami. You’ve got to be able to afford five-star hotels. You’ve got to able to afford Starbucks seven times a day, and to go to giant shopping malls, but the nice ones not the gross ones. You just got to have that vibe in your head – like no one can just like become it. You’ve got to have that all together at the same time.
That’s pretty similar to mainstream pop and hip-hop’s aspirational way of thinking. It’s certainly one way to resonate with listeners, even when you push it to the extreme on purpose.
Yeah. When I get messages from people being like, “I used to be a really anxious person, but now when I listen to your music, I feel really confident,” that’s just a really nice thing to hear. I literally never had that in my head, to get people to feel a certain way. I just wanted to do whatever the hell I wanted to do. But it’s nice to be confident and aspirational. But then, someone will hate it and think I’m a dick – like if you watch a video of me and look at the comments. Comments are my favorite thing, better than anything. I read everything bad about myself. It’s better than repeating good stuff about yourself because you just get so full of yourself! But then again, GOFTY is full of herself.
Let’s talk about the debut GFOTY album coming out later this year. What’s the vibe?
I go through phases. Right now I want to be a Kardashian. I like them in a semi-novelty factor, but I’m obsessed. Scott Disick is my favorite, though everyone hates him in America. Two months ago, I wanted to be like Avril Lavigne. Every time I put out a song, it’s very much inspired by what I’m listening to at the moment. Basically, the album is going to be a thousand different genres. It’s like all my mixes with a few extra songs. That’s what is so nice about it, I can really do whatever the hell I want.
Also, I’m really into Gossip Girl as well. I channeling Blair [Waldorf] at the moment. I love her so much, I don’t know what to do.
Do you have a Blair song?
No, but I should definitely do a Blair song. Fuck. Maybe that’ll be my next song. I’ll credit you, I’ll give you 2 percent.
Does Alex [A.G. Cook] or anyone else in PC Music have any say in the direction you go? I’m trying to get a sense of how unified everyone is.
Everyone has their own vision, but it works specific to each person on the roster. I can sit down with Alex and possibly make an album in three hours. It just comes very easily for me. I feel like his stuff is much more constructed — I’m messier. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, it’s easy and really enjoyable.
It could get really bad, but I feel like I could make an album about something so dumb and nobody would really understand it. I just feel like a female version of R.Kelly, really. The “Trapped in the Closet” kind of vibe: “Is he a genius or an idiot?” No one knows. That’s what people think about me right now, and that’s what I’m enjoying.
It’s stupid that people listen to me saying things that don’t make sense — like if you listen to my lyrics, they don’t make sense but people look into them and say, “Oh, she’s so political.” I’m the least political person in the world. It’s fucking hysterical. People think that I’m really pro-feminism and all of that stuff. But literally, I’m an awful person. I’m a horrible, horrible person, but people think I’m amazing, so it’s great.
Danny L Harle
Danny L Harle performs at Pop Cube, part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival, on May 8. (Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool)
What do you think about the relatively new concept of people interacting with PC Music live?
That’s my favorite thing ever. I love the interaction with real people. In terms of Pop Cube or our SXSW show, it’s very important that we establish this idea that PC works conceptually in real life, as opposed to just being a colonization of the internet.. The SXSW show was the initial birth of people actually having fun at these events. I had played a few events [a couple years ago] when PC Music was just starting, and people were being a bit jokey in the audience, thinking this was an experimental, new, cool event they should be at. Now, I see the fans genuinely loving the tunes, and I feel like they get it now.
Your background involves classical music, but I know you’re very interested in video games and the paring of virtual reality with music. What does the future of that field look like to you?
I like that in the arcade, the game on the screen that spins all around to give you a sense of a 360-degree angle. I’d love for that to be in the audience. I want to make stuff that is interesting but that’s a by-product — that’s not the focus. The focus is that it’s entertaining and joyful to listen to.
I would actually like to be involved in video game development as well. I have ideas involving interactivity, and I’m very excited about my visuals being an interactive thing that people can download and be apart of during my live show — but not at the compromise of it being cheesy and gimmicky. Releasing a video game as a single. It would have to be a good game. If it was just vaguely entertaining, it’s just not good enough for me. If I write a tune and it’s OK, I just can’t bear it. I prefer it being bad.
Is there a plan to release a Danny L Harle album at some point? Does that format even interest PC Music?
All the tracks are there, we just got to work it out and figure out the right way to release them. But an album sounds great. What I’m interested in is an album that goes on forever.
What does that mean exactly?
It means that every day there might be something new — a new song added, or some new artwork with a new way of interacting with people who’ve been listening. An idea that I’m interested in is having one album where there’s like 300 tracks on it. People see things in a longer stream of music now. Alex and I were thinking about a way to communicate our music in the context of the internet, and we realized as soon as we put it into a mix, people could just listen to it on our SoundCloud page.
You and Alex [A.G. Cook] look like you’re having a lot fun DJing as Dux Content, seemingly as a throwback to your college and university days together before all this started. What were you guys like back then?
I remember early on we talked about Captain Beefheart. That was the thing that we both liked. I was a very different guy, he wasn’t that different at that point.
Why were you different?
I was obsessed with jazz, specifically free jazz. And that was a big part of my identity. It was a, “Do you like jazz?” phase. It was awful, very teenager. But we reconvened during university, and we had these ideas that made immediate sense because we were discovering new music at the time. We basically had to piece together this culture that we liked that didn’t exist, from all these various sources around the world: some American pop, sped-up Eurodance, experimental video games, some 3D video animation from a woman in Texas, erotic 3D animation for one of our music videos. We didn’t feel like we were doing something that important, but it formed a basis for something that is now quite established.
A lot of people see Alex as PC Music’s leader, but he always gives you credit too. Are there any misconceptions about how the crew started?
Alex has big ideas and I’m very focused; Alex is macro and I am micro. We work very well together, and we establish these ideas and aesthetics together, definitely. But, Alex has always has his eyes on the larger context of it, and I’ve always been involved in the making of it, obsessive about exactly how everything works. I’ve been involved in it, but it’s always Alex saying, “We’re going to frame it in this way or that way,” whereas I’m about the music totally. It’s always been useful to have Alex around to help me out with thinking about how things are presented, because I always assumed that the work speaks on its own. But it doesn’t. I feel very comfortable with the position I have. I’ve only got two solo tracks out on PC Music right now, but I think there will be more stuff of mine will going up soon.
Spinee and A.G. Cook outside PC Music’s Pop Cube, presented as part of the 2015 Red Bull Music Academy Festival this past May. (Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool)
Spinee is a newer character the in PC Music universe, and a little bit mysterious as well: you claim to be a dog. The crew certainly inspires online fodder. Have you read anything written about yourself so far that amuses you?
I feel like I’ve read so much funny stuff. There’s loads of stuff to do with Alex [A.G. Cook] and I dating, which has been happening for like two years but it’s funny how much people speculate over it. Because Spinee became bigger when Polly [GFOTY] and I started doing stuff together [their first Dog Food mix dropped in March, Dog Food 2 dropped in May], it’s funny how people tweet at us being like, “friendship goals. People seem interested in Spinee interacting with other people in the group. Because I’m not a performer as much as everyone else is, so it’s more like an online presence and with the Dog Food mixes, we’re trying to bring a storyline into it as well.
As someone who doesn’t necessarily identify as performer, how do you think PC Music translates into live performance? Does it lose or gain something offline?
This year, it’s been a big thing in terms of PC becoming almost like another dimension in real life. I almost think people weren’t expecting any of us to be able to pull it off — especially all the girls, like Polly [GFOTY] and Hannah [Diamond], who are amazing, insane performers. When you’re behind the screen, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I guess they can make music. Would it be boring live?” Everyone is using the internet to promote ourselves, but when it’s actually live, everyone has a clear vision of what their character is and what they want their live show to be like.
When it’s online people can diminish how much fun it’s supposed to be and ascribe a lot of weight to it.
Yeah, and that’s good for us. It is serious, but no one out of the crew takes themselves seriously in a freaking-out-about-it way. They put in a lot of hard work but at the end of the day, it’s still funny. Everyone just finds it funny.
I mean, it is funny — Spinee is a dog.
I just really love dogs. I’m sorry it’s such a boring answer, but I just find dogs hilarious basically because of how they’re constantly happy, like blindly following people around. There’s something really nice how emotional they are, and I’m actually really emotional all the time. So when Alex and I were thinking about starting a project, he was like, “Write down stuff that you like or stuff that you think is your personality.” I wrote: “dogs, crying, the color purple.” It developed into a strange dog that laughs all the time.
Any regrets on going with the dog as an alter ego?
Yeah, because I’m not going to dress up like a dog. But, I think it’s fun for me because I feel like I’m evolving, even if I want to move away from it. I could just stop talking about the dog aspect of it. I feel like Spinee has a lot of freedom anyway just because there’s not as much pressure in terms of my image as much as someone else in the crew.
Do you ever find that people think Spinee is dude?
Yeah, I’ve literally read so much stuff that’s like, “OMG, I thought Spinee was a German man who takes steroids!” I was actually really happy because I was glad that’s what people thought. I find it patronizing that people say, “OMG, you’re like a girl DJ!” Even having a list of top ten girl DJs… we’re all just DJs. Or they’re like, “OMG, you’re a girl and you like aggressive music!” Like, “wow, well done.” It’s weird.
Well, people think they’re helping by highlighting women in genres where they’re historically in the minority, but they’re actually still siloing and othering women creators by accentuating gender.
Yeah, it’s not like you can seamlessly blend in. Sometimes if you’re in a club setting up equipment and someone will say, “Oh you probably don’t’ know what wires go where.” And I’m like, “I have the same brain capacity as you.”
All the girls in PC are independent, but there’s been so much crap about how everyone’s exploiting the girls. They work so hard on everything they do. They have so much control over what they’re doing. It’s unfair when people take that away from them, like Hannah Diamond, who does her all her own visuals. I try not to dwell on it so much, apart from the parts that are patronizing. I quite like that it’s even ambiguous if certain PC people identify as a girl or a guy.