LONDON — Beloved British electronic duo the Chemical Brothers released their 10th album on Friday, more than three decades into their career. But does it get any easier with time?
Not according to one-half of the outfit, Tom Rowlands.
“I think it’s just more complicated” he said, speaking via Zoom from his studio in the U.K. “Everyone’s got a new theory on how to do it.”
Prior to the album’s release, Rowlands and Ed Simons shared four singles from the forthcoming album, “For That Beautiful Feeling” — including their second collaboration with Beck, the track “Skipping Like A Stone.” They previously worked with the singer on the 2015 track “Wide Open.”
They also made it a point to test the tracks out on dance floors and festival fields prior to the album — “playing them (live) as we write them,” as Rowlands explains — which, in turn, influenced their studio decisions.
“I don’t know if it’s the right way to release an album,” he smiled. “I can’t quite keep up with what is the right way, but it’s how it’s happening.”
It’s working. Audiences responded well to the smattering of tracks from “For That Beautiful Feeling” that the Chemical Brothers wove into their sets this summer, no doubt drumming up excitement for the new release.
The rave-ready “No Reason” became the lead single from the record — because it felt “fresh and different” and also “really fun to play live,” says Rowlands. But really, it’s all about how he and Simons feel about the track — and sometimes if a song doesn’t go over well in front of an audience, well, that just solidifies its value to the duo.
“Sometimes something going down really badly, will just convince you of its greatness even more,” Rowlands says of this live-first tactic. “You’re like, ‘Yes. People aren’t ready for this!’”
Together since 1989, with 10 albums and countless performances across the globe, the duo has seen their fair share of the good and the bad.
Headlining the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2000 is a standout — though Rowlands says it was “so massive it’s hard to get a handle on what you’re doing.”
And then there’s the bad: A very different experience during a 9:30 a.m. set in Ibiza, early on in their career that didn’t quite go to plan.
They were “the wrong people at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Rowlands recalled. “Just lots of anger and tears … sensible people would’ve gone to bed and then have a nice juice breakfast.”
For the nighttime live music lovers, the Chemical Brothers are looking forward to getting back on the road for a tour that kicks off Oct. 26 in Glasgow. They’re eager to use stunning visuals from longtime collaborators Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall — and test drive additional music that didn’t make the record, or as Rowlands puts it: “thousands of hours of noodling.”
On tour, “you can do your lights exactly how you want and get everything really tuned to how you want it to be,” Rowlands added. “That’s really exciting for us.”
In addition to the new album and the tour, the duo will release a book in October titled “Paused in Cosmic Reflection,” authored by Simons and Rowlands’ friend Robin Turner, with their input. But as a band who are constantly looking forward, it isn’t something Rowlands is quite ready to read.
“I’m going to save it for a flight or retirement.” He smiled.
This story has been updated to correct attributions of quotes to Tom Rowlands, not Ed Simons, and the name of the Beck collaboration track, which is “Skipping Like A Stone,” not “Feels Like I’m Dreaming.”