One doesn’t have to have made music to know how personal the thought process behind its creation generally is. Once you’ve created on thing in life, you understand the emotional investment behind the process — whether your creation be a jar of pickles, the next great novel, or life. When something comes from your own hands, it just tastes, feels, and looks better.


The idea of the genesis of a thought process is what fuels Fuck Buttons to continually make music. The Bristol-based duo of Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power has churned out three albums, each critically acclaimed in its own right, each wildly different from the one preceding it. Their latest effort, Slow Focus, comes barreling out of the gates like no other Fuck Buttons album has before. “Brainfreeze” starts with a relentless tribal beat before launching into heavy electronic bliss, with little bits of loops echoing in and out of the track with simple ease and leisure. Where previous Fuck Buttons efforts tended towards a more gradual build-up — the kind that made the band’s early pairing as an opener for Mogwai make sense — Slow Focus is a subtle change in style. It is a distinctly new sound for Fuck Buttons, yet one that is completely in theme and step with the duo’s trajectory.

“I think Slow Focus almost felt like that moment your eyes take to readjust after waking up from a very deep sleep, or whatever, and it was kind of based around that idea. That you need to realize that you are somewhere that you don’t understand, or haven’t necessarily been before, [which] might not be very welcoming.” – Benjamin John Power


For a band that bases much of their music on the beauty of musical loops and finding how the ear perceives those changes over time, Fuck Buttons’ writing process could, ostensibly, be a bit difficult and laborious. But Hung and Power avoid any stumbling blocks by taking an interesting approach; each of their records is written from a completely blank slate.

“It has just worked out so much more beneficially to actually start with a completely blank canvas and [have] both of us be involved in the songs in the genesis,” Power says. “I think that we both get to experience the whole lifespan of these tracks, and we get to both see them form in front of our eyes. It’s also a really enjoyable process to be there from the very beginning.”

Understandably, both Power and Hung agree that entering the studio with any pre-conceived notions would influence the end result — but their interpretation of “blank slate” is so severe that they don’t even like to think of any mental imagery while writing the tracks. The whole process, despite their use of a plethora of tools that rely completely on artificial power, is as organic and natural as it can get.

 

“It has just worked out so much more beneficially to actually start with a completely blank canvas and [have] both of us be involved in the songs in the genesis. I think that we both get to experience the whole lifespan of these tracks, and we get to both see them form in front of our eyes.” – Benjamin John Power

 

The complexity and nature of Fuck Buttons’ music makes such an approach actually make sense. Anyone can pick up a guitar and strum around for a few minutes to find a grand riff, but to tweak and twiddle with perfecting a loop takes a bit more time, focus, and perseverance. At the risk of sounding dramatic, Fuck Buttons’ process to creating a song runs with a few parallels to the unfolding creation of life.

The process begins with the two setting up with their equipment on a table, facing one another — a mirror of their live performance, as Hung explains.

“The first thing we try and do sounds we both enjoy, so it’s normally a combination of things we are playing individually, and they are married together,” he says. “What those components are doing together is the most time consuming element of the process. Once we find something that is working — that is when we start fleshing it out.”

This initial married sound is the basis for all Fuck Buttons tracks, in a sense; a foundational loop set on repeat for eight or nine minutes will evolve in ways that one’s ears would not expect. Sometimes those loops may seem lost beneath tidal waves of other loops — but they are ever present, sometimes disappearing only to emerge at the end of a track as a song begins to subside. “Sentinents”, one of the more odd sounding tracks on Slow Focus, begins with a distant electronic beat that is quickly relegated to the background by other bizarre sounds. For much of the six-and-a-half minutes, the beginning loop is an afterthought; yet that specific afterthought does indeed comprise the foundation of the track.

The juncture at which Fuck Buttons determine a song has fully created its foundation is something that neither Power or Hung can Easily determine. It isn’t always a eureka moment — and it isn’t a logically-patterned process.

 

Fuck Buttons – “Brainfreeze” Music Video

Directed by Andrew Hung

 

“It is hard to pinpoint a point at which we both decide, ‘This is now a song,'” Power recalls. “There are so many stages. It is a little bit more abstract in that way, to pinpoint how something happened. That is just the way we’ve come to work, and it works out for us.”

Slow Focus is the first album the duo have produced themselves, although both Hung and Power agree that the term production is now a bit archaic. Throughout their creative process, Fuck Buttons were constantly writing the songs then slowly fine-tuning them, even in the studio. The lone difference between their approach now and a few years ago was just having the technical knowledge of software.

“I guess our minds work as producers,” Power explains. “We don’t really want anyone to alter our artistic outlook, in a sense… Before, [with] the last two records, we didn’t have too much technological knowledge when it comes to the packages you use to record tracks — whereas this time around, we have had a little bit more practice. We’ve done things like that in our spare time, so it seemed like a logical step for us to take.”

Just as the band’s music takes time to grow, from song to song and album to album, the band themselves are slowly incorporating more elements into the presentation of their product. Fuck Buttons now preforms with visuals developed personally by the duo, and Power insists it is to complement what is going on stage, because — not to sound narcissistic — they like everyone looking at them when they perform live.

Slow Focus is a successful progression for Fuck Buttons, but it isn’t necessarily their most realized effort to date. Hung and Power are of the rare type, who release album after album that stacks up to its predecessor as well as the one following it. Their career is not defined by pinnacles that can never again be reached — and there might never be. But if that means album after album of equal caliber, there will be few complaints from this side of the pond.

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Related Feature: Fuck Buttons Interview (2009)

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