Interview | Woolfy vs Projections

Interview | Woolfy vs Projections

Astral projections, starlight and a Cali duo's distinct Left Coast style.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

If your connection to deep house or dance music runs back far enough, you're probably familiar with Guidance Records. For Woolfy vs Projections, it's the label where they got their start. Simon James and Dan Hastie, as they're also known, have been collaborating on their own unique brand of spaced-out house, seaside-folk-jazz and dubby, fuzzy disco since the track 'Kingsburg' landed on windy city label back in 2002. 

Since then, a resurgence in the Balearic sound has grown up around them and it's a place where the duo find themselves right at home. This summer, James and Hastie released their third full-length for Munich's Permanent Vacation. Entitled Stations, the record is billed as the final chapter in the intergalactic saga of Captain Starlight, a character drawn from the 1979 song of the same name by eccentric German pop outfit Zazu. While the connection to Starlight has cooled since Woolfy vs Projections 2008 debut, The Astral Projections of Starlight, the cosmic-balearic sentiment has not. 

Catching up with the pair in their Ojai studio over Skype, we got to the bottom of their adventure with the good Captain, their laidback West Coast approach to making music and whether or not they'll actually make it to the White Isle that's come to be their musical kindred spirit. Here's what they had to say.

This interview originally ran on Abstract Science for WLUW 88.7 FM. Download the podcast.

Before talking about your new album specifically, take us back through how you zeroed in on the Captain Starlight theme that's made it's way into your trio of records. 

Simon: The original, Zazu "Starlight," that was one of our favorites. One day we were in the studio and we had this beat going with, like Thomas Dolby samples and all this other stuff. The lyrics just came out and we just decided to do this space journey. So the first album was much more focused on that. It just seemed like a good idea to do some concept stuff because we wanted to do something a little bit different. 
You guys had the cosmic journey of 2008's Astral Projections of Starlight and 2012's The Return of Love seems to have brought your sound back down to earth a little bit. Now, with this summer's Stations, it feels like you've struck a balance between the two. 

Dan: It is kind of a combination of the two, bringing in the folk, psychedelic, rock thing mixed with the dance music. It's just what we felt like doing at the time and it loosely works around the adventures of Captain Starlight. 

Simon: Very, very loosely. There was one track that was supposed to be on Stations, called "Astronaut" and I think we forgot to submit it with the masters. It just kind of slipped our mind. So there were a couple of tracks that would have made much more sense as this album being the final chapter in Starlight's adventure. There are a couple remixes coming out and Permanent Vacation will give them as a package deal with these other tracks like "Astronaut." We didn't quite realize that the press was going to be building so much around this being the third album, so we're just kind of saying, ' well, this is what Starlight's doing today.' 

Reading some of your other press for this record, I got a sense that this was the case. It makes for a good press release story but maybe wasn't at the heart of what you were doing in the studio. We're all dying to know what happens! 

Simon: Maybe if we'd gotten a little bit of a heads up, we could have changed some of the titles, we could have put 'Starlight's Last Stand' or something. There are so many things we could have done. 

Dan: He's just on earth living out his golden years at this point. Living the bachelor life. 

Looking back at your last records, it sounds like you would find an idyllic setting to record. Did you head off somewhere picturesque for this record as well? 

Dan: Where Simon lives in Ojai, it's pretty picturesque and has a vibe to it anyway so we did most of that record here. This one just has a full blown West Coast mountain meets beach kind of thing going on. 

Simon: We've got plans for the next one we're doing. We're going to go out to the desert somewhere and kill some rattlesnakes or something. 

Dan: We're thinking about a Joshua Tree retreat and just set up camp out there and see how that inspires the next one. It is a fun way to do a record, that's for sure. 

Even though Stations has been billed as the end of a trilogy, do you guys intend to work under the same monicker or is that TBD? 

Simon: TBD pretty much. We have lots of other music that doesn't fit with this beachy stuff. It's a little bit more clubby or a bit more like early '80s funk—just party music in general. Woolfy vs Projections actually started out somewhat as a joke. Dan and I started Projections together back in 2000 on Guidance out of Chicago. So we did that, but we were writing songs for other people to sing—like, songs I shouldn't be singing. We started writing some material that my voice worked with. It became this Woolfy vs Projections thing, and that happened to become one of our most successful things. Now, we don't know what to do. We can't get rid of this super long name that really makes no sense. We actually tried to do a boxing photo shoot one time. It didn't really come out very well. 

Balearic is a term that gets attached to you guys and gets attached to the label. This past year, the sound has really hit a new level of popularity. What's it been like watching the rise of a sound you guys have always been playing around with? 

Simon: Yeah, it is a sound that we've always been—you know, whether it's early morning parties or whatever, just bringing the tempo down a little bit. There are so many good acts doing it now. A lot of them are based in Europe. We're all the way out here on the West Coast so we don't get to be too involved, but yeah, it's great to see. 

Have you found it's done anything for you in terms of connecting the dots to that European scene? Have you been being tapped to play more as a result of it? 

Dan: We definitely have a more of a fan base in Europe than we do here in the States. It just seems to be more accepted in some way over there. But like you're saying, it's getting more popular in general. It's more in the spotlight these days. 

Simon: Hopefully it's good timing with the album. In order for us to actually get tour support it does take timing because it's quite expensive to get us out to Europe and start planning around it, even though it's only two of us. The last tour was great and we're supposed to be going out in January for some cold ass weather. Beachy music in the snow, man. 

Dan: Hopefully we'll end up over on the Balearic islands, that's the goal. 

When you guys go on tour do you do a hybrid live thing or do you stick to deejaying because of the logistics? 

Dan: We'll do a live show. Simon plays guitar and we both sing. There's definitely a live element just because that's what we were first as musicians. That makes it more exciting and fun to do shows as well. 

Simon: We started out as a five- or six-piece band then when we toured in 2009, we went as a three-piece. Now with the type of gigs we're doing, which are more clubby, we've sized it down to a two-piece. The show's are a little bit more rocking than the albums are. Dan: When we're playing prime time on a DJ night, we can't just play all beachy music at three in the morning. We gotta step it up. 

I did notice there are a few songs on the new record that move towards the dance floor side of things. Was that from playing out more or was it just a natural part of the songwriting process? 

Simon: Most definitely. Our booking agents were having a hard time, like do they put us with bands or do they put us in clubs? We were trying to convey that yeah, we can bang it out. We also had a couple more indie-style tracks that we were going to put on this new album that Permanent Vacation wanted to leave off to complete the sound of the trilogy. We wanted to move forward with our sound, but in Permanent Vacation's vision, they molded this last album and took a few more vocal tracks out and made a good painting out of it. 

In other interviews, you've mentioned you have a few other things you're working on as well right? 

Simon: Yeah, we've got a project—we're not sure exactly how we're going to bill it. It's more like the first Woolfy record with some West Coast gangster, Hot Chocolate type of stuff. We've actually got a couple more albums close to being realized. 

New things to look forward to! Maybe new characters too right! Captain Starlight goes lowrider gangster. 

 Dan & Simon: Laughs.


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