It’s a great name for a band. No dis to Sleigh Bells and Grimes, The Rapture, Diamond Rings and the other groups who, in recent years, have so successfully mixed paired down dance music with rock (descendants of a family that counts Bowie and Kraftwerk as their forbearers), but when it comes to band names, Tanlines has that competition sewn up.
With their first album, Mixed Emotions, having dropped last month, the duo—comprised of Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen—is lighting up screens on both sides of the Atlantic with a reggae-touched sound that enacts both the guts and brains of a dancing body. Driving, resonant chords, motivate Emm’s timberous, echoing voice to something powerful—meanwhile, tender, catchy beats, vajazzled with tin drums, round out the sound, and make the whole thing digestible.
Tanlines have said that their sound is “stadium pop for small spaces,” a notion that needs some explaining. “It’s like a cactus. It’s kind of like our aesthetic: it’s breakfast for dinner. Snow covered beach. That kind of thing,” says Emm, whose on-stage charges include vocals and guitar. “We make big songs and so far we’ve played small rooms,” says Cohen. They won’t stay small for long: so many progressive US bands find their first success in Europe—Americans, even Brooklynites, can take a while to catch on, but for Tanlines, it was the opposite. Mixed Emotions is the product of a European tour the band considered less than stellar.
“We booked a 3 week tour, on just on an EP [2010’s Settings], and I think we had unreasonable expectations. It was like anything else you do in music, where one day is really good and the next day is disappointing. One days we would be playing in a beautiful club, and the next day we’d be playing in a boat in a river that held 50 people. And then halfway through we got an eviction notice from our studio back home.”
The notion of losing their recording studio (Emm and Cohen—formerly of Professor Murder—met in that studio when Emm, a producer who has also been a member of Don Caballero and Storm and Stress, recorded Cohen’s brother’s band) was actually motivating. “Our whole plan was to come back here and write this album. So it threw our entire career and plan into relief. It gave us a sense of urgency about this project,” says Emm. “We didn’t know how much time wed had.” The result feels anything but rushed. Instead, it’s like the band has taken their four years of EPs, growth, and struggle to produce an album an unbelievable well rounded record. Emotions may be a first album, but it’s a very grown up first album.
Adulthood is a notion the duo have little problem accepting, from their sound to the clothes on their backs. “Jesse’s wearing a blazer. I don’t know if you see that,” points out Emm. “I don’t really wear shorts any more. I’ve noticed that,” says Cohen. “What do you think about what we’re wearing?” They look is very downtown chic: tailored jeans and blazers paired with Clarks, like guys who used to go to Vice parties but are now too old for that.
“I’ll take that,” says Emm.
“I think we like to look good, but we don’t like to look like we’re trying to hard. Because that’s always bad,” says Cohen. “When I think about my style, I think about what my father wore when he was my age and just try to keep up with that,” he says. “He worked at the census bureau.”