Over the last seven years, Auckland's Sean Whittaker and Louis Anderson-Rich have spent a substantial amount of time collaborating as DJs, producers and live performers. Since 2012, they've been working together as Manuel Darquart, a musical expression of their shared love of disco, cosmic boogie, and euphoric house. As DJs, Manuel Darquart has shared stages with the likes of Andy Hart, Bicep, Tornado Wallace, Detroit Swindle and Space Dimension Controller. They've also been bringing keyboards, drum machines, and instruments into clubs to perform as a live act, bringing a whole new dimension to their sound.
With their new single 'Next Dance', released via Auckland's A Label Called Success, Manuel Darquart dress Saturday night disco grooves and strutting synths up in shimmering sunshine pads, twinkly keys, and a languidly wistful vocal refrain, gifting us a nostalgic groove that just keeps on giving. Slow-burning but ultimately memorable, 'Next Dance' is as good a window as any into Manuel Darquart's musical universe. In celebration of its release, we talked to the duo about the song, collaboration, the allure of house and disco, and transitioning their music from the studio to the stage.
Red Bull Studios: What is it about house and disco that caught and continues to hold your attention?
Louis Anderson-Rich: For me, I think it's just really good, positive, fun music. It makes you want to dance, and normally good things come from dancing. It's just the best way to have a good time. I think that is what got me in the first place. With disco, I think part of it is the fact that it's old and from an era that isn't now, is interesting to me as well. With house music, my parents listened to it. Personally speaking, I grew up with it. Again, it just comes back to wanting to dance.
Sean: We both come from drum and bass backgrounds. We had a little bit of exposure [as producers] there. We were talking with labels at one point. Louis was in touch with LTJ Bukem from Good Looking Records. I had a release on Samurai Music. We were relatively established and then we moved onto other things separately and then came back together. At the point we came back together, house was a really happening thing, which was cool.
Red Bull Studios: Why do you think working together as a duo works for you two?
Sean Whittaker: For me being in a group has always been important, whether you're a singleton, and you're in a group of like-minded people while doing your own stuff, or a group of people you can DJ with or relate to. With Louis, we went to school together, and we've always just been kind of together. We've always had similar music interests, so it's been important to me to have someone I can reference when I'm making music and hopefully for him as well when he's making music. That way we can bounce off each other and then it grew into something where we were making music together
Louis Anderson-Rich: It's not even necessarily about making the music together or anything. I think it is about being a sounding board for each other and that's good. We've met the same people at the same time. We've gone through the scene at the same time. We're mates and we back each other up, which is something it's always good to have.
Red Bull Studios: How did you evolve this Manuel Darquart from DJing into production and live performance?
Louis Anderson-Rich: We always wanted to make tunes, that was the first thing we wanted to do. We also wanted to immerse ourselves in the music, you know, buy songs, play them, etc. That was always a pretty straightforward link. In terms of doing it live, the music we were making didn't really fit into our DJ sets. We have grown as musicians at the same rate as we've continued to make music. When we were making drum and bass, we were using MIDI, but now we are trying to actually play stuff. We thought, let's see if we can do this live, and if it offers up a different audience.
Sean Whittaker: Then we got booked for a live show before we even had one. We did our first one opening for Harvey Sutherland, and we've literally written a new live set for every live show we've done since then. Quite a bit of time goes into it.
Red Bull Studios: Tell us about 'Next Dance,' your new release on A Label Called Success?
Louis Anderson-Rich: Next Dance went through a few stages, which is pretty much how we write most of our tunes. One of us comes up with an idea and the other one of us fine tunes it. It's almost a remix process. It's a house/synth-pop record. It wasn't written to be catchy, but apparently it's really catchy.
Sean Whittaker: It was written when we were both living really close to each other in Central Auckland. Louis has lived in Kingsland for six years.
Louis Anderson-Rich: If anything, the thing that had the most influence on it was Real Groovy. We would go digging there all the time. We popped out with this record, took it home and did an interpolation of the vocal. It was sort of a coming together of those trips to the old Real Groovy, digging through bins and making updated takes on what we found.
Sean Whittaker: 'Next Dance' was meant to be sexy, not just the vibe of a dude saying "Yo, dance with me!" It's about dancing and having no ulterior motive. I feel like dudes in New Zealand put a lot of limitations on how they could and should feel about stuff because they need to be macho bros. We don't necessarily conform to the normal idea of a kiwi male [laughs].