They're the odd couple of indie dance, two Germans with disparate gifts that unite to create a balance of throbbing beats and glimmering melodies.
Fair-haired Jens Moelle, who's a little more techno, and swarthy Ismail Tüfekçi, who's a little more rock 'n' roll, formed Digitalism in 2004 and became an international sensation with their 2007 release, Idealism. They recently returned with I Love You, Dude, a summery blast of thick overdriven rhythms and buzzing hooks.
The duo faces the difficult task of following up their ubiquitous debut four years later amidst great expectations and inevitable no-longer-the-next-big-thing backlash. Fortunately for them, they've bivouacked themselves in a figurative and literal bunker. Indeed, it's where they've done all their work since they first decided to make music together.
Digitalism perform Tuesday, August 9, at the Granada Theater.
"So many people are like, 'I'm making music,' 'Yeah, me too,' and then nobody wants to commit to paying rent," explains Moelle over a Skype videocall from his band's studio bunker. "It's just a hobby to them. So we started renting spaces in former WWII bunkers so we could stay on cheap. They're everywhere here in Hamburg. It's very isolated from the outside. You don't know which season it is outside, or the time of the day, and that makes you very imaginative. You can't see anything so you kind of travel with your mind."
The two initially met in a Hamburg dance vinyl shop where Moelle worked after school. He compares it to the shop from High Fidelity, where everyone just sort of hangs out, listening to and talking about music. The shop's owner soon started hosting dance parties, leading both Moelle and Tüfekçi to try their hands at DJing individually. The partnership just sort of happened from there.
"It wasn't like a decision," Moelle says. "We just flowed into things naturally. We have different characters and tastes, and the way we work in the studio is also quite yin and yang, very complementary. Everything overall balances the whole thing out. We kind of have our roles."
But that doesn't mean creating I Love You, Dude was easy. The duo actually thought they'd finished last winter, but had second thoughts during a short December tour of Australia. It was there that they coined the album's title, which they saw as a way to confuse people's expectations. Enjoying a few days off before returning home from the tour, they also decided to revisit everything and rebuild the songs from scratch while still utilizing some of the bits they'd already laid down.
"The good thing is about me and Jens," explains the more reticent, gruff-voiced Tüfekçi, "is that we are thinking sometimes the same way, and we just say to each other, 'The demos are good, but we can do it better, so let's do it better.'"
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They got back to work in mid-January and rented a studio for mastering, while putting a hard deadline in place. This second session resulted in a track called "Forest Gump," for which they collaborated with The Strokes' Julian Casablancas on the lyrics over email. Along with that song, the album is highlighted by a pulsing pop paean called "2 Hearts," which combines '80s synthy British darkwave swoon with a house music bottom end.
"It's about two friends, and one wants a bit more," Moelle says.
Moelle and Tüfekçi then exchange glances and laugh incongruously as if at some private joke while discussing the song.
When queried about it, Moelle explains between guffaws: "We're running out of oxygen in here."