As a precursor to her second album Seeking Thrills, multi-instrumentalist and producer Georgia Barnes – better known simply as Georgia – released a new single in mid-2019.
It was a great success, with its rushing electro-pop grooves and big beats accruing some 5 million streams on Spotify. She even performed it at Glastonbury, raising a sea of hands in front of a packed-out Park Stage. There’s just one problem; the song’s title, ‘About Work the Dancefloor’, makes literally no sense.
“I grew up around dancefloor culture,” she says. “One of the bands I was completely obsessed with was Cybotron, who were one of the first commercially-successful techno groups.
“If you look at the way Juan Atkins would use vocals in their music, a lot of the time what he was saying wouldn’t make grammatical sense. He’s just taking you through this trip – it’s phonetically rhythmic, and it goes with the music and the overall atmosphere.
“I had an idea in my mind that I didn’t want ‘About Work the Dancefloor’ to make sense – a lot of the time, when you’re on the dancefloor, nothing makes sense. You feel things that sometimes you just can’t articulate. You just know something important is happening. The hook needed to be nonsensical – you’re not thinking about what I’m saying, you’re just in the moment.”
To say that Seeking Thrills has been a long time coming is a considerable understatement. Barnes has been stringing along teasers for the record along from as far back as 2017.
Ultimately, half of the album was released prior to the record’s actual release date last Friday – and yet, there’s still a sense of freshness and newfound vitality when these songs are arranged as such. It was always Barnes’ goal to create a more cohesive effort than her eponymous 2015 debut, and she was able to achieve this thanks to channelling her influence and inspiration to its logical conclusion.
“I wanted this album to be a return to my roots,” she says. “I looked to the early ‘80s as the kind of main aesthetic of the production. I got very inspired by this period where analogue met digital technology.
“There were these incredible synth-wave bands that were really pushing the boundaries of sound recording. I looked to Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, Madonna, Eurythmics, Prince, Japan, The Blue Nile… all of these artists pushing these ideas. I looked at the way dance music infiltrated pop music, shaping it into what it is today. I really wanted to find a direction that felt more succinct, and to make the whole thing a step up.”
While there are obvious touchstones sonically amidst what Georgia is doing on Seeking Thrills, there are also a few names she mentions that seem out of place in this musical Venn diagram.
“I found myself going back to all the classic songwriters,” she says. “Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, Curtis Mayfield. I wanted the songwriting to really improve, and there’s no better way to do that than to study the absolute best.”
Not only is Georgia coming at her music from a unique compositional perspective, her live performances are similarly quintessential. Rather than performing with a band, Barnes operates everything herself – and, rather than keyboards or synthesizers, she plays a stand- up electronic drum kit with both real cymbals and trigger pads. Watching it all go down live is a sight to see, and it’s something Barnes prides herself on.
“I didn’t really want to have a band,” she says. “I explored that, and it didn’t work”.
“Hot Chip asked me to support them in New York a few years back, and the way my live set-up was at the time there wasn’t a way it could fit on stage. That’s where I got the idea to just do it solo and I was so satisfied with the way it came together.”
Georgia’s new album Seeking Thrills is out now via Domino.