Don’t call it a comeback – The Presets have been here for years. Yes, there are several years between their 2012 LP Pacifica and June’s HI VIZ – close to six, in fact. Even so, there was never a time when either Julian Hamilton or Kim Moyes considered their band to be inactive or something that they’d have considered not returning to.
“We were never away from the band long enough to weigh up whether or not we’d come back,” Hamilton, provider of lead vocals, synths and co-production in the duo, explains. “After Pacifica, we toured a whole bunch – we did here and overseas for the better part of 18 months. Even then, we were looking at what the next thing was going to be. We’ve been working on this album on and off ever since – we’re certainly aware it’s been a long time coming.”
A lot of things stand out about HI VIZ – as a title like that may suggest. The band’s fourth LP is a radiant, high-energy burst of pure bombast that rightfully reclaims The Presets’ throne atop the conglomerate of Australian dance music. Although they joke with one another about being out of sync and never being on the same page, it’s their sense of unity and their direct collaboration that lead to HI VIZ turning out the way that it did. “With Pacifica, there was a lot of working separately and sending ideas to one another,” Moyes, who serves as the band’s drummer, primary beatmaker, occasional synth player and co-producer, says.
“That worked for a while, but we definitely fell out of step with one another as far as writing songs was concerned. This time around, we worked on making material together. At the very least, we made a point of being in the same room. It didn’t matter if one of us was manning the synthesizer and one of us was manning Instagram – we could respond in real time to one another’s ideas. We built up the foundations from there.” As Hamilton notes, the duo would spend years holding this process down, working on songs when other duties of work and family weren’t calling. “We chased a lot of different sounds and a lot of different energies,” he says.
“Whether it was a banger or a ballad, we followed each idea that we had to its complete dressing and its logical conclusion. Eventually, we ended up with something like 40 or 50 songs to work with. They couldn’t have been more different – there were really chill songs, really blissful songs, really dark and heavy songs. We had to divide and conquer – we had to really think about what kind of record we wanted this to be. We came to the conclusion that the record we wanted to make was a banging party record. We picked out all the ingredients from our pantry, and that’s what we made.”
Like any good party, HI VIZ sports an impressive guestlist. Alison Wonderland lends her distinctive yelp to ‘Out of Your Mind,’ while Sydney trio DMA’S collaborated on the song ‘Are You Here?’ The album also features appearances from the likes of Kirin J Callinan and DZ Deathrays guitarist/vocalist Shane Parsons. While the songs weren’t written with these artists in mind, The Presets are the first to admit that the songs got to where they did because of this outside influence. “About halfway through the process of making the album, we wanted to try something different,” Moyes explains.
“We wanted to see what would happen when we got more people involved than just the two of us – whether as instrumentalists or vocalists. What seemed to work the best was people that we were friends with that were enthusiastic about making a great song together. Pretty much everyone who collaborated on this album was a friend who was available and interested. That connection really seemed to work and really make sense for this album.”
Not long after the release of HI VIZ, The Presets are set to undertake their first national tour in over five years. Returning to theatres across most major cities, the duo are looking forward to presenting a different beast of a live show – with an emphasis on the former part of that phrase. “We’ve gotten to do a handful of select shows in the last few years,” Hamilton says. “As fun as they’ve all been, one thing we found is that we really missed having live drums on-stage. When we first started playing shows – 15 years ago, or however long it was – we prided ourselves on having this guttural, rock ‘n’ roll energy on-stage.”
Moyes agrees. “We had this really punk approach, but were still playing electronic music,” he says. “We missed that part of our show a lot, so we’ve got the drums back now. It’s still got a big audio-visual aspect to it, though – we haven’t changed that. We still have a big screen behind us, and a lot of crazy visuals to go with the songs.” Hamilton is particularly excited about this aspect of the show. “We’ve gotten a couple of different directors to film some stuff for us,” he says. “They’ve designed all this crazy stuff that goes perfectly with the light show and the sequencing of the set. We’re in rehearsals, and it’s really cooking now.”