Photo: Jeremy Harris

Phenomenal Handclap Band return with their second album for Tummy Touch – Form & Control – an ambitious work which takes their fusion of international psych, soul, and cosmic disco a step forward.

The band – or self-styled collective – broke through in 2009 with their debut single 15 To 20, a club hit both in America and Europe that set the scene for a self- titled debut album later that year. Their sound and style had roots in New York and San Francisco, San Paulo and London, some physical and others more spiritual. But imagine a scenario where Curtis Mayfield and Deee-Lite threw a Nu-Yorican party with Afro-beat, Italo-disco, Turkish psych, ‘70s West Coast rock and Boney M also on the decks. Imagine The Human League, MGMT, Fleetwood Mac, Black Devil Disco Club, Justice, Hercules & Love Affair, Blondie and The Steve Miller Band produced by Mike Chapman at London’s legendary RAK Studios, home of prime slices of ‘70s glam, soul and disco. In other words, a sleek and shimmering alternative to the first album’s spicier mutant stew, but just as groovy.

The production/ songwriting brains behind both albums are Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand, who are equal parts DJs, producers and crate-digging enthusiasts. Joining forces for sessions with likes of Latin soul legend Joe Bataan, Daniel and Sean decided to not only produce more sessions at their own East Village studio but to “make a record on our own terms, our own masterwork,” says Daniel. “I was in my late twenties and being in a band seemed undignified. Being the guy pulling the strings was much more interesting.” Roll on to 2010. The band that didn’t mean to be a band – which also included Laura Marin (lead vocals), Quinn Luke (guitar, vocals), Patrick Wood (drums, vocals), Jason Roberts (lead guitar) and Emily Panic (bass) – had toured the UK twice, and when they were offered the chance to record at RAK and stay in the next-door apartment, Collás and Marquand couldn’t believe their fortune, what with the likes of UK soul-pop legends Hot Chocolate making hits there.

Touring their debut, the band imbibed a whole slew of other music, including the tastes of bands they’d toured with. A new PHB sound began to evolve under that legendary RAK roof, with Sean back and sharing songwriting and production with Daniel. Shorter songs. Punchier arrangements. Crisper sound. Guitars crunch, the synths glide and the beats swish and pump. The singers on Form & Control are Laura, Patrick, Quinn (who also wrote “Give”) and Daniel, adding to the kaleidoscopic effect.

In an attempt to explain their choice of album title Daniel says – “We had gone into the studio with only two tracks written beforehand, and after we’d got the rhythm section in for the first half, Sean and I worked on it for long days, and as we got inspired, “Form & Control” made sense to us. The lyrics are about making a deal with the devil, like, how over history did some people become that famous? Julius Caesar, for example, who people still talk about thousands of years after his death. To a lesser extent, musicians or actors who have made an indelible impression, who have left their mark. It’s a pre-destined path, but perhaps you have to give up something to make it possible…form and control. In and amongst these strange and curious currents, The Phenomenal Handclap Band has forged a path that sets them apart from the pack. And so their journey continues, touring – they’ve just supported Bryan Ferry in the US – he now calls The PHB “my favourite new American band”) and will headline Tummy Touch Records 15th Anniversary party on November 23rd at Hiro Ballroom at The Maritime Hotel. Joining them on the bill are label mates Bing Ji Ling + DJ sets from Horse Meat Disco, Thomas (Rub & Tug, Wicked), Krunk Pony and TT head honcho Tim ‘Love’ Lee.

March Tour Dates:

Wed 3rd: Manchester Deaf Institute.

Thu 4th: Leeds Nation of Shopkeepers.

Fri 5th: Glasgow Captain’s Rest.

Sat 6th: Liverpool Karizma.

Sun 7th: Nottingham Bodega Social Club.

Tue 9th: London Cargo.

Thu 11th: Bristol Start the Bus.

Fri 12th: Brighton Coalition.

About Tummy Touch: From it’s roots as a cult dance music label and club night in East London to it’s current homes in Brooklyn, New York, and at the UK’s legendary Rak Studios, Tummy Touch Records has been defying convention, resisting categorization and championing the unique musical vision of label founder Tim “Love” Lee. Since the first release back in 1994, if it’s doped up, blissed out or living on the margins of the acceptable, it’s found a loving home at the label. Having launched the careers of artists like Groove Armada, Tom Vek and Phenomenal Handclap Band, Tummy Touch now has, according to the BBC, “an influence far in excess of it’s tiny size”.