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As has often been noted, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power perform standing face to face. A chasm of keyboard, knobs, and gear separates the two, but staring across it, the duo is in frequent communication – reading each other’s body language, shooting a knowing glance, joining together for a synchronized headbang. The connection between the two is intense and palpable, which is only appropriate given the fierce and epic swell that they create as Fuck Buttons.

It is a bond that has developed over many years. Hung and Power have performed as Fuck Buttons since 2004, and their personal relationship stretches back to teenage years in Worcester, England. Since conjoining, the two have produced music at a deliberative pace, releasing three dense albums over the past decade.

But once a record is finished, Fuck Buttons transform into full-blown road warriors. It toured for almost four years behind 2009’s noise-rave bulldozer Tarrot Sport. With its most recent LP,  Slow Focus, just under ten months old, there will be many more shows ahead for the duo this year, particularly during the active summer festival season. And if any Fuck Buttons record would sound perfect under the vast night sky, it’s Slow Focus, a spacious and visceral recording that turns the duo’s maximalism and aggression into something outright beautiful.

When BYT called Hung last month, however, he was off the road and in London, which he’s called lived for the last eight years.  “It was quite nice for the past few days,” he told me, honoring the English tradition of bemoaning the weather. “But today’s been quite shit, actually.”

Fuck Buttons plays U Street Music Hall with Protect U this Friday, and Brooklyn’s Warsaw on Sunday as part of the Northside Festival. Slow Focus is out now on ATP Recordings.

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You’ve described creating music as an intense and and exhausting process. Is performing live something that’s similarly draining?

I’ve always said that the work in touring is not going on stage. Going on stage for an hour and playing to people is an incredible privilege.. The work is getting up to catch a flight at five in the morning – that’s the work. Sitting in a van for six hours – that’s the work. But to be honest, I’d still rather do that than sit in an office, so it’s not something I complain about.

Did you ever have a desk job? What sort of work did you do prior to Fuck Buttons?

Oh yeah, I’ve had some real shit jobs in the past. I worked in call centers for a couple of years. I’ve been cheffing. I used to work in my parent’s takeaway for years, as well. The worst was probably the call centers, though – there’s real mind numbing work.

Having that sort of experience must increase your appreciation of touring the world to play music.

I’m really adamant that I want keep the memory of those times fresh in my mind, because it helps me kind of contextualize what I do now. It’s important to me that I remember that hell.

What were those call centers like?

I worked in mostly massive companies – like, sort of blue chip companies. This was back in Bristol.

They were kind of fun in a way, because a lot of the people that I worked with were in a similar position as me. They were trying to do something with their lives or whatever, you know?

At the same time, I remember vividly feeling like my life was going to be spent in a call center. I used to steal time back from that. I used to write music on a Gameboy in those call centers. I’d have my earphones in the headset and try to disguise it from the boss walking past me. I was kind of content with that. It was kind of shit, but I was kind of content with it. I didn’t think that anything would come out of the music at all. So, yeah, now I’m really very thankful.

How did you and Ben meet?

Ben and I met skateboarding when we were about 15 or 16. We lived in a small town, and there weren’t many skateboarders, so we all kind of knew each other.

Is that a hobby you grew out of?

The one thing that I really regret is stopping skating. I still really miss it, you know. I stopped about ten years ago.

Do you and Ben have different sensibilities or inclinations? Is there ever any sort of conflict when you’re recording?

Left to our own devices, we probably do have different inclinations. I think that our own musical projects are a reflection of that. But when it comes to working together, there isn’t ever really any conflict. Is that strange? I don’t know. I don’t really know about other bands and how they’ve written – I mean, there are always stories about how bands don’t get on and stuff, but that’s never been the case with Ben and me.

But it’s an interesting question, actually. I think that our inclinations probably change when we start working with each other. I mean, it’s like any relationship: When you’re talking to someone, like a conversation, you know that you’re talking about the same thing, and you’re kind of exploring that subject matter, and you know that you bring something to the table. Both parties bring something to the table that neither would have thought of alone. You find new truths in that, and I think the way Ben and I write is very much a dialogue. We bring out things in each other that we couldn’t have necessarily done or thought of doing on our own, and so it’s a very easy process.

Do each of you have certain strengths that you bring to the table?

I’m not sure that’s about strength so much as chemistry. I’m kind of running away with this analogy, but think of your best friend, someone who you like to talk to, and say you’ve got problems or you don’t know what to do next or you want to talk about something – those people somehow have an ability to bring out the best conversations in you. That’s what it’s like with Ben.

(photo by Katherine Gaines)You’ve said that there’s a lot of Fuck Buttons music that no one outside the band has heard. Are those completed songs or things that were abandoned along the way?

There are a lot of songs, and they’re all in different states of completion. Lots of it has just been loops and ideas that we’ve discarded, just because it didn’t interest us upon listening back to it. I can remember one or two songs that made it to the point where we played them live, but we haven’t recorded, just because we didn’t think they were strong enough. Things get discarded as soon as you lose interest or don’t think they’re quite up to scratch.

When you start working on a record, is there a genesis of new material or does that trove of ideas carry over?

It’s probably more of the former. I mean, the first album was a collection of ideas that we’d accumulated. We started [Fuck Buttons] in 2004 and the album came out 2008, so it was like the duration of that period was what would end up on the album. But, otherwise, they have mostly been kind of new things written. The last album was completely written in one go. But it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility to find old ideas and go, “Oh, actually, that’s quite good now,” because your tastes change with age and sometimes you can go back to things and work on them, and they might fit how an album is going at that time.

How do you know when to let a song sprawl for eight minutes versus a more compact four?

I don’t know, actually. A lot of our judgment and decision-making is based in the creative process, and it’s not about practicality. It’s about pure feelings. I think we tend to agree on whether a track is too long or too short, and it doesn’t require explanation as such. It is just pure feelings. There have been very few times when we’ve disagreed on how a track should be structured or whatever, because there are obvious things for us to do, but maybe they weren’t so obvious to us at the time.

Have you given any thought to where Fuck Buttons sonically heads next?

No, not really. I mean, we haven’t really started thinking about that. We just finished the last album and started touring as soon as we released the album, so, no, not yet.

Do you think you’ll tour as much as you did on the last record?

I think so. We enjoy it, and touring is getting more enjoyable.

How so?

We’re playing in bigger venues. We’re going to more interesting places. Our [road] crew is growing. I mean, its only, like, three people, but it makes it like a gang, and its fun to travel with these people. I would say touring is the most fun it’s been for me in a long while, actually.

Have you found that the heavier rhythmic focus of Slow Focus has translated better to a live setting?

That’s hard to say, because when you play new songs, it feels great anyway. I think the record is more rhythmically defined, but I’m not sure it contributes to the live playing more than, say, it just being you.

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What sort of music do you listen to? Is there anything that you think  people would find surprising given Fuck Button’s aesthetic?

People are often surprised by how many female vocalists that I listen to. I listen to a lot of stuff like Beth Orton. Quite a lot a people are normally surprised by that. People normally assume I listen to instrumental, electronic music, but that’s not the case.

Has the band given any thought to collaborating with an outside vocalist?

I personally did a bit of work with a singer quite recently. Vocals are always interesting. People’s tastes are always very particular when it comes to them. In terms of Fuck Buttons, I would never say never, but at the same time, I get the impression that Ben’s more particular about his vocal music than I am, so I can’t see us working with a vocalist anytime soon.

How is Ben “more particular?”

I just think he doesn’t enjoy vocal music as much as I do. [Laughs]

Who is it that you were working with?

At the moment, I’ve got a project that I’m kind of working on with a form of vocalist, but I’m without a vocalist at the moment, so I’m trying to find one.

Additional contributions to this post made by Emily Holland.

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