In today's fast-moving music landscape, it's always intriguing to see which artists continue to dominate the conversation. While the name of the game for many artists seems to be quantity, constantly producing new material and staying active on social media, the adage of less being more forever rings true. Just take Hudson Mohawke and Lunice's dynamic TNGHT project as an example.
Before the release of their brand-new EP, II, they only had the five tracks from their critically-acclaimed self-titled 2012 EP and one other single, "Acrylics," officially released, all from before 2013. After taking a hiatus that involved everything from Lunice touring with Madonna to Hudson Mohawke working with Kanye West, they reformed like Voltron for their eight-track EP, which appropriately encapsulates the growth and maturation of their sound and union, without losing any of what Lunice describes as an "energy of unknown playfulness."
The re-emergence of TNGHT was announced with "Serpent," a lead single that feels like one of the most anti-club anthems out there and reminds us that the duo's sensibility for rhythm and space remains as quirky as ever. Usually letting their music (and Hudson Mohawke's one-of-a-kind Twitter account) do the talking, we were happy to have both Lunice and HudMo stop by to chat about II, inadvertently becoming associated with dance music's aggressive trap phrase, their creative process, and more.
I was surprised to see you guys returning. Why now? Why this collection of songs? What sparked all of this?
Hudson Mohawke: Basically, I moved from London a couple years ago to LA. At that point I was feeling a little stagnant creatively in London and I wasn't feeling all that fulfilled in general. I just had this period of, "Right, what are the things I really want to prioritize here? What are the things that might be worth exploring again?" And I think I hit Lunice up and was very much just-
Lunice: Over text straight up.
Hudson Mohawke: Yeah. It was very much just like, "You want to just see if it works and if it doesn't work, fuck it?"
Lunice: No goal of it having to work out. We just wanted to do it for our own sake.
Hudson Mohawke: And then actually, to be honest, at that point we weren't even planning to put a record out. No, we just wanted to make a bunch of shit.
Lunice: Like we used to.
You had an incredible impact with just one EP and "Higher Ground" in particular. Your catalog together is small. Do you make just enough material to fill a release or do you have a lot of tracks leftover that you never release?
Hudson Mohawke: We always make a bunch of stuff and play it at shows and then just never put it out. I think both of us have always done this and maybe it's a kind of weird approach. I don't really know where it came from.
Lunice: That habit came from playing club nights with me and my friends called Turbo Crunk. It was like any other night where a group of friends would bring a bunch of different equipment, and just experiment.
Hudson Mohawke: And make stuff just for the night.
Lunice: Exactly. So we're consistently making new material for the night because it was twice a month. Every second night, we'd come up with something brand new. The next time around, a whole new set of new material; that habit sort of just stuck with me because I enjoy it. You sort of get to test it out in the field, get a genuine reaction to it, and then go back and readjust if there's anything needed.
With "Serpent," I don't wanna say it's an anti-club sound...
Hudson Mohawke: Yeah. No that's good. Exactly.
When you hear that there's a new TNGHT song you aren't necessarily expecting something with these false starts. It's really unique. Is there a reason that you guys did that? Is it a commentary on anything?
Lunice: I love it. It's beautiful to feel that, you know? Things shouldn't be just fed to you. The drops, a lot of the time, you can almost hear somebody counting it in your head. It's so obvious. And it's fun to be in the unknown sometimes, and have something be unusual. It's a good feeling to have.
"Things shouldn't be just fed to you. it's fun to be in the unknown sometimes, and have something be unusual." - Lunice
Hudson Mohawke: The other thing about that was when we made it, it wasn't an intentionally weird track. It didn't really feel like that, it just kind of felt-
Lunice: It just felt good.
Hudson Mohawke: It was quite a hype thing. And I think the decision to put it out first was very much like, "Right, here's something that may throw people off, but it would almost be a disservice to us to just [release something] that's more of the same." That'd be a waste of time.
Lunice: There is an element, in both of us, even in our old stuff of just sometimes, not even intentionally, you just want to fuck with people. It's so fun.
Hudson Mohawke: Fuck with people, and then pull them back in.
Lunice: It's creating a sense of wonder that sort of is missing on the stage and in sound and music.
I don't feel like I get that a lot, you know?
Lunice: No, not as often. But you can't blame them. It sort of is dependent on how the game is played, is how I see it.
I started working here at Complex around the release of the first TNGHT EP. I remember the summer before I started your EP was out, and at the same time artists like Diplo and Flosstradamus were making electronic music that came to be known as trap. Do you guys consider yourself a part of that wave? How do you feel about that impact and loosely being associated with all of that?
Lunice: We both had our names before the trap thing even came to be. When we first came out, we both agreed that we needed to make sure the audience understands that it's two individuals creating a project. It was never, "Okay, now we found ourselves, we are a duo and that's that. We're never going to become ourselves again." In our own way, that's sort of what helped us maintain the foundation for the audience to understand that it is two people.
When things started becoming a bit more out of our control and the public's perception was that we were the frontmen of this whole trap movement, the best thing we could do is to just space the music out. That's a big reason why we took a break and why we just stopped the project. We didn't want to go out at be arguing with people that we're not a part of this [trap/EDM movement]. It's too complex of a conversation. It's better we let them do their thing and we focus on ourselves.
Hudson Mohawke: Do your thing, and you did it alone. The solo shows were like the death march of...
"The Trap Funeral"?
Hudson Mohawke: "The Trap Funeral," yeah.
Lunice: Before that was "Swag Funeral," at first. And then after, when I saw that coming that I started the "Trap Funeral."
Hudson Mohawke: Some other people who shall remain nameless, but who were mentioned earlier, were severely offended by that.
Lunice: Yeah. Like, "We're taking this trap shit seriously, man." And that's when we knew that if people were taking it to a competetive level that's not us. We didn't want to play that game.
Hudson Mohawke: I think also when we put that first record out, that name wasn't being plastered on our music. We were doing festivals but then when [trap] became a thing, we knew it didn't align with our initial goal. Not goal, but our initial-
Lunice: I guess it's the motive behind it. It's too pigeonholed. It's not our nature of work.
Hudson Mohawke: You know, I feel like [EDM/trap] was getting to that stage, I guess similar to dubstep or various other genres, where it was just getting more aggressive and more agressive and more agressive.
Lunice: Less nuance, less fun.
Hudson Mohawke: It's like an echo chamber, like mic feedback. You know what I mean? It's louder and louder and louder and louder to the point that it's like, "What am I hearing?" We don't like to be part of the competitive realm. It's pretty much everybody comparing each other's sound, who's the loudest, in that kind of manner. It's not the kind of thing we like. It's almost time-consuming because then it's about obsessing yourself with who's number one at the moment.
Back to II, which I read was all created in your LA studio.
Hudson Mohawke: Yes, yes, yes.
Lunice: Never online. We did it on purpose, too. It was specific that we had to be in the same room.
Was that similar to how you two worked on the last one?
Lunice: The first one we mostly did together as well.
Hudson Mohawke: It's a weird kind of thing, and I don't want to be too hokey about it, but I do think there is a specific kind of energy when we're actually doing shit in the room together. Different things stick out to each of us because in general, we're just fucking around.
Lunice: A good example of the reason why we work in the same room is that a lot of the time, we're not thinking about a specific subject. We just jam. I might be playing around with something I've always wanted to play with, but I'm not thinking about actively recording what I'm about to play. I'm just here to just play around. But he'll hear something interesting out of it, and then he'll let me know and be like, "Hey, hey, play that one part again. Okay, let's record that." So it sort of just ends up starting that way.
Everything, even the drums, we don't think about, "Oh, what style of drums do we want? What era?" No, it's straight-up we hit a sound and whatever gives us that gut feeling of, "Whoa!" It could be fear, could be happiness, could be disgust. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, put that in. That's pretty funny. I don't know why you would do it, but yeah, yeah, let's do that." That's a big part of how we work.
The flip side to that is how do you guys know something is done?
Hudson Mohawke: Again, it's just a feeling. It's an instinct.
Lunice: Similar to how you first get into it.
Hudson Mohawke: It's something that I've certainly been working on. We've both been pretty good at that. Sometimes, with my own stuff, I'm prone to work on it forever. With this, we were sure.
Where did the idea for that insane video for "Dollaz" come from?
Hudson Mohawke: We're kind of just introducing people to the characters.
Lunice: It's all within the world of humor. We love just creepy, terrifying, can't understand it stuff.
That could be a perfect descriptor for some of the tracks, you know?
Lunice: Yes. It needs to have the same feeling. One thing we have made sure of is that whether we do a photoshoot, music, an interview, whatever it is, it still keeps that same energy of unknown playfulness.