Genius electro duo Peking Duk have taken the world by storm with their hits High, Take Me Over and most recently Strangers. They have an ARIA under their belt and are about to embark on an Australia-wide tour. We caught up with one half of Peking Duk, Reuben Styles to talk touring, Splendour, gaming and of course, the obligatory dad joke.
Hey Reuben, thanks for taking the time to have a little chat to us!
No wukkas, no wukkas at all.
So you’ve got some exciting stuff coming up, starting with the Clowntown tour that kicks off later this month.
Yes, yes, yes indeed! Very excited for the Clowntown tour. It’s the first time we’ve done a regional tour and capital cities all in one. A couple years ago we did a regional tour; During that tour I kind of got the feeling that we would be sticking to capital cities quite a bit, cause it seemed like the way to do things. Then at the start of this year we thought, god it’d be so exciting to do another regional tour. We realised we couldn’t do a straight up regional tour so now we’re doing capitals plus regional.
Yeah, that’s awesome!
It’s good because this time because our Adelaide show isn’t during a race car show (laughs). What is it? Clipsal?
Clipsal, yep. It’s a big time for Adelaide.
Yeah, so during the tour in Adelaide we played at the Clipsal, and you know, you had to buy a Clipsal ticket to come see us which were like 95 bucks or something. I was pretty happy to find out this year we were actually gonna do Adelaide properly. I’m pumped!
So you haven’t done a tour of this scale before?
No, we’ve not included both capitals and regional. I’m so excited. Our regional tour a couple years ago was incredible, We’re doing something we never really thought of - I feel like we’re doing the most groundbreaking thing in the world! (laughs)
It’s definitely exciting! Is there any part of tour that you’re really keen for?
I’m keen to see how some of the new songs go down. It’s always a bit nerve racking before, it’s like “oh God, are they gonna like it?”. But we’ve found people pretend to dance if we tell ‘em it’s new cause then they’re like ‘ah yeah, new shit!’.
Yeah! Even if they don’t like it they put it on for us which always makes us feel better if it’s not as good as we thought.
Is there a song of yours that always gets the biggest reaction?
I guess at the moment Stranger, cause it’s exciting and new.
Yeah, I love Stranger! Great song.
Thank you! I think it was on New Year’s Eve when we played in New Zealand at this festival, it was 10, 000 people, we turned down the music during the chorus and everyone knew the words and we realised it must be a bit of a favourite. We found when it dropped it had the biggest reaction out of every song we played.
You’ve definitely had a lot of success with the song. Everyone loves it – what do you think it is that makes it so good?
Well after putting out High, we put out a song called Take Me Over which had a similar style to High. Before High we’d put out remixes that all had a similar sort of sound. We liked the idea of claiming our own sound, but then we realised lately, as of like 2016, dance music isn’t all 128 BPM. It’s mostly around 100 BPM. It sort of made it hard, to try claim something that other people are doing. So we realised, fuck it, let’s just do something that sounds like Peking Duk. Stranger sounded a bit like High, a little bit like Take Me Over, but it just was an entirely new song. We didn’t plan Stranger as such, it was just another one of the songs that we’d made, we had about 10 or so to choose from and that one just felt right.
So you’ve collaborated with a fair few artists - are there any stand-outs or anyone you’d love to work with in future?
Yeah! We recently got in the studio with a few people – Al, the singer from Cloud Control, we’ve gotten in the studio with Daniel Johns, we’ve done probably 8 songs with Elliphant (laughs). We’ve gotten in the studio with Icona Pop and AlunaGeorge…but who knows. Maybe none of these collaborations will ever see the light of day. The amount of demos that we have right now is kind of absurd! We’ve been putting out one song every year or so, I think we’ll start putting out a lot more music. It’s the day and age for us to be a little bit more reckless and much less careful.
You’re also playing Splendour later in the year, so that’s another exciting one coming up for you guys! Who do you reckon are the acts to see? (aside from yourselves)
Ooh, this is a bit of an exciting question! It’s a tough call. I recently saw Amy Shark at the Oxford Art Factory, playing to a crowd of maybe 100 people. It was the best thing I saw in 2016. It’s only been 3 months since then but now I feel like she’s a household name.
She is! She placed really high on the Hottest 100 which probably helped.
Yeah! It’s hilarious to think that only a few months ago she played to 100 people in the Art Factory. Anyway, we were almost going to clash with Queens of The Stone Age, and it turns out we’re not clashing with them, so I am PUMPED to see them. The xx obviously, their songs of 2009 were big anthems amongst my group of friends. We used to just smash it. Sigur Ros, I don’t even know where to start! I’ve never seen them, I don’t think any of my friends have seen them either, it’s very exciting.
And the BEST band I’ve ever seen live is playing Splendour. I’m above and beyond excited. The last time I saw them they had Hot Chip supporting them in Sydney, and during their set – you’re probably gonna guess who I’m talking about – they did a song called New York, I Love You and they did like a 20 minute version of it. At the end Hot Chip came on, and the whole of Hot Chip were on stage with them, they were all bashing drums, all playing instruments, James Murphy was singing his heart out…I’m talking about LCD Soundsystem! Still to this day the best thing I’ve ever seen live. Best. Show. Ever. If there’s anyone that everyone has to see, it is LCD Soundsystem. The whole line up is RIDICULOUSLY good. And Dune Rats! Who’s not gonna see Dune Rats?
Yeah I saw them the other week when they were in Adelaide, it was ridiculous!
Scott Green! What a tune. Oh! I also just remembered Cut Copy’s playing. They were the first dance act that I fell in love with. Oh and I totally forgot to shout out my boy, The Kite String Tangle. Hooley Dooley. He is king. Absolute king.
I’ve got a bit of a hypothetical question for you –
If Peking Duk weren’t an electronic band, what genre would you be?
Uuum…..I don’t know! (laughs). I guess Say My Name was essentially a rock song, but we’ve made a lot of hip-hop songs recently. So I’d say, a rock, hip-hop, jazz-fusion with a little bit of funk and soul. And some blues on the drums! And if that wasn’t enough, we’d also have an Egyptian Oud instrument just because it would add a lot of flavour.
That’s a much more detailed answer than I was expecting, I love it.
Well you wouldn’t want to be expecting at this young age….that was a good pun, ay? How 'bout it?
Pretty good! Not bad at all.
I’m clearly gonna make a GREAT dad. I tell terrible jokes 24/7.
Yeah you got the dad jokes down pat! Just need a child, I guess.
I’ll ask my girlfriend if she’s cool with that. Who knows? Maybe by the time Splendour comes around – actually no, you need 9 months, it’s not gonna happen.
Maybe an after Splendour baby.
Yeah for sure! (laughs)
When you’re not playing music what do you get up to?
I’ve been training to fly a Cessna which has been taking up little bits of time here and there. The airfield where I’ve been training is an hour and fifteen minutes motorbike ride away, so that seems to be a bit of a full day commitment for a one hour lesson, but it’s been a lot of fun. I really hope to get my pilot license soon, and eventually one day just be able to fly to gigs!
That’s the end goal, just fly right into Splendour!
Yes! That’d be the best!
That’s a really cool hobby.
Yeah, I’ve also been learning the ropes with this new and very exciting game called Zelda. I’m not gonna lie, the pause screen is staring me in the eye.
So you’re a real party animal.
I am! Adam and I, when we’re on tour, we play a lot of – this is possibly the nerdiest game – Counter Strike. Or CS, no-one would say Counter Strike.
I gotta be honest, I’m not in the know, but I’ll take your word for it.
If you wanna be pwning noobs, Counter Strike is how you’re gonna do it (laughs). Apart from that, music. It still is a hobby and somehow we’re living off it which is crazy.
What inspires your music? Do you have a process or is it just whatever happens, happens?
Generally, whatever happens. I often get carried away with the song writing and forget how important the production is. Adam is very production focused which is the best thing in the world. I love ripping out on chords and melodies, Adam creates beats which sounds like nothing else. Song writing along with some production, it’s a fun combo. It changes every time, we never have a set structure.
Musically I’ve always been a big fan of The Strokes and song writing wise, 10cc, even ABBA – geniuses! I’ve just been re-visiting the old band Cake, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard them but they’re sick. Also Alt-j, Kanye, James Blake, even The Roots.
You can be inspired by anything. I was in Fiji recently and there was a huge thunderstorm, we had a straw (but solid) roof, in the storm the sounds of it were just so exciting. I couldn’t sleep, it was just incredible. And then it became super relaxing and I was knocked out for the rest of the night. It was so genuinely amazing to listen to. I guess the spontaneity of each thunder crack made me realise in your production and in your music there need to be random sounds that make you feel a certain way and it needs to stay exciting. Which is something I forget cause I love song writing and I love chords and melodies.
Sorry, I’m going off on tangents! But movies as well, like a good anime flick or even playing Zelda, there’s little bits of inspiration all over the place. A good movie is such a strong form of escapism, and a good song should be able to do that too, which is something James Blake and Kanye can really do. A lot of good anime can do it too, where you submerge yourself in this semi-realistic but total fantasy world, or just any really good movie. Anything that’s not an action movie featuring the Rock.
What’s on the cards for Peking Duk after the tour?
After the tour I’ll be itching to get into the studio! Personally, my favourite time is studio time. Touring is super fun, but it takes such a big toll. Maybe we’re getting old! Maybe I’m old now!
How old are you?
26 – I’m on my way out, it’s been a good run though! (laughs).
I don’t think you’re done just yet!
(still laughing) I think there’s a few years left!
Well, that’s my questions done!
Aw, well thank you so so much!
Thank you! I had a blast talking to you.
Yeah same! We’re so pumped to come down and test out our songs on the Adelaidians – is that what you say, Adelaidians?
Yeah! Or, since we’re This Is Radelaide, you can say Radelaidians.
Ah, another pun! You’re gonna make a way better dad then me! (laughs). Thanks for the chat, have a great one!
Catch Peking Duk at Fat Controller on May 18th, or at Splendour later in the year.
All images via Peking Duk's Facebook Page.