“It’s forward but in a direction of house music”

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Groove Armada were one of the biggest crossover house bands of the 1990s, rivaling Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk. But when the EDM exploded, they backed off. Now Andy Cato and Tom Findlay have released the deluxe compilation, GA25, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut single “At The River”. They also return to Australia for a final live tour.

Cato and Findlay met in the early 90s through Cato’s future wife. The avid DJs threw a club night in London (Cato also played trombone). As Groove Armada, they had independent success with the 1997 Balearic production “At The River”, sampling Patti Page’s 50s bop “Old Cape Cod”.

Groove Armada – ‘At the River’

Groove Armada went mainstream with the anthems ‘If Everybody Looked The Same’, ‘I See You Baby’ and ‘Superstylin’, mixing house, hip hop and dancehall. They received three Grammy awards, remixed Madonna’s “Music” and licensed “Hands Of Time” (featuring folk Richie Havens) for Tom Cruise’s soundtrack. Collateral.

But as Groove Armada lost momentum in the 2010s, the duo developed other interests. Cato, a man from Yorkshire, became a full-time farmer in the French region of Gascony. Today he is a leading proponent of regenerative agriculture and tenant of the National Trust’s Buscot & Coleshill estate in Oxfordshire.

Discuss with music stream via Zoom, Cato apologizes for his poor connection. “I’m talking to you from the middle of nowhere,” he said. During this time, Findlay studied to become a cognitive behavioral therapist and currently works for the UK’s National Health Service.

Groove Armada has strong ties to the Australian scene. The two collaborated with PNAU’s Nick Littlemore on the 2010 New Wave-inspired LP Black light. “Obviously Nick was a big influence,” Findlay says. “Black light would not have happened without him. He’s kind of the third band member on that one, no doubt.

In 2020, Groove Armada remixed “First Class Bitch” by Confidence Man. Findlay calls himself a “big fan” and says he surprised the Brisbane band at recent summer festivals. “I just think they’re great performers,” he says. “There’s real joy in what they do.” Lately, Groove Armada recruited another Australian name, Logic1000, to remix “My Friend”.

Although this race to the antipodes is a quasi-farewell tour, Groove Armada does not give up completely. Instead, they will revert to their original DJ incarnation. And the moonlighters plan to cut more music – GA25 features new single ‘Hold A Vibe’, featuring dancehall MC Red Rat.

Groove Armada – ‘Hold A Vibe’ featuring Red Rat

Music Feeds: Andy, I understand you are now a full-time farmer. What was the catalyst?

Andy Cato: It was just that I was coming back from a concert once in Eastern Europe and I read a magazine article that talked about industrial food production, our current food production system and its consequences for health human and the environment, etc. It ended with this brilliant piece of journalism, which was, “If you don’t like the system, don’t depend on it.

This prompted me to try to grow food for the family. But I’ve gone down a huge rabbit hole over soil health, plant health, human health, [and] ended up selling my publishing rights to buy this farm in France – which is a crazy idea.

It went really badly because the ground was all flat, like most of our soils in which we grow our food. The upside is that it forced me to find ways to do it differently; grow in a way in harmony with nature that improves the soil and so on.

Then it became this project with some friends where we try to help other farmers adopt these techniques, and we try to educate consumers on the importance of where they buy their food. Otherwise, we have ten years to turn things around – you know, I don’t want to sound too pessimistic, but we have ten years to turn things around, really.

MF: You completed a UK tour in April which was billed as “the last full live UK tour”. What exactly does this mean for the future of Groove Armada?

Tom Findlay: Yeah, this is the last round of the tour – exactly. So we’re going to do Australia, then New Zealand, and that’s it for the live. We will continue to DJ and we already have concerts for next summer which are really exciting.

And then that will mean we kind of lean towards making dance music, just things that make sense in clubs again. We went through this cycle maybe ten years ago and we made an album called little black book. We started doing house music and DJing again and it was fun – it’s less time consuming than live, which sometimes is like running a small business.

MF: The GA25 the album highlights everything you have done. I always thought you were a really strong album. I was wondering if each of you had something you thought people were sleeping on?

Andy: I will go for the Black light album. It’s an album that remained a kind of “best kept secret” at the time. I think it was a coincidence between the labels and the management and all sorts of things. It was also, yeah, another shift in our ever-evolving sound. So there were no radio plays on this album, strictly speaking.

But, yeah, I think this album as an end-to-end thing for me hits the pinnacle of the studio of that combination of live instruments and electronics that has been a hallmark of our sound on stage.

To M: I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s sleepy at all, but when people talk about our anthems, then ‘Superstylin’ is obviously the one. But, in fact, when we play it live, ‘Get Down’ is almost bigger – and that comes from the [2007] album Soundboy Rock. I love it. It’s a very futuristic dance record. The bass sound is just crazy. And, when we do that one live, it feels timeless.

Groove Armada – ‘Get Down’ featuring Stush, Red Rat

MF: I remember when you worked with Mutya Buena on “Song 4 Mutya (Out Of Control)”, people were so excited – like Sugababes, it’s a legendary girl group. What was it like working with her?

Andy: Yeah, I remember some sort of general scheme was set up for Mutya to come to Tom’s basement to record some vocals and then [we’d] waking up in the morning, getting the paper, reading the headlines about what Mutya had been up to the night before, and realizing she wasn’t coming.

And we repeated this loop several times – I can’t remember exactly how many times; it was several times. But the thing is, when it did, it was pretty easy from a production standpoint because she just has the perfect voice for a pop song.

To M: What I really liked about her is that she’s just authentic and real and no bullshit – [she] lived the life you thought she lived. I’m really happy to see the Sugababes come back a bit now, because I saw their show at Glastonbury and their catalog is absolutely brilliant. So I’m really glad they got a second act because they totally deserve it, you know?

MF: Do you plan to do another studio album, given that you can work remotely? Andy, can it work with life on the farm?

Andy: Yeah, life on the farm is really busy, but Tom also does his adviser stuff. But, yeah, no, I think once that last kind of hooray is over with the live band, one of the appeals of going home is that it really lends itself to what Tom and I really like to do now which is fair to find a few days – which invariably turn into a few nights as well – but we can just get together, sit in the studio, turn off all the outside inputs and just have a laugh making some music and then go play than in nightclubs. I mean, what’s not to love, really?

So as soon as we get back from Australia we have time in the studio to start putting together some house tracks for next year. Whether it becomes an EP or an album or a mix-album, God knows, we’ll see.

But, as Tom mentioned, we’ve already got some really exciting DJ gigs booked for next year. We have the irons in Ibiza to try and do something a little special there. So yes, it’s beyond that, but in a house music direction.

Groove Armada – ‘Song 4 Mutya (out of control)’

  • Groove Armada GA25 is out now.

Further reading

Game Hours Announced for Harvest Rock Festival

Groove Armada Announce 25th Anniversary Australian Tour

Love Letter to a Record: Art vs. Science on Daft Punk’s “Alive 2007”

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Raymond I. Langston