Most tales In space involve either sweeping epics of good and evil, or involve no one being able to hear you scream. Others centre around us trying to grasp the concept of our place in the universe, often while on truckloads of drugs. Others still are about the simmering sexual chemistry between a pointy-eared alien and William Shatner.
As with most tales in space, this one has an inauspicious beginning. The, er, tale of Tales In Space is as classic as it is simple. Luke Bert and Simon Widauer met while studying audio engineering, and decided that hanging out and partying with each other was a good idea. From there, it was simply a matter of taking those ideals (‘hanging out’ and ‘partying’) and adding ‘making music’ to the equation. So they did.
The result, in 2009, was their first self-titled EP. After that came, as often happens, their second (2010’s Ghost in the Room). Now, following three successful singles, ‘Shades’, ‘In A Million Places At Once’ and ‘All Messed Up’, a swathe of online love for several eclectic and somewhat mind-bending videos, and a year of virtually constant touring, Tales in Space deliver their debut album, Formula.
If Pink Floyd were obsessed with the dark side of the moon, Tales in Space are enamored with astronaut ice-cream. Laden with a rainbow of hazy colour, full of melodic riffage and more electronic misfittery than R2-D2 on molly a broken Casio, while possessing a pulsing, beating heart that’s warped well beyond ‘indie electro pop’, with Formula the pair have created a sonic tapestry that would soundtrack an interstellar Magna Carta.
Rewriting the indie pop songwriting rule book, Tales In Space end up in a universe all of their own. It’s E.M.A. meets ELO by way of Jagwar Ma and Julian Casablancas. This is pop music that knows few boundaries and ignores them all.
With all writing, pre-production and recording for the album done in their Sydney studio, Luke and Simon discovered their ideas for the band itself, let alone the record, evolved the more they wrote.
Deciding they really wanted to go beyond the material of their first EPs, the guys challenged themselves in many different ways. They messed with the way they approached song construction entirely, for example “the drums for 'Shades' are actually from another song off our first EP” explains Luke, and they pushed themselves physically and mentally by staying in the studio hours, days and weeks at a time. “’Starwars' was written and completed in 2 hours flat one night when we were experiencing an epic case of studio-insanity. We were actually taking a break from recording and just messing around!” says Luke.
While ‘Shades’ hit high rotation on triple j — and spent several months there, ending up the station’s top 35 most-played tracks of 2013 and earning accolades around the world — the pair were either holed up in the studio writing the final tracks for the album, or touring around Australia. In the process, the songs for Formula were honed to a finer point than a Vulcan’s ears.
As it’s said, in space, no one can hear you scream. But with these Tales In Space? Everyone will be too busy playing Frisbee, while ignoring phone calls from their boss, and listening to a record that is bristling with the energy of a strange quark star, to scream (or care) about anything beyond ‘Whose pants are these again?’ and ‘Hey, why are we in space? This is sweet!”