We took it track by track with the Brighton duo of Johnny and Will Griffiths, lifting the lid on their soul-stirring new EP.
Words by Brad Sked
Philophiles are naturally drawn to narratives of passion and desire and are united by a yearning to explore their passions through art. Following in the footsteps of countless romantics, Speedboat (Johnny and Will Griffiths) have taken this inevitable leap. The duo is, by anyone’s criteria, obsessed with love in its multitude of forms, whether this is an unrequited, one-sided imaginative affair, or an exploration of the incongruity between real, actual love and Hollywood’s depictions of it.
Seeing as the boys’ work owes a great deal to the influence of the aforementioned silver screen, we asked them for a lowdown on the six tracks to guide you through each act, from beginning, to middle, to end.
Madeira Nights eases us in with a buzzing electricity that calls to mind the hum of Suicide and the gleeful sleaze of Marc Bolan. In the brothers’ words: “The track explores the stories of young men and women and their relationships revolving around street racing gangs.” It’s a warm drop into their world, one that introduces us to their style and opens us up to the glorious heights that are to come.
One such height is the next track, bigboy123. This is when we slip into technicolour and their wide-eyed, ultra-neon vision becomes clear. Like Wong Kar-Wai’s tour de force In the Mood for Love, the song is a stylish exploration of infatuation and those unrequited, almost moments. “It’s a one-sided story of love” says Johnny, “when a camera shop clerk becomes infatuated with a customer through the photographs he takes…”
Of course, there are the obvious touchstones of bands like the Human League and China Crisis we could talk about here, but this is our first glimpse of the kind of hauntological pull Speedboat command, as if we are being given a glimpse of a world where the pop maximalism of those aforementioned artists were pushed to an extreme and combined with a thoroughly modern, end of history wink.
This wink may be at its most sly on I Only Saw Her From Behind. It’s a story as old as time: “Trying to take a girl on a first date to the circus but realising it aint what it’s all made out to be.” It’s a cold, arctic track, that on the surface appears melancholic, but unlike the regal Eurocentrism of say Vienna, it’s much more likely to bring a cheeky grin to your face when the chorus hits and you realise the ulterior motives.
Accompanied by a video that captures its raw, swinging energy, Dog Toy is the flipside, representing Speedboat at their most excitable and silly. It’s a view into “carnal desire and instinct and satisfying those needs with objects designed to satisfy” they say, comparing a “dog toy and a dildo and how they fulfil the instinct to kill and the instinct to fuck using rubbers’ ability to fabricate satisfaction.” The processed guitars, chunky synth bass and stuttering drums act as the perfect sordid undercurrent for the boys to strut their stuff and drop playful innuendos left, right and centre.
We’re now into the final act, as we ease into the woozy romanticness of Ready. If you thought there was an over-the-top quality to Speedboat’s music, well this gives 10cc a run for their money. Written during a time “where I thought I was ready to move on from a past love, but actually realising that I wasn’t at all ready and being knocked back a way. But also realising that as humans we need to physically connect with people for our health, and we should not feel guilty about enjoying the pleasure.” In some ways, there is a distinctly English feel to this track, a kind of hypnagogic take on the emotional synthpop of Bronski Beat.
Beat Your Mind is our defiant finale. In their words, “it’s about being single and letting Hollywood delusions of love get in the way of any real romance’. It’s a true synthesis of all we’ve just heard and easy to imagine slotting into place behind a leading lady like Olivia Newton John, who unsurprisingly shows up here in the lyrics. It’s an ode to love, a weird, fake kind of love, but a persistent one, nonetheless. And it’s in these moments that Speedboat find their stride.
Forced to choose between the harsh realities of real life love, and the magical representations of it, it makes sense that there are those like Speedboat who would chose the latter; to remind us that we always have our fantasies.