Last updated: 10/24/2007 11:00:00 AM
OLLIE JACOBS - VOCALS
JAMES BARNETT- GUITAR/BASS
LALO CREME- GUITAR
BID - DRUMS
With a name that means 'hidden knowledge," it should come as little surprise that London-based quartet Arkarna take an almost alchemical approach to making music. Effortlessly mixing classic and modern pop influences into a pop-savvy, guitar-drenched, beat-heavy brew, Arkarna's songs hold up equally well on the radio, dancefloor or the live concert stage-as their critically-acclaimed performances have proven. At a time when the industry and the media are busy choosing sides in the rock vs. techno debate, Arkarna offer a simple solution on their debut album Fresh Meat: why not both?
Meeting several years ago at now-legendary Rollover Studios in West London-where the Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and Leftfield have all recorded-engineering/mixing phenom Ollie Jacobs and guitarist James Barnett quickly began writing songs together. Jacobs, or Ollie J. as he is usually credited, had been working at Rollover-co-owned by his dad-since his early teens and was influenced tremendously by house and hip hop music. Before his twentieth birthday, Ollie had already produced, mixed and engineered tracks for an impressive array of dance acts including Pressure Drop, Dreadzone, Leftfield and others.
Barnett, a young but accomplished musician, had been an early advocate of the 'guitar meets techno' sound and set about testing it throughout Europe as part of Spiral Tribe and also guitar/techno innovators The Sandals. By the time Barnett came to Rollover, he had already developed quite a reputation through his performances at UK club Megadog with his band Lunarci. Jacobs, a huge admirer of this hybrid approach to electronic dance music, developed an artistic kinship with Barnett that was instant and almost karmic. Before long, the duo recorded and independently released their first single "R U Scared" as Arkarna-a name chosen from Tarot cards by Ollie's mother, who is described by Jacobs as a white witch and spiritual healer.
With critical raves coming in and a groundswell of underground fan support for "R U Scared," Arkarna were quickly signed to WEA. Soon after, guitarist Lalo Creme had come to Rollover looking for work at the suggestion of producer Trevor Horn. Recently returned to London-Creme, son of 10cc co-founder and music video pioneer Lol Creme-had been skateboarding and playing club gigs in Los Angeles with little success. He proved to be just what James and Ollie needed, however, as Lalo's alt-rock sensibility brought Arkarna one step closer to realizing their vision of recording and performing as a 'proper' band. As a trio, Arkarna recorded their debut single "House On Fire" for WEA which went straight into the UK Top 40 earlier this year.
A taught, edgy track, "House On Fire" is a blueprint to Arkarna's musical approach. Layers of acoustic and electric guitars, percolating rhythms, killer hooks and lots of attitude result in a moody song that is not quite techno and not quite pop, but a fresh combination of both. Vibey remixes of the track by Propellerheads and Alex Reece are already mainstays on DJ turntables throughout the world. Also the band's U.S. debut single, "House On Fire" is included on the new Batman & Robin soundtrack.
Following the release of "House On Fire," James, Ollie and Lalo began recording their album for WEA U.K. and took their songs on the road as a band for the first time. The tour was a breakthrough for Arkarna-showcasing the strength of their songs, their ability as musicians and undeniable good looks. Maybe the most important thing that came out of the tour, however, was the band's relationship with Bid, a veteran session player. Bid was the first drummer auditioned before the tour and their only real choice for the number four spot in the group. By the end of the tour in early spring, he was brought into the album recording sessions and made an official member of the band.
With Bid behind the kit, Arkarna completed the ten tracks for the self-produced Fresh Meat-one of the most varied collection of songs recorded by a debut band in recent memory. From the power riffing of "So Little Time" to the trip-pop of "Future's Overrated" to the atmospheric balladry of "Block Capital," Arkarna are almost impossible to categorize. Already being compared to such innovators as Nine Inch Nails, Underworld and New Order by the UK press, the group is ready to bring their genre-bending brand of '21st Century pop' to America and let the listeners judge for themselves. Arkarna will be a featured act on the month-long Electric Highway Tour. Fresh Meat is released on August 26 on Reprise Records in the United States.