Dance music is back, baby! After Drake and Beyoncé revived disco and house music for mainstream audiences last year, now it’s the turn of one of Australia’s finest purveyors of dance to make their comeback: Rogue Traders.
In case you’re in need of a refresher, look at this impressive rap sheet: after shooting to fame in the early ’00s, the electropop group had seven top 10 hits on the ARIA Singles Chart; their seminal second studio album, Here Come the Drums, went 4x platinum; they racked up ARIA Awards nominations like they were going out of fashion.
Two decades after their commercial peak, Rogue Traders have returned to a musical landscape far different from the one of their heyday; but, maybe, in an age where so many artists take themselves much too seriously, a bit of sincere fun is just what’s needed.
For a prime example, here’s the group’s comeback single, “To the Disco”, released today: the fizzing electronic track alluringly urges listeners to return to the dancefloor and just cut loose for a while.
“”To the Disco” takes us back to the dancefloor. Our fans have been so patient in waiting for new music from us after all of these years and the truth is, it takes time to get things feeling right. This track feels right, and we are so excited for you all to hear it!” lead singer Natalie Bassingthwaighte says.
To celebrate the Rogue Traders’ return, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with Bassingthwaighte and DJ and producer James Ash to find out more about their new single and their future as a group.
And if you genuinely are ready to return to the dancefloor, the Rogue Traders will be launching the single with a special pop-up live show at Sydney’s Colombian Hotel on Thursday, February 23rd. Bassingthwaighte and Ash will combine for an epic vocal and DJ set which will feature old hits, past favourites, and, of course, “To the Disco”. Tickets are available now here.
Rogue Traders’ “To the Disco” is out now via Neon Records.
Rolling Stone AU/NZ: First of all, congratulations on the new single. It’s quite the anthem! What felt right about this time for your comeback?
James: Well we would have loved for it to happen sooner – but the truth is, it just takes a long time to find to find the right record. For us, it’s been a while between drinks, so we needed to have something that honoured what we’d done and didn’t sound like we were abandoning the past. But equally, we needed it to sound fresh, contemporary and relevant. Thankfully, as a DJ still playing out every week, I got to tweak the track over many months ’til I knew it was ready.
Natalie: Thanks, we think it’s a bit of an anthem too. We’re pretty stoked with how it’s all ended up. It just felt like the right time. You mess around with some tunes over the years and this one just felt completely right and ready. I think everyone is ready to get on the floor at the disco and dance up a storm! It just felt like the right message and the right vibe and the right feel – just get out there and have some fun.
It was inspired by one of your earlier songs, is that right?
James: Yes. So on our album Better in the Dark, we had a track called “On Your Way to the Disco”. We’d always earmarked that as a single – but it didn’t happen at that time. It also always felt kind of incomplete to us back then. Fast forward many years later when we had the music for the new track and we just tried singing all sorts of stuff over the top, and quite by accident we tried the old verse from “On Your Way to the Disco” – it just worked. The rest of the song didn’t, however, so we wrote a brand new chorus, middle 8 and second verse to fit the new track.
Natalie: We’ve twisted it around, like Rogue Traders know how to do, and what you get is what you’ve got!
How did it feel to get back into the recording studio? Liberating?
James: Well, we’d never really left, all of us having remained musically active over the years. What was different was the energy of being together in the studio again. Hearing Nat sing over our music, suddenly what we were working on became a Rogues track – all the elements were there.
Natalie: It was really liberating to record again, it’s been so long. The last time we released was in 2009, which feels like a lifetime ago and it kind of was. Just to feel the energy of it again, and getting excited to get on the stage in front of everyone, it’s just going to be wild.
“The dancefloor is where we’re born, we came out of club music” – I really liked this quote of yours. What dance artists did you both absolutely love growing up?
James: I grew up in the UK from the early ’90s, so I was exposed to rave and house music culture from the get-go. My favourite band was, is, and always will be The Prodigy. I’ve been DJ’ing since ’94 and that’s always been at the heart of what we do – the songs have to move you. To this day I can still listen to Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land” with a sense of utter wonder. These days, though, my appreciation for the soul and core of house music has deepened and I now see it as the centre of all dance music.
Natalie: Thanks, the dancefloor is where we were born! We came out of club music, that’s definitely from James. I was really into pop music when I was younger – George Michael, Whitney Houston, Mariah, Selena, Culture Club, Madonna, anything like that was my vibe.
If either of you are heading “to the disco,” where would this be? Where’s the best place in Australia to boogie on the dancefloor?
James: Hahahah – one of our gigs of course! But seriously, the best nights are normally the out of the way places, the happy accidents, the nights were everything just falls into place. It’s all about who you’re with, not where you are.
What has the fans’ reaction been so far to your return? They’ve been very patient!
James: They’ve been amazing!! Yes, extremely patient – hopefully this is just the start of a new era for the band with lots more new music to come.
Natalie: The fans’ reaction has been so exciting. They’ve been waiting for such a long time but they’re ready for it, just as much as we are if not more.
Is “To The Disco” a taste of a full album?
James: Potentially – if the appetite from the fans is there. We love making music and already have lots of ideas of things we want to try.
Natalie: A full album? I don’t know, is anyone doing full albums anymore? Maybe. I think we definitely want to get into the studio and write some more music and see what we feel. If there comes a song that just feels right, then we will release it and get on the road.
Are you looking forward to the launch show at Colombian Hotel? That should be a wonderful night.
James: SO MUCH. Honoured to be playing during Mardi Gras week. We intend to blow the roof off.
Natalie: Can’t wait to get to the Columbian Hotel, it’s going to be huge. First of all, I haven’t been there in years, so it’s going to be wild. We just want to smash out our hits that everyone loves and knows so well and have a big party.
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I wanted to get your thoughts on the current state of electronic and dance music, particularly in Australia. Has it changed much since your heyday? Are there any contemporary dance artists you like?
James: Back in the early ’00s, the Aria Club Chart maybe had a quarter local tracks – maybe less. These days, it’s the majority of local artists which is just outstanding. Australia is a major player on the world stage of dance music and has been for a very long time. As far as acts who I love right now, there are so many – but I’d point out SuperMini and Sgt Slick for being consistently amazing. All time faves are PNAU and Flume.
What other side projects does everyone have going on?
James: Right now, RT is the focus. That’s our baby and that’s what we want to share with the world.
Natalie: I’ve got lots of gigs myself. I’ve been touring with Synthony around Australia doing some of the big outdoor arenas with a 60-piece orchestra. It’s fun and exhilarating. I’ve got a film coming up – it’s a good year, I definitely can’t complain.
James: Definitely. Expect more full band shows, plus DJ duo shows with Nat and I, to be announced over the coming weeks.
Natalie: Touring the country?! You betcha. I think we just have to finally get out there, get amongst it, and do it.