After seven years away from the limelight, the internet lost its mind when a new single surfaced by TNGHT, the joint project headed by music producers Hudson Mohawke and Lunice. Following the release of their debut self-titled EP in 2012, both Hud Mo and Lunice – native to Glasgow and Montreal respectively – decided to pull the plug on their collaborative project when the hype was at its peak.
As TNGHT reprise their place in the electronic music landscape with II, their new EP on LuckyMe, they look no more bothered about neatly fitting into a box as they did the first time around. It’s an ideology reflected in their visual identity, too, much of which is orchestrated by label founder Dominic Flannigan.
Rather than predictable studio or touring shots, their Instagram page is flooded with iconic pairings that vaguely gesture at a symbol of themselves: Obama alongside the Queen; Goldie and David Bowie, or in the case of their website, a tongue-in-cheek take on the Mario Bros designed by Henock Sileshi. Things only get weirder when their visuals take an animated form – look no further than the video for Dollaz created by Flannigan and Canadian filmmaker Cole Kush.
“Comebacks and music marketing campaigns have a knack of being totally overthought,” Flannigan says. Instead, TNGHT’s visuals are instinctive and fun, no doubt due to how Hud Mo “rejects any conceptual design. It’s all gut.” Meanwhile, Lunice is very “design articulate and easy to work with. He’s like the deciding opinion when Hud Mo and I bicker about design,” Flannigan says. One thing’s for sure, as you can see in the interview with Flannigan below, they don’t take themselves too seriously, and neither should you.
Creative Review: Can you talk us through how you/Henock Sileshi came up with the design for the EP cover, and what it represents?
Dominic Flannigan: I approached Henock via DM ’cause I had a hunch he might know about us already. He got back within 15 minutes and was incredible throughout the process. I’ve been a fan of his for a while now. Because I’d done the first cover in 2012 I didn’t want to preordain what the work might be so I asked him to go hang out with Hud Mo and hear the music really loud and respond to that…. The first options he sent were logo forms and graphic in nature and the TNGHT guys kicked it back. It was too clean. Too slick.
Henock’s second attempt was this colourful disco typeface slapped over a close-up of Lunice’s hands (shot by Tom Keelan) and it just felt right. Lunice was reminded of the graffiti of Dondi White when he saw it. And Hud Mo loved it ’cause it was bold and weird and sorta uncool. I received Henock’s file and retouched on my side – making small tweaks to the type, retouching the photo and adding the border to help tie all the colour together. Every change, we just went around the houses on iMessage and made sure Henock and TNGHT were happy. What we ended up with is a saturated bit of colourful print that feels like a good response to this big colourful record that was made almost as an improv.
CR: The Dollaz video is pretty wild. Was the aim to simply weird people out? Could you give us a brief idea of how it was made?
DF: The roll was definitely to weird people out. You know, we just don’t want this to feel like anything else. I was a big fan of Cole Kush’s pilot for Adult Swim called Dayworld, and reached out to him directly via his site. We took a call with TNGHT that was really funny – just swapping references. Cole asked the guys for portraits to model onto the characters…. For Dollaz we didn’t want the song to be perceived as some celebration of money. It should be the opposite. Lunice’s lyric says ‘it’s just dollaz’ – so I made the background burning money. Besides that it’s just about finding a tone that feels right for the song. Freak people out.
CR: How has it been steering their image after a seven year hiatus? Do they particularly care or are they relaxed about it?
DF: We’re trying not to stress out. The key to a comeback is not trying to make lightning strike twice in the same place. The last record connected with fans and tastemakers in a weird and particular way: it was a moment when lots of hip-hop was becoming more electronic and the guys’ solo music had built up a lot of goodwill. It was a perfect storm of circumstances.
So for II we let the hype die down. There was no pressure on them making the record and consequently we’ve got music which we know is very, very good. The guys are in a great place. When I know that, come release date, fans are gonna love a record – it enables me to have more fun with the campaign. We can be more indulgent. So instead of trying to make this feel like the second coming of Christ I think it’s a lot smarter to have some fun with the things we’re making and let the music do its thing.
II by TNGHT is out now on LuckyMe; tng.ht