Sam Eastgate, frontman for English electro rockers Late of the Pier, recalls when he swore off the synthesizer. "I found one behind the shelves in our living room," says the 21-year-old, whose father played in obscure '80s rock act My Dog Has No Nose. "It was a weird plastic thing covered in dials. I thought, 'I'll never learn to play that.' "
Long story short: He did.
It was during science class in 2003 that Eastgate and his lab partner, Ross Dawson, decided to form a band. So he, Dawson (on drums), and pals Sam Potter (keys) and Andrew Faley (bass) began ditching school in Castle Donington to write experimental pop songs. "We liked to change the key and the speed in the middle so that it sounded kind of wrong," he says.
All those skipped classes resulted in Fantasy Black Channel (Astralwerks), a kinetic debut replete with -- whaddya know? -- hiccupping synths and distorted bass lines, the perfect foundation for nonsensical anthems about getting drunk and dancing. The album was released last year in the U.K., where the hype surrounding the band was enough to make Eastgate and Dawson's original dream of "being the next Beatles" seem slightly less fantastical. Of course, the songs, especially addictively aerobic singles "Bathroom Gurgle" and "Space and the Woods," owe their inspiration to an entirely different era. "I really liked Gary Numan until we started getting compared to him all the time," says Eastgate of the "Cars" auteur who helped usher in '80s new wave.
Now Late of the Pier (so named, Dawson says, because the words sounded mellifluous together) are looking forward to bringing their raucous show -- Potter and Eastgate sometimes wrestle onstage -- to the States this month at Austin's South by Southwest festival. But Dawson says their favorite audience forever remains the teenagers they first performed for in West London, when they were stars of the underage scene. "Kids are amazing to play to because they're very excitable," he says. "And I'd like to think they aren't just incredibly drunk."
Listen: Late of the Pier, "Heartbeat"