Welcome to FREAKS ONLY’s Three Song Story, where we get to know some of our favorite artists over the course of three songs that hold special meaning for them. Each guest brings us something old, something new, and something of their own. And then we get into it.
This week brings with it “When The Lights Go,” the first full length album in ten years from producer extraordinaire of thinky-British-dance-music, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.
“When The Lights Go,” due Sept. 9 via TEED’s own LA-based record label Nice Age, proves worth the wait. It cleverly advances the synth-forward disco and sultry R&B that the artist born Orlando Higginbottom has been perfecting since his singles began anchoring your favorite DJs’ sets in the early twenty-teens, while simultaneously incorporating everything he’s learned from his various side hustles.
Since 2020 alone, Higginbottom has delivered the ambient EP “I Can Hear the Birds,” remixed KCRW favorite TOKiMONSTA (among many others), graced our list of the 21 best songs of 2021, and collaborated with fellow cerebral-electro-Brit Bonobo for the Grammy-nominated single "Heartbreak."
On “When The Lights Go,” every note, beat, and drone-tinged interlude amounts to an immersive soundscape punctuated by dangerously seductive lyrics detailing earnest romantic desire. If you’re not careful, it will trick you into believing that falling in love is not only worth the hassle, but a thing worthy of active pursuit.
Higginbottom's 3 Song Story is similarly insightful, preoccupied with those certain elemental things that humans seek even as the world visibly melts away from us in real time: Love, family, shelter, fairness, proper mental health care, bodies in motion on a packed dance floor, rawly emotive singing voices vanquishing all language barriers… you get the idea.
Dive in and prepare for total transcendence.
The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Something Old: Mercedes Sosa - “Gracias a la vida”
KCRW: For something old, you brought us Mercedes Sosa’s version of “Gracias a la vida.” Why did you choose this one?
Orlando Higginbottom: I heard this song for the first time fairly recently and it really knocked my socks off. It was one of those songs I listened to constantly for a week or so … just the most beautiful velvet voice, one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. There is a texture to it that I haven't found the words for yet. It's so warm and caring. I listen to a lot of music that's not in English. I'm a huge Luis Miguel fan, and I’m constantly delving into Brazilian music. I think I somehow get more out of music that's not in English.
Something New: Mystic Bill - “Body Moves (NYC Mix)
This has exactly what I'm looking for from a house record. There’s this kind of dark, actual real bassline to it, it’s got great lyrics, and it builds into a kind of chaotic place. I think it's just so good and it's the record that I can put on, look up, and watch everybody get down. Suddenly people are just looking at their feet, in a good way, you know? They're heads down, hips low… It's been a great moment.
I don't know much about Mystic Bill. I'm pretty sure he's a Miami guy. He puts out a lot of records and he's a legend as a DJ, but I don't know him personally. I've just been loving this tune.
At this point it feels like you’re almost as well known as a great DJ in addition to being a great producer.
I guess I've been slightly treading water trying to get this album that I'm putting out now together. With that comes getting back into the more artist-focused, singing-and-performing side of things. I'm very grateful that I've been able to do all this DJing leading up to that, I love it. In my head I'm a musician, and part of it is that I get to DJ.
Something You: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - “Crosswalk”
I remember with “Crosswalk,” I was thinking a lot about simplifying things and doing the obvious thing. That morning, I thought, “Okay, I'm going to do something obvious.” And then I wrote that bassline. It’s almost a childish bassline, a four-note thing that you would compose when you first sit down at a piano. I kind of leaned into it from there. I was just like, “Do the dumb thing first, then add to it, then overthink it.” But start from a simple point.
Why did you take ten years between full lengths?
A number of reasons. One, I wasn't happy with the way I could release music within the music industry. I was struggling to see that I would get any kind of financial or energetic return that felt fair to me for the work that I was putting in. I really care about fairness, you know? That matters to me. I now have a deal that I think is fair, and I think that the structure I have around me is fair. That makes a big difference to how I sleep at night.
I also think that I probably was very depressed for about four years, and had to figure that out. I have figured that out, but I definitely lost some time there inside my own head.
What’s the meaning behind the album title, “When the Lights Go?”
There are a lot of meanings to it. The title track of the album [is] a New Wave/disco track that's about the end of the world. When everything falls apart, wanting to be with that person in that moment. Holding onto some romance in the chaos. One of the big themes for me on this album is that… It's like, love during apocalypse, very broadly speaking.
The chaos that we've been through over the last three years, and obviously, it's not stopping or slowing down… We're all feeling some kind of climate change panic somewhere inside us. But we all want to have kids, and fall in love and have homes and these things are clashing. That's the theme of the record.