Artificial Pleasure are a London-based quartet formed in early 2016. The band consists of Phil McDonnell (vocals, guitars), Dom Brennan (synths), Lee Jordan (drums) and Rich Zbaraski (bass) joining the line-up.
Following their first release at the end of 2016, the band kick off 2017 as one of NME’s Top 10 Artists to watch, calling their music “irresistible funk-punk with thrusting sleazy grooves.” The Guardian called them “supercharged pop” while Stereogum said they were “a versatile outfit that tie many different influences and genres into tight, hypnotic knots.”
Working previously as Night Engine, the band assumed the new name following line-up changes and a renewed focus in their sound. The music has subtly shifted, crystallising into something altogether bolder and tougher.
The tracks find their roots in childhoods spent listening to Atlantic Soul, with an adolescence firmly shaped by the energy of Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Joy Division, The Velvet Underground and Gary Numan.
Phil and Dom have known each other since primary school, and Phil met Lee through a mutual friend - he didn’t like him at first but needed a drummer so still asked him to join the band. Through a family connection, Rich now completes the band.
Phil’s main guitar influences are Wilko Johnson and Gang of Four - his playing is at times frantic, but always simple and melodic. Vocally his style reflects Kevin Rowland’s emotional delivery and the detached vocal sensibilities of David Byrne.
Dom is an electronic music fan inspired by synth legends Bernie Worrell, Jan Hammer, Wendy Carlos and new-wave pioneers Japan and DAF. In recent years he has written scores for theatre productions including ‘The Universal Machine’, a musical about the life of Alan Turing and ‘Down & Out in Paris and London’, both produced by the New Diorama Theatre.
Lee’s drumming is defined by raw energy. Before joining the band, he had only played in jazz, funk and soul groups and it’s this underlying seething power that his playing is based on. He wishes he was a cross between Art Blakey and Pat Mahoney.
Rich grew up listening predominantly to punk, funk and disco. He was inspired by the raw power and attack of bands Rancid and Jane's Addiction and the undeniable groove of artists such as Marcus Miller and Earth, Wind & Fire. He also draws influences from his classical training as a violinist, viola player and double bassist. In recent years he has played in The West End production of 'American Idiot' and toured with pop act Rationale.
The writing tends to start from Phil working in his room on his Zoom MRS-8 8 track. Riffs are played over and over whilst Phil improvises vocal melodies and lines, often these improvised lines stick and become the subject of the song. Other songs are written without any instruments in sight, songs are started and finished in Phil’s head whilst out and about.
There is a strong DIY work ethic - most Artificial Pleasure tracks are self-mixed and selfproduced - Phil and Dom generally work together on arrangements, with Dom’s selftaught engineering driving the final sound.
All of the songs are written with live performance in mind - the raw energy they exert is unlike that of other bands around today; no tricks or gimmicks, just pure adrenaline. Following their first show in December, Paul Stokes of Q noted: “Only band I’ve seen to channel both Bryan Ferry & Sid Vicious.” To fully appreciate Artificial Pleasure they must be seen live.