Groove Armada can't help but create songs that burst out of studio and spread all over the place. At The River, If Everybody Looked The Same, Superstylin', I See You Baby - these are towering songs of our times. But if you're restlessly inventive, you don't want to be defined by your past, no matter how shiny and brilliant. You want to move away. Or you want to move on.
Findlay and Cato will readily admit that, a couple of years, ago, they considered knocking Groove Armada on the head. They'd been going for almost a decade. They'd achieved more than they ever dared dream they'd achieve since first meeting in 1995, starting their own London club night and releasing At The River, their debut single, in 1997. They'd taken their revved-up live show round the world several times (Australia in particular loves Groove Armada). They'd made four albums that reinvented the house music wheel, and played fast and loose with other genres besides. They'd been Grammy nominated, and had everyone from Elton John to the Ibizan massive singing their praises. Their Best Of... had flown off the shelves.
"We toured the greatest hits album and were blown away by the huge groundswell of enthusiasm [from the audiences]," remembers Cato. "We were selling more tickets at Brixton Academy than Paul Weller... But then, we were also DJing, just like we'd always done, at house parties till six in the morning. It was all hands to the pump. It was hard to think about giving it all up."
There were further boosts. After some record label jockeying, Groove Armada found themselves, at last, on a big, proper label with, at last, decent support and creative input from a savvy A&R collaborator. Cato made music with his side-project Rising 5, and Findlay toured with his other band, Sugardaddy. Both kept up their DJing. And, finally, Andy Cato moved to Barcelona, while Tom Findlay stayed in north London.
After all those years sat cheek-by-stubbly-jowl in sweaty little rooms, smoking and drinking and thinking, "I found the new set-up really liberating," says Findlay. And into that geographical/mental/emotional space, Groove Armada resolved to flood all sorts of song ideas, vocalists and styles. In the end they wouldn't have room for all of them And their plans for a double CD - Saturday night/Sunday morning stylee - would fall by the wayside.
But in its place came something far better: a focused collection of 15 songs each flowing into the next like the best kind of homemade mix-tape. In its place came Soundboy Rock.
Soundboy Rock, then, is the sound of a band ten years young. It's an album teeming with ideas, featuring a roll-call of superlative talents. It's a testament to Groove Armada's core visionary genius that it all flows together like one seamless whole. Like the seasoned DJs they are, Cato and Findlay know that context is everything - that the highest high can be made higher still, that the mellowest pull-it-back moment can still pack a mighty punch. And if you can shape all that into one album, you might be onto something: a record that'll have you pogoing in a field, rocking on the sofa or bouncing off the walls in a club.