Does It Offend You, Yeah? bassist James Rushent is happy to admit that, in a relatively short time, he’s come to love America. The Reading, England–based electro-rocker’s undying affection has nothing to do with the fact that gas is cheap, the portions in restaurants are super-sized, and the girls seem to have gone completely wild. What Rushent is most thrilled by is that his mega-buzzed band finds itself playing for audiences that don’t seem to give a fuck about labels.
“It’s a different sort of thing over here than it is in England,” says the upbeat bassist, on the line from a Los Angeles tour stop. “In England, people like to put bands in categories. Over here, people don’t seem to do that; they’re more likely to take a band at face value. They don’t listen to all the shit that goes along with being labelled. That makes things so much easier for us.”
What he’s getting at is that back in the U.K., critics and punters alike have pigeonholed Does It Offend You, Yeah? as charter members of the nu-rave club. If that’s maddening to Rushent, synth-jockey Dan Coop, drummer Rob Bloomfield, and singer-guitarist-programmer Morgan Quaintance, it’s because they’re obviously aiming higher than a seat on the bandwagon next to Justice and Shitdisco. On their debut disc, You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into, they rocket across genres with hyperactive abandon, covering everything from vocoder-powered robofunk (“Weird Science”, which is every bit as retro-’80s as its name) to lipstick-smeared new wave (“Epic Last Song”). Anything goes, which explains why you’ll hear sun-splashed steel drums in the middle of the faux-new-romantic number “Dawn of the Dead”.
Making it clear where the ghettoization started, there are also moments where You Have No Idea seems like the work of the world’s most enraged microchip manipulators. You can practically smell the burning circuity in the blender-processed electro of “Battle Royale” and the warp-speed “With a Heavy Heart (I Regret to Inform You)”. During such diversions, Does It Offend You, Yeah? doesn’t seem interested in packing dance floors as much as utterly destroying them with its thrillingly bombastic, testosterone-jacked bangers.
It’s all been enough to get Does It Offend You, Yeah? name-checked as a breaking artist in Rolling Stone, raved about as one of the marquee attractions at March’s South by Southwest, and generally pegged as the most danceable thing to come out of Britain since, if not Franz Ferdinand, then at least Hot Chip. What Rushent is proudest of right now, though, is what his band is being embraced for in North America.
“I think it’s more of a live thing over here, where in England it’s sort of the other way around: it’s more about the records,” he says. “Over here a band can become quite well known off the back of its shows, especially if they are good. American audiences seem to appreciate the live side of things a lot more than in England.”
Where that bodes well for Does It Offend You, Yeah? is that the band has built a reputation for hitting the stage in a mode best described as search and destroy. In the beginning, that inevitably led to Rushent doing his best to smash the shit out of everything within demolishing distance.
“It’s fairly rare that I do that these days,” he admits. “Guilt got to me—every time I broke everything, it was down to our tour manager to go out and find new stuff on his days off. Besides, it was usually just me doing that. None of the other band members really liked it because their stuff sometimes ended up trashed as well. I’ve smashed Rob’s drums, and I see the look on his face.”
Luckily, full-on instrument destructions are by all accounts just a small part of the Does It Offend You, Yeah? insanity. Audiences were fortunate enough to discover that at SXSW.
“I don’t want to sound bigheaded or anything,” Rushent says, “but it was just business as usual. I know that we can go into any place and just totally smash it—that’s one thing we’re totally certain about. Obviously we’ve done shows where things have been terrible, but I think that overall—90 percent of the time—we’re able to hold our own.
“It’s funny,” he continues. “When we get up on-stage and are performing with other bands on a bill, we’re always like, ”˜What are we doing here?’ It’s like we’re just some guys from Reading who started out writing some tunes as a laugh. So it’s nice when you come off and people are like, ”˜You guys were the total highlight.’ ”
Does It Offend You, Yeah? did indeed begin as two blokes having a bit of fun. Giving them something in common with those unrepentant French perverts known as the Teenagers, Rushent and Coop started out as a bit of a joke on MySpace. After writing some songs together, they figured they needed a band name if they were going to post them on the site. They found the answer to their problem on the British version of The Office, when Ricky Gervais’s brilliantly clueless David Brent asks a colleague, “Does it offend you, yeah? My drinking?” Today, Rushent can hardly believe where he’s ended up—and no, he’s not just talking about America.
“I’m constantly surprised,” he says humbly. “It goes back to us just being a bunch of guys from Reading. I remember putting the first track up on MySpace and having a couple of people hit us back. One of them was some guy asking if we’d come DJ at his club in London. He said, ”˜I’ll give you £50,’ and we were like ”˜Wow—we might actually get some DJ gigs out of this.’ For me, that alone would have been massive. So to still be going up the ladder instead of going down really is amazing.”
Does It Offend You, Yeah? plays Richard’s on
Richards on Wednesday (May 7).
In + out
James Rushent sounds off on the things that enquiring minds want to know.
On being labelled by the British press: “The frustrating thing is that you can’t shout back. They say something about why your band does something a certain way, and you’re like, ”˜What? That’s not why we did that.’ But it’s in print, so 50,000 people read it and think it’s true. You just have to shrug it off.”
On working fast: “Every track on the record was written in a day. If you spend two days working on something then you’re thinking about it too much. It won’t be honest.”
On reactions to the album: “I got terrified as we were getting close to being done. I was like, ”˜What if this gets bad reviews?’, which really sort of hindered me for a while. But when we finally got it finished and got the first batch of reviews back, only two of like 10 were bad. Ten minutes after reading them I’d forgotten them. I was like, ”˜Well, that’s not so bad. It hasn’t killed me—I’m still here.’ That’s going to make writing the next one a lot easier.”