Electronic music is taking a step outside the box—and outside of the DJ booth. Mac Purdy and Zach Saucier may be familiar names to Las Vegas’ local rock-music fans, but the two musicians are now applying a twist on their skills for a new audience. In advance of their live show and album release party at Commonwealth on January 19 (doors at 8 p.m.), the duo fills us in on the Payola Presley sound.
For those who aren’t familiar with Payola Presley, what’s your history together?
Purdy: Zach and I played together for a little over a decade [in the band Slow to Surface]. We’ve gotten to know each other’s styles and musical tastes. After all of our previous projects ended, we enjoyed playing together still, so we kept going.
Saucier: It was a matter of trying to step away from the standard rock ’n’ roll stuff that we had been playing for years and years. For me, the time I had spent working in nightclubs? All of that music sinks into and sticks with you. That’s why it’s so popular—it’s simple, it’s catchy and I was just hell-bent on fusing our rock ’n’ roll influence with something that’s poppin’ right now.
A lot of people have only started listening to electronic music in the past couple of years, but Zach, you worked at Rain Nightclub in the Palms when Paul Oakenfold launched his groundbreaking Perfecto party. How did that influence you?
Saucier: Here’s a great, great example of that: I was working at Rain for Perfecto, and I heard that Axwell remix of Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition.” I was like, “This is fucking brilliant. I can make rock ’n’ roll music that sounds like this!” As soon as I heard that remix, it was like a light bulb went off. I started DJing around Downtown a little bit, and I would come out from behind the booth and play guitar. I was like, “I need to figure this out; I need to make this happen and make it a real thing.”
Purdy: It started as just a “Let’s see what happens/get rid of all the rules of what we did before” thing, and then it just kept going from an EP to a full-length.
Where on the electronic music spectrum do you feel Payola Presley lands?
Saucier: This is definitely indie dance—underground indie dance. It’s not Top 40 … everything that’s come out on this record is very indie, very raw and real dance.
What are your rocker views on today’s electronic-dance music?
Saucier: I’ve actually have gotten sick of listening to it. There’s a lot of amazing tracks out there—don’t get me wrong, Adrian Lux’s stuff, I love it—but right now at this moment, I’ve gone back and I’m listening to folk and country music because it’s simple. Even when we were writing this record, I was surrounding myself with styles of music that were completely irrelevant to this record that we were making, but then I started incorporating into the record.
Purdy: With the electronic stuff now, from my perspective, even when they have something that’s really cool, they ruin it by doing it for the next three minutes. What we try to do is take what they’re doing that was really cool, but put it into a rock format where it’s here, it’s a hook, it’s out, then doing something else, then come back to it, just like a hook would be, but in the electronic style.
Saucier: We wrote dance music in the style of rock ’n’ roll songs.
Since it’s a brand-new project, let’s cover that crucial info for the Wikipedia page citation: What inspired the name?
Saucier: [Laughs] What I was trying to do was create something that’s as American as possible because I ultimately want this to go overseas, and they will eat this shit up! I thought about the Payola scandal, and of course, what’s more American than Elvis Presley? Then the alliteration with the two Ps—it just worked. Then chicks started saying that they liked it, and I was like, “This is good.”
When people come to see you at a gig, it isn’t just two dudes DJing, right?
Purdy: The setup we have now for the January 19 show—it will change as we do more songs—but it will be Zach doing a lot of guitar and I’m doing live drums, programmed drums, a little bit of keyboard, and we both are singing.
Saucier: Without a doubt it’s still going to have that classic rock ’n’ roll live show vibe to it, high energy. We’re gonna be sweatin’ and actually playing our shit.
Purdy: Some of the electronic stuff, it’s not always interesting to watch unless they’ve got a really good production. But for a bar and that kind of vibe that we’re used to, the show was the musicians, and we’re taking that aspect to it.
Saucier: We’re still traditionalists at heart. There’s nothing like performing live and throwing down.
Purdy: It’s just new instruments—and one of them happens to be a computer.