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Public Service Broadcasting: The Race For Space comes to Sheffield

July is here and that can only mean one thing: Tramlines is coming. As usual the city is beginning to buzz in preparation for bands big and small from across the UK and beyond. One of this year's main stage performances comes from the increasingly popular London duo Public Service Broadcasting. Since the release of their latest album, The Race For Space, last year, which reached number 11 in the UK charts, demand to experience this progressive band-come science project has reached new dimensions. PSB get their reputation not only from their interesting take on combining music with science and history, but from their fantastic audio-visual performances. We spoke to J Willgoose Esq ahead of the duo's performance at Tramlines. Are you looking forward to playing tramlines? Very much so, yes. We played it in 2013, at The Harley, which was a very memorable show for a lot of reasons, not least the fact I thought I was about to faint for most of it. It was good - rowdy but fun - and we're looking forward to more of the same. You've spent a lot of the last couple of years on tour. Are the live shows the most important part of what PSB are all about? I'd say they're probably the most fun part, but I always say the most important aspect behind PSB is the music, really. Everything else - the samples, the videos, the visuals, the live shows - is dependent on having strong music underlying it. Without a good foundation like that I don't think anything else would stack up. Did you always know there would be a strong visual element to the band? Not at first, no. It all evolved quite naturally over a period of time. It can sound frighteningly or pretentiously high-concept when you first describe what we do to someone, but it didn't come out fully formed as an idea. It developed over a number of years. Do those visuals always reflect the influences behind the music you're playing? Not so much, no. With a couple of tracks, especially the Dutch Elfstedentocht ones we did, that was more accurate, but normally it's all in my head first before it starts to enter the real world. How do you tend to approach festivals, given the limitations with time and having to share the stage? We always try to put on the biggest and best show we can given whatever constraints we're working within. We've got pretty good at getting on and off stage quickly, but obviously if there's only screens for the headliner, or none at all, then we have to strip it back somewhat. Even when we play without visuals of any sort we still go down well, and in a way it's encouraging to do that kind of show now and then. Do you have a selection process for shows you will play? I tend to say yes to anything unless we'll lose (lots of) money doing it. I don't particularly care about making money, but I do think it's a bit impractical to be playing lots of shows where your costs are higher than the fees you receive. You'd have to stop touring if every show was like that. Do you have any favourite shows or venues you have played? Too many to list, but Brixton Academy last year was a lifelong ambition and I think we pulled it off. Have you had a good reception touring The Race for Space? We have, yes. I think one of the things that struck me when we released the album is how personally some people took to the album. It really seemed to strike a chord with them and I think the same is true over a year down the line. I don't know if I'll still be saying that in ten years, but we tried our best with it. Are we allowed to know whether you have any ideas or concepts for the next release? I do indeed, yes. Catch Public Service Broadcasting on Sunday 24 July, 6:30pm on the Main Stage at The Ponderosa. Tramlines tickets are priced at £42 for the full festival or £32 for day-time only (until 10:30pm). )
by Tasha Franek (she/her)

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