AT 1980, a synthwave duo formed by Adrian Quesada Michelena from Spain and Josh Dally from England, have just released their first album A Thousand Lives a few days ago. Here at Retro Synthwave, we have an exclusive interview to get to know a little bit more about those musicians. You’ll know what was the key inspiration to create their huge LP, if they planned to do some concerts, what are their key collaborations and projects… and many more. Enjoy!
Retro Synthwave: How was the idea of At 1980 created?
Adrian: It started out as my personal project. I was born in 1980, hence the name. I contacted Josh for a vocal performance on a more or less finished track (Now), but we enjoyed working together so much that we decided working on another track (ended up being Have a heart), this time co-writing it. The creative match was further confirmed and we decided to embark on an album project together.
How did both of you meet?
Adrian: Yeah, as said before, through an email asking if Josh was interested in a collaboration. A lot of skype hours ensued, but we didn´t actually meet in real life until 10 months later (at an FM-84 show).
What was the first song you wrote together for At 1980?
Have a heart.
What was the first experience that introduced you to synthwave?
Adrian: The youtube algorithm. No joking. It was 2017, I was listening to some 80s melodic rock on youtube (as usual) and youtube decided to play Jason by The Midnight. Never a song has impacted me so much upon a first listen, it was exactly the music I was looking for for many years. A missing puzzle piece feeling. Literally changed my life.
Josh: Like a lot of people my first synthwave experience was my friend playing me Kavinsky. I was immediately hooked as it reminded me of daft punk. After that it opened the door to me digging and finding loads more synthwave stuff that I loved.
What is your favourite 80s album and how does it compare to your favourite synthwave album?
Adrian: I am not sure it is easy to establish a musical connection between Metallica´s Master of Puppets and The Midnight´s Endless Summer. But I think there is something about the honesty of the feelings behind the music that links metal and synthwave. The synthwave scene is filled with former metal heads, so there has to some connection.
Josh: It’s always hard to pick one favourite album and especially from the 80’s but if I had to choose I would say Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1. The band had some of my favourite song writers in and I love Jeff Lynne’s production. There really isn’t any comparison with a lot of my favourite albums and synthwave…. Synthwave for me is like a dream inside my head that I drift away into and when I wake up I have written a ‘synthwave’ song. To be honest I’m not even sure where it comes from.
What was the key inspiration behind making your album?
I would say the movie Mr. Nobody by Jaco Van Dormael was the main inspiration. The idea that behind every choice you make in life, there is a sacrifice involved. You choose a path, and as a consequence other paths (lives) are not going to be lived anymore. The nostalgia of the 80s that permeates the album is very much rooted in the nostalgia of that care-free time where no important decisions had been made yet and all of life choices were still available.
« The idea that behind every choice you make in life, there is a sacrifice involved. »
Who is your number 1 supporter throughout this journey to make an album?
Our families and friends have been amazing. But we would say our fans have been our number 1 supporters. To feel their true connection with the songs is such a force for us to keep going. And on top of that they are always sharing, liking, commenting our stuff. They may not be counted by the thousands at this stage of our career, but they are the best.
How were you approached by NewRetroWave to be signed?
We actually approached them. Our good friend Ollie (Wride) had amazing things to say about them and we make it a goal of ours to try to partner up with them for the release of our debut album. Luckily they liked the songs and we couldn´t be happier with the partnership.
What are the key collaborations and projects that you were both a part of before At 1980?
Adrian: I have been playing in local cover bands (as a drummer) for many years, but this is my first relevant music endeavour.
Josh: The main person I have always collaborated with is Ollie Wride. Together we have worked both with FM84 and Timecop1983. A highlight for me would be touring with FM84, we had an amazing time.
You have a few collaborations on your album, who are the top 3 people you would collaborate with?
We talk about artists and songs we like all the time. Maybe it would be cool to collaborate with someone from outside the synthwave scene that could bring a different flavour to the table. In that sense, Dabin, NIGHT TRAVELER and (since dreaming is free) The 1975 would be amazing.
« it would be cool to collaborate with someone from outside the synthwave scene »
Do you plan on taking At 1980 on a tour? Obviously once this pandemic has shifted.
We would love to, but of course the demand has to be there in order for it to be a possibility. We will do everything in our power to make it happen.
As you both have experience performing live, what place has the strongest synthwave scene in your opinion? What places has scenes with potential which can I.prove and flourish?
Adrian: We are Europeans, and here maybe London and Amsterdam have proven to have the largest scenes. As a Spaniard, I believe there is potential in Madrid. The first At 1980 show was in Madrid and it sold out even before the album had come out. In the US, L.A., NY and San Francisco have solid scenes.
Josh: Honestly I would say every city I have played in has had an amazing synthwave scene. I would say though that no matter where you are people just want a great show and it doesn’t matter if your doing synthwave or a completely different type of performance. If your doing something from the heart that people ‘feel’ there will be a strong ‘scene’ there for you.
What is next for At 1980? Has lockdown brought out the creativity for yet another album?
It has, yes. There are some new tracks we are already working on and the release of A Thousand Lives will for sure help us put a bit of closure to that chapter and really focus creatively on the next one. We are actually very excited to start focusing on the new material.