Bring Back The Buff

19 June 2012 | 12:20 pm | Matt O'Neill

On the verge of Manhood, Muscles (Chris Copulos to his mum) tells Matt O’Neill, “I feel like I’m in my own little universe and I’ve got no path to follow from other people.”

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Chris Copulos' Muscles moniker was introduced to Australian audiences with a wave. Dropping in late 2007, Muscles' debut album, Guns Babes Lemonade, saw the Melbourne producer's name inextricably linked to then fellow rising stars like Cut Copy, Pnau, The Presets and Van She – early breakthrough hits such as Ice Cream and Sweaty coinciding with a national explosion of interest in locally produced dance music.

“There was this Aussie wave – bands like Pnau, Empire Of The Sun. Even now, you have groups like Miami Horror and Art Vs Science kind of keeping the momentum going,” Copulos reflects. “It was really, really cool from an Australian point of view – to see these artists getting support both in Australia and overseas. But then, everyone is sort of on their own path. My music doesn't sound anything like their music.”

Copulos has always operated within his own continuum. Since inception, his work as Muscles has been a weird overlap of contradictory outlooks and influences, from the simple collision of experimentation and pop hooks that was debut release, Four Months, in 2006 to the combination of raw electro and meticulously layered vocal hooks (see: Ice Cream) that has since become his trademark.

“I kind of feel like Muscles is a special project,” the producer suggests. “You look around and there's a lot of indie bands around who sound kind of similar to each other and a lot of hip hop, but I feel like Muscles is a special project. I feel like I'm in my own little universe and I've got no path to follow from other people. I'm kind of creating my own path with this music, if that makes sense.”

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The proof is in Copulos' delivery of a follow-up album – or, rather, his refusal to immediately deliver a follow-up album. One of the biggest breakthroughs of the late-noughties' electro explosion, Guns Babes Lemonade debuted at #14 on the Australian charts and topped the Australian dance charts. Yet it has taken Copulos nearly five years to get around to releasing follow-up album, Manhood.

“Well, it didn't take five years to write it,” he laughs. “It's really just been the last two. After Guns Babes Lemonade was released, I was really on tour for a couple of years – until about the start of 2009 – and then I wanted to just take a break for a little bit. That's why we released that EP, Younger & Immature, back in 2010. We wanted to give people something to tide them over until the album was done.”

Manhood itself presents further evidence. Noisy, dark and eclectic, Muscles' second album isn't generic Australian electro. It's weird, sleek, sexual work. Aggressive and mercurial, Manhood does not arrive without Copulos' immediately recognisable vocal hooks and quirks – but it's a product for the clubs, not the radio. Even in its softer moments, it feels too singularly unusual to stand alongside today's electro-indie crowd.

“I'm excited by it,” Copulos says of the album. “I feel like it's a nice, sexy little dance record, you know. I hadn't listened to it since I finished it, until just recently when I decided to take it for a spin in my car, and I was just listening to it thinking, 'This is exactly the kind of follow-up record I wanted to make.' It's exactly the second album I knew I wanted to make from the moment Guns Babes Lemonade was released. I can't wait for people to hear it.”