27 November 2012 | 5:45 am | Matt O'Neill

"I don’t have any expectations. I just want to keep writing music. I want to be more prolific – because for years there I just wasn’t doing anything at all."

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History has not been kind to sonicanimation. Not kind enough, anyway. At this point, they're perhaps best remembered (if at all) for a handful of pseudo-novelty hits and an incredible live show – aforesaid novelty hits like the tongue-twisting Theophilus Thistler... An Exercise In Vowels and hip hop piss-take Super Showbiz Star delivered alongside two gigantic furry animals (named, aptly enough, Robert Roley and Theophilus Thistler). This isn't really fair. A respect for their flair for absurdity is certainly justified – 2002's I'm A DJ is arguably the greatest sledge against celebrity DJs a dancefloor will ever see – but their career encompassed so much more than spectacle and novelty. They were and remain one of Australia's most accomplished dance acts. Signing off in 2005, sonicanimation left behind a back catalogue of unmatched diversity and innovation.

The sheer stylistic depth of their work was remarkable. Across any given album, multi-instrumentalists Adrian Cartwright and Rupert Keiller would explore and synergise hip hop, trance, breakbeat, dub, techno, house, funk, electro, rock and worldbeat. Furthermore, they would do so with a lyrical and tonal palette that could flexibly stretch from the utterly ridiculous to the profoundly poetic and back again – occasionally, within the same song. “Underrated? Oh, I don't know,” Keiller laughs. “I think, in order for me to think of us as underrated, I'd have to think that we deserved to be rated. There are so many musicians at this point in history. So many people making music. Especially now, with access to technology being what it is. Really, I'm just happy for people to hear what we do. It's just be nice to be rated at all, really.” 

Given that, Keiller is not what you would expect. The vocalist of the pair, he's largely responsible both for sonicanimation's larrikin reputation and their less-celebrated moments of pathos. Yet, he's actually quite reserved. Self-effacing almost to a fault, Keiller speaks with a quiet earnestness that belies both his flamboyant artistic persona and considerable accomplishments – only reluctantly does he admit his frustrations.

“Well, yeah, actually. It has always bothered me a little bit that people only think of us as that kind of band,” the frontman responds when pressed. “I feel like there's all different sides to a person's personality. Sure, they can have a sense of humour, but, sometimes, they might be sad or depressed and they might want to write a song like that. It'd be nice to be able to write music like that and just have people listen to it for what it is. Because, you know, I do feel there is this expectation that we be this kooky, quirky, satirical electronic act – but I don't always write those songs,” he says diplomatically. “That track, in particular. I'm really happy Theophilus Thistler was so successful but, I think like any artist who has an especially successful song, it'd be nice if people heard the other stuff. So, yeah, it's a little bit tough when people think you're just there for amusement.”

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The pair went their separate ways in 2005. In the years since, there has been minimal activity from either Keiller or Cartwright. The occasional DJ set or remix but little else. Keiller moved to Canada shortly after the duo's farewell run with the Big Day Out in 2006. He's largely been idling his time away as a DJ for Australian tourists (under his long-term DJ alias, DJ Rsk).

“After we did what we thought would be our last record, I went travelling for a few months. A couple of my friends were living in a village called Rosalind in Alberta, Canada and I ended up staying with them,” Keiller says of his time in the wilderness. “When I finished travelling, instead of going back to Australia, I came back to visit my friends and, yeah, I just never left. I had intentions of making new music but, yeah, I just dragged my feet. I think we both wanted a creative change,” the frontman says of the split. “You know, I love everything about touring and making music. Concerts, recording, interviews, videos – I love all of that stuff. We'd just been doing it for so long. I felt like I needed a holiday, a trip. I needed to go away and come back to music with a fresh approach. I just didn't think it would take so long for that to happen.”

They eventually reunited in 2011. Initially, it was simply a remix for world music group Delhi 2 Dublin. Later in the year, they dropped an EP of original material and remixes – sonicanimation. Today, they're preparing to perform at Homebake and putting the finishing touches on a new album of material. Tentatively scheduled for a January 2013 release, it will be their first album 'proper' since 2004's sprawling Defective Perspective.

“We've got the next single for the album ready to go. What we're really hoping to do is shoot a video at Homebake. Because everyone in the world has a camera phone now, we're going to ask everyone to shoot this one song at Homebake, send us all the footage – and then we'll edit it all into a video,” Keiller enthuses. “If that all works, we'll release the song straight after that and, hopefully, have the album out in January. You always think it sounds great, obviously, but I think it's all sounding great,” the vocalist laughs. “I think it's sounding really cool. It's like a newer version of what we've done in the past. You can still tell it's sonicanimation but, obviously, there are newer sounds and different programs. I still love electronic music and, as a DJ, I have to stay on top of it. You know, we didn't get stuck in 2004, if you know what I mean.”

It's intriguing to think what the band could accomplish on a second go-around. Will You Dance To This Song?, a classically satirical cut from sonicanimation, found a home on triple j late last year. They've also had the grace or good fortune to return to a culture still freshly enamoured of dance music. Furthermore, they actually have an opportunity to reinvent their prankster image.

“Oh, it's so hard to know what will happen,” Keiller says fatalistically. “You know, ideally, we'd get to write and release some music and people would like and be excited by that – but, like I said, there's just so much new music out there. Really, I don't have any expectations. I just want to keep writing music. I want to be more prolific – because for years there I just wasn't doing anything at all.”

sonicanimation will be playing the following shows:

Saturday 8 December - Homebake, The Domain, Sydney NSW