Hercules & Love Affair
Hercules & Love Affair performing in July 2012
|Origin||New York City, United States|
Hercules & Love Affair is a dance music project created by American DJ Andy Butler in 2004. Consisting of a rotating cast of performers and musicians, the band work within the genres of house music, disco, techno and nu-disco.
Originally based in New York City, now based in Ghent, Belgium, Hercules and Love Affair were founded following Butler's collaboration with Anohni to produce the song "Blind", which was a hit single. Initially signing to DFA Records, for their eponymous 2008 debut album, the band went on to record two more albums for Moshi Moshi, Blue Songs (2011) and The Feast of the Broken Heart (2014). Their fourth album Omnion was released in September 2017 by Atlantic Records.
Andrew Butler was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, and has described growing up in "a violent household without any role models". He developed an early love for Greek mythology, which later inspired him to name his band after the mythological hero of Hercules. Interested in music, he played the piano, and began composing classical pieces from the age of thirteen. Butler's interest switched to focus on dance music after buying a record by the band Yazoo. He went on to give his first DJ set aged fifteen, in a Denver leather bar run by a hostess called Chocolate Thunder Pussy; on that occasion, the club was raided by police, leading him to hide from them in the toilets. As he later related: "I started DJing because I needed to get out of the house. I was, like, 'Take me to the club or there's going to be a really ugly situation at home today!' I found a lot of freedom in the nightclub to express myself and not be judged as harshly as I was at home. I am a gay man and I grew up with a certain struggle and because of that, I have a story to tell."
In the late 1990s, Butler moved to New York City to attend Sarah Lawrence College. In the city he befriended the musician Anohni--then working under her birth name of Antony Hegarty--and in 2004 convinced her to perform vocals for a song he had written, titled "Blind". At the time, she simply described it as "curious", but Butler continued to make adjustments to the demo.
In 2007, after Anohni had won the Mercury Prize for her work with Antony and the Johnsons, Butler approached her with the "Blind" demo, and they agreed to release it. Butler decided to do so under the name of Hercules and Love Affair because it reflected his interest in Greco-Roman mythology; it referenced Hercules and his "love affair" with Hylas. According to Butler, "[Hercules] stayed on the island, looking for his boyfriend. I just thought this was super-beautiful: the strongest man on earth looking for his lost love, at his most vulnerable. Strong men can have strong feelings. And they can experience those feelings and experience pain and express pain -- and be gay."DFA Records agreed to release the song, with DFA founder Tim Goldsworthy stating that "We had slight reservations that 'Blind' would be a one-hit wonder. But then he played us some bits he had been playing around with at home." The single was first released in the United Kingdom in March 2007, where it made the Top 40. It was awarded Best Song of 2008 by Pitchfork Media and came in at sixth place in Resident Advisor's Top 30 tracks of that year, while Entertainment Weekly called it the second best song of the year.
At this point, Butler decided to establish Hercules and Love Affair as a continuing musical project, stating his intent to release music with a rotating cast of performers and musicians. The band's self-titled debut album was released in Europe through DFA's parent company, EMI, in March 2008. For the album, Butler assembled a mixed line-up; Morgan Wiley and Andrew Raposo, both formerly of Automato, joined the backing band, while Nomi Ruiz, CocoRosie, Kim Ann Foxman, and Anohni took up vocals. However, although Anohni would appear on five of the album's tracks, she did not participate in the band's live performances. The band made its live debut on May 17, 2008, at the Studio B venue in Brooklyn, New York, before going on a European and North American tour. Appearing at London's Lovebox Festival in 2010, it was there that they were interviewed by Vogue. After touring for a year, Butler split with his record company and returned to Denver.
2011 saw the release of Hercules and Love Affair's second album, Blue Songs, brought out by independent British label Moshi Moshi. Butler remained in control, joined by Mark Pistel, and Kim Ann Foxman returned, however it also featured two new main vocalists, Shaun Wright and Aerea Negrot. One of the songs, "Step Up", contained guest vocals from Kele Okereke, the lead singer of indie rock band Bloc Party. The album's title was chosen by Butler to reflect his own "blue period" during adolescence, before he discovered the existence of like-minded people through music.
Shortly after the album's release, Butler attracted the attention of the music press when he informed Out magazine that Madonna should "make an age-appropriate record that still appeals to young people" while being scathing of Lady Gaga, asserting that she was producing "children's music... It's middle-aged gay men dancing around to music for 11-year-old girls." As a result of the stress and pressure of the band's success, Butler began making increased use of drugs, and in an attempt to get clean he moved from New York City to Vienna in Austria. As he told a journalist from The Guardian: "It was a need, because I was going way too fast and I was going to self-destruct. It had to get really bad before it got OK."
In August 2012, Hercules and Love Affair played at the Meltdown Festival at London's Southbank Centre, which was curated by Anohni. For their performance of "Blind", she joined them onstage to provide the vocals; the first time that she had performed the song live with the band. At that performance, they were also joined onstage by singer John Grant, who publicly stated for the first time that he was HIV positive; Butler later stated that "I thought it was one of the bravest things I've ever seen a person do".
The band's third album, The Feast of the Broken Heart, was released by Moshi Moshi in May 2014. Describing the album, Butler stated that "I wanted nasty basslines, stormy, bleary-eyed sounds, fiery, rough, tough and ragged old school house productions that sounded almost techno. I didn't want polite, I wanted aggressive". In a conscious change from the previous two albums, he did not make use of organic instrumentation. When recording the first songs for the album, Butler had stated his intention not to use any well-known vocalists for the album, because he believed that - as with Anohni and Okereke - they would be too busy to tour with the band. However, when the album was released, it received guest vocals from Grant, who sang on "Liberty" and "I Try To Talk To You", in which he dealt with the issue of being HIV positive. Also singing on the album were Rouge Mary, Gustaph, and Krystle Warren, with Butler informing The New York Times that that line-up constituted "the best ensemble of vocalists I've had."
In July 2014, the band performed at East London's Lovebox Festival. In August, the band generated some controversy with the release of the video for their song "My Offence" which featured excerpts of conversation with figures from the New York City gay scene like Honey Dijon and Juliana Huxtable. Butler described the song and its video as an examination of his "relationship to taboo words and the use of 'cunt' amongst NYC's gay community to relay flattery, empowerment and strength". In December 2014, Hercules and Love Affair performed in Thailand at Wonderfruit festival.
In February 2017, Hercules and Love Affair released "Controller", a new single featuring Faris Badwan of The Horrors. It is the first music from the band's fourth studio album Omnion, which was released on September 1, 2017 through Atlantic Records. The title-track features a collaboration with vocalist Sharon Van Etten.
Describing the band's 2011 lineup, Elizabeth Day of The Observer described Hercules and Love Affair as "possibly the most disparate bunch ever to come together, call themselves a band and release an album. The five members walk into the room in a blaze of colour and mismatched clothes like a pick'n'mix bag of sweets."
Reviewing a live show at the Oval Space in London in 2014, The Guardian asserted that Hercules and Love Affair's current line-up has reached an apex in terms of their vocal virtuosity.
GLAAD Media Awards
|2009||Themselves||Outstanding Music Artist||Nominated|
Ibiza Music Video Festival
International Dance Music Awards
|2009||Themselves||Best Breakthrough Artist (Group)||Nominated|
|2015||Andy Butler||Best Indie Dance/Underground DJ|
|The Feast of the Broken Heart||Best Full Length Studio Recording|
|"Do You Feel The Same"||Best Indie Dance Track|
MTV O Music Awards
UK Music Video Awards
|2008||"Blind" (ft. Anohni)||Best Pop Video||Nominated|
|2014||"I Try and Talk to You"||Best Dance Video|