Mixing the worlds of electroncia, Indie and disco, the second long-player from Cologne’s Roosevelt has found its way onto our turntable with some regularity. That being the case, it would be rude not to have a chat with him about it, right?

Think of Cologne and its contributions to music and you might conjure up Can, techno label Kompakt, maybe experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. What’s missing from that venerable list is anything approaching chart-friendly pop. Luckily, one-man hook machine Roosevelt, aka Marius Lauber, is doing his best to change that perception and is putting his home city on the radio-friendly radar.

Bearing some resemblance to electro-rockers such as Cut Copy, Wild Nothing, M83 and Empire Of The Sun, Roosevelt’s sound is warm, tinged with wistfulness, and catchy as hell. Since picking up early acclaim for his 2013 debut EP ‘Elliot’, he released his well received self-titled album in 2016, toured with Hot Chip, remixed Chvrches and become a significant festival fixture.

Roosevelt’s new album, ‘Young Romance’, is a collection of sun-kissed belters with earworm melodies, poised between bright electropop, disco sophistication and synth-tinged indie. ‘Getaway’ has cascading drums, glowering synth bass and sparkly machine melodies; it appears low-key at first, but reveals its anthemic qualities by degrees. Elsewhere, ‘Illusions’ is a festival-ready rocker with stomping drums, a transcendent chorus and synths that drift like thin cirrus clouds across an impossibly bright blue sky. ‘Young Romance’ is an album likely to appeal to a wide cross section of people, though for Marius Lauber, it simply represents a culmination of the sounds he was raised on.

“People say I’m in the middle between an indie rock act and an electronic act,” he says. “I hear that a lot, that I’m mixing those two worlds. But it was quite natural, I didn’t have a plan to do that sound. It was really impulsive and naïve in the studio, and it just happened.”

Born and raised in Viersen, near Cologne, Lauber’s earliest radio recollection offers an insight on his current pop-inflected sound.

“My first memory of music from my childhood was Michael Jackson,” says Lauber. “My parents were obsessed with him. Before that, it was just noises and some rhythms.”

In his teenage years, he got into the New York hipster rock sound of The Strokes, and after several stints in bands took up the drum stool with Foals-a-like almost-rans Beat!Beat!Beat!. When he moved to Cologne, he was captivated by the city’s strong techno scene and began to get into DJing – yet he craved the live interaction of playing in a group.

“It was fun, but I was missing the instruments and producing, arranging a full track with drums,” says Lauber. “Then I started my own tracks.”

Roosevelt’s first EP, 2013’s ‘Elliot’, was explicitly club focused. On the title track, Lauber’s vocal was doused in tape delay, and rode a strident electro bassline, psychedelic synths and four-to-the-floor beats, while 2016’s self-titled album added a few more guitars, but remained in the dance/pop bracket. ‘Young Romance’, though, sounds far more like the work of a group of musicians, pitching headlong into the guitar influences of Lauber’s teenage years, and mixing the acoustic instruments with his deep understanding of electronic hooks and rhythms. ‘Lucia’, with its rousing riffs and stomping drums, could be Phoenix at their catchiest, while ‘Better Days’ is a mellow diversion into balladry.

“I grew up with that kind of music and it’s my comfort zone,” says Lauber. “With that first album, I got more confident as a songwriter. Sometimes if you write songs and mix them with electronic beats or sounds, you end up hiding the song. This time it felt right to shift things, so the songs are more in the foreground.”

The electronics remain, though they’re in service to hooks and melodies rather than just providing a rhythmic backbone. Album opener ‘Take Me Back’ is a spine-tingling epic that layers synth pads and an arpeggio bassline with picked funk guitar and live drums (and has more than a hint of Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones’s finest moment, ‘Thriller’), while ‘Yr Love’, with its evocative summer feel and upbeat groove, indulges Lauber’s love of vintage keyboards, its lush stabbing chords like bursts of colour.

“For me it’s a more diverse album,” he says. “It was about pushing the borders of what a Roosevelt sound can be.”

Lauber’s biggest modern influences reveal a lot about the music he makes now: two bands who mix rock and electronic sound in distinctive ways.

“I’m hugely inspired by LCD Soundsystem and Tame Impala,” he says. “LCD Soundsystem for their hybrid between a dancefloor sound and still being a rock band, and Tame Impala just because the production has so many layers in there, the way that [band leader] Kevin Parker arranges tracks really speaks to me; the melody where you’re not sure if it’s a guitar or a synthesiser. Everything is really fluid, it’s not conservative in production style.”

Like LCD Soundsystem, Roosevelt owes a considerable debt to disco. On ‘Young Romance’, its infectious drive is evident throughout, from the slap bass of ‘Pangea’ to album highlights ‘Shadows’ and ‘Forgive’ (featuring Washed Out), which both sprinkle in Nile Rodgers-style guitar picking funk to excellent effect. Lauber admits to an overt disco influence, but the shadow that the genre casts is deeper too: the sense of heartbreak and transcendence, euphoria mixed with nostalgia that disco does so well is a key aspect of ‘Young Romance’, from its melodies to its words that yearn for the carefree entanglements of his past.

“The more I think about it, the more I realise that in dance music, something that’s supposed to put you in a euphoric state, was always the best for me if it had some deeper element,” says Lauber. “It’s something I realised about my own music. When I was 18, 19, and going out a lot and experiencing dance music for the first time, the songs that really got me and I enjoyed the most were the ones where you had two different emotions merging into each another, where your first impulse is you have to dance to it, but then something hits you. That can be a melody or a lyric. I guess subconsciously that’s something I try with my music.”

‘Young Romance’ saw Lauber jetting out to LA to mix the record with renowned engineer Chris Coady at Sunset Sound, a studio that has yielded such epochal records as Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ and The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’. The gloss and sheen of the new record is at least in part attributable to the plush environs in which it was finished off, and Lauber was bowled away by getting the chance to work there.

“For that kind of music to happen in such a studio felt a bit surreal,” he says.

The bulk of the record, though, was made in Lauber’s home studio. Get him on the subject of his synth collection, which includes a Prophet 6, Juno 60 and Crumar DS-2, and it’s hard to get him to stop. This music making technology still inspires him, and a new acquisition may just crop up on his next record.

“I just got a Behringer Model D,” says Lauber. “In the last few weeks I went crazy with that one.”

For now, we’ll have to content ourselves with ‘Young Romance’, and pretend summer isn’t a distant memory.

‘Young Romance’ Is Out On Greco-Roman/City Slang

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