Producer duo Superparka on how Final Fantasy inspired ‘quatro’

A Parisian-producer duo making music that spans lo-fi, indie and psychedelic sounds, Superparka have already had their music synced to Apple advertising campaigns, secured some big remix spots and received critical acclaim for their music. Paco and Simon speak to Headliner as they release their debut album quatro — chatting about how they achieved a state of flow with this record, and how Waves plugins were vital to its sound.

“We’ve known each other since we were 10,” Paco says. “We grew up in a small town, and making music was a way out of the small town.” Simon says that it was Paco who got him into music, adding, “I remember Paco playing Nirvana on guitar, I think it might have been Come As You Are, and it made me want to make music also.”

Paco feels that coming to the world of electronic music was a case of attempting to record the guitar music they were making together in a band, and then discovering the world of MIDI and being able to make computer music — essentially trying it out with no real plan.

“When we were in a band as teenagers, we didn’t have access to any information,” Paco says. “And about four or five years into making music together, we were trying to record our guitars with the shittiest stuff you can imagine.

“I remember discovering MIDI when we started recording and realising there was so much you could do with music on the computer. Because we came from struggling so much to record guitars, it led us to do things differently, and since then we’ve always been searching for that sparkle of magic. We worship making music in the shittiest way possible!”

making music was a way out of a small town.

Some might be left scratching their heads at why anyone would entertain the idea of deliberately making music in a seemingly inferior way. But Paco’s words are in keeping with the lo-fi world Superparka is part of — a musical landscape which loves things like the vinyl crackling sounds that digital music has eschewed, deliberately detuned instruments and tape hiss sounds.

Supposed audio ‘imperfections’ that the digital age of music cast aside, that lo-fi producers are now using as creative choices, either with digital plugins that emulate those analogue sounds, or going back to the original analogue gear and instruments that created them. The demand for lo-fi music has shot up exponentially since the beats to study/relax to video, on an infinite loop on YouTube, has seen people around the world playing lo-fi beats in the background while carrying out everyday tasks. Of course, Superparka’s music is far superior and could never be relegated to background listening.

“Flying Lotus, Madlib, people like that have been really important influences for us,” Simon says. “Especially after years of making rock music,” Paco says. “It was so refreshing for us to hear these sounds, and we wanted to bring that freshness into our music. And also video game soundtracks. We both grew up with Final Fantasy, and for ages, we didn’t realise we were both playing it! We’d get tired of guitar music all the time, so sometimes we’d listen to video game soundtracks to rest our ears.”

“We recreated some of the classic Final Fantasy sounds for the new songs,” Simon says.

We worship making music in the shittiest way possible!

After a period of singles, remixes and mixtapes, which saw Superparka achieving commercial syncs with Apple advertisements, we have been gifted with quatro, a debut album that is a psychedelic, indie and lo-fi odyssey.

After the album’s intro track is the opening song camila, displaying the producer pair’s trademark mixture of sampled drums and machines, wobbly synths, and Paco’s nonchalant, mostly falsetto vocals. It has one of the most abrupt song endings you’ll ever hear, yet somehow wraps up so satisfyingly.

Hot on its heels is track three, az, which has an accompanying video of the duo walking through the desert with a goat, as they have an extraterrestrial encounter. Seeing wide, cinematic shots of the twosome strolling over dunes, it’s easy to be reminded of another Parisian producer-pairing and their imagery and aesthetic (clue: they had ‘daft’ in the title). The psychedelic video goes perfectly with the intoxicating track, with Paco’s vocals more floaty than ever, sitting atop a bed of keys and guitars that are laid-back to an almost ludicrous extent.

And what ties the record together brilliantly, clocking in at a very brief 23 minutes, is its halfway ambient interlude, wandering. If you were to ever find yourself floating in outer space aimlessly, this is the track you’d want in your headphones, assuming your spacesuit could accommodate a decent pair of them.

“That track is very Final Fantasy 10-inspired,” Simon says. “We love the interludes in that game.”

“Like we were saying, we often get bored of beats and vocals and stuff,” Paco says. “When we listen to pop music, we can’t listen to it non-stop, even for an hour. We need breaks from it. The music we’ve been working on, a lot of it is about finding that space within the music. A moment of rest. You can’t listen to someone sing or talk for an hour — it drives me mad!”

When asking if Superparka use a lot of analogue gear and synths, you might be expecting a firmly affirmative answer, but you’d be wrong.

“Not much, actually,” Simon says. “It’s mainly VSTs. Obviously, there’s a lot of guitar and bass. I can’t quite remember, but there might have been an old Yamaha workstation on the album.”

“I think we used a Korg Triton because that’s always there in the studio,” Paco says. “No, that was a VST also,” Simon interjects with a laugh. “The VSTs are so good now. The Roland D-50 plugin was a big part of the record.”

We’ve been using Waves since the start of Superparka.

“I have a lot of analogue gear around the studio, but it’s so fucking tiring,” Paco says. “It’s always broken. You always need to take the things to a repair shop. So at one point, we said to each other, ‘Let’s have less gear and rely more on the computer’. Because it’s too much, sometimes. There are times I just want to make music and not spend an hour trying to get bits of gear to work. So, for me it’s VSTs — prove me wrong!”

“For this album, I sold all my old synths, and just had one MIDI keyboard, one guitar and one bass,” Simon says. “And then I made 100 beats for this album. It felt like I was creating so much music in this way.”

Key to the sound of quatro, but also the sound of Superparka sometime before the album, are Waves plugins. Simon talks about how they’ve helped to shape the sonic journey of the duo.

“We’ve been using Waves since the start of Superparka. There is one plugin from Waves that is the sound of Superparka. It’s not a secret plugin, I discovered later that everyone is using it. It’s the J37 Tape Saturation Plugin, but I don’t use it like a tape machine. For me, it’s about the delays, which sound so unique to me. I have a lot of echoes and delays, but the J37 sounds so special to me. I’m also always using Renaissance Vox on Paco’s vocals, it’s so easy and nice to use, and my favourite to use on vocals.”

Paco adds that “I love to use the SoundShifter Time and Pitch Shifter plugin from Waves when I’m working on a track. Sometimes I get bored of listening to the same pitches and frequencies in a track. My ear gets a little tired of it. And it’s so easy with the SoundShifter to switch things up and get everything sounding fresh.”

“The algorithm in that plugin is great,” Simon adds. “Once I was mixing a track, then I just put the SoundShifter on it, and it was done!”

Paco and Simon are highly-creative, out-the-box producers, so it’s not surprising that Paco then mentions one of Waves’ most creative plugins. “I love the Enigma plugin,” he says. “It’s a flanger, modulator, and loads of other things. I love the name, and it fits because sometimes, if you don’t have a clue what to do, you just stick it on and it starts creating new things. So I love it for helping to come up with new ideas.”

“Enigma is a great one,” Simon says. “For me, whenever I open up a project, R-Vox and the J37 will be on there every single time.”

As Superparka take a bit of time to rest after such an intensive creative period, they hope to soon be back to creating more music and are hoping to put some live dates together for next year. Their debut album quatro is out now, so jump into one of the most dissolving listening experiences you could hope for this year.