Above & Beyond, the veteran English electronic dance music trio, has spent much of the last few years in unfamiliar settings; the band released two albums full of acoustic versions of some of their club anthems, and toured venues like Royal Albert Hall in London, the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and the Beacon Theatre in New York.
For 2018 the band is, in a way, keeping a foot in both the acoustic and electronic music realms. Above & Beyond releases its new electronic album, “Common Ground,” on Friday, headlines Barclays Center (as DJs) on Saturday, then stays in town for a question-and-answer session after a screening of its documentary about the acoustic shows, “Giving Up the Day Job,” on Jan. 31 at the Chelsea Cinepolis.
amNewYork caught up with Tony McGuinness, one-third of the electronic music superstars.
At what point did you know the acoustic shows would work as a documentary?
I’m not sure, to be honest, that there was a kind of light bulb moment. I think the thing with the acoustic is that it’s so expensive to do and time-consuming and such a commitment that we sort of wanted to capture it in every way we could. We set out on the documentary without any idea whether it would be a compelling hour of television or whatever. Everything we do is to give our existing fans more ammunition to introduce their friends. The great thing about the documentary is that if it works, great. If not, our fans will love it.
What did you learn from the acoustic albums and the tour?
The acoustic thing proved to me that our fans are fans of us, and not necessarily genre fans. The fact that we make electronic music is really important in terms of giving people a sign post for where we fit in. But once they discover us, it’s not about that anymore. And certainly the ways that the shows have gone, outside of the acoustic thing, we’ve gone from playing in dark nightclubs to playing in theaters where everyone is facing the same way. I think that’s the case in all areas of dance music now — it’s become more like a gig. We feel more empowered to do whatever we like with our music.
How did the process of turning your electronic music into acoustic songs inform your songwriting for “Common Ground”?
If you’d asked me that question three months ago, I’d have given you a very different answer, because of things that have happened in literally the last three weeks, which is that I played some guitar [on “Common Ground”] and, aside from one OceanLab track, there’s very little guitar in Above & Beyond’s electronic music. But I’m delighted to say that, as a primary of the plank and strings, that there’s some on this. We are also taking a risk in putting “Always” out as the next single, because it has no drums on it. I don’t think we would have done either of those things if it wasn’t for “Acoustic,” for very different reasons.
Above & Beyond perform on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Prospect Heights, barclayscenter.com.