Jesse Cohen understands ironic, even post-ironic, humor. But last week — when a chum termed a certain popular group a “guilty pleasure” — he had enough. “I said, ‘C’mon, man! You’re in your 30s! There shouldn’t be such a thing as a guilty pleasure anymore — who has the time for it?’” he says. He and bandmate Eric Emm, right, bring that same anything-goes attitude to Tanlines. The dance-rock duo’s delightful new “Mixed Emotions” debut recalls vintage percolators from Blancmange, Shriekback and New Order. Tanlines’ credo, he says, is remarkably simple: If it sounds good, it is good.
How did you and Eric first meet? We met five years ago. Eric had a studio in Brooklyn, and he recorded my old band, Professor Murder. We worked together on a bunch of different stuff, and then one night we just decided to write something ourselves, because we didn’t have anything else to do. Our first couple of years together — while we were doing all these remixes and other bands — we were sort of figuring out what we were doing. But in the last two years, we hunkered down and wrote this album. We stopped doing anything else except writing the best songs we possibly could.
You tried other vocalists at first. How did you settle on Eric? It was from playing live. When you perform your songs and you see people in the crowd who know all the words, it changes things. It changed what we wanted to do with the band, for sure. It wasn’t as fulfilling to play instrumental, dance-y, electronic music as it was to play actual songs that people knew and liked, so there was never any doubt about Eric singing on them. I mean, we’re not 22-year-old English kids who grew up on electronica.
There are fun stylistic surprises on your album, like the chugging rocker “Green Grass,” right? Yeah, and I’m really glad that’s on there. We never sat down with the idea of, “Oh, we’ll just write songs like this.” We figured out how we like to work, and then whatever came out, came out. There are bright spots on the record and dark spots, and it’s all one thing. And you can dance to it or you can sit in a dark room and fall asleep to it.
Tanlines can go anywhere now, musically. Even put out a country record? Ha! Eric would love to do that! I’m not sure if it would be Tanlines or his own solo record, or even if it’s going to happen. But these are the types of things that we seriously talk about all the time.
IF YOU GO
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $10 to $12
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.com