Hercules & Love Affair is the vision of Andy Butler, an artist who has continually synthesized and twisted strains of house and pop with a varying cast of fellow songwriters, producers, singers, and instrumentalists. The group made a surprising commercial breakthrough with their second single, the Antony-fronted "Blind" (2008), a number 40 U.K. pop hit inspired by Butler's experience as a gay man who grew up alienated only to experience other forms of distress as a liberated adult. Although house music is based on club play and singles, Hercules & Love Affair have thrived with the full-length format. Butler and his collaborators have emphasized highly personal songwriting as much as detailed production on albums including their self-titled debut (2008), Blue Songs (2010), The Feast of the Broken Heart (2014), and Omnion (2018).
Andy Butler started playing piano and composing at the age of 13, and only a couple years later DJ'd at a leather bar in his native Denver. After a move to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College, he immersed himself in club culture and began to make his own music. Named to reflect Butler's fascination with Greek mythology, Hercules & Love Affair debuted in 2007 on the DFA label with the single "Classique #2"/"Roar," co-produced by principal drum programmer Tim Goldsworthy and featuring vocals from Kim Ann Foxman and Antony (the artist known later as Anohni). Butler and Antony also worked together on the second single, "Blind," which touched the U.K. Top 40 the following March. Accompanied by a Frankie Knuckles remix, "Blind" pushed Hercules & Love Affair's subsequent self-titled debut album to number 31 on the U.K. album chart. In the U.S., the LP reached number five on Billboard's dance/electronic chart. The next year, Butler selected and mixed Sidetracked, a decades-spanning set of underground club classics and obscurities that, from elegant disco to raw house, elucidated H&LA's approach to dance music. By the end of 2010, Butler had become highly sought-after for remixes. Among his first clients were Goldfrapp ("A&E"), Lady Gaga ("Bad Romance"), and the formative Yazoo ("Situation").
Butler added Mark Pistel (Consolidated, Meat Beat Manifesto) and Patrick Pulsinger to the fold and moved to the Moshi Moshi label for the second H&LA album, Blue Songs, which entered the Billboard dance/electronic chart in 2011. Descriptively titled, Blue Songs was designed more for home listening than for club play, though the singles "My House" and "Falling," both fronted by Shaun J. Wright, also appealed to dancefloors. (The former was remixed by the likes of Derrick Carter and Tensnake.) Another between-LPs mix, an installment in !K7's long-running DJ-Kicks series, followed in 2012. Like Sidetracked, it functioned as a valuable lesson for younger listeners whose gateway to underground dance music was built by H&LA. Feast of the Broken Heart, the third H&LA album, arrived a couple years later (licensed in the U.S. to Big Beat/Atlantic), after Butler relocated to Ghent. Recorded in Vienna with production input from Ha-ze Factory, it went in a rougher if no less emotive direction with Krystle Warren, John Grant, Rouge Mary, and Gustaph contributing as co-writers and vocalists. The latter two, plus the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Faris Badwan (the Horrors, Cat's Eyes), assisted Butler with 2017's Omnion, the writing of which was informed by Butler's struggles with substance abuse. Two years later, H&LA returned with Change, an EP featuring a new track and remixes of previously released material dating back to the debut. ~ Andy Kellman