THERE was very little that didn’t go right for producers Dan Stephens and Joe Ray in 2011 – the year that saw the friends from North West London clock into chartland’s executive lounge as Nero.
What they probably didn’t bank on was what effect their music was having on fans beyond flagrant party starting.
“We’ve had people naming their pets after us,” says Joe, ahead of Nero returning to Sheffield on Wednesday.
“There’s pictures of loads of rabbits called Nero sent to us. And we’ve seen a few tattoos done with our lyrics and stuff like that.
“It’s nice to think there’s a rabbit out there called Nero, although it doesn’t really suit a rabbit. I think Nero’s a bit too dark-sounding. It’s more of a dog name.”
Yours truly can vouch for that having had an ex with an Alsatian sporting just such a handle.
While the above might have been some of the more surreal reaction to their début album Welcome Reality, elsewhere the response was felt in both the charts, on the road and in TV shows.
Whatever your view on dance music, it has to be said this pair shook up the genre with a quasi-concept album that saw a merging of seemingly irreconcilable genres, drum’n’bass and dubstep, with elements of ’90s trance, classical and even metallic rock.
At its heart was an undeniable pop nous, however, rendering the likes of single Promises a sure-fire chart botherer.
Taking their modus operandi live was a different story, perhaps. Where certain ‘dance’ duos have not nearly done enough to justify the ticket price, Dan and Joe enjoyed their research.
“We’ve seen quite a few live shows to know what we were impressed by and not, so I guess our benchmark is the Daft Punk show we saw at the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park in 2007,” says Joe.
“We were blown away. Ever since, that was what we aspired to – just the way it kind of combined visuals and tunes. People knew all the songs but they kept doing interesting things.
“We admire the way they played around with their own music. It was like a Best Of show, but not just playing the hits. Obviously as an electronic music act rather than a band you can’t really get away with just pressing play on a tune.
“Whereas a band can just play, but it’s good because it’s live and you can see all the instruments working together, if you’re just standing behind a laptop flicking play, it’s not as impressive. So we had to try and do other things and that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Nero’s O2 Academy show should also feature tunes bound for the next album. The pair seem unflustered.
“We’re going to approach it like we did Welcome Reality; just write tunes and see what comes out. And then gather it round that rather than have some kind of set concept or overall plan.
“It’s a difficult position to be in now, whether we write something a bit more dance-floor-orientated or a bit more poppy or whatever. We’re just going to write and see what happens.
“We’d also love to work on a movie soundtrack. Blade Runner 2 would be perfect. We’re waiting on that phone call from Ridley Scott.”