In September — nearly 30 years and 40 hits into its career — Erasure released its 16th album.
True to form, “The Violet Flame” consists of masterfully crafted dance pop that’s bubbling with real, expressively sung melodies and anthem-level uplift.
“The Violet Flame” turned out beautifully, but keyboardist Vince Clarke and singer Andy Bell never know what might happen once they get together to make a new album. There’s no plan, no forumula.
“We don’t have a particular way of writing songs,” Clarke explained. “It’s still a mystery to me, really, how it works, how it happens. Some kind of magic happens when Andy and I get together and start writing.”
The British duo wrote songs for “The Violet Flame” in Miami. Clarke later recorded the instrumental tracks in his Brooklyn studio and Bell recorded his vocals in London.
“Andy and I hadn’t really sat down to write properly for a while,” he said. “So we were both coming in fresh. This time ’round the songs came easily. We wrote more than songs than we needed, which is unusual for us.”
During the writing process, Florida’s warmth and sun had a balmy influence on them.
“It was very nice to be in Florida,” Clarke said. “If you’re at peace and you’re comfortable, that reflects upon the way that you write.”
“The Violet Flame” follows last year’s “Snow Globe,” a holiday album featuring Erasure originals and a few Christmas classics. “Snow Globe” was the duo’s first project since the death of Bell’s manager and longtime boyfriend, Paul Hickey, in 2012.
“ ‘Snow Globe’ was an experiment,” Clarke said, “a testing ground, really, to see how we would get on and how productive we would be. And it worked well. That’s why we went on to make the new record.
“Writing about the stuff was good for Andy, good for his spirit,” Clarke added. “Andy’s always worn his heart on his sleeve. He’s always been open about how he’s feeling, what he’s thinking.”
Bell’s openness played into this year’s “The Violet Flame.” Making this latest Erasure album was more of a healing process for Bell than “Snow Globe,” Clarke said.
“The whole process was quite joyous,” he said. “We’ve ended up with an optimistic, positive record.”
Following Clarke’s work with Depeche Mode and Yaz in the 1980s, he held auditions for singers. Bell’s soulfulness impressed Clarke.
“I really liked his interpretation,” Clarke said. “It wasn’t what I had envisaged. It was something fresh. And I knew immediately that he can sing with feeling, which is what I was looking for.”
A few years ahead of the 30th anniversary of Erasure’s album debut, 1986’s “Wonderland,” Clarke remains enthusiastic about making music with Bell.
“It’s always a very exciting time when I get with Andy to start a new project,” he said. “The thing that keeps it interesting is the fact that it’s so unpredictable.”
Lack of ego is the key to their working relationship, Clarke added.
“Neither of us gets precious about ideas. If one person comes up with an idea and the other person isn’t 100 percent behind it, the idea gets dropped. There’s always the next song, the next idea. That’s the main thing that’s kept us together all this time. Andy’s easygoingness rubbed off on me through the years. We don’t argue.”