HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR Doesn’t need any of your guilt trips about smoking, man.

SOME PEOPLE, when they succeed, lose their way amid a garden of earthly delights. Forgetting to focus on what made them successful in the first place, they slide slowly but inexorably from the spotlight until they find themselves on the set of a VH1 reality show with the contorted rictus of some cruise-ship comedian asking if they're ready to discover true love. Their lives become jokes, their successes are forgotten, and their only hope for redemption sits just out of reach via a medical emergency or a more reputable reality show. These people had success, but chose the trappings of fame.

Then there are the people who move home to Colorado. People like Hercules and Love Affair's founder and sole proprietor, Andy Butler, who left New York after his debut album became a critical smash in 2008 and moved into a house owned by his mother. Times are tough for musicians these days, and the savings this arrangement generated, along with the money Butler made from DJ gigs, made it possible for him to make the new Blue Songs album without any label support. "All of my money goes directly into producing this album," he explains. "I spent all of my money this year on making this record."

Such a monastic approach is right in character for Butler. Despite working in the hedonistic genre of dance, he makes a conscious effort to avoid the more mechanical role of a producer, thinking of himself instead as a songwriter who just happens to perform and record his own compositions. "I don't ever want to be a dance music producer, I just want to write music," he says. "I write because I have a desire to make music."

Though his debut featured Kim Ann Foxman and Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), Butler's taken care on his follow-up to put his mark on every moment. "I did something I wanted to do almost immediately after the first album came out: make an album that's less referential and more focused on bringing out my own compositional voice," he says. "It's not going to be as easy for people to say, 'Oh, yeah, that's the Paradise Garage, 1983.' It's gonna be a little more like, 'Wow, what are they doing here?'"

Butler is looking to use Blue Songs as a way of expanding his sound. "I don't feel confined to a genre, and I never will," he says. "On this new record, there are some challenging moments. There's a moment that we jokingly call 'Hercules goes country.' And then there's another moment that's like 'Hercules goes to church.'" At the same time, he's eager to nail down what his project sounds like. "One of the songs has this grand moment with real strings, and I call it Herculean, because it feels like a listener would say, "That's Hercules and Love Affair.'" Grand, adventurous, and dedicated to music above all else: That's Hercules and Love Affair.