By Garry Lu (@mrputneyswope)
Perth natives SLUMBERJACK have rocketed to the main stage in the last few years. With the release of their Fracture EP alongside Diplo’s Mad Decent, a national tour on the horizon, and returning to countless festival pit stops, this tirelessly hardworking duo have been active to say the least. We sat down with Morgan Then to discuss the layers of their music, the renaissance of Australian music, as well as the pride of marking our spot on the world.
You guys seem like you’ve been everywhere at once, doing the rounds at Groovin’, a national tour, and you’re also set to return to Splendour.
We actually miss it. Right now, it’s just the start… We took about three months off to work on this live show, and work on this EP, and literally just planning the better half of 2017 for us—starting right now. But it’s pretty exciting.
On the same note, you’ve just dropped some fresh material. What can you tell us about the process of producing Fracture?
The process was a lot different to the first one… Our debut EP, we didn’t have a lot of experience, we were just a couple of kids that wanted to make music. So we just made a couple of tracks and put it together, and kind of called it an EP. Right now, we have amassed a couple of good experiences on tour, and in the studio, so we kind of know what we want artistically. And we started writing the Fracture EP from the ground up with the right mental image in our mind, and the light show to go with it. A lot of the tracks are written so it works… it translates well in the studio, or headphones, on the recording, but all of it translates pretty well live. And having the gold paint, and the darker, more desert looking image has all been part of the plan. I think this EP is the second coming of Slumberjack, and it kind of just shows that we have matured a little bit since we first started.
Like a renaissance of Slumberjack?
Yeah, sort of. I mean, we always had this idea that this should be the way we wanted to run our music project artistically, but never really knew how to get there. Because, just from inexperience… just both of us starting as uni kids, and wanted to make some music. We didn’t have any idea how to make an art project cohesive. Suddenly we have a management team, and a strong team of people around us to give us great advice. We’ve met a lot of good artists.
You’ve stated previously that a defining trait of your music is the dichotomy. Beyond being two of you, the end product is this beautifully woven item of contrast. How do you negotiate with the other when composing?
I think it’s less of a negotiation, but more of a way to get things to work. While Fletch and I come from such different musical backgrounds, and backgrounds in general… negotiations don’t tend to be… negotiations seem to always end up being something, you know, along the lines of being, “Let’s just make things accessible.” Whereas we find a solution to make two contrasting elements work, what we then create is something really special. So the idea has always been to leave it in the project, whatever weird idea we have, and just keep polishing it, chipping away until they fit together. And that makes it really unique in its own right, because that’s—every track has its own unique element, or a moment where… we call it the eureka moment… things just fit together nicely and it sounds like a cohesive track, but has that really weird element. When you come to a compromise in the middle, I think, a lot of times you take away the special thing that makes it weird, or makes people find the track unique.
I have a theory that producers at the top of their game have an element of classical training. Not to say you need to be classically trained to be great, but you of course are a pianist. Allison Wonderland was a cellist– Daft Punk, Skrillex, Getter had careers in bands. Do you think having a more rounded musical sensibility helps approach EDM from a unique angle?
Absolutely. I think it definitely helps in understanding what you want, ‘cos we know a lot of musicians, a lot of producers, who are great at what they do, but often times in a studio, they struggle with whether a certain sound, or a chord, or a melody is right or wrong. Whereas for us, it’s a lot easier. We know when it’s wrong or when it doesn’t work because we have the music theory side to help us, so the rule of thumb is if it doesn’t fall within a very… it’s not confined but if it’s not within music theory rules, then it’s a red flag. Which means we try to make it work, or we don’t.
There’s textures and layers to your music, like it’s a diverse melting pot of world sounds. Your Like A Version of M.I.A’s Paper Planes for example used Turkish strings.
Yes, right now we’re on a big Turkish ode spree. We just find the instrument so magical, so we’ve been using it on a lot of tracks… Even in our old tracks, the remix of What So Not’s Touched, Horus… we just love that instrument so much.
These past few years have seen a tremendous amount of talent launch from the Australian scene onto the international arenas, not just with EDM. What are your thoughts on this renaissance of Aussie music?
I think it’s great. I think it’s because of the isolation in the music industry. I think isolation helped us a lot in developing our own sound, and also we have this really classic tall poppy syndrome, you know? You always got to be at one with the fans, and not be this celebrity on a pedestal. You just got to be part of the crew and that humility, I think, helps Australian musicians come up with something that is more familiar, and relatable… if you hang out with people you think are Australian royalty, they’re just Australians and they’re really cool. I can’t say the same about musicians around the world, but I can definitely vouch for Australians.
Somewhere down the line, Australia also became the de-facto tastemakers the world over.
Yeah, we got Anna Lunoe running Beats 1, we got Nina Las Vegas being very influential in the club music scene, we got Flume spearheading the post hip-hop/pop scene—it’s crazy. I love that Australia’s coming at all sides now.
Is there ever a sense of pride in this area when you’re overseas?
There’s this sense of being a badass… Mad Max, desert, spider hunting, shark catching… just badass when you’re in America. But there’s also this sense of, “We need to work a lot harder, guys.” Being Australian, we know how small we are as a country compared to the States. This sense of, “We know we’re good… but let’s not get cocky.” Just keep doing what we’re good at.
You guys are essentially the future of Australia’s EDM scene. How does it feel to have that rest on your shoulders?
[Laughs.] We try not let ourselves think that, and just do what we’re good at. And if we end up being leaders then great. We hope we become great inspiration for future musicians and producers… inspiring creative people to take a step and conduct the way they want to carry themselves in the industry. We don’t think about putting pressure on ourselves, by doing the best work we possibly can.