Australia has become a hotbed of electronic music talent lately. Trail blazers from down under, both male and female, from Flume to Alison Wonderland have been making a huge impact in the music world lately. Another up and coming Australian artist to watch for is DJ/producer duo Slumberjack. After meeting at a DJ competition in their hometown of Perth, Morgan and Fletcher combined forces on a whim and stumbled onto something incredible. A few years after forming, the duo is seeing their reach expand beyond the Southern Hemisphere. Slumberjack has had a huge 2016 with an guest mix on Diplo & Friends, their first proper video for “Open Fire” f/ Daniel Johns, and appearances at huge American music festivals including Lollapalooza and HARD Summer (where this interview was done).
Hey Morgan and Fletcher, first off tell us a little about how you guys came together to form Slumberjack? What did you set out to accomplish and how’s the ride been so far?
Morgan-“We met after a DJ competition in Perth, small town in Australia, I won the 2011, and Fletcher won the 2010. So we went to this music conference, right, it’s defunct now, and we went there, it’s like a Perth thing, it’s sort of like Winter Music Conference, so we all went there and kind of sought each other out. And the host of the competition was like, oh yeah that’s that guy there, last year’s champ. And he went over to Fletcher and was like, that guy there is this year’s champ. And we’re like alright let’s see what this guy’s got to each other, so went up and chatted, and it wasn’t until like four months later we jumped in the studio, in April 2013. The band Slumberjack wasn’t like, we didn’t plan it, we were going to do an EP, we were like let’s do four songs, we were going to do Morgan x Fletcher, whatever artist names we had. And Fletcher was like let’s see if we can make this a project, let’s make it one thing so it’s not confusing and put it on the internet. When we put it on the internet, Australia’s biggest radio station, which is triple J, started picking up stuff and putting it on their digital streaming service. And then we were like, oh shit this is doing something, let’s keep the name then, so we didn’t really plan what Slumberjack was going to be about.”
Fletcher-“We stumbled upon it.”
M-“Fletcher just goes let’s call it Slumberjack, whatever, it’s not going to be anything, we’re just going to put music out.”
F-“I don’t think many artists plan to be as successful as they end up being. Most people just start doing it for fun and it just happens and they’re like, wow I can actually do this full time. We both never really expected to be able to do it full time when we started.”
M-“I was doing a banking and accounting degree, Fletcher was doing chemical engineering and business and we were still doing Uni’ then, so we were studying. When it took off, I graduated and was going to go into an internship, but whatever record we had at the time got picked up, and we’re like okay let’s put that on hold, and Fletcher took a break from college or university, and we never stopped, never looked back. I mean I hope it doesn’t fail (laughing).”
F-“We both turned down pretty dope internships to pursue music. I turned down Shell.”
M-“I turned down Ernst & Young. It was a summer internship and I think when Fletch turned it down, what’d they say to you, you can’t do this again if you turn it down?”
F-“Yeah, basically, yeah.”
M-“Yeah, same. I did an interview, it was after the song had been picked up, I did an interview. I sat there, it was three guys in suits, one woman, the lady was like, so, congratulations, you got Ernst & Young summer internship, blah blah blah, put your name forward. So I was like, okay so I’ve got this music thing, so I was wondering if I can have a rain check for this one, maybe in like a year if I fuck this up, can I come back in, and she’s like nah. You either take this now, because it’s such an honorable award, if you don’t take this no one’s going to get it. So I was like okay, fuck it, I’m not going to do this, I walked out of this office, in the elevator and I vomited straight into the closest bin. My parents, obviously very traditional Asian parents, they were like, What!? You what!? You’re going to be a what? A DJ? What the! I was like just give me one ear, I’ll see if I can make something out of it. My dad’s happy now.”
“I’m sure playing a huge North American festival like this was awesome, tell me what’s the biggest difference between festivals/shows/the scene in Australia as opposed to when you come to the U.S.?”
F-“In Australia, the festival scene is obviously a lot smaller. Yesterday we did Lollapalooza, today we’re here at HARD and I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many people in one place, so that’s pretty insane, to see the size of the crowds, we were here earlier so you don’t have the massive crowds, but seeing 60,000 people in one place is pretty incredible for us.”
M-“It’s still an honor to be put on the HARD Stage, an act that’s sort of just starting in the States, a week ago we did a festival in Australia, mid-way through the North American tour we flew back, we did this festival called Splendour in the Grass and it’s equivalent of like the Coachella or Lollapalooza of Australia, it’s the biggest. So we flew back, midway, did the show, and that was our second time, so the first time that we did it, I remember Fletcher and I were there and Josh (tour manager), and I remember walking from a stage to another stage and I was like whoa this festival is huge. And then we did Electric Forest before that like three weeks ago, and we went back this time for Splendour and we realized how small it became. We’re like oh I don’t remember it being that small, that stage is so close. Because Electric Forest we went to see Getter and Porter [Robinson] and it was a 25 minute power walk.”
F-“Even the thought of walking back to the green room from here is pretty daunting.”
M-“From here just to our dressing room right now, I kind of want to call a buggy (golf cart).”
F-“I think in the States as well, the people that come to the shows are also a lot more knowledgeable in your music and the scene. Like, if they don’t know a certain act, they’ll look you up, listen to you on Soundcloud, do everything before they come to the show. Which is really great because it means that fans come and they’re ready to see you, even if they’ve never seen you before they’re ready to support you. And then after the show if they like it, they’ll hit you up on twitter, they’ll hit you up on instagram, they’ll really follow up and become a fan rather than just saying cool, that was a fun day, I’ll see you whenever I see you.”
M-“And blogs, such as you guys, Your EDM, I think the American audience listens to and reads the blogs a lot more than Australian fans, not dissing anyone, not picking sides, but it’s just, they’re so involved in it, when they read something in an article, they research it, and it’s a weird thing, because we don’t get that sort of treatment. You kind of have to prove yourself over and over again in Australia, which I feel it’s a good training ground. But in America, the fans seem to be pretty proactive. So it’s like, okay new artist on stage, who is this person? Slumberjack, okay, let me go on twitter, let me go on facebook, let me check out soundcloud and then I’ll decide for myself. And then they’ll respond on twitter and go what up Slumberjack, saw you for the very first time at Lollapalooza, insane. And then another guy was like, yo, we came up to HARD early for you guys, this is my third time seeing you. So it’s magical. When we just landed this morning and I looked at my tweets and our tweets were like, yo, we’re going to be front and center for you guys Slumberjack, 1pm see you there. And we’re like fuck, it’s a hot day and you’re coming out, that’s commitment. It’s heartwarming, we appreciate in heaps.”
You guys also recently did your first music video for “Open Fire.” What was the experience and creative process for it like?
F-“See for us, the whole Slumberjack project has always been about more than just doing music. We want to do music, but we also want to create like a whole, I hate saying the word brand, but a whole feeling around, a story. We want to do visual art, we do our own visuals for the shows, we want to do film clips and video, we want to do fashion, we want to do everything encompassing in the arts. So it was really exciting for us to do our first music video, because it was our first foray into the sort of video world. So, we hit up this guy who we really liked his work, his name’s Jonathon Lim, and he gave us a really dope treatment for the video. We hit up a bunch of people and his was just the best. Exactly on point with what we wanted, because we filmed it in Shanghai, so he’s from Shanghai, he lives in L.A. So he flew down to shoot the video and a lot of our music and a lot of what we do is inspired by the non-Western world, China, India, Africa, all these countries/places and their sounds. So it was super-dope to have a video filmed in Shanghai with the amazing architecture and scenery that they have there. And the characters we had in the video.”
M-“He wrote this story which ended up becoming the artwork. We had separate artwork and the crystal, he brought in the crystal idea, and we were so inspired by it, we actually had to tank the first idea that we had. We’re like look, holy crap, the crystal is dope, let’s turn that into the artwork so we tie everything into the story. We want everything to feel like one piece of work. So you’ll see, our next single, which is a club single, will also feature a type of crystal of some sort. So it’s like a weird, big teamwork, he pitches ideas, I pitch ideas, this guy is so creative, he shoots for Thump actually, and we’re super honored to be working with him, yeah, it’s just a great video.”
As a duo, what’s the production process like for you guys, do you work as a team, or will you brainstorm ideas separately and combine them?
F-“It’s changed a lot actually, when we started we would start everything together in the studio, always together. It would be like walk into the studio, full blank canvas, let’s try and get something happening, but now we literally cannot do that at all. If we start in the studio with a blank canvas, if it’s just us two in the room, it’s just brick wall after brick wall. As soon as you put someone else in the room, even if they’re just on their phone in the back, we can suddenly write a whole song in a day. It’s really weird, so we love working with other producers,vocalists, just someone else to be in the room. Just to go oh that’s cool, and then it’s suddenly 2-on-1 and we can actually make a decision rather than being one-on-one for everything.”
M-“Because if it’s 50/50 you get nothing done.”
F-“So the best way we work now is having someone else in the room, just to bounce ideas off or start separately and bring the idea to the table. And it’s really great having a duo because a lot of the time when you’re writing by yourself, you hit a wall and you can’t go anywhere so I can just send it to Morgan and he can change a couple parts which will then re-inspire me to take the track in a completely different direction, do something new.”
What can fans expect from Slumberjack for the rest of 2016? New music, other festival appearances?
M-“Our goal for the rest of this year is to put up new music. 2015 was a big touring year for us, especially in Australia and we did a couple of Southeast Asian shows, again with our writing process, we started off being really quick at putting records out. As we improve, we start to be a lot more cautious how we put stuff out. And a lot more detail in the production, so we take a lot longer. In 2015 we put out one record, in 2014 we put out an EP, 2016 one, but the rest of 2016 we’re hoping to put out an EP, probably like three or four more new tracks. And maybe gear up for a bigger tour in 2017, Australia and America. That’s pretty much our plan, but you know, with music, you can’t know until it’s actually happening. So yeah, we just kind of want to play by ear, but the main goal is to put out as much music as possible.”
What would be one album or artist you guys are listening to now that people wouldn’t expect?
F-“Pretty much everything we listen to I don’t think people would expect. We exclusively do not listen to electronic music outside of the studio and shows. We listen to a lot of classical stuff, so I listen to a contemporary pianist, his name is Ludovico Einaudi.”
M-“That’s Fletch’s favorite, I see him put it on Spotify every time.”
F-“Every time I’m on a plane I literally listen to it in my headphones every time, It gets me through everything.”
M-“My thing, it’s been my thing for four months now, “Man of Steel” soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. If we were to ever write an album, if Fletch and I are very inclined to doing a very cinematic soundtrack piece, obviously with all our influences, classical, dance music, dubstep, trap. Yeah Ludovico Einaudi for Fletch, and it’s the “Man of Steel” soundtrack for me, and I’m still not sick of it.”
F-“That’s the sign of a great record. It’s timeless.”
M-“Another one we know is timeless and he’s playing tonight is Porter Robinson.”
Morgan & Fletcher in unison: “Worlds!”
M-“Worlds album, post whatever he has done before that has been mind-blowing. Every song he plays and we just look at each other like oh my god, this guy’s got hooks for days.”
Even Ice Cube last night, all those NWA songs, they’re almost 30 years old, and especially here in America, it’s more relevant than ever.
F-“Than ever! He’s even big in my hometown in Malaysia.”
Any words or messages for the fans?
M-“Keep pushing the boundaries, keep listening to new stuff, it doesn’t have to be dance music, it just has to be music. People need to understand that it’s not all about just raging. I mean there’s great raging music out there, we love it, we absolutely live by it, but there are moments when you just want to drive down the coast and listen to a great track. Moments when you want to play music and you want to go to bed.”
Fletcher-“We have a Spotify playlist of all stuff specifically for that, it’s called Slumbercrate. It’s all the stuff that’s non-EDM that we like listening to.”
Morgan-“We don’t discriminate, that playlist is all about whatever we feel everyone should be able to enjoy. You can listen to a jazz record, a country record, a folk record, and then dubstep, and that’s okay. Literally we like to embrace the idea of no genres meaning not just dance music, it can be classical, it can be soundtrack, it can be folk, it can be rock, it can be punk, it can be pop, whatever.”
Check out Slumberjack’s Diplo & Friends guest mix below.
Also make sure to check out the video for “Open Fire” f/ Daniel Johns.