Interview: Mountain Sounds bound SLUMBERJACK (AU) on their favourite moments of 2018 and what the duo have planned for 2019

Australian electronic duo, SLUMBERJACK have been adding their signature feelsy, melodic sound to wonky trap tracks for years now. Busy touring the world with TroyBoi, Ekali, Alison Wonderland and playing huge festival sets round the world they haven’t played many shows in Australia in 2018.

Luckily they will be back with big things in 2019, saying their SARAWAK tour is the “most ambitious show we have ever put on.” They are also playing amongst some big names like What So Not and Courtney Barnett at Mountain Sounds Festival in February.

We were lucky enough to hear about what their favourite moments of 2018 and what we have to look forward to in 2019. Setting us up for a whole new SLUMBERJACK expereince, just last week they released a single with Troyboi which I can already see sliding perfectly in to their live shows.

A  SLUMBERJACK show has always been about creating a sensory experience. You have teased that your upcoming Sarawak tour around Australia and New Zealand has a whole lot of new elements. What can you tease/tell us about that?

The SARAWAK Tour is hands down going to be the most ambitious show we’ve ever put on – and we’re working extra hard to make it super fresh. We’re going to be playing a ton of new music from the yet to be released SARAWAK EP as well as a couple of new records we’ve been toying with for the release after that. Production wise, we’ve been working with the best in the business to put together something unique, specifically for the SARAWAK Tour. The idea is to play with space on the stage creatively to give the show a grand feeling.

Over the last 2 years you’ve been able to really develop your live shows. You obviously need a large and diverse song catalogue to be able to pull this off. Did you start producing songs specifically with your live shows in mind to do this? Stuff that mightn’t be released on record I mean?

When we’re in the studio it’s constantly a push and pull between writing songs for a live environment vs a Spotify / home listening environment. What we usually end up doing is writing a different Live VIP version of our tracks which we use for the shows. This gives us the freedom to write whatever we want in the studio and then for the live show version, we can strip it back and drill in on the major elements that are going to work alongside custom lighting and video programming.

You have mentioned having an album in the back of your mind for a little while now. Is it on its way yet or are there other things you are working on before an album?

An album is definitely a major goal for us but we want to have a few more EP’s under our belt before we start to tackle that. It’s always in the back of the mind though, and often we’ll write a demo in the studio that we file away for the album. We’re excited to go and revisit all those when the time comes.

Back in 2015 you remixed Porter Robinson’s “Fellow Feeling” which is still such a powerful moment when you play it in your shows. Porter Robinson has always committed himself to pushing EDM in new directions.  Is this something you want to do and what would you like the SLUMBERJACK  legacy to be?

One of the main goals of the SLUMBERJACK live show is to create a really strong contrast in energy – there are some moments where we turn it up to 11 and some moments where all you can do is stand and watch and take it all in without dancing. We are strong believers in the idea that a live show isn’t just about raging for 90 minutes nonstop. The Porter Robinson remix is the perfect example of one of those low energy moments – it breaks right down to a couple of minutes of piano only and beautiful visuals of this epic jungle waterfall, it’s always a special moment.

Morgan, you have described the “SLUMBERJACK sound” to taste like elderflower, which I think is a fabulous description. Do you think having synesthesia and being able to taste sounds works as an advantage or just changes the way you approach things? 

It’s a double edge sword. Most people assume music that I like would also taste pleasant, but that’s not always the case. I’ve heard sounds I absolutely love but tastes like vomit and vice versa – terrible sounds that taste amazing. The mostly use my synesthesia to recreate feelings of songs Ive heard somewhere else. Like if I was walking on the streets and hear a busker play something I like, I can usually get that feeling back in the studio by recreating the ‘taste’ on my tongue, even if the sound is completely different. I guess its my way to capturing a ‘feel’ rather than blatantly copy a sound.

You’ve had some huge collabs with artists like  QUIX, Alison Wonderland  and  What So Not. Do you generally seek out artists to collaborate with, knowing that they would work well with you and who would your dream collaboration be with? 

All our collaborations start very organically, usually with us just bumping into another artist at a festival and deciding to hang out and write some music. Most of the time, we don’t even write anything in the first session and just chill, drink coffee or eat and get to know each other. Music and creativity are so inextricably tied to the relationships you have with your fellow musicians – it’s much more fruitful in the studio when you’re writing with someone you consider a friend.

This year you’ve played some huge headline shows, support slots, festivals and tours like Touch Bass. What has been the most memorable show of the year and why?

Personally Touch Bass in Sydney was an absolute blast. It was the most risky and hectic show we’ve ever pulled off logistically – we had the Brisbane show that afternoon, jumped straight off stage into a transport, flew into Sydney and got to the venue about 45 minutes before our set started. We’d sent our team ahead to set up most the of the live show equipment but we were carrying the last few important parts with us. I think I plugged the last cable in about 10 seconds before our set was supposed to start.

You’re playing Mountain Sounds Festival early next year. This festival has some huge headliners like What So Not and Angus and Julia Stone but also is a great festival for discovering new music. Is there anyone on the lineup you think everyone should go see? 

I know you already mentioned him but I gotta throw this one to What So Not. The man puts so much passion into his music and really pushes the boundaries of originality and sticking true to one’s guns.

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You can catch SLUMBERJACK at the Mountain Sounds Festival in February and at the dates below. For tickets to the festival head HERE and for more information about SLUMBERJACK visit their Facebook HERE.

15-16 February: Mountain Sounds Festival, Mount Penang Gardens, Somersby

8 March: Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Adelaide

9 March: Metro City, Perth

15 March: 170 Russell, Melbourne

16 March: Enmore Theatre, Sydney

23 March: The Tivoli, Brisbane

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