03 May From Punters to Players: An interview with Slum Sociable at Laneway 2016
Slum Sociable are a band who managed to carve out a niche sound from their very early releases. Their influences are obvious, but it’s how they have combined their eclectic tastes and managed to make them their own that makes the duo unique. Being relatively new to the Australian live scene, we found out that the 2016 St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was a sort of coming of age for the pair, who have now expanded their bedroom productions into a full live show. Long time punters of the festival and now artists, we had a chat to them just after their last show on the tour about the way they translate their music from the studio to their live sets – something they’ll be doing a lot more of during their tour of Europe this month.
Matt Bladin: Having been to Laneway before as a festival goer, how does it feel coming back and playing?
Miller Upchurch: It’s crazy. It’s always been a festival we’ve wanted to play, like a goal I guess, having seen a lot of my favourite acts over the years.
Ed Quinn: Especially this one. Every time I shout out Melbourne everyone’s like, “Yeah, Melbourne!”
It’s such an easy sell to the crowd.
Ed: Yeah, a little festival hack.
How have you guys found the transition to a live show coming out of your bedroom studios?
Miller: It’s pretty cool and different, but going really well, because in a room it’s just us two.
Ed: I think people are surprised that we have live drums and bass and that really thickens out the sound for us, which is awesome. The live show wouldn’t be half of what it is without them, they bring so much energy to it. And Miller is a pretty good frontman too, (laughs) so it all runs smoothly. So it’s not that hard to translate out of the bedroom, because our songs are intricate but we just pick the best parts and make it work, and that’s fun in itself.
Miller: We choose what parts are the highlights from the recordings, and putting them on live adds a different accent and highlight from the song. You figure it out as you go, too, seeing what people respond to.
And is that what you get from that experience of playing for over a year together?
Miller: Well yeah, we used to play in a band together so we’ve had some practice playing together. But then again, it’s a new project so you have to figure it out from scratch, I guess.
You guys have had some pretty crazy labels attached to your music. Do you think that changes people’s preconceived ideas of what you’ll sound like on stage?
Miller: I think when people read that it’s ‘jazz hop’ or whatever that label is, they assume it’s not going to be that large of a production on stage. It kind of sounds like it’s minimalist, but we get good reactions from people, so… It’s more of a bigger live performance, and I guess people don’t expect it.
And how do you feel about that label ‘jazz hop’?
Ed: Well, we kind of stupidly came up with it.
Yeah, I saw it on your Unearthed profile. What did it mean to you when you wrote it?
Ed: I dunno, sometimes I wonder whether having ‘jazz’ in the description does us a disservice. It’s got such a pretentiousness about it that turns people off. We listen to a lot of jazz, even if it’s versions of chord structures, I suppose. There are so many elements that we draw upon, but jazz was the biggest, so we went with it.
Miller: I guess when you hear ‘jazz’, people know what they think of jazz. It’s going to be sort of low-key.
Ed: It was either that or ‘metal hop’, so we picked the less weird one.
Miller: We draw from a lot of places. For me, I think the top two influences I’ve had over my life are Jeff Buckley and David Bowie.
Ed: For me, it’s probably MadLib. Mad Villain is probably one of my favorite albums of all time. When I got into that realm of sampling, it was really exciting. But I’m also a big Radiohead fan, the Grizzly Bears, and of course The Avalanches. Hopefully us trying to fuse our influences into one comes across in the EP – hopefully there wasn’t too much shit going into it.
Miller: We might have to release some more stuff to get the message across.
When you talk about playing all your own instruments on the first EP, is that the level of control you want to carry into the second EP, or are you thinking of growing into a band unit?
Miller: I think we’ll try to play everything on it; we’re not looking to incorporate anyone else as a Slum Sociable recording artist.
Ed: Yeah, I dunno. I think for this new batch of stuff, we got a jazz drummer to lay down some tracks and then we sampled that ourselves.
Miller: Again, controlling it a bit…
Ed: Yeah, we’re massive control freaks. (laughs) We’ll probably have to end up writing this interview, that’s the level of control we like to have over every situation.
Miller: ‘Hmmmm, not happy that we said that’, so we’ll take it from here.
So what’s on for the rest of the festival?
Miller: Just get out amongst it and enjoy the festival because it’s our last one!
Ed: Get out amongst the fucking plebs. Nah, I’m just kidding. So many of our friends have come down, so we’re really looking forward to seeing some acts we haven’t seen at the other Laneway shows.