Grounded in hard-hitting trap, Slumberjack tracks burst at their hip hop seams with shamelessly downy pop. You’ll typically hear shimmery synths layered across even more shimmery synths, eight bit samples, generous fingersnaps, whacked-out nu soul vocals, and a few cheeky sirens. Paired with those rapid-fire beats, listening to a track like last month’s Sprinter is like getting embroiled in a gang war pillow fight. ZOE KILBOURN caught up with the boys ahead of their gig at the State Of The Art Festival, Saturday, May 31.
Slumberjack are Fletcher Ehlers & Morgan Then, Perthlings with a growing following (and a recent release with over 38,000 Soundcloud listeners). Aside from sleep, they’re big time lovers of Dilla, Skrillex, Timbaland, Glitch Mob, and Ta-Ku. “It’s not just their music that we dig; it’s also their approach,” says Morgan. “These artists aren’t afraid to be a little bit different. I mean they might experience a few backlashes from purists but the loyal fans seem to always be backing the creative decisions they make. Each of these artists are legendary in their own right with the way they carry their music with them.”
Fan loyalty is the holy grail for most producers; more importantly, connecting with an audience is a big priority for these guys. Alongside bigger club gigs, Slumberjack are willing to give the little guy a shot, as in their regular appearances at UWA’s EMAS parties. Not that EMAS are little, of course. When asked about their EMAS Ibiza gig, Morgan clearly digs the work. “Hah! Shout out to the EMAS crew, love those guys and their work pushing electronic music to future show-goers. We’re both very fortunate to be based here in WA; the bass/indie dance scene here is indeed very healthy and we always see a good number of people show up to support the style of music we do. With crews like Die High, Get Weird, ICSSC and Pilerats constantly pushing the envelope, we can’t see it slowing down anytime soon.”
That supportive scene, the sense of community, is something Slumberjack keep returning to. Morgan continues: “In regards to doing shows, I guess the priority is to connect to a bigger audience. We learnt this from Josh aka Goldroom, whilst on tour with him just this February. He really values every single fan/listener and we strive to do the same. It doesn’t matter if punters walk away from a show and decide to never listen to us again, but what matters is that we gave it a shot and there was a chance that we could’ve connected with that listener. Oh, also if the gig is going to be fun with our friends there too, we’re down! We particularly love shows where the line-up is a tight crew of mates.”
WA, home of the bushdoof, does throw up some weirder EDM opportunities. “We love warehouse gigs; there’s something about them that gives us a buzz. The weirder side of Perth nightlife is absolutely crucial too. I think it’s these kind of movements that give a spark to emerging sub-genres and give the style a very good foundation before booming to the mainstream i.e. Big Room, Rave, Dubstep.”
It’s always a weird road to music production. Fletcher puts it down to a single track: “I first heard a tune called Lava Lava by Boys Noize when I was pretty young and fell in love with electronic music from that point onwards.” For Morgan, it was “Laidback Luke and Skrillex, both polar opposites with their style but very intriguing when I first heard them. When coming up with an idea we’ll usually start working solo and come up with a drumbeat or a hook then send it to the other person when we feel like we’ve hit a wall. That’s one of the many great things about being in a duo.”
Clearly, Skrillex is close to these boys’ hearts. “We both loved Recess!”, says Fletcher, regarding the sidebanged bassdropper’s latest release. “There’s so much diversity, which is really what we’re all about. We’re definitely not ones to adhere to a “sound” evidenced by the fairly eclectic mix of stuff we’ve already released. Those mysterious marketing ploys have always fascinated me, my favourite film (Donnie Darko) did a similar thing and I frothed over it.”
As for that eclecticism: “We tend to keep pretty up to date with what’s going on with the tech side of music production,” Fletcher says. “I’ll often be found up late watching a Youtube video of someone controlling synths with some new techy glove…. Having said that though, we are big believers of working completely “in-the-box” and don’t use any hardware synths though we won’t completely shut ourselves from hardwares if the opportunity arises. We often have spontaneous studio sessions where we try and write something completely different with the primary goal being to make things sound as weird and unheard of as possible. A lot of the time it sounds terrible but every now and then there’ll be a little gem which we can expand on and turn into something really cool.”
Do Slumberjack approach music with a sound in mind? “When Fletch and I first jumped into the studio, we knew nothing. And I mean it, absolutely nothing,” says Morgan. “We kinda picked up the pieces along the way and to be honest, the learning curve hasn’t eased one bit. But that keeps everything exciting and us on our toes.
“If we were to describe our sound, I think it would make more sense to put ourselves in the movement which guys like Ta-ku, Flume, Cashmere Cat etc. spearhead. In terms of our direction, we will constantly be listening to innovators of music, being influenced by them and experimenting with weird styles. Having said that, we still keep in mind the hip-hop/trap backbone we love. I feel it’s very limiting to give yourself a clear path as it makes you ignore all the cool things that might come at you.”
If every Slumberjack bio tells true, if there’s one thing Fletch and Morgan like as much as the trap backbone, it’s sleep. Of course, I’ve gotta ask. “We’re all for sleeping,” says Fletch. “Both of us have these horrible, horrible nightmares where we’ll turn up for a big gig and have forgotten a vital piece of equipment then stand on stage frantically trying to plug things in and watch as people slowly disappear. It’s happened to me 4 or 5 times in the past six months.”
According to Morgan, Slumberjack may have the powers of dream prescience. “One time it actually came true where I forgot my laptop (silly me), but luckily my place was just around the corner. Phew!”