In a field where genres rise and fall like dominoes, Mikah Freeman’s in a particularly privileged position: with long-time collaborator Vance Musgrove, his production juggernaut The Aston Shuffle have built a sound flexible and individual enough to withstand a decade of upheaval. ZOE KILBOURN catches up with Mikah on the ‘Shuffle’s US stint, before they bring their Photographs Tour to WA.
“Just last week we played our very first live show in the US on Governor’s Island in front of 5000 people, which was amazing,” says Mikah.
It’s not the greatest honour the duo have had bestowed on them, though: “One surprising moment at a club show was when one punter came up to us, popped out his prosthetic eyeball and asked us to sign it. That doesn’t happen every day.”
Over a career that’s ricocheted from instrumental bass bangers to Justice-inspired vocoder jams, Ministry Of Sound mixes to a permanent Triple J residency, The Aston Shuffle have earned their position as Australian EDM pacemakers. Mikah explains that the ‘Shuffle “came about fairly organically”; Mikah, Vance, and a third original member, Ross, were part of the same Canberra music scene.
“I was the local record store guy and used to chat with the boys when they came in to crate dig – look that term up, kids. We realised we were into similar things and so we all started writing together. We formed The Aston Shuffle originally as a digital record label and a platform for releasing our own music. To start pushing the name we began doing remixes. Eventually it got to the point we decided to focus on The Aston Shuffle as artists, and voilà, here we are, ten years on.”
A far cry from the shameless party synths of last album, Seventeen After Midnight, latest album Photographs is a collection of expertly crafted pop-house, boasting the kind of big vocals Disclosure would drool over. Mikah and Vance have spent a stint in the UK working with newcomer Will Heard, Elizabeth Rose, and Kaelyn “Stylaz Fuego” Behr – “and that guy, if you don’t know him, has got a sweet set of pipes.
“We really wanted to focus on writing songs rather than just straight up club jams this time around,” Mikah says. “In terms of the production, we feel that our sound has matured over the last few years – as have we – but as for the future, the musical climate is always changing, evolving and reinventing and we’ll keep doing that, too.”
They’re incredibly generous with their sets, regularly playing uni gigs, festivals, and regional gigs – Port Hedland comes this Friday. Hosting the Friday Night Shuffle for over three years has been a massive project, too. “Having to come up with 3 hours of new music every single week has really opened our eyes to the sheer volume of new music coming out and also has broadened our personal tastes. In music it doesn’t matter what genre or bpm a track is. If it’s dope, it’s dope in any language.”
It’s a pretty exciting time for Australian musicians, with the emergence of a bass music wave, and while keeping his production distance, Mikah’s very conscious of the groundswell. “We’ve always loved bass music and some of our early productions were arguably ‘bass music’,” he says. “In today’s climate, genres come and go so fast, but it’s good to see it having its time in the sun again and with guys like Motez, Dom Dollar and Playmode at the forefront of the scene internationally.”
What can WA audiences expect this weekend? “This time around we have really tried to up the live elements in the show by incorporating both male and female singers as well as Mikah on drums and Vance on keys,” says Mikah. “Our ideal audience would buy our album and tickets to our shows and tell all their hot friends.”
FRIDAY, AUGUST 22 @ NORTH WEST FESTIVAL, PORT HEDLAND
SATURDAY, AUGUST 23 @ AMPLIFIER