Slum Sociable chat ‘L.I.F.’, confidence & intersectionality

Melbourne duo SLUM SOCIABLE, made up of Miller Upchurch and Edward Quinn, are celebrating the release of their first body of work since their 2017 self-titled debut record. They’ve given us a five-tracker in L.I.F., out via Liberation Records. The EP embodies passionate songwriting with a newfound sense of confidence, one that’s been acquired and learned in this post-album phase of Slum Sociable.

’65-45′ opens the record with a bang, Upchurch‘s soothing vocal weaving in and out of the instrumental with psychedelic ease. There’s a tinge of UK influence in the drum line, the hard-hitting, defined breakbeat juxtaposing the laissez faire strummed guitar.

Single ‘Life Is Free’ is up next, a classically indie guitar line leading us in through the instrumental fog. Upchurch‘s vocal shines in a different way on this track, his vocal very intimately selling the story. Their next single, ‘Déjà Vu’ sees a cinematic arrangement enveloping the mood of the track, giving us layers of sampling against the pop structure.

‘Afterthought’ gives us jovial confidence, a sweeping bassline taking the lead throughout this one. Airy synths counteract the definitive bassline and we’re left with a beautifully mixed piece of work. And finally, ‘If I Were Called Back’ focuses on the band’s more delicate side, with the slow, walloping percussive line giving the track an almost downtempo RnB feel to it.

The EP marks a new era for Slum Sociable, one where they’ve found their feet in an entirely new way, doing what they do best.

We caught up with Miller a little while back to chat about the new EP, this new era of Slum Sociable and genre non-conformity.

Congrats on the EP! Has this new era of music been a long time coming for you guys?

It has. We released our also album in late 2017. We’ve released a couple of songs, just off’s, between then, with one of those making it to the EP, ‘Afterthought’. We co-wrote with Kim Moyes of The Presets, and we had to throw that one on there. We’ve been itching to get this one out.

Was it a relief setting a date for this EP release?

Yeah, absolutely. Some of these songs, we’ve been hanging onto longer than the Kim Moyes track. Some of these we wrote the bare bones of a very long time ago and then while we’ve been in the studio working on new stuff, we’ll be like “Oh, do you remember that song we half finished? Maybe we should finish that song” and then like one or two of those are on this EP. Some of them have taken years because we’ve waited to finally finish ideas. It’s hard to dwell on it if you run out of steam at the time, and then you revisit it and you’re like “Actually, this has got some steeze to it. Maybe we should finish this bad boy”.

Sometimes you just need a moment away from it. 

Yeah, you can really psyche yourself out when you’re the driver. You take a wrong turn and you need to get back on the old faithful road.

Yeah, its about knowing when to stop as well.

Exactly, sometimes if you push the song too hard, you end up hating it and you delete the session and you never work on it again. It’s not worth that, not worth the heartache.

What would you say has changed for the both of you in the time between the record and the EP?

We’re both relatively the same when it comes to us being people. I think we’re still very, obviously very excited to always be writing and trying to get new music out there, playing shows and everything. I think maybe now the fact that we’ve taken a little bit more control over the production and the writing of our songs, it’s probably one of the biggest changes, is that we kind of just presented these songs to the people that we would consult and now, we just kind of say, hey, this is how it’s going to be and this is how we like it. We’d like to release it. And then that getting done is one of the bigger changes. We used to be absolutely scrupulous with the songs and how they were formed, and I think maybe the freedom is the biggest change.

It’s funny that you mention that. There’s something really different about this EP. There’s a really confident element to every single track on the record, and I was going to ask, would you say that how you guys were feeling when you were putting those songs together?

Yeah, absolutely. We made all of these songs across years. Getting back to it and just feeling confident in them. Imagine if we had pushed one song too far and we still put it on the EP and we didn’t like it anymore. We kept the songs that we were having the most fun writing and that we would have the most fun performing as well. This is a select five of all of the songs that we have been working on recently. There’s always more music.

Looking back on the album, do you think that your relationships with the tracks have changed much?

Actually yeah. I think it’s a really gradual process that you have with songs that you’ve had out into the world for a long time, how you feel about them. I think maybe after touring them for at least a year straight, we started getting a little sick of them, but now that it’s been a while since we’ve played any of those songs live or since we’ve played them as repetitively as we were for that year, I’ve come to find a whole new appreciation for them to be honest. Yes, you try to distance yourself from them thinking, “Oh we’re working on new stuff, this is what’s cool right now and I’ll never touch that old me again”. But very recently as we’ve been rehearsing for the tour and revisiting some of those old songs, it’s been a joy to be honest. I didn’t know I would feel that way when I was at my most hating point of those songs. I can never say that I’ve truly hated them, because they’re my babies, but every singer/songwriter has had a period of hating their songs.

We spoke with Ed back in 2016 and our writer asked him if he saw a place for genre in 2016, or if he thought that it was diminishing due to the different types of ways that music is now articulated and perceived? I wanted to put that same question to you now in 2019.

Maybe the sounds that we have already released now feel like they’re locked into a certain time. I couldn’t imagine rereleasing anything like that these days. We still do have the original first five songs that we ever wrote together which we haven’t put out at all or played live since, and we’re still thinking of releasing those. Every time I re-listen them, I think maybe that’s some of the coolest stuff we ever made, but we still haven’t put it out there.

If I still like it now, then I think it will still have a place in 2020, but for the music that we’re writing now, I think that as important as it is for us to pay attention to the current musical climate and all of that, I think we still don’t try to be too influenced by any of that. We don’t try too hard to write the most cutting edge songs for the genre that we’re doing because we still to this day hardly understand exactly what genre it is that we’re doing. I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone tie us down too hard to one specific genre, and a lot of our songs are different. It mainly comes down to the fact that we just have fun writing songs however we would like to and that we try not to feel too tied down or locked into anything specifically. That, I think is a healthier relationship that hopefully will take us into the future and be appropriate for 2020.

That sounds like the best way to be with your music, not thinking too hard about it but just enjoying the process of creating it. 

The most recent single for the EP you put out is ‘L.I.F’. I read that you said that it’s called ‘Life Is Free’ because it isn’t. Could you expand on that a little bit more?

I thought it would be kind of a little funny jab to call the song ‘Life Is Free’ – trying not to be insensitive. Nobody on the planet gets to really live for free. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rich person who deals with a lot of money and you may feel like you live for free because you’re untouchable or something, but you still might crash and experience hardships. And then it goes back to the other end of it, the people who are lesser off and not as fortunate who feel like terrible shit everyday. The original idea of the track was to bring a perspective to the everyday human, and realise that everyone else has to pay for their lives, whether that’s in time or money, but they have to pay all the time to stay alive.

Intersectionality has become such a big part of the political conversation. It’s exciting to see that that’s something you’ve explored in a track because that’s really hard to articulate.

I agree. It was hard to articulate [laughs]. Framing it in the right way as well, and not brushing over any specific causes or anything, just bring a blanket awareness to the whole thing, which is like just think about these things. It could be someone in your life or your social group, maybe you just don’t know how hard they’ve got it. It doesn’t matter who it is.

You guys are going to be touring the EP at the end of the month. How are you planning on translating the record into a live setting?

Most of the setup that we have is basically still the same. We’re really into adding a lot of these extra sounds that we’ve been putting into the songs, you know, like we have a bit of a choir going on now. On ‘Life Is Free’, we have these hits in the track that we just can’t replicate live, we don’t have the members, so we’ve added a lot of interesting landscape sort of sounds and stuff like that into the backing track, so it should be pretty audio wise, an experience. Otherwise we’re just going to hit the stage, bring our all like we always do.

Photo by Lisa Businovski

Interview by CAITLIN MEDCALF

READ MORE INTERVIEWS HERE

SEE ALSO

SLUM SOCIABLE ANNOUNCE NATIONAL TOUR IN SUPPORT OF THEIR FORTHCOMING EP ‘L.I.F.’
SLUM SOCIABLE TAKE ON POP WITH NEW SINGLE, ‘DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT’
GO BEHIND THE SCENES WITH SLUM SOCIABLE AS THEY CREATE THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM

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No idea where she’ll be in 10 years, but as long as she has a good record and a glass of white wine, she’ll be sweet.