upsidedownhead and Mansionair on their new single and the art of collaboration
Sydney producer upsidedownhead has released his first single for 2020, linking up with Mansionair for ‘twice as tough’. An emotional, intense and atmospheric slow-burner, ‘twice as tough’ is one of the producer’s finest pieces of work yet. A masterclass in restraint and collaboration, upsidedownhead proves he is a producer capable of creating entire worlds in which his collaborators can truly shine, laying down a richly detailed soundscape to allow Mansionair‘s Jack Froggatt to fully explore his vocal range. Together, the pair have created a listening experience that cuts through to your very bones, enveloping your darkest thoughts about loneliness and self-worth. But, instead of exploiting these thoughts, they instead invite you into their own examinations as they don’t hold back from holding up a magnifying glass to their own psyches.
No strangers to collaborations, ‘twice as tough’ follows on from upsidedownhead‘s 2018 EP and his previous singles, ‘to give (ft Parissa Tosif of Vallis Alps)’ and ‘open the sky (ft Tom Snowdon of No Mono)’. Mansionair‘s rapid ascension to emerging global stars has been a sight to behold in recent years, with their debut album amassing gold-certified singles, hundreds of millions of streams, and fans across the world. To celebrate the release, and to get to know the story behind the song, we chatted to upsidedownhead and Mansionair‘s Jack Froggatt to learn all about how the song came to be, what it means to them and why collaboration is such a key part of their prorjects.
What is ‘twice as tough’ about?
Jack (Mansionair): I was thinking about this last night actually. I think it stems from the first conversation we had about how loving someone means you embrace each other’s flaws. If you expect perfection from yourself or your partner there’s no space for failure in the relationship.
Ross (upsidedownhead): Definitely, I think expecting perfection is unreasonable and unfair. Part of the song is also about consoling and being consoled too. Actually telling someone how it is in the moment is true love, being real with someone.
Jack: Yeah that line “I don’t want to be alone..” I’d rather confront our flaws, than for us to not have this at all. Which is kind of the give and take of being in a relationship.
Ross: My grander scope on it, is around tough love right… It’s love, but it’s real and it’s a beautiful thing, tough love is its own little commodity.
Jack: That links so nicely into that sample you found Ross, “pull me closer to your chest” in Māori which is cool.
Ross: I love that concept too, that image really speaks volumes.
Jack: And even I’d say the title itself, ‘Twice As Tough’ is that fortress of ‘better together’.
How did the track come together?
Ross: I think I just reached out to you guys and said come let’s hang out, no preconceptions and then this song came, but in a different form. The first version was much more jammy.
Jack: Yeah, coz you wanted me to sing through this modular synth set up and I was like noooo haha. All of a suddenly the space opened up without any judgement and we started linking back to what we were talking about relationships and what we just spoke about.
Ross: I still remember you being on the couch and being like “Maybe it should be like this, and I was like YES, that’s exactly how it should be.”
Jack: It was easy and fun.
Ross: For me the production of the first version of the track wasn’t good enough, so I re-attacked it about 2 or 3 months later. Once we found the sample it became something I’m really proud of.
Jack: I would say too, there are certain times when you’re writing a song where you can’t catch up to the idea forming on both sides. Because there was only 2 of us producing, recording, writing, the idea needed a little time to fully form.
Ross: That’s a fair point, it happens a lot in song-writing sessions where you get something out and the production is kind of there but you almost need that time removed from it, to be able to look at the bigger picture of what you’re trying to achieve.
Both upsidedownhead and Mansionair are no strangers to collaboration, what is it about the art of collaboration that has you coming back again and again?
Jack: Part of the reason we had some time off, was because we had just wrapped a tour and I found myself looking for a new project, that wasn’t my own. What we created together is rooted in a new friendship which formed in the studio over common ground. That’s what’s really amazing about collaboration, you don’t know if your ideas are going to show up that day and there’s a vulnerability in that, where you have this expectation that you’re going to make something, and you’re thinking wow i really hope Ross doesn’t think I’m crap at my job. When you’re writing on your own, if it’s not there, it’s not there and you just move on and try again the next day.
Ross: I like what you said, that idea of not thinking about yourself is nice. I think my strengths lie in collaboration.
Jack: I think because you’re a music director, you can pull a lot out of people too because you’ve got the musicality and weight of knowledge to then be more objective about sound.
Ross: Tricked you! I feel like my whole life is about deceiving people into thinking I know lots about music haha!
What else do each act have coming up for the rest of the year?
Jack: Writing songs and surfing, every day is the same. I’m missing touring, I’ve started catching myself performing to my girlfriend out of desperation for affirmation haha!
Ross: Same, working on a bunch of tracks, I’ve finished mixing almost 7 songs which is cool!
‘twice as tough’ is out now via Liberation.
Interview and introduction by Emma Jones