Few cities are as blessed by the EDM gods as Los Angeles. The west coast metropolis has always been a hotbed for the creative arts and combined with it's year round perfect weather it's become the permanent home for many of the biggest names in dance music. Electronica duo Slumberjack, comprised of Australian natives Fletcher Ehlers and Morgan Then are some of it's newest residents.
Fletcher and Morgan met at DJ competition in Australia and eventually combined their efforts to create Slumberjack. After releasing a handful of tracks with their innovative and unique blend of melodic and future bass sounds, the duo has garnered attention worldwide and are accompanying trap music legend Troyboi on his massive Left Is Right tour. We were lucky enough to meet up before their Palladium show and hear some of their big plans for the future and insight on what makes them stand out among most artists today.
Thank you so much for having me! So tell me how has Slumberjack's 2017 been? More productions? More touring?
Morgan: More shows. We spent the better half of this year developing our live show in Australia. We're not bringing the live show to America just yet, cause there's a lot of a equipment and we need a crew, but our Australian team loved it so much. We spent the last few months working on the visuals for the show, the music, the full setup. Fletch got into making 3D art and is doing the visuals. So instead of commissioning people to do it which would have costed tens of thousands of dollars, we just decided to do it ourselves.
Thats awesome! How has your live show evolved since you started Slumberjack?
Fletcher: So we started DJing at the start of Slumberjack. We always wanted to do a live show type setup and we felt the time was right around the start of 2017. We spent, as Morgan said, 6 months developing this live show. So when we toured around the country for the Fracture tour, we our own console, spaceship, center each. It was like keyboards, drumpads, MIDI controllers and stuff and we had a full live visual show put together as well, which is completely different then the DJ show so we kinda treat them as two separate shows.
So you guys also have a VJ?
F: No, everything runs on timecode, so it automatically plays as we play which is pretty cool.
Fletch, you said you're programming all the visuals for that?
F: I do alot of the 3D stuff and Morgon does alot of work on AfterEffects too. He can take the assets and turn it into all new stuff as well.
So if you guys could create one completely new piece of equipment, what would it be?
M: I would make a brain, CPU that contains the show instead of multiple parts. We have to buy multiple parts and put them together to create this brain that runs the show and it's like a huge case, we treat it like a CPU. If we could redesign everything, we'd make one, instead of separate parts, and having a computer sit inside instead of on top of it. We have two Laptops right now sitting on top, so if one crashes the other one kicks in automatically. It's pretty cool haha, i gotta say it's pretty cool.
Have you guys experienced any equipment malfunctions during a show?
M: No! Thank God!
F: I tested it at a show one time on the last song. I went up to the Laptop and shut one of them down, closed the lid, just to see if the redundancy worked hahaha.
Morgan, I wanted to ask, I heard you had some sort of a weird sound and color thing…
M: Oh, synesthesia. It's experiencing other stimuli thats not related to that feeling. So for example, for me, I taste sound. For other people they may see colors in sound, or hear colors. It's like a weird wiring in your brain.
What is exactly is that like? To taste sound or colors?
M: You can taste colors, like red literally tastes like gummybears, but im also colorblind, like really bad. So I don't really see colors, cause my color pallete is so messed up, but I taste sounds. A sound would go in my ears and I would associate a taste with it.
Oh wow, so you actually get a sensation on your tongue?
M: Well more in the brain, its kinda weird.
Have you had that your whole life?
M: Yeah, I thought it was normal until recently then I started paying attention to it more. When you hear a sound, you don't question it. Only recently when I started explaining it to people and they'd say thats not normal. My sister has it too and when I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of neighbors or alot of kids in school, so we thought it was normal. I remember i'd play C sharp on piano and she'd say “funny taste on my tongue”.
What does Slumberjack taste like?
M: Elderflower. Everytime the music plays I taste this nice smell or flavor. So for me, when I listen to a track, I try to make sure every change helps to gain that taste. So I think we could cross genres and be ok as long as it tastes like elderflowers.
Thats pretty handy, you have an indicator that your doing something right haha. So would you guys consider yourself trap music or how would you define your sound?
F: We try not to, we try to keep it open ended. We define our music by the overall texture of the sounds. As long as it has the slumberjack texture to it.
M: Yeah, as long as it has that elderflower taste. It's weird that people still consider us trap, cause our 2 records before our latest one were 90 bpm, so thats not exactly trap either, it's more hip hop, but people still categorize it as trap. People don't dance the same way to that record. Our other records that sit at 140 or 150 bpm, people dance like at typical trap show. We try not to categorize, we just let the fans decide.
I think thats the best way to do it. How do you feel about your part in the growing scene in Australia, that bass movement thats for the most part, taken over the festivals?
M: I feel that we have a responsibility to maintain quality. Music Production is so accessible, I feel that alot of EDM is more about entertainment and less about art. So I feel, for Slumberjack we have a responsibility to balance the two. You can't go full entertainment and not create art.
F: I'd say art is about challenging the fans too. Educating them. Instead of writing something that they are so used to and giving them what they want, we say here's something you might want, or here's what we want you to want.
What do you guys have coming up? I know you guys love to collab and you're in LA now too.
F: We got a lot of collabs that are finished and waiting to come out. We always like to underpromise and overdeliver. We don't like to say we have a specific track out with a specific person, then for whatever reason it doesn't come out and people get disappointed.
M: We have been really lucky to be able to collaborate with these artists that we will be revealing soon….
Where have you guys been getting your inspiration from? Whats on your playlist?
F: My spotify is like the complete opposite of what our music is. Alot of cinematic music, scores. Obviously Hans Zimmer but also Gregson Williams who did Tarzan, Game Of Thrones, and Westworld.
Morgan then pulled out his phone and played some experimental sounding music.
M: This is the type of music I listen to.
I enjoy alot of that stuff too. I completely agree about what you said before regarding challenging audiences. Most people just aren't as into music the way industry folks are, so they don't go out of their way to find new stuff the way a DJ will. They simply don't know that they do like something or can get down with something new.
M: Correct! I didn't know i liked the abrasive sounds that you hear in dubstep. But when it's arranged so well and married together so well, it sounds great. I think it's all about context as well. If we're gonna include some weird sample or weird scales, we have to find a way to introduce it to the crowd. So usually before playing a new song, we'll play something familiar first, we hook the crowd in and then drop the new one in. Hopefully they'll associate good feels with that new song and they'll start to appreciate that genre.
So what are you guys most stoked for in the near future?
F: We're really looking forward to this huge Troyboi tour, this Palladium show is gonna be huge and then we have thirty two shows after that.
M: We will have music coming out, it's a three way collaboration, thats all we can give you at the moment. I think the American dance fans will really like this one…it's gonna be tight, you'll hear it at the show.
I'd say the fans like you so far haha. We're definitely looking forward to it!