Electro pop duo GL are a good time. Hailing from Melbourne, Ella Thompson and Graeme Pogson have recently catapulted their weighty, cosmic jams throughout the country on their Touch tour.
Piggybacking the success of their larger than life 14-track debut LP, also called Touch, GL’s shows sold out in Sydney and Melbourne, making for a very fun time indeed. On the eve of their final tour performance at Newtown Social Club, we sat down in the green room.
The charm of the 80’s, hefty analogue beats and spacey synths are all ingredients in the GL mix. Good times.
HAPPY: Hey guys, how you doing?
GRAEME: Good, thanks!
ELLA: Great, thank you.
HAPPY: How’s the tour been so far?
ELLA: Really, really lovely!
HAPPY: Any particularly big nights?
GRAEME: Last night in Brisbane was pretty crazy. You know, small but strong crowd, and a bit of a party afterwards. We played at Rocket Bar in Adelaide too last week, they treated us real nice. And Howler, in Melbourne, that was amazing. Couldn’t believe that one, it was sweet.
HAPPY: Good to be headlining?
ELLA: It’s great when people have come to see you, and know the songs, and you can put on a show the way you want.
HAPPY: For any newer fans, can you tell us a little about how you guys came together? You’ve been in the scene for a while.
ELLA: Just playing in lots of different bands, and we were friends. We thought, let’s try a duo, a more electronic project. We both hadn’t really done that before so we thought we’d try it.
HAPPY: Something different.
ELLA: Yeah, something smaller.
GRAEME: I first saw Ella singing when she was 16, and it blew my mind. I found out who she was –
ELLA: You scouted me!
GRAEME: Scouted…stalked, whatever.
HAPPY: You were playing different styles before?
HAPPY: What made you want to change it up?
GRAEME: Well, I guess we’ve always played funk and soul music but there came a time when I started getting into electronic music because…being a drummer you can’t really practice at night, or anything, so I started buying gear. I’m really into 80’s music and 80’s funk so I just had a few demos and Ella made them into songs. It’s been really fun, you get thrust into such a different scene playing electronic music.
HAPPY: You were always in the Melbourne scene, do you think it’s as strong as ever?
ELLA: Melbourne, it is great. It’s so nice to see heaps of Melbourne acts taking the next step and doing lots of touring overseas. The underground scene is becoming really recognised over there which is a really great thing to see. When you’re in Melbourne, it can be like “am I going to play on these same five blocks for the rest of my life?”
GRAEME: And it’s really encouraging when people like Hiatus Kaiyote for instance, we’ve known those guys for ages, and suddenly they blow up. It makes you realise it can come from this little place. There’s still heaps of venues to play – some get shut down and others take their place but it’s still as strong.
HAPPY: From the first EP into Touch, how did you change up the formula?
ELLA: We initially wrote songs before deciding to do gigs, and perform them live (after we worked out how to play them live). After that we started writing songs to play live. That’s what Touch became.
GRAEME: And we spent more time on it. Our EP was…I think we mixed it in one day, didn’t we?
ELLA: Two days.
GRAEME: Mixed it in two days. Six tracks, done! We hadn’t really thought about it and with the album we went much more in depth. Obviously, it’s a 14 track record and we must have written…
ELLA: 20 songs?
GRAEME: Yeah, six didn’t make it. So a very different process. Also, we knew the songs when we were recording them, ‘cause we’d been playing them live, which was weird…
ELLA: There’s something about writing in the recording process that makes everything feel really fresh and you’re not trying to replicate any sort of energy, whereas with this record…we had to make it work performance-wise.
GRAEME: Something like Grip, we’ve been playing that since our first show. It’s always last and people love it, it’s fun…and then you’re sitting in the studio thinking “why does this sound so shit?” It’s got no energy.
HAPPY: You don’t recognise the song without the sound of the crowd.
GRAEME: Yeah, exactly!
HAPPY: There were remixes on the first EP of your tracks. Would you dabble in mixes again?
GRAEME: Us remixing others or people remixing us?
HAPPY: Hey, if you’re interested in doing some GL remixes then sure! But yeah, artists remixing your tracks.
ELLA: We did one for Sasquatch that was never released.
GRAEME: It’s really fun doing remixes, and it’s great when people remix our stuff. Grip, for instance is a dance track but it’s actually quite slow. Gerd Janson remixed it and it’s at 120bpm, more club ready. You hear it out! They’ll breathe a new life into it.
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HAPPY: You’ve got a pretty sweet analogue setup. What are the advantages of that? A lot groups with a similar sound are reliant on a backing track.
ELLA: We came from band backgrounds more than electronic backgrounds, so we’re just now trying to make both those worlds one thing now. I wouldn’t want to play for one scene – it’s nice to exist in a band world and an electronic world as well.
GRAEME: The thing about analogue is that, if you go right to the source it sounds perfect as soon as you make the sound. It will always sound exactly right. I’ve got my Juno, even the Casio onstage, every time you press a key it sounds amazing.
HAPPY: For that exact reason, I think more artists are bringing in an analogue setup.
GRAEME: And a lot of companies are releasing more analogue stuff. The KORG stuff that’s coming out just sounds so good, because that’s the stuff people are craving as well. That realness. You can do amazing things with laptops, and Ableton, great music comes from everywhere but I really believe in going right to the original source.
HAPPY: Do you think artists grabbing more equipment lately is because of how popular the laptop producer has become?
GRAEME: Yeah. I think it’s become very common to see the Apple logo onstage. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s how you use it. But the thing with electronic music is sometimes there’s not much to do and the more knobs you have, the more you can create a moment, rather than just letting one play out.
GRAEME: I don’t think they ever left!
ELLA: I don’t think it’s about ironic 80’s nostalgia, for me it’s about finding where these sounds come from, finding when synths started to be played, and made. Exploring what those sounds were rather than what they have become. Let’s go to the source and explore that.
GRAEME: The 80’s is when music changed from fully live to fully electronic, and in between, there was so much good stuff happening. I say the 80’s never left. If you listen to Jamiroquai, in the 90’s…it’s just constant. It was such a fruitful era of creation. But you can go both ways: there was so much wrong fashion.
HAPPY: It is everywhere at the moment. Are we at the peak of the resurgence or are we just getting started?
GRAEME: I guess it’s always been there, but it is becoming more prominent. I hear the most amazing shit sometimes! It’s getting really good, and the bubble might burst.
GRAEME: We talk about this a lot. No matter where it’s coming from, a good song is a good song. The bands Ella was mentioning all borrow from that era but they’ll stay as long as they’re great songs.
HAPPY: And back to the tour, any tricks up your sleeve for the final night?
GRAEME: Maybe we should have thought of something!
ELLA: Well hopefully we’ll start to do our own shows more, and we’ll be back in Sydney, and then we can get on a roll with that!
GRAEME: We just picked up the vinyl yesterday! That’s fresh, just in time. That’s exciting for us, it kind of feels like it’s completing the whole process.
HAPPY: Now that you’re finished, what’s next?
GRAEME: We’ve got Laneway, and a couple of extra shows.
HAPPY: You said you had six unreleased tracks on the album, are you thinking about the next project yet?
ELLA: With 14 tracks on the album, it was a lot to process. We’d like to air them out a bit over the next six months and make sure things haven’t gone unheard. I think it’s a grower record too, a lot of people are saying that the third or fourth listen is where they’ve really gotten inside it.
HAPPY: Let it simmer for a little while.
ELLA: Yeah, and then we’ll come back for more shows.
GRAEME: Long term, I guess we’d like to develop our sound as well, and learn from what we’ve done live. Take a bit of the drama, make everything more organic. I’m always thinking about it, and I’m sure Ella is too. But I think we’re going to sit on the record for a bit. We haven’t been overseas yet…so –
GRAEME: Oh, we are going overseas, we’re going to New Zealand!
HAPPY: That counts!
GRAEME: You have to take your passport, and everything.
HAPPY: Awesome! Thanks guys, and good luck with the show tonight!