When you think of salarymen, you usually think of those corporate types who will literally stop at nothing to prove their loyalty to their business, even if it means burning out. Your mind usually doesn’t wander to vintage-textured indie-rock that curls around dark, often uncomfortable experiences. But that’s what Sydney’s Salarymen do, and boy do they do it well.
Having only released their debut single last year, the duo have well and truly earnt themselves a place alongside some of Australia’s greats. Their music achieves that blend of old and new that so many have tried and failed to master, fusing rich colours of synth and thumping bass lines into emotionally-charged masterpieces.
With three singles to their name and many more on the way, we caught up with Renee de la Motte and Thom Eagleton to chat through the project and the journey that brought them together.
HAPPY: Thom and Renee thanks for joining me today. Thom, you’ve been around the traps (literally) playing drums for Burn Antares, Misty Lanes, Noire, and Wild Honey. How do you think your experiences in those bands has affected your approach to this new project?
THOM: Playing drums for so long actually inspired me to get out the front, Salarymen was a chance to show everyone a different side and focus on songwriting a bit more. Two of those bands mentioned above also had messy breakups after years of pouring my soul into them and it’s taught me that, sometimes, it’s better to have less people making decisions in a band. That’s why we started Salarymen, we’re both in control of what happens and our decisions won’t affect five other people, for example.
HAPPY: What do you think the key to longevity is in a creative project?
THOM: A lack of egos! When you’re writing music with someone who only cares about themselves, in the end, it will come back to bite you.
HAPPY: You guys are boyfriend and girlfriend, is this the new secret to creative musical projects?
RENEE: It can either be the secret, if your relationship is good, or your downfall on the other hand [laughs]! One important thing, it has allowed for our band to be totally honest and straight-to-the-point feedback, which you would think twice about saying to your bandmate, normally. We can ask each other “hey, is this shit?” and neither person gets butt-hurt if the other thinks it is. In the end, it enables us to focus on the really good songs and improve the strength of our creative output.
HAPPY: Renee, you’ve just recently learnt how to play bass in the last year, now you’re singing and performing. Tell me about that process.
RENEE: It was a wild time! I’ve always been a singer and intended to just do that in Salarymen, but we still needed a bassist. Thom just casually said one day, “why don’t you just do it”, as if it was an easy task to pick up a bass for the first time and sing at the same time! I thought he was crazy at first, but it was honestly that can-do attitude and perseverance that enabled me to pick it up way quicker than I thought. Practice makes perfect and there was a tonne of practice, maybe a few hopeless tears as well [laughs].
HAPPY: While most projects have retreated to the studio during COVID, you guys have been out amongst it, supporting as many bands as possible including Sloan Peterson, Hayley Mary, Le Shiv, and soon PLANET, plus hosting your own sold-out shows too. Tell me about that?
THOM: We played our first gig almost a year ago in December 2019, and we didn’t have long before this shit storm came along. So, slowing down wasn’t really an option for us. We threw ourselves at every opportunity and cherished every gig like we might not get to do one in the foreseeable future. A lot of bands have slowed down, but it’s actually a really great opportunity to do the opposite. There’s less acts to choose from at the moment, which means less competition. We’re finding people are really excited to be at gigs as well and possibly a bit more attentive than usual.
HAPPY: You’ve recently signed with Scenic Drive, how did that come about?
RENEE: Yes! We’ve recently signed with Scenic Drive, the record label started by Audio Engineer and Producer Wayne Connolly, who’s worked with the likes of The Vines, Boy and Bear, and Cloud Control. Thom was a session drummer for a band he was recording a few years back and they made friends and stayed in touch. Wayne then popped up at a few of our gigs and voila! A record deal offer. We feel pretty lucky, as there aren’t many record labels putting emerging acts on their roster in the last few months, so we are super grateful for Wayne’s support.
HAPPY: Your new single is out tomorrow. What are your plans for the future?
THOM: First stop is our debut EP, coming out in April next year. We have so many songs we’re itching to share and it’s cool to release something more substantial than a single. If we’re allowed, we’d love to do a tour!
Grab your copy of Runaway here
Photos by Nic Mckenzie