Graeme Pogson is one third of Harvey Sutherland and one half of GL. This self-producing, drum bashing, synth strutting electronic mastermind hails from the eternally creative city of Melbourne and has been playing drums since the age of 15. Teaching himself how to produce music from his home apartment, Pogson then grew a love for all things electronic.
GL is made up of Pogson as well as close friend and singer Ella Thompson, who formerly played alongside him in The Bamboos. Having performed with Ella in a variety of bands since the age of 16, it was only natural the two would join forces and create something that combined their love of funk, soul, 80s music, and analogue synths.
We had a chat with Graeme to find out a little more about how how his style of music has changed over time and how his love for electronic music has flourished.
Having spent most of his life on a classic kit, Graeme Pogson’s transition into electronic music is both fascinating and representative of the modern drummer’s shifting role.
HAPPY: So you’re overseas at the moment. Where are you?
GRAEME: I’m in Oslo at the moment, and apparently it doesn’t get dark here. Haha.
HAPPY: How has the trip been and what have you been up to?
GRAEME: We’ve been away for about 30 days and it’s been pretty amazing. There have been lots of new experiences.
HAPPY: How has living in Melbourne been beneficial for musicians hoping to make it in the music industry, and has it changed over time?
GRAEME: I think if I hadn’t grown up in Melbourne I probably wouldn’t still be a musician. Melbourne has a lot of great musicians, bands and international touring. There is just so much going on in Melbourne and there always has been. I’ve always been inspired quite easily.
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HAPPY: What was it like playing in The Bamboos, in comparison with GL or Harvey Sutherland?
GRAEME: Well, I met Ella through playing with The Bamboos. Actually, that’s not true. I met Ella when she was 16 and we had a band together and played in several other bands together and eventually ended up in The Bamboos. That’s where GL came from, because we spent a lot of time touring and wanted to do something really fun and self contained with just the two of us. A band like The Bamboos for me or Dorsal Fins for Ella is quite a large group of people. It’s fun and irreplaceable but it does make it hard to tour. We really just wanted to make a two-piece. It’s really fun. Personal relationships are the most important thing about any band.
HAPPY: How did you first get into self-production?
GRAEME: It started when I first moved out of home, lived in inner-city apartment and couldn’t really practice anymore. I was a bit stifled so I decided to buy an MPC with the thought of making some beats at night with headphones on. Luckily the one I bought was a synthesiser as well, so I got a keyboard and plugged it in and couldn’t get enough of it. That really changed my path. Up until that point I was 100 percent a drummer, then I was like “wow, how cool are minor chords?”
HAPPY: So there wasn’t a mentor producer?
GRAEME: I pretty much taught myself. A little bit of music knowledge goes a long way when it comes to something like an MPC, or even Logic. Being a drummer I could read music and understand how things work, so it all made sense.
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HAPPY: How do you think drumming for electronic bands has changed over the last 5-10 years?
GRAEME: One thing I’ve noticed is there’s a whole other scene for electronic. When I joined Harvey Sutherland, people were really excited by the fact that someone was actually playing. There are people that just go and see DJs, they don’t go and see bands. And it was almost like this was the first time a lot of these kids had seen an actual band playing that sort of music and there was a lot of joy coming from the crowd. That was something really special.
HAPPY: Do you think it’s important to maintain a human element in electronic music?
GRAEME: There’s a live focus, and it changes back to an electronic focus. But I think people now are really ready for human interaction. Live drums create a hell of a lot of energy just naturally, whereas a DJ or one person on stage isn’t always the greatest thing to watch. It gives some people some more stimulus and joy on the stage.
HAPPY: Number One has a random compilation of events in a pretty retro looking house. Can you explain the idea behind it? Did you and Ella come up with it yourselves?
GRAEME: I’ve always really been into 80s music and 80s funk. It’s a sweet spot that I love. It was a beautiful time in music and my influences come from a lot of people from that time. Leon Sylvers III is an amazing producer, among many others. There’s so many, it was such a thriving and productive period. Ella and I both have always been into soul music. Ella was a child prodigy singer and at the age of 14-15 was already touring. That led us to playing in The Bamboos which, I guess, is one of the most internationally acclaimed Australian funk bands over the last couple of decades. They had a big following in Europe and both of our paths lead us to that band. We ended up naturally gravitating to the sound that we have. GL is very organic, we just wanted to make some songs.
A good friend of mine named Annelise Hickey, her nickname is Anno, she came up with the whole thing and it was an incredible team with an amazing experience. She thought of everything. When we showed up there was a whole crew, a director and a cameraman and people on lights and wardrobe, it was amazing. She’s a good friend of Ella’s and she is a genius, we can’t thank her enough. They were all very enthusiastic to work with and it’s funny because I hate being in front of the camera, especially a video camera. I have nothing but positive memories of that shoot because it was so much fun working with such professionals.
HAPPY: Your Destiny/Reflect launches are coming up. Do these tracks have any underlying ideas, messages or themes?
GRAEME: I really wanted to change the sound palette a little bit and the instrumentation but still keep very true to our own sound, so the bed are entirely live drums and percussion and all the other parts are more synthesiser. On these tracks we started collaborating with other people, like my good friend Phil Binotto on the percussion and Jace XL singing backup vocals on Destiny. We had Mike from Harvey Sutherland playing keys on a few tracks. Ella is a good lyricist and always has a theme in mind but an underlying theme with GL is just good times.
HAPPY: I read somewhere that Nick Murphy personally picked GL for his national tour?
GRAEME: Apparently yeah, that was a really great experience because we went from doing tiny shows to playing on stage at the Hordern Pavilion. It was a pretty incredible experience with someone as important and popular. We gained a lot more enthusiasm. The funny thing about the Chet Faker crowd is that even if you’re the support, everyone wants to get in really early, so we were always playing to big crowds which was really great. I think we learned a lot from it.
HAPPY: You guys have some pretty massive gigs coming up like Splendour in the Grass. Which one are you most looking forward to?
GRAEME: I’m very much looking forward to the GL shows at Oxford Art Factory and the Corner Hotel. I’m very excited to go to Croatia with GL for Dimensions Festival. I was lucky enough to experience it last year, it was incredible. I’ll be at Splendour as GL on Thursday night, the first night, and again on the Saturday night with Harvey Sutherland. I’m really excited about that, I’m going up there with my girlfriend and friends and by that point I would have been away for six weeks so it will be nice to spend time with my friends for sure. Very excited about Splendour.
If you’re in the mood for dancing, love the 80s or you’re just after a damn good time, you can catch GL and Harvey Sutherland on the tour dates listed below:
Sat 8 July – Oxford Art Factory – Sydney, NSW
Sat July 15 – Corner Hotel – Richmond, VIC
Thurs 21 July – Splendour In The Grass – Byron Bay, NSW
Sat 2 Sep – Dimensions Festival, Croatia
Wed 6 Sept – The Hope & Ruin – Brighton, UK
Fri 8 September – The Victoria – London, UK
Thurs 20 July – The Croxton Bandroom – Thornbury, VIC
Sat 23 July – Splendour In The Grass – Byron Bay, NSW