Slumberjack is Fletcher Ehlers and Morgan Then, a production duo from Perth that came together on disparate cultural influences and rhythmic foundations. From Vietnam to Borneo, and from classical percussion to the school marching band.
The music they make – dance tracks charged with energy and atmosphere that make you want to move – is gathering momentum at home and overseas. Last year, US producer Skrillex selected the track Body Cry to feature on his Skrillex Selects Soundcloud(https://soundcloud.com/skrillex-selects). A second EP is in the works for this year, and new single Enigma, featuring Perth act GRRL PAL, offers a sample of sounds to come.
We caught up with Ehlers and Then before they play Mountain Sounds Festival this weekend.
Broadsheet: Where did you grow up and where are you based now?
Fletcher Ehlers: I grew up in Vietnam before moving to Perth where I live now. A five-year-old blonde boy speaking Vietnamese to mechanics on the side of the street in Hanoi was definitely an odd sight.
Morgan Then: I grew up in Borneo and only moved to Perth in 2010. Life and culture were very different back in Borneo, so I had a lot of catching up to do, and I think I am doing good … right?
BS: How do you describe the music you make?
FE: Our music is a combination of a number of fairly different styles that we’re influenced by. We’re both huge fans of Timbaland, so that hip-hop style is always what we go back to. But we also listen to a lot of cinematic soundtracks and try to incorporate those soundscapes and progressions into the music we make. With our upbringings, world-music sounds also play a pretty major role, and we enjoy the challenge of trying to bring sounds from different cultures together in the electronic realm.
BS: How did the two of you meet and form Slumberjack, and what musical/creative influences did you come together over?
MT: We met at the Perth Dance Music Awards (now defunct) in 2012. I was still in my uni boarding house’s cover band but had started to listen to electronic music. Fletch had been dabbling in [music production program] Ableton for a couple of years when we met, so I thought we should learn from one another – I would teach him music theory and arrangement and he would show me Ableton chops.
Influence-wise, I was classically trained and did my study in world music (mainly percussion). Fletch was a snare drummer in his school’s marching band so naturally we’re both inclined to focus a lot on rhythm in our music.
BS: Did living in Perth help foster your style/tastes?
FE: I think living in Perth was particularly important for us in the early stages of Slumberjack because we were trying to find our “sound” and place in the scene. Being so isolated from the hubs on the east coast of Australia meant we could take our time to develop a unique sound without feeling any pressure. Being a smaller city, it’s also easier to get to know the local scene, and we’re super grateful that we had (and still have) amazing hometown supporters who are encouraging us every step of the way.
BS: How healthy is the dance-music scene in Australia right now?
MT: It’s thriving, for sure. We aren’t electronic/dance music veterans, so honestly, we have nothing to compare it with history-wise, but from where we are standing, it seems like the barriers of entry have never been lower and it’s cultivating talents of all sorts. We just came back from the US and from what we are hearing, people overseas are definitely paying attention to what Aussies are putting out.
Slumberjack plays Mountain Sounds Festival on Saturday 20 February.