Crooked Colours have ended their 18-month hiatus with a brave return – touring with numerous artists such as Crystal Castles, releasing infectious singles from their upcoming debut album VERA and announcing a national album tour along with a handful in Europe! Perth’s native indie-electronic trio took a step away from their busy schedule, in this case handing me over to frontman Phil Slabber who had just popped off a plane.
“Leon [De Baughn] and I went to school in the same suburb, but being a couple of years apart we actually met through mutual friends. We were both kind of making our own music and we started to hang out, just recording stuff and becoming more involved with the WA music scene. After a few recording sessions we decided to form a band, but needed a drummer… A friend of ours mentioned he went to school with a guy who could play pretty well, putting us in contact with Liam [Merrett-Park]. Liam came in for a little jam session one day and kinda started it all from there which is now about five years ago.”
The three-piece went from DJing at house parties to major changes to get to where they are today, as Slabber explains, “Being the only kids in the suburbs with decks we would DJ all the parties playing a lot of dance-electro stuff. And living about two hours south of the actual city, we would go there to try to get some DJ slots before we started gigging much.”
Taking some time out – 18 months to be exact – the boys were still non-stop moving interstate, seeing Slabber and De Baughn in Sydney and Merrett-Park in Melbourne, whilst using the rest of their time to knuckle down and perfect some sweet, refreshing tunes for their debut. Living in separate states could have been a potential issue, but they going their routine down pat. “It’s pretty easy, we send stuff back and forth and when we have upcoming shows we’ll spend about a week either in Melbourne or Sydney just rehearsing and getting everything ready,” explains Slabber.
With label Sweat It Out and management company Falcona both based in Sydney, the move has definitely been worthwhile, as he adds, “That 18 eighteen months was basically moving over, getting comfortable and the majority of the rest of the time was just trying to write tracks.”
Crooked Colours have produced and released numerous singles and EPs, yet the creative direction of VERA saw Slabber, De Baughn and Merrett-Park aiming for quality over quantity. “Going into that period we had a bunch of demos ready that ended up getting scrapped. We haven’t been in a situation like that before where we had a long time to just sit and write, it’s always been short periods amongst touring and other things… So we’re really glad we took the time out to produce this,” expresses Slabber.
The rising act headed back to their hometown, spending about a month at Merrett-Park’s family beach shack south-west of WA to write. Deciding to do the album themselves, the process was a big growing period for all three. “Writing-wise the album was a pretty big task. We’re not used to writing that much material and at times it can be pretty frustrating; a lot of crippling self-doubts goes into it,” Slabber says. On their return to Sydney they did the rest of the recording in home studios and rented spaces to finish it off. “We did it all ourselves, except when we went to Studio 301 to crack some drums.” Listening to a big, broad spectrum of music and artists really shaped the sound and vibe of their upcoming album as Slabber depicts, “I was listening to a lot of Nicholas Jar, really spacy electronic stuff but at the same time listening to some surfy-acoustic stuff as well… I feel we write the best when listening to a lot of music, going to shows and seeing how people do it was our biggest source of inspiration.”
Listening to a big, broad spectrum of music and artists really shaped the sound and vibe of their upcoming album, as Slabber depicts, “I was listening to a lot of Nicolas Jaar, really spacy electronic stuff, but at the same time listening to some surfy acoustic stuff as well… I feel we write the best when listening to a lot of music; going to shows and seeing how people do it was our biggest source of inspiration.” This also influenced the production: “We didn’t want to get too electronic or heavy on the synth sounds; in the past, our music’s worked best when it’s really intimate with a more indie and airy feel about it,” he muses.
Since completing their full-length debut album, the trio have been making the most of their time: invited to support Crystal Castles on their Australian and New Zealand tour as well as performing with the likes of RÜFÜS and San Cisco, playing at festivals Groovin The Moo, Parklife, Wonderland, Southbound and more – all perfect opportunities to test out their new tunes. “We did the Crystal Castles support where we played a whole bunch of new stuff, and then we did the Hot Dub Wine Machine Tour as well, playing tracks off the new record. It’s hard to gauge people’s reactions when you know that they don’t know any of your songs,” he laughs, “but it went down really well and they were really fun to play which is important to us.” Having already released their first track Flow via Sweat It Out, it is also a personal favourite of Slabber’s, along with the last track on the record, Perfect Run. “Flow was the first track that was 100% done and finished, which set the theme for the rest of the album, so I’ve got a pretty strong connection to that.”
Teaming up with Aussie rapper Ivan Ooze who features on their track I Hope You Get It, “I didn’t know much about him at all, but we had a song that we couldn’t fit any kind of vocal to,” he explains. The band’s manager stepped in, suggesting they find a featured vocalist. “I got the song produced and had a pretty long think about it but I was unsure who would fit.” Exploring the idea of getting a rapper to do it, their manager was the one to put the rapper forward. “Having a listen to a bunch of his stuff I was like ‘Yeah! This could work,’ sending him the song that after around 4pm.” That same night the self-taught talent sent back what you hear now on the record. “So in like 24 hours we pumped out that song!” Slabber exclaims. “It went really smoothly, we met him and played a few shows with him when we did our single tour earlier in the year and turned out to be a legend.”
Following on from the album’s release on Friday 23 June, Crooked Colours are set to be touring in August, along with a run of shows in Europe immediately after – in October including Germany, Switzerland and France. You know what they say; two’s a crowd, three’s a party…
4 August, Karova Lounge, Ballarat
5 August, The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
11 August, Oxford Art Factory, Surry Hills
12 August, Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
17 August, Fat Controller, Adelaide
30 September, Yours And Owls Festival, Wollongong