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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Tomorrows is out now!

Image: Matsu.

Acclaimed Australian indie-dance trio Crooked Colours have served up their hotly anticipated third studio album, Tomorrows. We caught up with members Phil Slabber and Leon Debaughn to chat about the release, how performing influences their songwriting, the evolution of their artistry and so much more!

Next year will mark ten years since you started releasing music, and now we're treated to your third album Tomorrows. How do you think your artistry and approach to creative has evolved throughout that time, especially when it came to working on this record?

Leon Debaughn: Well hopefully for starters, it got better over the years [laughs]. That's absolutely what we've been trying to do. I think when you look, I actually listened back to like our first stuff the other day, and I just, had a bit of a spin out just to think about where we were in our lives at that point and you know, the music we were making and stuff. It was kind of tricky.

Phil Slabber: I think like, especially me and Leon, we never went to production school or did music as kids or anything like that. So I think the base of our foundation that we started off [laughs] was not very well structured. Hopefully we've picked up a few tips and tricks over the years and that's evolved quite a bit.

I think you can definitely hear an evolution and refinement throughout your discography. Tomorrows is such great buddy work, and at least my opinion, quite a hopeful one that looks towards like what the future holds. Can you briefly unpack the themes explored across the album and like the importance to you in documenting them within your music?

PS: Yeah, I think like when we first started writing this record, it was just before the COVID stuff happened. And then the majority of the production process was all through the lockdown period and everyone trying to cope with the whole music industry kind of falling flat and all that kind of stuff. So towards the end of the whole process we kind of tried to lean it more towards like kind of a bit of a beacon to work towards at the end of COVID. Like something that we can look forward to playing again at live shows and kind of try and get people to not lose that enthusiasm and that fire for live music and for dance music, electronic music and stuff like that. So instead of kinda leaning into the really depressive side of it, we... [Laughs].

LD: Made music for the end of it. Still party once it's all back to normal again.

Yeah, I love that. How much does like the live show influence what you're creating, like when you’re working on a song are you thinking about what it would be like to play on tour and and how the audience would respond? Which it also would've been harder to test out material on the road due to COVID.

LD: Even before COVID we always wanted to make music that we could play live and, you know, people could dance to and stuff. Because I think after Vera, the writing on that was a little bit slower and we took it out on the tour and we were like there's still great songs, but I mean we kind of thought, 'oh, we could definitely start geeing it up a little bit'. And that's what we did with Langata. I guess we've still tried to carry that on with Tomorrows as well.

If you had to pick three songs off Tomorrows to play to someone who had never heard your music before to make them an instant die fan, which three would you choose?

PS: I'd definitely pick Holiday, Feel It and probably,

LD: What about Fight Night?

PS: Oh yeah's, Fight Night a real favourite of mine especially. Yeah probably Feel It, Fight Night and Holiday would be my three picks.

Is there a particular line, lyric, musical motif, production line from the album that you find will get stuck in your head more often than not, or maybe one that you're most proud of?

PS: I think lyrically Fight Night's probably my most in depth kind of sentiment. It's a bit more kind of personal and a bit more fragile, which I really like. Other than that I think Holiday is probably the strongest kind of hook [laughs]. Yeah. It's like everyone knows exactly what we're talking about. Yeah.

LD: Yeah, there's nothing hidden behind anything.

PS: That's definitely the one that has kind of like, at night when I go to bed is kind of still in my head a little bit. That's a good sign.

Now that the album is completely done and almost out in the world, what are like your thoughts listening back to it as a complete body of work?

LD: I actually haven't really had a good chance to listen back to it [laughs] in one hit. Because we've been like getting the live show ready and we're just listening to the songs in terms of like what we're gonna play live and that.

PS: I listened back to it last week and I was pleasantly surprised [laughs]. Usually a lot of the time when you're making music, you spend so long kind of tinkering and mixing and stuff. By the time it comes out, you're so kind of like done with it. Kinda over it. But no, I actually really enjoyed it, which I don't know, that's a bit of a new experience.

LD: Yeah, I'll have to sit down and get through it.

That's so lovely. You’ve just wrapped up your Australian tour but you have a whole bunch of shows planned for the rest of the year overseas. How have you gone about bringing Tomorrows into a live setting?

PS: It's been kind of tentative just because we've had the tour before the full album was out, but kind of like half the songs are out. So we've been kind of trying to like soft launch them into the live set. So it's kind of, it's something that people will know, but it's not like half a set of unheard music.We're just kind of trying to figure out how to work that into the live set and kind of where it's gonna work the best. But once the album comes out next week, we can kind of drip feed more and more of it into the live set which is for us really fun.

LD: I know as a punter you wanna go see kind of the old classics and everything.

PS: The hits and the music that you know, but as a performer, it's always exciting playing new music. So we try to work as much new stuff as possible.


Biggest musical influences?

LD: I've always been a big fan of CARIBOU and obviously Phil and I are big fans of Jamie xx as well. Lyrically, it would be a big influence.

PS: Ooh. I wouldn't say there's one big lyrical influence. I'm a big MØ fan, as a top liner or lyricist. She's incredible. But yeah, Glass Animals and Jamie xx are probably the two big ones for me.

Dream collaboration?

LD: I don't know, that's a tough one with the collaboration, I guess it depends what kind of music you wanna make. If it wants to be like, what genre you want go into.

PS: I also don't wanna have a dream collaboration, then it happen and it's not that good [laughs]. You know how they say don't meet your heroes? Any big rapper, I think would be a lot of fun.

An album that has had the most impact on you?

LD: I think back in the day when The Presets released Apocalypso, that was probably our biggest influence back in the day.

PS: We had this Booka Shade record that we played on record as well. The one after In White Rooms [Night Falls]. We used to live in this share house and we had a record player, but we only had like 15 vinyls [laughs]. So there was like a few albums we really thrashed. That was one of 'em.

If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?

LD: Ooh, The Matrix [laughs].

PS: That one would easy. I wouldn't pick anything sci-fi or fantasy because that would be beyond us, but something that's like real world would be easy I think.

LD: Do The Matrix but just do like a full eighties theme [laughs].

What are you thinking on stage whilst performing

PS: I try to be like half a song ahead of where I am. So I'm constantly like, once I'm comfortable doing what I'm doing, I look at what's gonna be the next bit. So that I don't fuck anything up [laughs].

LD: Yeah, I'm always constantly looking at the setlist going like, 'okay hat's next song. Alright, gotta remember that', And then you're like, 'fuck, so what am I doing in this song?' [laughs].

Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?

PS: Miley.

LD: Hannah Montana.

First concert you went to?

PS: I went and saw Green Day when they played in Perth, when was like 16.

LD: I can't remember my first one, but I remember one that like was memorable was definitely Gruff in primary. I don't know if you can remember them or not, but they were sick. And that was definitely one of the first ones I was like, 'alright, I love music. I wanna get into it'.

First album you ever bought?

PS: Do you remember that British like boy band called Five? They had like a live at Wembley CD or something, which is the first one I ever bought [laughs].

LD: I remember I was in Bali and I bought the Men In Black Soundtrack [laughs]. That was definitely my first one.

Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?

PS: Who's held up better? Spice Girls, I guess.

LD: Yeah, I reckon Spice Girls

What would your Spice nickname be?

LD: that is hard [laughs]. I don't know, I don't have one.

PS: Yeah. I'm not creative like that. I could be Awkward Spice [laughs]. Leon can be Sleazy Spice [laughs].

Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?

PS: A couple of of tours ago we did a show, It was the first time we played at The Forum in Melbourne. A a few of us kind of organised for our mums to be there. So it was like a bit of a, that was a bit of a special moment.

An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.

LD: I reckon Kanye West has probably had the biggest social influence on music.

PS: Definitely, I think that's spot on.

What advice would your current self give your future self, for a year from now?

LD: Keep on keeping on [laughs].

PS: [Laughs] Can't be as bad as it is right now.

The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?

LD: I've already said mine before, when I went to Gruff in primary. That's my one.

PS: I guess I'm trying to think of the first time that I started pursuing it. I had a friend in high school, Troy Sawyer, who was a really good guitarist, and he used always bring his guitar to school and everybody loved it. And I just remember thinking I wanna be that guy [laughs].

Tomorrows is out now!

Watch our interview with Crooked Colours earlier this year at THIS THAT!


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