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Interview: Client Liaison Talk Fashion, Festivals and Fun

Interview: Client Liaison Talk Fashion, Festivals and Fun

Chris Cudby / Monday 18th February, 2019 3:28PM

Listening to the work of Melbourne synth-pop stars Client Liaison can be like gazing at an eighties mirror-glass high rise building – they cheerfully reflect the aspirational urban culture surrounding them while embodying the monumental spectacle of it all. Since releasing their hugely popular debut album Diplomatic Immunity in 2016, the party starting team of vocalist Monte Morgan and keyboardist / producer Harvey Miller have expanded Client Liaison's brand identity with such innovative multi-media ventures as their travelling festival Expo Liaison (featuring John Farnham), their own fashion label (two lines released so far) and 2018's remix album Diplomatic Immunity Remixed. Client Liaison are hitting New Zealand this week for headline events in Auckland and Wellington along with an appearance at Christchurch's Electric Avenue Music Festival on Saturday, Chris Cudby tracked down Monte Morgan for an enjoyable chat in anticipation of the sure to be explosive shows...

You guys have had a busy couple of years – a remix album, curating your touring festival Expo Liaison, your fashion label "a tasty range of guilty pleasures," and of course your live performance practice. How do you guys keep all these creative projects rolling?

We like to keep busy. I’d say easily distracted, but once something gathers its own momentum, we often look to the next thing and we enjoy the kind of extra-curricular stuff just as much. It’s still creating an experience, so in many ways it's just an extension of the live show. It's kinda been a whirlwind year and in between that we’ve been recording some work we're most excited about. We’re bringing things back a little with just music right now.

As festival curators, did you have time to check out the Fyre Festival documentaries?

Yeah, they’re classic.

I’m guessing you had better organisation than that?

Yeah, but it was still tough. It was our first year and we were fully independent with no sponsorship. We struggled with the venue in Sydney. We could have sold more tickets that's for sure, but in the end everyone had an awesome experience and that’s what counts the most. Walking through the festival was like “oh my god we did it, we’ve created a Client Liaison wonderland.” People were interacting... the music was amazing and yeah, we couldn’t have asked for more.

I’m quite interested in the idea of self-actualisation in music. Client Liaison tackles these kind of aspirational symbols of success, like money, love, fame and conspicuous consumption as well. You guys have become this successful entrepreneurial entity in real life – has the line between your personal and public lives become increasingly blurred with Client Liaison?

Yeah, I mean we bought a limousine after we wrote ‘Off White Limousine’.


We toured it around the country, but there's always an underside to it. The limo was continually breaking down. We turned up to the ARIA’s in the limo, we pulled a stunt where the limo broke down on the red carpet. Right now we’ve got a song called ‘Hotel Stay’ and we’re actually staying on motels. There's two sides to it and it's not particularly like “yeah, money and shit”... We like to have a layered approach to what we do. It does change when the venue sizes increase, the crowds increase. We used to bring pyro into club shows and everyone was like “whoa, that’s never been done before,” but then once you start going onto a bigger stage and other people are doing it, you’re like “well, maybe lets flip it around.” We have an art school background... it's not just consumption on its own right, a lot of our songs have different meanings, some of them are just fun as well. Our core spirit is to have a good time ultimately.

Your recent single ‘Survival In The City’ has a more ominous tone to my ears then your debut album, like a kind of street fighting attitude. Do you feel like there’s going to be any kind of shifts in tone or themes that you guys are tackling with the new album.

I think there is a shift in tone definitely. The sound is kind of an extension of our sound, it's a little more poppy and refined, a little better produced. There are some esoteric, surreal songs, there are some more direct songs. There’s songs about not getting what you want, and being overwhelmed. There’s a song called ‘Strictly Business’ we’ve been playing live recently but I mean that’s the core thing with Client Liaison, corporate mythology, the song's called 'Strictly Business' but there’s a darker side to that as well. Diplomatic Immunity was a collection of songs about travelling and broadening horizons so it was by nature, a lot more optimistic. A lot of the songs now are about business things and cities.

The kind of business-focused aesthetic reminds me of old English bands like Heaven 17...


... or ZTT Records. I was wondering, at this point in you guys’ careers, are you drawing inspiration from any older or contemporary artists or do you see yourself firmly forging your own path?

There’s always inspiration, it's important when you’re making music to continually reference, especially if you're collaborating. Huey Lewis and The News was the recent one we brought up...

Ooh yeah.

We were working with a producer and he was like “no one’s doing that Huey Lewis and the News sound. This is fresh, because no one would've never of thought of doing that.” Another inspiration is like Space Jam, you know that film with Bugs Bunny playing basketball. So things can be bit diverse. Like an era of architecture or cuisine or food photography. It doesn't have to be just music, it's things that interest us. There was this kind of Kanye West inspiration with 'Survival In The City'. Sometimes there are overt references, you can't even help it, you don't even realise you're doing it.

I’ve got musician friends who do instrumental music, and they make mood boards of images to sort of prompt them. I was wondering if you guys do anything similar with your personal creative process.

We might think of a music video before we do a song, and that might direct it. Often it's just the title as well. You gotta find the real heart of a song and that is the mood, what the core is... and try and match that with a concept. Sometimes it just doesn't work. Hopefully it does and you connect and it moves people.

How did the new remix album come together?

We wanted to do some remixes but in a different format and we wanted to work with Australian artists, friends of ours as well. So we put together a table of a lot of artists and all the songs and took a lot longer than we'd like because it's so specific, there's only one remix per artist. I just remember collecting CDs in the 90s and it’d be a single and there’d be six remixes of the same song and you could never get through it, it would almost kill the song for you. So we wanted to put these in a different format.

I remember that too, the height of the CD single phase. You guys have a new album on the cards coming out for this year right?

Yeah, it’s not complete yet but it's definitely, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Are there any special guests on it?

Not at this stage that we can really reveal.

Client Liaison have had a retro style, but your songs and visuals are also firmly engaged with our contemporary moment. Because you guys are fun but you're tackling contemporary topics, do you think that sometimes you're are kind of misread as not being really serious about what you're doing?

Yeah it took a long time in Australia to be taken seriously, with our own op shop wardrobe, and our production was very small. Once people come to a show they’re like, oh this is an experience. We often describe Client Liaison as theatre. It's escapism and you need that suspension of disbelief to be engaged. We’re gonna take you away. Yeah we might touch on something contemporary but there's no point where we want you to, not be having fun, not be fully in the moment. That's part of using different eras and re-appropriating them into now. We don't worry about that too much, there is an element of fun. Our videos might have quirky moments but in the end the music will hopefully stand on its own, and people can listen to the music and feel the conviction in the music.

What’s on the horizon for Client Liaison? You’re supporting Kylie Minogue soon?

Yeah! She’s a huge hero of ours, we’re really looking forward to that. It was a bit last minute, but were really privileged to do that. Were also doing a regional festival around Australia called The Drop which follows the Surf Tour, a surfing championship. We love aligning ourselves with sport and events, getting into the spirit and doing some video content around that. Our main focus is completing our album and turning over a new page and a new aesthetic. It takes a little bit of slowing down, to create that right. We’ve got a bunch of songs right now and we could be releasing them but we just gotta get it right. With our song 'Strictly Business' - which we’ll be playing in New Zealand which we feel really excited about - it kind of sums it up. "This is strictly business"... we're going to give you exactly what you want, in the right order. It's gonna be fun.

Client Liaison are hitting Aotearoa this week, playing at headline events at Wellington's San Fran on Thursday 21st February, Auckland's Galatos on Friday 22nd February, for more info and tickets head along here. Christchurch punters can catch the duo bringing the party at Electric Avenue Music Festival 2019 at Hagley Park.


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