He and Monte are speaking from the studio, in between shooting footage for their upcoming single. “It’s called Free Of Fear,” Monte reveals in a drawl that belies his punchy, near-falsetto voice in song. “It’s a bit more dancey, it’s got classic house and dance components, stabbing pianos, a saxophone lead. People usually associate us with the late ‘80s, but you could say this is us maybe poking our head into the early ‘90s here.”
The track is set to complete a disparate triptych of singles for the Melbourne duo, beginning with the hilariously sardonic ode to Australiana End Of The Earth, moving on to the genuinely heartfelt Feeling. “The strategy is to cover all bases. We have the classic Client Liaison sound, which is sort of that ‘80s pop with End Of The Earth, at 110BPM. Then we had our pop ballad song with Feeling, now this is the other component of Client Liaison, which is the more clubby sound,” Harvey reasons. “We’re definitely trying to push the genres, widen the goal posts a bit more.”
While their rise has been steady since inception, gaining a fervent following through club and festival appearances, Client Liaison look set to break through in 2014 with the release of a full-length album. “The last two years have been slow going, slower than we liked. But we were learning a lot, and now we have enough where we can release every two months, and then an album,” Harvey says. “We’re aiming for mid-year, hopefully before that.”
The imagery of late ‘80s, early ‘90s Australiana excess, invoking the likes of Ansett airlines and Christopher Skase, proves to be a highly amusing garnish to what simply equates to good, catchy pop songs. “Unlike a joke, our humour doesn’t come from a punchline. It comes from absurdity, and satire,” Harvey explains. “It’s much more sophisticated. Luckily, I think people have been able to digest and understand that, and we’ve been humbled by that. No doubt there is a more conceptual side we like to explore. But at the end of the day, that’s all contained within the visual. If the songs didn’t have video clips, then no one would think that at all.”
“There’s some in the lyrics,” adds Monte.
“But no one really picks up on it till they see the clip. The song and the clip function together, but they also function individually.”
“We like that layered reaction,” Monte says. “We don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, nice song’ and move on. Especially in pop where it can be easily dismissed. You want people to think, ‘what is this?’, for them to misunderstand, to reinterpret and eventually get it. It gives us the ability to appeal to a wide audience, especially older people, then young people can go out and dance to it. That staggered reaction. Some fans have turned up in full, ‘80s suits, which has been pretty cool.”
The past few months have seen the duo team up with Worlds End Press for an in-studio collaboration, and most recently reworked Sydney outfit Retiree’s Rain. “Retiree and Worlds End Press are close friends. It’s all about fun, we enjoy collaborating with people,” says Harvey. “We do it with our own tracks, we send it out and someone will put guitar over it. We love doing it, but then we also have to pull ourselves back and remind ourselves we have an album to finish. It can be a bit distracting.”
“With Retiree, their sentiment and aesthetic definitely ties in with Client Liaison’s. Sonically, it’s from the same era,” Monte reasons. “Worlds End Press, they’re in a similar dance music vein with their influences. Luckily, there isn’t another Client Liaison in Melbourne, and in that case, we probably wouldn’t want to collaborate with them anyway.”
So how would Client Liaison react if what they were purveying aesthetically happened to trigger a movement along the lines of vaporwave? “I’d be happy. Our investigation, theatrically, into Australian identity is quite conceptual and measured,” says Harvey. “It’s not just a fashion statement, there are ideas of identity and nationalism, and patriotism. It isn’t a vain, fashion thing we’re doing. We’ve both studied art, I’ve got a year left of fine arts school. We do try to make the theatre more than Ansett and the ‘80s.
“I’d be happy [for it to be a trend], but people have to come up with their own concepts,” Monte states. “I couldn’t imagine someone with the exact same concepts, playing the music and being into the same things. But the idea of people being satirical and performative in their music is great.”
Reaching heights with their live performance, most notably at a primetime slot at last year’s Golden Plains. While they’ve honed their show into the entertaining package it is now, Harvey and Monte are beginning to expand within their predetermined confines. “We’re unashamedly a karaoke band, but Monte is very theatrical. He’s the ace up our sleeve,” Harvey says. “He moves around onstage, and has that presence which is our saviour. We did have a couple of shows with a band when we first started out, but we ditched it because we just sounded like a high school rock band.
“It’s great performing live, because we flesh out our songs. But we are a studio band first and foremost. We would like to extend the live show, but we need to release our studio work first, complete that part of the process before moving on to the next step,” Monte explains.
“I think on the horizon we’ll get a sax player, who can maybe come out and play guitar on a song. Recently we’ve got some drum pads that I play onstage. The kinetic energy of playing drums onstage is always very powerful,” Harvey says. “That’s been a nice little addition. But nothing like cueing up a million different buttons in Ableton just so people think we’re live, we’re not into creating problems just to solve them onstage.”
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK