The Presets: ‘This is working a little too well, what’s wrong?’

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The Presets: ‘This is working a little too well, what’s wrong?’

The Presets
Words by Reece Hooker

Something poignant about building a legacy is that it can’t be properly appreciated until time has passed – greys start creeping in, some wrinkles start to form and life slows from weeks of rolling parties into domestic concerns, like getting your car serviced.

That’s what’s bothering Kim Moyes, one-half of Australian electronic legends The Presets, when he speaks with Beat from his Sydney home.

“There’s some major work pending, I’m expecting a phone call any minute and I’ll be crying for the rest of the day,” he says.

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Moyes doesn’t look his 47 years – his dark curly hair looks ageless – but he’s got the laidback contentment that only comes with decades of success.

Alongside his Sydney Conservatorium of Music classmate Julian Hamilton, Moyes has been one of Australia’s most successful musicians – The Presets are seven-time ARIA winners with hits spanning three decades and have left an indelible imprint on Australia’s club scene.

In March, The Presets will be supporting English electro legends The Chemical Brothers in a pair of shows in Sydney and Geelong, playing A Day On The Green at Mt Duneed Estate.

“We’re not that far away from those young fanboys who were swapping Chemical Brothers tapes at uni or going out and hearing DJs drop Chemical Brothers in a set,” Moyes says.

“They’re heroes of ours, we’ve never met them so these are just like bucket list moments for us – late 40s and still feeling like we’re pinching ourselves when these opportunities come. We certainly don’t take it for granted.”

The last time The Presets played with an act so seminal to them was way back in 2007, when an on-the-rise Presets joined Daft Punk’s Nevereverland Australian tour.

“It was amazing because I think My People had just gone out on the radio that week and we played Kicking and Screaming, which no one had heard and people were just going for it and we were like, ‘Oh my god, this is working a little too well, what’s wrong?’”

As it turns out, nothing: things kept working and all this time later The Presets are going strong, celebrating 20 years together with a 20-date tour so popular it stretched into 26 shows.

Today, Australia’s club scene is one of our greatest cultural exports – from The Avalanches to Flume to Alison Wonderland to Rüfüs Du Sol, to the emerging acts like Mall Grab, Ninajirachi and Confidence Man making waves abroad. But when Moyes and Hamilton started out, the landscape was dramatically different.

“There was something kind of bubbling up out of the ashes of a fractured ravey electronic culture and an indie music culture that was a bit of a global phenomenon. Soulwax was a great example of that and the Ed Banger [Records] artists, and Modular [Recordings] was right at the forefront of that. We were just really lucky to be in a like-minded melting pot.

“For us, coming from Australia, we felt like there was a really proud lineage that we were coming from – like Severed Heads or Itch-E and Scratch-E, and Avalanches. They were a lot more chaotic and we really responded to that and I guess, at that time, we were trying to throw as much shit at the wall as possible and see what’s stuck.”

Over four studio albums, most of what The Presets threw stuck. Their frenetic debut album Beams was rough-edged and hedonistic, followed up with their stadium-sized commercial breakthrough Apocalypso in 2008. They returned with Pacifica four years later, eschewing the club for something grander, haunted and melancholic before diving back into the bangers with Hi-Viz in 2018, a 12-track parade of firecrackers and glitter bombs.

Over the journey, it’s not just the scene that’s changed. Mainstream ideas about how men should look and carry themselves have shifted, becoming more inclusive. Moyes is an inconspicuous guy by today’s standards, but in the mid-2000s, he and Hamilton were considered outsiders. They weren’t conventionally masculine and didn’t shy away from platonic intimacy with one another.

It became a point of discussion around the band – a sneering 2008 Pitchfork review labelled them “gaybe” – but Moyes says such outside noise never shaped The Presets’ image. Instead, they were just doing what came naturally to them.

“First of all, look at our names – Jules and Kim. I mean, what are you gonna do? We can’t really come out there and bluff our way through machismo,” he says.

“We were coming from club culture, we were coming from rave culture. In our band before The Presets [Prop], we were really embraced by the queer scene in Sydney and championed by a few seminal party crews like Bad Dog and Club Kooky and there was a particularly hedonistic period where it was anything goes.

“It wasn’t like we were trying to champion any sort of particular idea, it just felt good! You would turn up to a photoshoot and we were feeling really awkward and we were like, ‘Oh my god, I’m not gonna do this. What are we gonna do? We’re gonna try and be cool and try be tough? You know, we’ll try and be camp!’”

As the chat rounds out, Moyes reiterates that The Presets aren’t by any means winding down. A Day On The Green will be the duo’s biggest shows since the pandemic and, after keeping it small and sweaty with their club tour, The Presets are ready to rock a huge crowd again.

“We’re gonna try to go up before one of the greatest electronic bands of all time… we’ll just try not to go too hard but try to get the right amount of intensity,” he says with a laugh.

“We’ll make sure that by the time we get to the end of the show and the Brothers get out on stage that everyone’s well and truly amped up for it!”

Catch The Presets at A Day On The Green on March 2, supporting The Chemical Brothers alongside Anna Lunoe and James Holroyd.