Slumberjack are in a studio session in L.A working on new music, already. The release of their new EP, Sarawak, is looming. Fletcher Ehlers, one half of the duo, answers Forte’s call. The EP, which takes its name from the Borneo hometown of the other half of Slumberjack, Morgan Then, had been in the works for two years.
It was a break from relentless touring and recording that Ehlers admits helped them over get over the line and finish the EP. Ehlers says they, “Thought it would be a really good idea to break this feeling of monotony we developed from being on the road all the time and having really irregular hours and travelling all the time.”
And boy did they break routine. Taking in the sites of Sarawak and the rest of Borneo, the duo couldn’t exactly ‘switch off’. As Ehlers tells us, “There are things out there that will kill you, if you’re not careful. In a way it’s relaxing, and in the moment, but you also have to alert. Things aren’t served to you as easily or nicely.”
Though Ehlers says they hardly touched their laptops or worked on any new music while they were in Borneo, they used the time to record and sample traditional instruments and natural soundscapes – which were all nearly lost in a storm. “We carried this field recorder with us, which actually got destroyed in a thunderstorm we got caught in while we were out, luckily the sounds survived but the recorder itself died, RIP.”
It was moments like this that offered Slumberjack a valuable lesson.
“We really were just trying to be in the moment because a big problem Morgan and I have is constantly thinking about the next thing and what’s happening next.” This could be a symptom of what Ehlers says is the need to “make an even bigger splash” when you’re an Aussie musician coming from Western Australia.
Like so many talented acts going global, Slumberjack have their beginnings in Perth. Trying to find a common creative theme for the world’s most remote capital city, Ehlers believes it’s the freedom the city offers, “there’s nobody looking over our shoulder the whole time”. Artists are free to experiment, try new things and go their own way – which is a good environment for a classically trained musician to break free in, like Morgan Then. Ehlers says, “Morgan feels sometimes he’s trapped into the rules he’s grown up learning, but the rules of classical training – how everything is supposed to be, by the book.”
What Ehlers does is blows up those traditions and rules, egging Then and himself on to experiment. It’s that camaraderie and common love for music that pushes Slumberjack and their maximal sound further. “The reason we got into this is because we absolutely love to make music. Even if we’re at home, on the road, wherever we are we just can’t help ourselves.”
Catch Slumberjack on the Sarawak Tour at 170 Russell, Melbourne on Friday March 15.
Written by Darby-Perrin Larner