Interview: Client Liaison
Phillips Shirts is a hive of activity. The unassuming clothing factory (one of the last remaining in Melbourne) is buzzing with the sound of sewing machines and general chitchat as machinists and designers carry out their work in the large open planned warehouse. It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon and Makers has been invited to meet and shoot one of its favourite new bands in the factory space, the electro duo Harvey Miller and Monte Morgan of Client Liaison.
Purveyors of turn-of-the-Nineties business class Australiana, Client Liaison has quickly built up a name for itself on the local music scene. The band has released three singles and one B-side (the sublime, That’s Desire), toured nationally in 2013 and snagged a coveted spot as part of this years St Jerome’s Laneway Festival lineup. We meet the stylish duo in the factory’s general office where the unassuming lads are busy admiring the original décor and retro furnishings (a match for their shared aesthetic) when we start our interview.
Friends since childhood, Monte and Harvey began recording music together in 2008.
Harvey: “I was making beats and Monte was doing vocals. He was the most immediate and obvious person to turn to when I needed help. We started doing stuff together and we’re really happy with the outcome.”
Client Liaison started playing house parties in 2009 and the boys happily admit that the early days were a struggle as they learnt their way around the recording studio.
Monte: “At first it was a long slow process. Harvey would bring a beat to me and I’d sing over it. A few months later he’d come back to me with the same song but it would be completely transformed so I’d have to lay my vocals again.”
Harvey: “At the start it would take years to complete one song because we were learning as we went. During that whole period we weren’t really worried about the fact that we weren’t putting anything out, Monte was improving his voice, I was improving my techniques as a producer. We were learning. Those years were unproductive in the sense that there was no output but they were hyper productive in other ways. Some of the songs we’re releasing now were created during that period. They were always good, but it was a very slow process. You can only do one thing at a time when you’re creating everything from scratch.”
Musically the pair bonded over a mutual love of vintage Australia and a deep sense of patriotism.
Monte: “I write medleys about beer, Christopher Skase, Les Patterson and Alan Bond. Themes like the cosmopolitan male, Australian masculinity and those jet setting vibes are all important to us. Harvey’s also been at art school for the past couple of years and has been developing those philosophies in his personal work. We’ve found a way of fusing everything together.”
Retro Australiana is more than a passing fad for these two; it’s a way of life.
Monte: “We look to that era (the late 1980s) firstly because it was when we were born. Socially in Australia we were on morale high. The country was drunk with it’s own power and everyone was so proud to be Australian. That’s the attitude we champion and people tend to forget, or they can’t see the difference between nationalism and patriotism. We’re very patriotic.”
Harvey: “The music is first and foremost but we’d never neglect developing a narrative. We call it the Client Liaison sentiment: those traditional ideologies.
It’s the sound of the 80s that really stands out to us. We listen to music from that era and love the sophisticated, synthesized sound that was born out of disco. When we’re making music we can’t not put attention into the theatre and narrative of our performance, that’s the fun part for us.”
These themes are evident in the way both Monte and Harvey present themselves, from their haircuts through to wardrobe and accessories. It’s impossible not to see the glee on their faces as they rummage through Phillips’ extensive collection of vintage menswear. By the time we’re ready to pack up and leave both singer and producer have a large collection of clothing to purchase.
Makers leave the duo to haggle prices with the accommodating staff, exchanging goodbyes and a promise to come and see the pair when they play the Northcote Social Club later this month. We know they’ll sound great – and can’t wait to see what they’ll be wearing.
Client Liaison plays Portsea Beach Club Sunday, April 20 and the Northcote Social Club on Friday, April 25 and Sunday, April 27.