FJ Shoot: Smooth Operators

With Client Liaison.

Since the release of their debut album Diplomatic Immunity late last year, Client Liaison have been busy building what feels like an empire.

From limousines to skincare, these boys have expanded their brand beyond the music industry.

We teed up a shoot with Harvey and Monte and while on set chatted personal aesthetics, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Splendour in the Grass.

By the looks of it, you guys have been hectic. Give us the lowdown on what’s been happening since your album release

Monte: We’ve done three music videos for the album: ‘World of Our Love’, ‘Wild Life’ and ‘Off White Limousine’. We also have another one coming out for ‘A Foreign Affair’, and we’ll be doing a world tour around Australia, New Zealand and Europe. We’ve also been working on our fashion line.

Is the world tour next on your calendar?

Monte: Before we head off, we’ll be performing at Splendour in the Grass with a special guest. But no one knows who yet…

Nice! I heard that you’re doing a collaboration with Kiehl’s? How did that come about?

Harvey: Kiehl’s is a sponsor of Splendour in the Grass. As we’re performing at the event, we were approached by Kiehl’s to create a limited edition Ultra Facial Cream, similar to the collab The Preatures did with the brand last year. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Australian Children’s Music Foundation.

So it seems like you guys are really branching out?

Harvey: We’ve also just launched a limousine business – you can book cars by the hour or take one of our tours.

Monte: One tour is actually around Collins Street. In the song ‘Off White Limousine’ it says “Collins Street’s a jungle.” So the tour goes through our favourite spots in the city and gives insight into Client Liaison’s history… where our first studio was and our favourite lunch spots.

Harvey: We also offer winery tours and a tour around the Great Ocean Road.

Fancy! Does the limo play your music?

Monte: Yeah, it has our music and our favourite drinks, like Foster’s.

And how is your fashion line going?

Monte: Yes! Great! We’re working on the second collection for our line, which will be coming out soon. It also just became available at Urban Outfitters.

When you’re not wearing your own clothing, where do you like to shop?

Harvey: I like Incu, that’s nice. Otherwise, I’ve been terribly addicted to Uniqlo. And op shops, of course.

Monte: I like country op shops a lot. It’s probably my favourite thing to do, to go on trips and fill up the car from op shop to shop. I also like vintage stores and getting things made in Asia.

So Monte, you wear more vintage and Harvey, you dress in a more contemporary style?

Harvey: Yes, somewhat. On stage, we wear relatively the same thing. We are working with more stylists, the goal is to be head-to-toe to the nines every day, but it’s terribly difficult to do that and quite costly. I oscillate between looks. Sometimes I’ll come in looking like a grade six teacher – generically Uniqlo’d out. The next day I’ll come in full ’80s exercise gear. Maybe a day after that I’ll be totally suited up, so I kinda don’t have one single style. When we are on stage, we have our custom Client Liaison costumes we made from the ground up. It’s kind of all over the shop.

Monte: Sometimes we’re in ’80s sportswear and a turtleneck. We love the turtleneck.

Don’t even get me started on the turtleneck. I’m obsessed with them too. So your style is inspired by the ’80s?

Harvey: The ’80s and the early ’90s.

Why those eras?

Monte: There’s a level of sophistication in those eras. They’re also the eras we grew up in. When I was a teenager, I didn’t connect with contemporary fashion and music, so I looked back and connected to the late ’80s and early ’90s. It was more ambitious in its tone. There was a grandeur to it. It wasn’t like grunge or hip hop – tartan or pretending not to look cool – it was more ‘I’m dressing up for every occasion’. I liked the idea of shoulder pads, mesh or chrome, all these excessively garish things.

Harvey: It’s also hard when people speak of decades as sort of bookends, as if it was 1989 and then by 1990, fashion changed. It wasn’t necessarily the case.

Monte: That was when the Berlin Wall came down.

Harvey: I was in Berlin when the wall came down, actually. But it’s interesting how we frame history and how that informs the imagery we project in our heads. It’s good to be aware that history isn’t always so accurate. Again, we think of the ’80s and ’90s as boisterous and outrageous, but there was also a lot of subtlety there. I think about the popularity of the colours at the time, like terracotta, and how they were evident in interior design and decorating. We would take something like that as another in influence in our aesthetic.

So nostalgia plays a strong part in your look and sound?

Monte: In a way. We shop from our own wardrobe, and we are making music from our own sound. It’s continual. An unfinished idea can stem into something else.

Who is your style icon?

Monte: I would say Prince.

Harvey: For me, it was more interiors that influenced me, it wasn’t necessarily [a person]. It was a movement in style.

Monte: Esprit.

Harvey: Esprit as a company. Not necessarily the person who wore it. Even glassware. The frosted glass you used to get at Pizza Hut all you can eat. The big frosted bevelled glass. It was an influence. We gather influences from everywhere.

For your musical inspiration, what do you look to?

Monte: We are looking at late ’90s to early ’00s house and dance movement. The really strong singles that were re-appropriating disco in that era – French house, Daft Punk. Dance hits. As we work into the dance world as well, that time period is a huge mine eld of inspiration.

Harvey: We were talking about how we are re-appropriating certain movements of re-appropriation itself. It’s kind of gone to the next level. As Monte mentioned, in the mid 2000s, there was a lot of old house music remixing old disco classics. So now we’re referencing the 2000s, which referenced the ’70s.

Monte: We also wrote some songs recently that were very ’80s inspired, but people in the ’80s were inspired by the ’50s. So we are almost trying to see the chain throughout re-interpretation of re-interpretation but with a contemporary sound.

Harvey: Exactly. We were working with one reference last week in Byron. Animations from the ’80s and ’90s mixed with video – like Space Jam.

Monte: Or Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Do you mean as a visual reference?

Monte: Any reference could inform the whole feeling of a new song.

Harvey: It’s interesting, we will reference hand-drawn animation mixed with real life cinema as an inspiration, from a certain pocket of time. We could take our inspiration from a lovely breakfast we ate that morning.

Monte: Or the old man dance. When he’s a bit too old but still dancing.

Harvey: So we would do that dance to try and evoke something or produce lyrics from that. What informs us is multi-sensory.

So you could make a song about the Carlton Dance from Fresh Prince of Bel Air?

Harvey: Yes, you could.

Monte: It’s a feeling you can tap into.

Catch Client Liaison at Splendour in the Grass and on their A Foreign Affair tour. Tickets are available now.


Photographer: Amelia J Dowd at Sync Production And Management
Stylist: Carlos Mangubat
Grooming: Shella Martin using Kiehl’s
Thanks to: Greg Tyshing

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