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Two People’s new album is a bold reflection of their creative evolution 

Words by Amy Dorrington

Process, perfectionism and growth.

Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough were still in high school when they achieved overnight fame in 2011, after winning Triple J Unearthed High as members of Melbourne-based five-piece Snakadaktal.

The much-loved indie-pop band split up only a few years later, leaving a noticeable hole in the heart of the Australian music scene. But if it wasn’t for Snakadaktal disbanding, we may not have been seduced by the ethereal sounds of Phoebe and Joey’s current collaboration, Two People.

After the release of their highly anticipated debut album, First Body, at the beginning of last year, the dream-pop duo returned to the studio later that year with a fresh perspective and driven approach to songwriting.

While their first record took several years to put together, Second Body, released last Friday, took a mere two weeks and the album is a stunning sonic reflection of Two People’s evolution as a creative partnership. I spoke to them over the phone about isolation, their weird quirks and the making of the album.

We’re all living life in lockdown in Melbourne at the moment. Are you isolating together or separately? 

Phoebe: Separately. Probably the longest we haven’t seen each other in a million years!

Joey: Yeah it’s a bit weird!

How does it feel putting this new album out in the world?

J: We’ve been so busy making it and putting out the singles that I haven’t processed it yet. It’ll be nice when more people hear it as a whole body of work.

P: It’s a relief for sure.

Can you talk me through the story behind this album? 

P: It’s a reaction to our last album. In February last year, the two of us set up a little studio in a cabin on the Great Ocean Road and spent two weeks there. We wrote a song a day and ended up with an album. We had just come out of a drawn-out release process with the previous record and felt an urgency to get to the point with this album, so our approach was totally different. We vowed to not listen back to any of the songs we had worked on until the very end so it was super weird playing them all back.

J: A song a day for this record and a song a year for the previous record… [laughs]. That’s an exaggeration.

You said your first album was about exploration and ‘feeling things out’ and this second album is about movement, growth and bravery. Is this transition a reflection of your personal growth? 

J: We took years to put the last record together, so naturally we grew as people during that time. This record is more about the evolution of sound and a shift in interests. The previous record, we were into ambient and dance music sounds. This record, we focused on songwriting so it sounds more pop-y and concise which we’re excited about.

Do you consider yourselves perfectionists?

P: Definitely. For this record, we wanted to create a space where we weren’t allowed to be perfectionists in the same way. We limited our work on the songs and tried to write them to completion before recording them and we worked with a producer this time around.

Simon Lam (of Kllo) produced this album. How did that collaboration come to fruition? 

J: Part of our change in attitude towards this record was wanting an outside ear to help edit things down. We had met Simmo and based on the stuff he’d done with Kllo, we knew he’d be understanding of our sonic world and what we wanted to do. We didn’t know if it was going to work, we just wanted to try it. Turns out it was great and he was great to work with.

How do you pick which tracks to release as singles? 

J: We have a say, but it’s also a conversation with the label. It’s a balance between choosing songs that will represent the record and what we are trying to do, but also perform the best on streaming and radio. It’s a funny thing to think about the commercial side of it.

P: The likeability of a song isn’t only in the record label’s best interests, but also in ours because we want to introduce the album and for it to be likeable. We consider the order that the songs come out, how that’s going to shape what people expect, what little easter eggs are left and how that’s going to complement the singles. While the other songs in the album may not be as commercial, they balance out the singles and build the story in more of a holistic way. But I don’t know how many people listen to full records anymore.

How are you experiencing the compulsory isolation now, in comparison to the two weeks you spent in isolation last year to write this record? 

J: It’s nice when you have the choice to go and be creative in isolation, but when it’s forced it’s not nice at all. I’m a homebody [so] I didn’t find it too difficult at first, but now that it’s gone on for a long time it’s a bit more challenging and I’m feeling stagnant. It feels very different from when we went away to write. That was freedom.

P: I remember when we packed to go to Apollo Bay, we were excited because it was a creative getaway which is different. There are moments of feeling that freedom now, but it’s so fleeting, then you just feel stuck again.

When you started Two People you weren’t initially planning on playing live, but that changed and you played some great live gigs. Now you can’t play live are you missing it? 

J: This has happened in a period of time where we weren’t going to be playing live gigs because we were busy making the second record. I haven’t missed it, but it’ll be interesting to see over the coming months how that feels now we’ve released the new album. It might feel strange not seeing anyone out there who might be into it.

P: Touring is hard and I can’t even imagine doing it right now. I miss the process of working the songs into a live format. For the last record, we put so much work into translating the songs into a live setting, making sure they were coming across in the right way and pushing it further than the recorded sound. I feel a sadness that these songs aren’t getting the chance to live and breathe on a big stage. When we wrote the songs we were thinking about how they would come across live.

Is what you wear on stage or in front of the camera a conscious choice? Do you consider what you want to communicate to your audience when choosing what to wear? 

P: Our style is just another way to express ourselves. Sometimes it’s a bit freakier. There are moments where we push it outside of an everyday context to set the tone for a video clip. When we started this band, we wrote a manifesto which included a note about not wanting a big separation between the two of us in style or look, because we wanted to exist as equals. We don’t want one of us to look more feminine or masculine. We try to create a balance in our styling decisions.

What have you learnt about yourselves individually and as musicians since your Snakadaktal days?

P: I look back and think, woah, we were so resilient. For any teenagers, to be launched into that landscape is pretty full-on and demanding. I feel proud of us. I also look back and wish that I’d spoken up at certain times or that I had more confidence in my own decisions and opinions. But that all comes from experience. Ten years later, I’m in a place now where that side of me is stronger. We all went through the wringer and although a whole world of change has gone down, we’re still the same people.

J: It’s a big question. This might sound hectic, but I’m proud of us for stopping the band. We loved it and a lot of people loved it. We know that it was a bit abrupt and it would have been the easy thing to keep going even though it wasn’t right for us. It’s difficult to get a band to that level so the hard thing was to stop it. Looking back now, I’m happy with where I am, so I feel good about the decision that we made.

What have you learnt about each other? 

P: You learn funny things about people. The weird quirks.

J: When we make tea in the studio, Phoebe pulls the teabag out and squeezes it while it’s still burning hot.

P: I used to wait TEN MINUTES for you to make tea – what was going on in there? It does burn. It hurts. But it’s a sacrifice. When Joey eats a nectarine, he keeps the pip in his mouth for a good half hour. Just sucking on the pip [laughs]. He’s making the most of it. Not many people have the patience for that.

Okay, I’ve got one final super cheesy question for you. Who are Two People you look up to? 

J: I’m just going to say something equally as cheesy back! My two sisters. They are tough as nails in the face of adversity.

P: This is grossly cheesy but I look up to the two of us. I’m super proud of us and we’re constantly faced with hard decisions but I really look up to Joey and I’m alright too.

twopeoplemusic.com

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