Two People - First Body - Album Art

(album out Friday, 18 January 2019 through Liberation Records)

1. I’m Tied, To You
2. In The Garden
3. Look At Each Other
4. Something To Talk About
5. Phone Call
6. Fading
7. Give Me Order
8. It’s Late
9. If We Have Time (Rework)

Two People. That’s it. No gimmicks, no irony. A name that reflects a lack of artifice in the music and the vision of the people behind it: Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough, kindred musical spirits who have been doing this since they were 15.

Like all good projects, this one started with a manifesto. “Let’s aim small and let it be big,” the pair wrote in a lengthy document guiding the recording process of debut album First Body. Phoebe and Joey weren’t exactly sure what kind of music would come out of those early sessions in 2015, but they were pretty clear on how they wanted to do things.

Their art would be sustainable, long-term, and almost entirely self-made. It’d be guided by bold visual cues, DIY principles, and artists that emphasise the empty space between notes as much as the notes themselves; artists such as James Blake, Seekae, Caribou, and Jamie xx. “The music, above all else has to move you, physically and emotionally,” they wrote. And it does.

Two People’s commitment to the self-made nature of the project extends to the studio itself. They secured a dilapidated old room in Fitzroy in Melbourne’s inner-north and renovated it with love.

“It was falling apart,” says Joey. “Phoebe plastered one of the walls and we carpeted the floor, but we didn’t focus on making it a recording studio. We just wanted to have a nice space. It’s almost the thing defined our album,” he adds. “Just us, hanging out in that big old space.”

‘Fading’ – a song about “grieving something before it’s over” – was the first song born from those long, magical days in a space they dubbed 2P Studio 11. True to their manifesto, the pair created a pulsating aural soundscape that heroes but never overwhelms Phoebe’s voice – even though there are times when it threatens to.

“We have been opening with ‘Fading’ in our live set and it’s a wonderful way to introduce and unfold our sound,” says Joey. “It just gets more expansive as we play. It grows from a humble bedroom to a blistering desert.”

The improvisational element gives First Body an unpredictable edge. This is electronic music made by humans. If there’s a lack of polish, it’s intentional, and the album’s first single ‘I’m Tied, To You’ makes that clear.

“Joey was just improvising in the final stages of production and the room sounded like a big dark rave,” recalls Phoebe. “If you listen closely you might hear us yelling and moving around the room.”

Their live show is similarly intimate and immersive. Two People made their official live debut at Splendour In The Grass 2018 before performing one of the most talked about showcases at industry conference BIGSOUND, where they were spotted by Terrible Records, the Brooklyn-based label behind the likes of Solange, Moses Sumney, Empress Of, and Blood Orange.

Live drummer Barna Nemeth adds a sense of dynamism to a Two People show, while the pair are cloaked behind red lights and plumes of smoke as a way of retaining a sense of mystery about their performance – but also to recreate the intensity of that room.

“I feel like our music is kind of smokey and nocturnal,” explains Joey, “so it fits.”

Phoebe and Joey’s innate musical understanding was forged as teenagers. They began making music together in 2008, putting an early incarnation of Two People on hold as their high school band Snakadaktal won triple j Unearthed High and promptly hit the festival circuit. ‘Phone Call’ details the start of that friendship, which had morphed into a fleeting teen romance that burned out as most teen romances do.

“This is our ballad,” says Phoebe. “It’s written about when Joey and I were young and dating, about nine to ten years ago now, fumbling around, finding our edges, hurting like crazy. We wanted the track to be big in size, all heart, wide and orchestral.”

‘In The Garden’ – one of First Body’s grittiest grooves – was written during those formative years. Phoebe’s voice sounds defiant as she details a relationship in which she was starved for space.

“It’s about gaining my power back for the first time and the clumsiness in that,” she says of the track.

“It’s one of our oldest songs,” adds Joey. “We started with a guitar riff and some electric piano chords – that was always the way we used to do it when we were 15.”

The track features live drums by Barna, a former bandmate in Snakadaktal and one of the few outsiders invited into this insular musical world. The other is Scottish producer/engineer Rodaidh McDonald, who was on a short and extremely ambitious wish list of mixers scrawled down before they had even recorded a note.

Rodaidh – whose works spans records by Sampha, King Krule, and The xx – is that rare engineer who can take an artist’s work to another level while still retaining their voice. He seldomly takes on new projects, but was compelled to work with Two People after hearing ‘I’m Tied, To You’.

“Everything that he’s worked on is really unique,” says Phoebe. “He doesn’t have a certain style or stamp that he puts on artists – it’s all about the artist sounding like themselves. That was how it appeared from the outside and when he sent back that first mix of ‘I’m Tied, To You’ it sounded exactly as it should.”

Joey agrees. “It sounded better, but not changed.”

In August 2018 the band released a video for the single ‘Something To Talk About’, which was shot during a Los Angeles heat wave with globe-trotting filmmaker Dimitri Basil.

“We wanted it to feel like it wasn’t of a time, or any era,” says Joey. “We love feelings and emotions, and I guess we always wanted to make music that felt that way. We make music with visuals in mind, so it felt natural to make a clip like this.”

The self-described “short film” is the culmination of everything laid out in the Two People rule book – crisp imagery, cinematic ambition, and Phoebe and Joey front and centre of an ever-evolving universe.

“It’s all part of one big world that we’ve set out to create,” Phoebe says.

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