“It was a long journey, making this record – we really challenged ourselves. It’s odd: you’ve got a classically trained violinist, a dance producer with a DJ background, and two funk/soul musicians. It’s weird how it all gels together, but that’s the unique flavour of Strange Talk.”
Commanding, crisp, and perfect for summer: Cast Away is the highly anticipated debut by Melbourne electro-pop charmers Strange Talk. Following up on the international buzz brought on by 2011’s self-titled EP, Cast Away is 11 tracks of indie-meets-electro gems: relentless, hook-laced hits (breakout single “Climbing Walls”), rave drenched anthems (“Falling In Love”), big tom dancefloor bangers (“Another Day”) and minimalist electro ballads (“Come Back Home”). Packed full of shimmering synths and pulsing pop beats, Cast Away is one epic, dazzling listen.
Off the back of killer singles like “Climbing Walls”, “Eskimo Boy” and “Sexual Lifestyle”, Strange Talk – frontman Stephen Docker, producer/DJ/bassist Gerard Sidhu, Travis Constable (drums) and Gillan Gregory (guitar) – have already made their mark, both in Australia and beyond. They’ve joined the line-ups of festivals Parklife, Stereosonic, Future Music, Soundscape and Falls; opened for The Rapture, Neon Indian, and Marina and The Diamonds; hit the #1 spot on Billboard’s Uncharted Chart; and wowed New York City at 2011 and 2012’s CMJ Music Marathon. Now comes Cast Away – named after the first song written for the album, and their biggest move yet.
In October 2011 Strange Talk decamped to a friend’s farm in Castlemaine, VIC, 90 minutes north-west of Melbourne. In between breaking to play headline gigs across the country, over the next few months they wrote, laying down synth lines on their Korg Triton, or Moog Voyager, a Roland Juno. Inspiration came via albums by M83, Justice, Digitalism, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, and Queen.
“The farm was amazing,” remembers Stephen. “It had moose heads on the wall, an amazing veranda which overlooked a huge field with cows, a big lake, a gym so we could keep fit (laughs)... After a while it was sad to come back to Melbourne, because when you’re being creative like that it’s hard to leave it behind.”
There was, says Stephen, “mood talk” about the direction of each new song – “For example, should it be a big club banging tune, or even a ballad, which is something completely out of our realm.” The singer took heed of advice given by the Presets’ Julian Hamilton. “He’d said to me, ‘If you’re onto an idea, roll with it – whatever comes out you’ll most likely stick to.’”
After the Xmas break, in February 2012 Strange Talk headed for the coast, Gerard’s sister lending them her beach house in VIC’s Mount Martha. Here, the second half of Cast Away fell into place. On the recommendation of pals Van She, Strange Talk had fallen in love with the gritty, digital workhorse sounds of synth the Dave Smith Poly Evolver. Six songs in, they replaced older beds with their new favourite toy. By April, the record was complete. Enter mixer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Ladyhawke, Phoenix).
“Tony was the perfect man for the job, he brightened everything up,” enthuses Stephen. “We record and produce everything ourselves, so over that whole process we really learnt what works for us and what doesn’t. The thing that sold us on Tony was what he did with M83’s ‘Midnight City’ – I haven’t heard a song with such glitz, but at the same time such gritty sound.”
On Cast Away Strange Talk have widened their scope, reaching back into influences past and present to create a whole new sound. Basslines are deeper; melodies even more euphoric. “For the first EP we were heavily into Phoenix, Passion Pit, Two Door Cinema Club,” Stephen admits, “but growing up, our biggest influences were people like Michael Jackson, the Police, Queen – all of which I think you can hear more of on this record. We’ve stepped away from the ‘indie’ thing somewhat; the album’s a lot more complex, and really shows how we’ve progressed as producers and musicians.”
A year of shows and Strange Talk has morphed into one of the country’s most exciting live acts. It’s long way from the bedroom duo Stephen and Gerard envisioned when they met on MySpace, almost three years ago. “We all know each other a lot more now,” Stephen laughs. “It’s weird how it works with such a diverse mix of backgrounds, but I think that does the project justice. ‘Climbing Walls’ was when the penny dropped for us. Now, we just want people to have fun, lose themselves in the songs. Enjoy the journey, from start to end.”