client liaison may make you laugh, but they'll keep you dancing

“I won’t pretend people haven’t dismissed us as kitsch, but I’d like to think the music stands for itself.”

by Wendy Syfret
05 March 2015, 2:00am

Today it was announced Guy Sebastian would be Australia's first entry into Eurovision. It was an honour Client Liaison had been vocal about receiving. Like so many things, when speaking to Harvey and Monte it was hard to gauge if their intentions had been serious or not. It's not unusual for conversation with the two to shift invisibly between jokes and very considered reflection. Like their music and clips, sometimes you're not sure if they're being facetious or sweetly honest. But while their intentions aren't always totally clear, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fault their skills. 

The guys make tight, clean, sometimes very sophisticated, electronic music. The type you could play for your kid brother, or your most discerning friends, and both would agree it was great. Despite their undoubtable abilities, many people continuously struggle to know if they're supposed to laugh. But like their work, underneath any ambiguity is a very considered and genuine enthusiasm.

So it was just announced Guy Sebastian is doing Eurovision, you guys mentioned wanting to do it but I was never sure if you were serious.
Harvey: We'd have liked to do Eurovision right?
Monte: Yeah, I'd be pretty scared. It's weird, if someone said do you want to do Coachella? I'd be like, sick we're going to smash it. But immediately the idea of Eurovision needs a new song to appeal to everyone. 

Well you would have been more interesting than Guy Sebastian. Do you think you could have pulled it off?
Harvey: A lot of people think Eurovision is a mediocrity, but it can be done tastefully. An example is Sébastien Tellier who performed a few years ago—no one would dare call him mediocre. He's outlandish, as are we, or we'd like to think we are. So I like to think we'd have taken the angle of Sébastien Tellier and done it with a sense of conviction. 

I suppose if things had lined up just right it could have been a bad thing too. Didn't you worry about melding your Client Liaison universe with Eurovision's kitch? That image would have been stuck in tar.
Harvey: Definitely, and that's why you have to do it with conviction. It renders it with a seriousness, and Eurovision does have moments of seriousness. Again with Tellier, people got it. 

But those concerns live outside the fantasy. I feel because of the way you already present yourself to some people you walk the line between spectacle and serious band.
Harvey: We borrow a line from Bowie when he said, "I'll never begrudge an audience". We would never do that, or never try and remain too underground or discourage an audience to maintain a level of cool. That's why we were open to Eurovision—it's communicating your music in the biggest way possible.

You see that in your crowds: they're always a huge cross section of people. Are you ever surprised when you look out from the stage?
Monte: There are a lot of older people, and often a bit of a reluctance from men. Especially in country towns, but then you see them switch and start to get into it.
Harvey: There are a lot of young private school boys.

To be honest, that's what I meant.
Harvey: I think it's because there's theatre and theatricality. Again, we make an effort to have conviction when we play. I won't pretend people haven't dismissed us as kitsch, but I'd like to think the music stands for itself.

But there is an element of that you're consciously creating.
Harvey: Well, a lot of people think our video clips are funny, and yes we grant them that. But when people are listening to on their iPod or in the club they're not laughing, they're dancing. A lot of the time people fail to make the distinction between the video clip Client Liaison and the music. They work together but they also work separately.

When you started building the Client Liaison world how much was consciously saying, lets take all these things we like and create this 80s persona. And how much was you just making shit you like and then stepping back and seeing it had taken a form?
Harvey: We did it because we like it, there's a seriousness to it. It's the era that informs us. Prince would rock out on stage in a one is laughing at Prince.

Monte: Well some people are.

I feel like other countries understand that more innately than Australia.
Monte: They have a history of being eccentric, our history is pub rock. There are lots of different histories here, but standing out is not as celebrated.

You're getting bigger and interacting with different kinds of media, what are the questions you're getting asked a lot?
Monte: Why the 80s? Why do you love Australia? The less they know about us the more they ask those questions. We've answered those questions for so many years you could just look it up on the internet and find 30 answers.
Harvey: It's like people asking rock acts: What's with the 70s? What's with the guitars?

Does constantly explaining the things you love kill them?
Monte: It creates an opinion you didn't necessarily have. "End of the Earth" is an example because it has this great juxtaposition of, is it criticising or celebrating Australia? Because of these questions we've kind of come up with answers. But we didn't make it like that.
Harvey: I think people get it. It's why we use all this Australian iconography. As soon as you see it, it transports you back to that time, it's visual communication that aids the music. We always say: its not like there's a joke where there is a punch line. 


Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Ben Thomson

Client Liaison