The upbeat and unusual music of Sydney duo Fishing would be impossible to listen to whilst, actually, fishing. The skittering beats and joyful melodies demand at least a toe-tapping that would scare any potential catch away. Since Russell and Doug released their ‘Hookz’ series of mixtapes and ‘Oooo’ 7″ they have been picked up by online tastemaking label Yes Please and have quickly found a cult following for their brand of electronic music. ACCLAIM chats to Doug about working as a duo, their vintage visual aesthetic, Flume, radio play and all things internet.
You guys were in a band before Fishing began in 2010. How did you start making music together?
We met through high school friends, back in the day. We didn’t really have that many friends that were into the same sort of music at the time, so it was exciting to meet people that were into cool stuff. So we did Fishing on the side while we were in a band together and started leaning more to instrumental music. We spend a hell of a lot time together. [Laughs.]
Does creating music as a duo differ a lot from being in a band?
Well, the other band was mostly sort of synth music too and it’s a similar writing process. But I guess we don’t really jam; we just sit in a room surrounded by gear and produce.
How’s the process of being a duo? Do you fight over tracks?
We’re actually started to get a pretty good workflow together. We make our own beats in the same room, most of the time. If you’re making electronic music it can be a really lonely thing, sitting in your room and just playing with an MPC so it’s really nice to have someone else there and bounce ideas off – like Russ will play a chord over the loop we’ve been working on and I go ‘Oh, that sounded really cool,’ and he picks up on stuff I do. It kind of just sparks certain things that you would skip over.
You said that producing solo can be lonely, but Fishing seems to move away from a darker mood that a lot of electronic artists seem to capture. Is that something that’s intentional?
I’m not sure! I guess it’s not intentional, I think you just make the music that you think sounds ‘nice’. I don’t think it’s anymore deeper or considered than that. We just write music that we like to make. We’re not thinking ‘Does this sound positive?’
There’s a collage and textured sound going on in your music. How do you create the samples?
There’s a bit of a mix of everything. I never know what to say when people ask about samples, in case we get a law suit! A lot of the samples we use though are things we’ve created, using keyboards and gear we have, but we do sample from records. We tend to not use phrases or large bits of music like you’d do when making hip-hop. We cut up stuff really small and we’ll find a nice single note, or a drum hit, and then plugs those into samples and make melodies out of that.
The originality definitely comes through in your music.
I don’t consider that process more original than lifting a whole sample. There is such an art to really good sampling. There are brilliant hip-hop producers that can lift a whole vocal and still make you hear something new. But I think we just come from an instrumental background. We don’t come from that school of hip-hop; we come from playing in bands and figuring out that stuff note by note and that’s what comes natural to us.
The aesthetic you have too, differs from other electronic artists – the 7″ artwork seems like a play on the ’70s ‘Aussie’ look –
Sorry, what do you mean by ‘Aussie’?
To me it kind of looks like a ’70s Australian postcard, but like, warped somehow.
Cool! I think for starters, Russ does all of the artwork. He’s a total mad-dog in Photoshop and I guess it looks ’70s because it’s all ripped from magazines from that time. [Laughs.] So it’s as cut-and-paste as our music, really.
Do you think it’s important to have a particular aesthetic with your work?
Yes and no. I think we both really like the idea of having something that’s a bit more than just audio. It’s really cool to give something a narrative that is a bit more than the song. I think it especially works with instrumental because you don’t have lyrics or anything to grab hold of. When we were making the clip for Choy Lin we wanted to make a bit more of a story out of it, but by the same token we’re not particularly attached to any one aesthetic. It just so happens that Russ has done the artwork and the video we worked on together. But we really want to collaborate with different artists and experiment with other artists. I think the only reason we have a particular style at this point is because we’ve done the visuals [ourselves].
You’ve put out the Oooo 7” through Wagga in the US, and you’ve just signed to Sydney’s Yes Please! – does having more label exposure mean your music is getting out there a bit more?
I guess only time will tell, I think it’s really great that you can do a lot by yourself. But it has reached a certain point where we need other people and they want to help, so it’s been great. I think the Wagga thing is really great news for us because we really like a lot of other musicians on that label. We got to do this really cool remix EP that we wouldn’t have done otherwise and it’s an avenue for us to get into the American market. Yes Please is really sweet label. Matt, who runs it, we’ve known for ages so it’s great to have a family vibe.
Everyone in this growing scene seems really encouraging of one another, is there any competition behind the scenes? Any rap-style feuds going on?
No. [Laughs.] I guess we haven’t played a lot around Australia and we only know about what’s going on in Sydney and everyone is totally cool with each other. We all seem to end up playing together at one point. I guess the only thing would be the scene becoming a bit too insular: we want to book and play with our mates. It’s such a good scene to be in – it’s hard not get caught up in it.
You guys have been picked up a lot overseas with websites like XLR8R championing up your music. What are your thoughts on the music blog scene?
It’s really great to instantly have an audience and be able to share music and it seems to happen quickly when your music is picked up by the bigger websites. Popularity on the internet seems to support physical releases too. It’s great to be able to have enough revenue to be able to put out 7” records too.
Do you think it’s a backlash to the internet scene that people are actively buying records and tapes?
I think it’s always been there and now it’s running parallel. I think the internet makes it easier. And the internet means the distribution of it quicker and easier to get. Fuck [laughs] I’m starting to sound like one of those music-biz nerds. Please stop me if I get really boring.
What are your thoughts on the more mainstream electronic artists in Australia?
I actually support the entire scene, regardless of how I feel about their music. I think it’s amazing that any electronic music is being well received by the radio and tastemakers. I think Flume, particularly, is a party God. Holy shit! We saw him and Ross and I are generally reserved and don’t have a lot of stage confidence, but he knows how to rock and party. I think that’s his vibe and he’s smashing it. I think its great that people that go to festivals and bigger club scene and are getting into stuff that is approaching our end of electronic music. I think when there’s big support for artists like Flume, that would gradually trickle down to us.
I seriously think five years ago that we would not have been played on Triple J. I mean you have Seekae who never had their support and they ignored them up until they were just so popular they couldn’t anymore. I mean they were such an influential force in Australian music, and it’s something really great happening that electronic music is becoming more in the public consciousness. And if it’s being supported by the mainstream then, it gives us all jobs [laughs]. If we can cross over, that’s a really great thing.
We forget – living in Sydney or Melbourne – because we get amazing community radio, but in a lot of regional places, Triple J is the way people hear new music. I dream of the day that we can do a tour that is more rural than, say, Brisbane.
You guys have a good reputation for your live shows, but how do you translate your delicate, kind of ‘headphone’ tracks to a live performance?
I think it comes back to playing in bands. We try to play an actual show. I think the problem with electronic gigs sometimes can be that the performer doesn’t really do much.
What can we expect from your up-coming album?
Heaps of surprises! I think we’re getting away from straight-up beats and making music that is closer to ‘real’ songs. Things that evolve and are emotional and we’re going to have a lot more vocals too. We’re pretty excited to release it.