Weekly updates:


Weekly updates

A psychedelic journey through Tokyo. Samples of the latest dance tracks. Remixed episodes of Seinfeld. Pop culture and ’70s Coke ads. Dream sequences and textured electronica are among the many things you are likely to find at a Naysayer and Gilsun show. Starting off as Melbourne club DJs, the duo combine scenes from movies and television with dance music to make a dynamic audiovisual experience. At a defining show in the warehouse space of Melbourne Music Week, ACCLAIM catches up with Sam Gill and Luke Neher to find about the work behind the performance and where they’ll take the audience next.

What work went into your live show? 

Sam: It started a couple of years ago, with us collaborating ideas about how to pair the visual and sound and that’s still how we start each show. Our focus this time was getting content together. Getting new videos and music that works together.

Luke: We had a pretty good idea of how we wanted it to look in that environment.

How was it playing in the Melbourne Music Week space?

Luke: Well it was cool – we geek out in similar way to the organisers with the ’80s/’90s rave scene. It’s a mysterious world to us because we are too young to remember it. So it was amazing that they captured that feeling. There was a lot of stuff in the set that seemed to translate a lot easier and make sense in that environment than it does in clubs and other venues.

Had you already rehearsed?

Sam: We hadn’t rehearsed at the venue, but we’d been in there a few times and we knew we could make it pretty dance-y and rave-y because of the way the warehouse looked.

Luke: A very polished version of the underground raves. It was a pretty unique vibe.

Do the spaces you play affect what you’re putting into a show?

Luke: Absolutely. I mean, for example, the polar opposite of that gig was the university show we did beforehand, in a club, where not many people know us. We used to push it and tailor it to whoever we were playing to but now we kind of have to be honest about it and do what the show normally is – like at Where?House – then we’ll play Golden Plains and then that’s completely different. It was much closer to what we envisioned. It gets to the point where you feel dishonest playing differently.

Sam: I think that now we’re playing more and more venues we’re moving towards having every show perfect and the way we like it. We’re more pleased each time with where we’re playing and how. At the moment a lot of what we play is what inspires us, and in that way it’s for ourselves, but we’re conscious of what the reaction will be. It’s less about crowd pleasing and more about eliciting a certain response, like making people scared or inspiring them. It’s less about playing club bangers.

Luke: There are definitely points where we’re consciously pushing people’s attention spans and some other times where its more of a free-for-all.

You guys look really busy on stage. Is there work that commands all of your attention at a live show?

Sam: Not as much as you’d think. [Laughs.]

Luke: Sometimes the parts where people think we’re doing the most, we’re actually doing the least.

Sam: I think that goes for a lot of DJs. But with us, we kind of have a weird setup with the video stuff as a well. We need to take more time to make it look like we enjoy what we’re doing, because we actually have this rep for just looking… [Laughs.]

Luke: … Sad.

Sam: When really we’re having a good time! We’re just kind of intense, and focused.

I think I saw you run forward and change a cord at one point…

Luke: Yeah we lost signal to the projector for a second there. Ironically, it happened while I was dancing and not paying attention. I think I accidentally kicked it out.

Sam: Everything flashes before your eyes!

Has there ever been a time at a show when it sort of falls apart?

Sam: Yes. The intro to our show before the Where?House gig completely didn’t work. It was a club show too, and the sound just didn’t work, so you have this whole introduction that supposed to building a mood, but just… completely silent. It’s embarrassing, I mean, you know you can figure it out but when it’s in front of hundreds of people it’s kinda scary.

You’ve said about your show that you want people to walk away from it thinking ‘What did I just see?’ – are you hoping for a bit of a shock factor or are you hoping will remember it?

Sam: The intent was to always have people walk out with the ‘shock and awe’ you get from going to a gig that is more special than most. We wanted it to be… well, you can definitely get that from a good DJ set, but after a couple of years playing three or four times a week, hearing the same material which is just background music for a lot of people. But we wanted it to be a show. An experience that people could get lost in.

You both started as [Melbourne club night organisers] Streetparty DJs – what were the really early Naysayer and Gilsun like?

Luke: The first one we did was at a friend’s 18th and we used to do this crazy live set, which in retrospect was nuts, every sample and kick drum and a cappella  was triggered live by controllers –

Sam: It wasn’t even controllers, we just used a mouse (laughs) –

Luke: Yeah, back when we were using a lot of samples and then we just did a lot of club mixes and then our attention turned towards electronic music and the visual element we have now.

How did you get involved with Streetparty to begin with?

Sam: We were picked up by Hugh Waters when we were seventeen, which at the time was the coolest thing in the world. He heard one of our mixtapes somewhere but the first show we ended playing for him was a bit of a disaster. Still one of the worst shows we’ve ever done.

Luke: It was bad.

Sam: It was the first time we’d ever been to a club, anyway. It had a big impact on our sets too and how a club environment works. But after we graduated [high school] we were playing three or four times a week.

Did it get a bit old after a while?

Luke: That’s why we’ve gone in the direction we have now. To do something that actually inspires us again and it’s been a long process of tailoring the visual set to be what we envisioned. And now it’s a matter of evolving it and pushing it to its limits.

Sam: For us I think it feels like it has been a natural progression, while the show has changed I think the overall feeling of it has stayed the same. It would be so fucking dishonest if we still played the same clubs and sets. It was boring us and it was probably boring the crowd. We’re proud and excited that people still listen to that stuff though, the bedroom music we’d make and never thought anyone would listen to.

Did it come out a love of film and TV and pop culture too?

Luke: We’ve always geeked out about that stuff as much as music so that was one element of it and Sam and I always had similar reactions to movies. But that said, it’s not just about referencing what everyone will recognise. A lot of it for us is about finding the scenes in popular movies that you don’t remember, so we can work with the memory and the response to it.

Sam: I mean we could make mash-ups with AC/DC or something along those lines and elicit a very immediate response because people have so many memories tied up with that particular sample, but, with other things, people don’t necessarily associate a mood or a memory with them. It can be quite eerie because it still gives you that kick of recognition but there’s a lot more that can be done with that than something immediate.

It definitely felt like that live, you’d see something looped or hear something and minutes later it would come back to you – that feeling of not being able to quite put your finger on something. Is the audience response a primary factor of the performance?

Sam: To be honest, the club sets we used to do were more about the audience and their immediate reaction and this is more weirder, Eternal Sunshine sort of thing. We want it to be communicate with the audience on a slower level.

Luke: For instance we use a scene from Risky Business and the scene everyone remembers is Tom Cruise in his underwear sliding across the room, but there’s a far weirder abstract scene that we made a video out of and instead of people knowing – it brings up weirder emotions.

You’ve said In Mind is the start of a new direction for you guys –

Sam: We’re pretty much finishing up an EP of our own productions that will fit within the set. It was pretty overwhelming for us to put out In Mind because it’s different from what we’ve worked on before, but we feel like it’s been moving towards that.

Luke: And people are ready for it.

And you finished on it at Melbourne Music week, I noticed.

Luke: Yeah, we were unsure if anyone would have recognised it.

Sam: A friend of ours told us it went down well… but he could have been lying.

I’m pretty sure I heard people singing it.

Sam: That’s very cool. We couldn’t see anything from where we were. We’re planning of getting the EP out in March.

How did the collaboration with Simon Lam from I’lls happen?

Luke: We heard I’lls in like, 2011 and they opened up for one of our shows at Hi-Fi Bar and became friends from that. So we were in the studio geeking out about music all the time and got Simon to do the vocals and the rest of the guys from I’lls were with us at the time and we talked about the track, what they liked what the didn’t. They’re definitely one of the most underrated bands in Australia at the moment.

Sam: It wasn’t a collaboration that was pushed by like a manager or something it was definitely organic.

All of the Melbourne artists seem very supportive of one another? Is there any backstage rivalry going on?

Luke: There’s obviously politics going on. But for the most part, everyone’s worth their salt in Australia, even if you don’t like what they’re doing, it’s never nice to publicly diss anyone. That’s definitely the way I look at it. Even if you don’t like their music, or they’ve been rude to you, it wouldn’t be good form to say anything about it.

Sam: It’s kind of irrelevant too, even club DJ gossip – not trying to say we’re above that. But it’s pretty high school, and awful. We still hear of people being bullied or bitched about. I mean, it’s stupid: it’s based around these lofty ideas of what someone should be playing… it’s nonsense. We’re not famous or anything, but with that we’ve had things said about us publicaly, or online. And once you have had that done to you, you don’t forgot. I wouldn’t say anything online about someone who I would never meet, even.

Luke: [Laughs.] I even defend Nickelback. I mean, ‘Come on guys, they’re just doing what they want to do’.

You guys have been in the Melbourne and Australian music scene for a while now. How has it evolved to you?

Luke: That’s interesting. I don’t think we’ve stayed in once place enough to see it change. It’s more that we’ve changed. We’ve just tried to evolve.

Sam: The scenes and categories of clubs seem to have shifted. I mean there are still people doing really positive things, but they’re some people that have ideals and very strict ways of looking at the local scenes. I was always intimated by, say, the Animals Dancing guys – not because they’re not nice people but they have very set ideas of what a club night should be and where. It just seems scary to me. But then you go to one of their nights and it’s not about a clique, it’s just people who are passionate about that one thing. That’s why they’re so good at what they do.

Tell me a little about Bossman Records – how did it start and what direction are taking it in?

Sam: It started when we were on a trip to New York. Luke’s from there so he had lots of stuff to do, but I had all this time and I had the idea for a while. So we set up the bare bones structure and gradually more people have become involved. But it was something interesting and fun, and there’s no major stakes in it – it’s something we don’t take so seriously. We just have to juggle between that and other side projects. It comes a little bit secondary to Naysayer and Gilsun, but hopefully it will keep going.

Is it to free you from record label rules too?

Sam: We’ve never had a big label behind us. It’s just another way for us to be DIY and being able to do it our own ways. If you’re doing something in the niche too, it’s harder to get noticed. It was a question of building up press and blogs and being able to control that. It’s the first time we’ve put anything out on it too, something we’re really proud of and it feels right.

Luke: The EP too, will be out through Bossman, and it’s weird. We meant to go in a different direction with it, but it all seems centred on a particular theme. It all sits on a contrast between electronic and organic sounds, a couple of featured singers and a couple of dance tracks.

Sam: We’re hoping we can pull it off and it makes sense. But it’s definitely going to be a mix of everything, like the show is.

Melbourne Music Week