SLUMBERJACK Talks Life On The Road, Production Process, & More!
Morgan Then and Fletcher Ehlers have both made music for quite a while, starting early on in life but in two very different ways. Fletcher tackled the electronic studio setting early on and Morgan had been classically trained from a young age. When they met up to start a collaborative project they had no idea that it would be so well received, SLUMBERJACK. Now three years into the fire they are tempering their skills to solidify their place in the scene.
When I had the chance to chat with SLUMBERJACK at The Observatory in San Diego, I jumped at the chance. Arriving at the venue early, Fletcher greeted me at the side door of the venue, and we walked past an array of cords scattered across the stage. The audio and lighting crews were still in the process of setting up. He asked me how my day was going and we made small talk. As we approached the tour bus out walked Morgan, and he immediately he introduced himself. Excited for the show that evening, I was happy to catch up with this duo and pick their brain before they took the stage.
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This is the third stop on your support tour with TroyBoi. How was your show in Phoenix, how was the energy there?
Morgan: It was crazy. The show, actually got super hot because the energy was so wild. And playing, we actually played the second slot and the crowd was full already. So people come out to party early there. It was really impressive. Out of the other two shows, I think Phoenix is now the top one, but they’ve all been great!
Now, before this, you just finished the Fracture tour earlier this summer which highlighted your Fracture EP. Are there any memorable experiences that stand out to you?
Fletcher: Yeah, definitely! So the Fracture tour, we actually did a live show. So we did a live show, full production. We made all our own visuals for the show which took up a lot of our time. So we took that around Australia and to New Zealand as well and finished at Splendor in the Grass which is probably one of the best festivals in Australia. That was an amazing experience to play a super late slot on one of those stages. Hearing 10,000 people singing back the words to Fracture was just the best way possible to close out that tour. It was amazing.
Morgan: I think a memorable part for me was just being able to be so hands-on throughout. It was in the result, the journey itself taught us a lot so Fletcher and I have gotten pretty competent in making our own visuals. For our future shows now we can develop a sort of visual show. And the more we do it the better we become so, you know, as the show, as the project goes along we will just get a more refined project.
This year you guys have killed it on the festival circuit this year, starting back SnowGlobe and then hitting up Holy Ship!, Electric Forest, Hard Summer, and then 6 or 7 festivals in Australia. Do you have a favorite in North America and Australia, and why?
Fletcher: Well I think in Australia it would have to be Splendor in the Grass. Like I said before, amazing festival. The fans are really into the music there. In America, I think personally my favorite festival we played… and we did a lot of really amazing festivals but I think the festival FVDED in Vancouver. And actually, that was just me because Morgan had some visa issues unfortunately but the crowd vibe there was just amazing.
We actually opened the main stage and to see that many people come out early just to see the show and know all the words to the songs and come up to me afterward and tell me how amazing the show was, was really incredible for our first time ever in Canada.
Morgan: I think as a collective, for Fletcher and myself, I think our favorite American festival other than FVDED in Canada is SnowGlobe festival at Lake Tahoe. That was amazing too! That was actually our first ever show in America, ever. We landed, got to Reno and then drove, got to the stage and they gave us an 8pm slot at the bass stage which was very nice of them.
We packed that tent, people knew the words to our songs too, which is pretty insane. We just jumped off with a huge buzz. I remember that moment, yeah it was cold, but I jumped off warm.
Fletcher: Yeah I was about to say that.
While you’re on the road, do you still take time to make music? How do you balance that?
Morgan: We are trying right now. At the moment, I guess because we’re just settling into the bus, on the road life. You kind of have to build a routine before you can comfortably be in your own zone and write. On a tour bus there’s a lot of people, so distractions are many, but I think the trick is to probably just keep trying until it will hit one day. I think we are getting better. I used to be a studio guy, I think Fletcher as well.
Fletcher: Yeah I mean basically what Morgan said. There’s plenty of distractions on the bus, but I’m sure we’re going to get used to it because we’re living on there for 3 months.
Morgan: I mean there’s also plenty of distractions in LA. Being, now based in LA, for instance, you want to go out too.
Fletcher: Yeah like going out for ramen.
Morgan: Always for ramen.
In past interviews, you’ve talked about your collaborative style being like “Yin and Yang” and how that’s really lent itself to your production. Now, we are three years into what started as a joint “project”: SLUMBERJACK. Do you find that the “Yin and Yang” style still works for you or do you have to find more of a happy middle than you did originally?
Fletcher: No, I think that Yin and Yang is still totally a part of what we’re doing. It’s what’s keeping us going because I think a lot of the stuff in the market now is very… it can kind of end up being very same. So we try, not only with the music, to have Yin and Yang in terms of very heavy stuff and also very laid back stuff. Also, in the way we work together, in our personalities in the studio, and how we interact with the people around us as well. It’s all very opposition, binary based
Morgan: I think that’s a perfect balance. Yin and Yang is the perfect happy medium. Sometimes, Fletcher would propose an idea and we have a rule amongst ourselves where we play devil’s advocate. Even if I’m for the idea, I now have to have a role where I shoot everything down just so we aren’t overly optimistic also not overly pessimistic. Just so we can see how we cover all our bases, anticipate all issues, and troubleshoot from there.
What do you see as the major differences between the EDM scene in the US and Australia?
Morgan: I think Australia is a little bit more spoiled. Not with or by choice, but in terms of… we only select I guess, the top of the top to be in Australia because it’s such a small market right? And the people who support you are also like a small community, so we always get the best of the best. Coming to America, it feels quite different for us because we can play almost anything and the fans here are very open to it, which is great.
In Australia you have to be a little more careful, you have to curate yourself properly. Most of the time you always have to play originals now, which is great. We also do the same in America now, but I think the fans here are little more open-minded. That’s not to say Australia isn’t, it’s just different in a way that is probably cultural differences.
Your music spans a few genres in electronic dance music. Would you say you have a favorite sub-genre?
Fletcher: I think we try to…as cliché as this sounds…I think we try to avoid classifying our music into any genre or try to deliberately create a specific genre of music. We kind of just write and whatever it ends up being, it always ends up sounding SLUMBERJACK-y. We worried about it at the start, about creating… how do we create a certain sound or pave our way? But we realized that no matter what we do, it still sounds like SLUMBERJACK in the end and that is the sound.
Like your fingerprint…
Morgan: I think also the inspiration for me. I thought that was going to be an issue too, but I went through Bjork catalog and I realized how crazy she is too, so, every time I get a bit lost I look at Bjork and I go, “No, we’re fine.”
You both have made music for a long time. Fletcher, doing electronic, and Morgan being classically trained. How do you find new sounds, stems, vocalists? Where do you find the inspiration?
Morgan: The vocalists are a little bit hard for us because in the states there’s a lot of top liners, but I guess you need to sift through so many to get one good one. In Australia, everyone tries or makes a point to be different. So everyone you get is instantly unique and then you just have to see if it fits your song. But in terms of how we balance it, yes, I’m classically trained but sometimes I write the drum beat and Fletcher actually comes up with the harmonies to fit with it.
In the balance here, I’m the one that’s trained but that could also limit my knowledge. Fletcher isn’t trained in terms of harmonies, but what he hears could be more in tune with how he feels, so there’s a very magical way of how that works. You know, there’s a lot of people I know that aren’t classically trained but they come up with great melodies. I mean I can come up with some of that stuff, but I live among rules and it’s really hard to get out of that. And we sample… we just scout everywhere, the whole internet.
Fletcher: Yeah a lot of friends as well, our friend producers. We’ll do sample swapping with them if we like their style, but a lot of it is pretty organic.
What’s next for both of you? Looking at your history, you guys alternate between studio and tour so will 2018 be more music-focused?
Fletcher: It will definitely be music focused. I think the plan right now is just to do everything at once. Release music and hit the road.
Morgan: Write on the road.
Fletcher: Yeah, write on the road. Kind of just do everything as much as we can.
Morgan: Well there’s two of us, so, we can delegate and work on different things. So Fletcher could be on the visuals while I’m working on the music and then we’ll swap.
Will we see more collaborations? Who would you like them to be with?
Morgan: Oh, yeah you’ll see collaborations, but I don’t know if we can tell you… We don’t like to promise things too early because we like to under promise and over deliver.
That’s a good strategy.
Morgan: But collaborations are definitely coming and dream collaborator you’re saying? Oh man, that’s gonna be hard, there’s a lot. I would say Michael Jackson but that’s not possible.
Fletcher: Timberland, Justin Timberlake… anything Timber really.
Just to close out with a fun one, what’s your favorite type of food on the road? We also know that you like Korean BBQ, do you have a favorite Korean BBQ place?
Fletcher: Yeah, so favorite food on the road, I think any type of Asian noodle soup. So we like Vietnamese Pho, Japanese Ramen… And Korean BBQ, actually our favorite place, even though we’ve tried Korean BBQ everywhere we go.. Our favorite place is still in Perth where we live, nothing seems to be able to beat that.
Morgan: But the ramen in LA though, we’ve already tried a few and they’re all very good. All very very good. It’s a little bit hard when you’re in one of those places that may not have a lot of Asian food. Like yesterday we were in Phoenix, and Phoenix is not too bad, we found a sushi spot but I think Tuscon was a bit hard and New Mexico was definitely, really hard. Once you get a little more inland, Fletcher and I tend to avoid sushi, because you don’t know how the fish got there
Also a great strategy [laughs]. I’m originally from Nebraska and we say the same thing.
Morgan: Yeah, no sushi in Nebraska.
That’s all of my questions. Thank you!
Morgan: Thank you that was tight.
Fletcher: Thank you so much man.
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Featured Photo Credit: BCS Imaging