INTERVIEW: Sneaky Sound System

Sneaky Sound System are an Australian band with a lot of hits under their belt. Their songs ‘I Love It’, ‘Pictures’, ‘UFO’, Kansas City’ and ‘We Love’ have made a distinct impact on the domestic electronic market and even saw them cracking the UK market too. With 15 years in the industry the dynamic duo are continuing to tour and release music that coincides with their Sneaky Sundays club sessions in Sydney.  After a successful run of dates supporting Rudimental on their national tour, they will hit the road again this November for Scene & Heard Festival in Brisbane, Cairns and Newcastle after slaying their set at last years Newcastle festival. 

I recently chatted to Angus McDonald from Sneaky Sound System about the retrospective feeling behind the concept of Scene & Heard and where they fit into that, reflect on the cultural impact ‘UFO’ has made and discuss their constant drive for experimentation within their music and artistry. Check it out HERE; 

TB: Sneaky Sound System have recently returned to the domestic festival and touring circuit and even joined Rudimental on their recent Australian tour. So after having a bit of a break from the traditional side of touring, and spending a lot of time overseas, what has been the biggest thing you’ve been shocked about playing to Aussie crowds again.

AM: To be honest what has taken us aback is how many younger fans are coming out to the shows. It has just been a bit of a surprise for us to see how many freshly eighteen year olds seem to know all the worlds to all the songs and are getting right into it.

It’s exciting for us because a lot of acts that have been around for as long as we have are kinda stuck with the same fanbase they originally have. Where as we seem to have a nice broad range of old and new fans. It’s so encouraging to us that our music is still connecting with people.

TB: Your three studio albums have been embraced from listeners across the country and still hold a special place in a lot of peoples hearts. So from playing these shows have you received any surprising requests of songs that you didn’t expect? 

AM: There are always some really surprising requests *laughs*. When you have a bit of a diverse discography like we have, you get different types of people who like different types of tracks. We always try to mix it up and half pick what people will like at different shows but it is really interesting. 

I know a lot of older fans only want to hear the hits but some people just love songs that weren’t necessarily the singles. There’s other people who really dig the new stuff as well as some people request songs we’ve straight up only released for clubs which is crazy and cool. There’s always so many different types. With the older stuff we have to stop for a second and think “do we actually remember how this goes” *laughs*. We just try to run with the punches sometimes. 

TB: You guys always bring the energy as soon as you hit the stage. And I’m always so shocked by how much of a powerhouse vocalist Connie actually is when I see you live.  

AM: The thing is there are some people who don’t really like performing and prefer to produce and record where as whilst we love doing that too, we absolutely thrive on the live stage. We always like to have a lot of fun. And when you have an incredible vocalist like Connie it’s just insane when you watch that in person. So when you have someone that good you need to let them out there into the world. She really is one of the greats. 

TB: You will be hitting the Scene & Heard Festival stage in Cairns, Brisbane and Newcastle this November. With always wanting to grow your live show, what can punters expect from your energetic live set this time around? 

AM: All I can say is that we are going to bring something quite different to what we’ve done before *laughs*. I can’t reveal too much because we are still figuring it out but we really want to go bigger with the production and give fans more of the earlier material. We may even call in some collaborators from the past but we are trying to finalise our concept for these shows. 

TB: You’re also the only act on the bill who also played last year. So after experiencing the nostalgia of last years event, what did you love most about the reflective format?

AM: It so ridiculous because in our own minds we don’t think of ourselves as much of a retro act because we are still touring and making music quite regularly. Whereas a lot of the acts on this line up don’t really play shows anymore in new environments. But we’ve learnt to embrace ourselves into that environment and watching everyone lose their minds to those older tracks is always a buzz for us. We are very fortunate to be around as long as we have and still have people into what we’re doing. it’s really a blessing to do what we do and we don’t take it for granted, trust me. 

TB: For the past 15 years you’ve been running Sneaky Sundays in Sydney and for 4 years in Mykonos. So what is something that you’ve learnt from doing these club nights that you’ve incorporated into your artistry? 

AM: Lots! To be honest, our residency in Sydney is the cornerstone of what keeps us fresh. The centre of that night is about new music and it’s not necessarily about us playing our own material. We will do extended sets up to four hours and it’s really about modern house techno. The crowd is usually younger, more open minded and very varied so it keeps us right on the edge of what is coming out. We try to incorporate those elements into what we do and definitely into the new music we are creating over the past five years which is more club orientated. 

We had a really good run at radio but I think it would be really difficult for us to have songs on the radio these days if you listen to what else is being played. We never tried to make songs for radio, it kind of just happened in that time space I guess. But these days we just make music that we want to play at our residency shows which is more house music based. We couldn’t live without the Sneaky Sundays sessions because that is what keeps us so inspired. If we stopped that then that would probably be the end for us all together. 

TB: Your sophomore album ‘2’ really stands out to me as a collective. ‘It’s Not My Problem’ is probably my favourite Sneaky Sound System song because of it’s experimental side. Showing a vulnerable side was a bit of a directional shift for you guys, so can we reflect for a moment on the creation and evolution of this song because it was quite different to the other songs? 

AM: That is a very pretty song! What is interesting about that album is that we were really trying to find the connection between electronic music and live music. I come from a musical background but I’m a mad house and techno fan and I also love writing songs so we tried incorporating all of those elements into those records.

When we were writing songs we were trying to make them able to standalone in different ways whether that was playing it on guitar or piano and then we would electronify them. Then we started touring and things blew up and we ended up having a six piece band so we wanted to push that band feeling more in our material. There was more guitars added to try find that. 

One day I wrote the start of ‘It’s Not My Problem’ on an acoustic guitar and it went from there. The way we’ve written our songs over the years is I will start by coming up with the music and the chorus and then Connie will come up with the verses. We don’t usually set out with an intention for a song, they sort of just happen and that’s what happened with that track. It was so different to the other material we were making at the time but we just went with it.    

TB: It was crazy to see how many people knew all the lyrics to ‘Kansas City’ from ‘2’ when you played that live at Rudimental. 

AM: It was so cool to see that! They are pretty weird songs, aren’t they? We don’t ever sit back and listen to our old music but one day we did actually listen to ‘2’ in full and we realised just how all over the place and strange it was. It’s completely different vibes to anything else we’d done but it’s cool. 

TB: ’UFO’ has had a massive cultural impact over the years with so many different covers, remixes and versions flying around in the atmosphere, what has been one of your favourite interpretations? 

AM: There just seems to be more and more popping up which continually surprises us. There has been some cool punk versions of it but I always find myself really digging the softer versions. There was a girl who recently did a slow half beat version of it and it was so beautiful.

Whenever people reinterpret your material it really does give you a unique buzz. That song is the song that most people know and it’s so exciting to see people still connect with it. 

TB: Looking at the way electronic music has grown over the past ten years, has there been any electronic trends that you’ve been surprised about? 

AM: There has been a massive shift in electronic music and we saw it start to lean towards the mainstream market. We did a lot of writing overseas with some big names and it was a horrible experience. We hated it. It sucked the life out of the music for us. But the silver lining of this was that proper house music went back to proper house music and proper techno music went back to proper techno music. Those things became super popular again and it’s such a great thing. It reached maximum exploitation but then it reverted back. 

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.

AM: I’m so bad at these! But let’s try…

TB: Our pre show pump up song is…

AM: Silence *laughs*. 

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

AM: a NO!

TB: The emoji that best describes Sneaky Sound System is…

AM: The party one and the lasers one too . 

TB: My go to snack on tour is…

AM: Nut bars!

TB: My favourite Sneaky Sound System song is…

AM: ‘I Love It’! It was such a significant moment for us and it’s still really special to me. 

Scene & Heard Festival Dates

Sunday 27 October – Barlow Park, Cairns 

Saturday 2 November – Eatons Hill, Brisbane

Sunday 10 November – Wickham Park, Newcastle

Ticketing Info: https://sceneandheardfestival.com.au

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