INTERVIEW: Tornado Club

The art of collaboration is a beautiful thing. And when two artists come together to create something so diversely different to their solo material that still feels so authentic to their artistry, then you know that you’re witnessing something special. 

The Kite String Tangle and Woodes collaborated together 4 years ago on a song called ‘Your Love’ that had glimpses of magic but just didn’t feel right in the current space and time they were in. It never got finished, and sat in files on their hard drives hoping that one day it might make more sense. Re-entering a session a couple of years later in the wake of a devastating heartbreak for Danny Harley (The Kite String Tangle), him and Elle Graham (Woodes) wrote a track called ‘Intuition’ which was very much centred in the vulnerability and emotion of that exact moment. Looking at each other, they knew they were onto something special and from there the vision for Tornado Club was officially born. 

Their debut EP ‘Reset’ is an exploration of the emotional intensity and cathartic freeness that happens during a break-up. It’s soundtracked through a brooding electronic production soaked in dark synths and a hopeful dance energy. ‘Your Love’ finally found a home on this EP as well as four new songs and a unique cover of t.A.T.u’s ‘All The Things She Said’ that perfectly introduce what this project represents for the two artists. 

I recently chatted to Danny Harley (The Kite String Tangle) and Elle Graham (Woodes) from Tornado Club about how the creative process behind their debut EP ‘Reset’ differed from their solo projects, discussed the vulnerable heartbreak themes, and dived into that surprising t.A.T.u cover of ‘All The Things She Said’. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Tornado Club is a collaborative project that happened really organically after one session together. What was the first song you wrote for ‘Reset’, and what was the last? 

DANNY HARLEY: The first one was actually written four years ago, but we didn’t actually know it was for ‘Reset’. The first one we wrote knowing it was going to be for this and that it was going to be the start of a new project was ‘Intuition’ which is one of the more somber moments on the EP but it’s really raw and honest. It was the first one that felt like something new and special and we knew we wanted to explore that more. 

ELLE GRAHAM: The last one we would’ve written was literally the last song on the EP ‘Let Go’. The EP from start too finish goes through this reconciliation through heartbreak and looks towards the future, so it is quite chronological. 

TB: What was that song you both wrote four years ago? 

DH: It was ‘Your Love’! I had this idea that I was going to do all of these beats and have other people sing on them, and I never ended up doing it but I really liked that beat. I thought it would be really cool to get Elle and Hayden Calnin do a duet, so I got them into a room with myself and it was good but it always felt a little bit half-baked. A few years later Elle and I revisited it and thought it fitted perfectly with the EP sonically and thematically, so we finished it off. And you can actually still hear some of Hayden’s vocals in the chorus. 

TB: With that journey between ‘Your Love’ and ‘Let Go’, what conversation did you have about what you wanted this EP to represent thematically?

DH: I think thematically it became like what Elle said, a break-up EP that goes through the stages and sees us coming out the other end. I don’t think that was the intention, but it just happened that way and it was unavoidable. But I think we are both excited to write about something else moving forward *laughs*. 

EG: With the nature of it being called ‘Reset’, we don’t actually say the word “Reset” in the EP and instead it’s more the all encompassing feeling where it was us starting again through figuring out a new sound and everything opposed to making something just huge. It was all about delving into the vulnerability, the personal, and us as friends just trying to talk something out. 

TB: What was it explicitly about this project that felt like a personal and artistic escapism for both of you from your own individual projects?

EG: I would say it was just really exciting for me as I’ve always loved Danny’s production, songwriting and all-round business mind. Every time I talk to him we just have infinite things to talk about as we are excited about similar things. And to be able to make music quickly is always exciting when you find these creative partnerships where it’s not draining or anything, and is just an extension of where you wanna take yourself. 

DH: Whenever you’re doing a solo project you want to be in a group, and whenever you’re in a group you wanna be doing a solo project, it’s kinda like that “grass is always greener on the other side” thing. So I think we both got to scratch that itch by doing this project and share that creative workload and highs and lows with each other.

TB: ‘No Surprise’ is an immediate standout on the EP with it’s reflective lyrics and cinematically scored production. Can you explain how the creative process behind this track? 

DH: This song was actually written in Melbourne at Elle’s place. It came together a couple of months after our initial writing sessions for ‘Intuition’ where we first realised what this project was going to be. It was basically a continuation of ‘Intuition’ thematically as it was just an update of where everything was at. It was nice as we wrote it by going back to basics. 

We had just had a week of writing, and it was just one of those off days where nothing was working so we decided to go back to as few chords as possible and just on an acoustic instrument like a guitar or piano and build it up from there. We did that and then this song came out in less than half an hour.

EG: It was a hard one to write as it is really vulnerable and very “matter of fact”. The demo initially was Danny singing the verses and me singing the chorus as I thought we should go up in the chorus, but we weren’t completely sold on it. So it stayed like that for a while, and we kept saying we needed to finish it as we knew there was something special about it. 

TB: The EP features a beautiful and very unique cover to t.A.T.u’s ‘All the Things She Said’. What drew you both to this song as one you wanted to reinterpret for this project because it’s kinda like the curveball of the EP? 

EG: *Laughs* totally!

DH: I think that’s half the reason we wanted to do it as it is quite a curveball. I personally just love it when I hear a song that is super gangsta or bubblegum pop and it’s reinterpreted in this really beautiful way. Those are my favourite covers, so I’ve always wanted to find a song to do that to. I then thought of this song a few years ago and have just been sitting on it and waiting for the perfect time to do it, and then pitched it to Elle and she was up for it thankfully. 

EG: I still remember tracking vocals remotely over a piano version of it, and I sent it back and Danny  put the bass and the big beat in and I had it up really loud listening to it back and when it came in I was just like “WOAH”. He was like “I think I’ve over cooked it” and I was like “no you haven’t!”. It was a no-brainer to put on this EP. It just suits everything thematically and sonically, as well as being a great introduction to something new. 

TB: You both are no strangers to gorgeously penned soundscapes with intricate production that pulls in a variety of different references. So what is one of the most surprising samples or instruments on this EP? 

EG: The acoustic guitar is kinda cool I think as it started as acoustic and then was pitched down to be the bass in ‘Intuition’. I don’t think either of us would do that in our own projects, it’s really cool. 

DH: There is also a synth that sounds like a guitar that we use throughout the tracks on the EP. It’s basically a synth that goes through this spring-reverb. There is also some sampled hang drum in ‘No Surprise’. 

TB: This EP happened in the heart of a break-up for you Danny. So would you say this EP was a cathartic exploration of that for you? Or did it become almost an escapism from that reality? 

DH: It was definitely cathartic. We started writing literally straight after it happened, and I don’t think you would normally start writing or even talk about it until after you had some time to process it. But through music and working with Elle, I was kinda forced to work through it all which was really nice as I may have otherwise ignored it all and got really drunk or something instead *laughs*. 

TB: The music video for the lead single ‘Something Was Missing’ is a moody and industrial stylised video that uses dance to tell the story. Danny was using this approach something you leaned towards after working on Aftermath with Australian Dance Collective?

DH: I’ve always loved dance in music videos as I truly think music and dance are made for each other. For Elle and I, we were pretty clear on what we wanted visually for this project, and it was funny because I was working with ADC at the time and I was like “I have the perfect dancer for this”. So I started to show Elle and Pixel Frame videos of Josie Weise because she has this crazy movement where it’s beautiful but also jarring. But definitely the relationship with ADC and Aftermath made that possible. 

TB: You have plans to eventually bring this project to the live stage. What is the live show looking like for Tornado Club? Is it going to have visuals? Is it just you two? Is there a band? 

DH: It’s still in the design faze, but it’s one of our favourite things to conceptualise. We are going to set aside some time to really hone in on that once we know what the perimeters are with the venue sizes etc. But I think we are both pretty sold on a duo show with a heavy visual element whether that be on a projector, LED screens, or for a while there we got pretty deep in fabricating LED cubes we were going to be in. So either way it’s essentially going to be a heavy light and visual show that is quite dancey.

EG: We are writing new stuff at the moment and it’s definitely pushing into that more dancey, upbeat style. I also think because we were imagining the visual side of this simultaneously to the music, we have a lot of mood boards surrounding the live shows. 

What song from both of your respective back catalogs would you like to reinterpret through the Tornado Club soundscape in this live show?

DH: I think for you Elle, ‘Close’ will be really cool as we wrote it together, and it’s just one of my favourite songs. 

EG: Yeah that would be cool! I can imagine it with running it through some synths and making it really minimal and beautiful that way. 

DH: For me, I think ‘KILLING TIME’ would be really cool.

EG: Ooooh yeah, and I could sing Eliott’s parts!

‘Reset’ is out now!