Talking Tina Arena, the ATO and White Limousines with Client Liaison’s Monte Morgan

– interview by Dariya Salmin

With the new debut album Diplomatic Immunity, tell me a bit about the process? What was the work that went into making that album?
Monte Morgan
: We always record and write songs, it keeps us sane, keeps us healthy and I guess we had some songs that we were playing in our live shows for quite a while, feels like years now and they got a good response so they were the genesis I guess, “Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight” and “Hotel Stay” and also soon after “Foreign Affair” and they all had a very similar travel and international theme to them. So then out of the twenty to fifty songs that we wrote, we just kind of zoned in on the ones that worked well next to those I guess. And over the course of two years or whatever, there were times of abundance and times of drought and we moved spaces and worked with all kind of different locations and overcame obstacles, I mean which one of the most successful challenges we faced with our song writing was bringing in other musicians, which was really fun. So we worked with actively trying to seek as many other creative people and see their process, see their song writing process and work with them which was really fun. And then we got given a dead line and didn’t hand it in, and then we got given another dead line and didn’t hand it in, got given another and didn’t hand it in and finally we were like ‘ok ok we can do it, there’s something good here,’ and then we handed in an album.

Yeah that sounds awesome. And so obviously the writing process has changed quite a bit from the first EP that you did, to now, having a lot of collaborators work on the album, can you talk me through how that process has changed?
Generally, it’s worked in many different ways but the general format is that Harvey will create a beat with a chord progression and then I’ll sing over it and then we’ll come together, I’ll usually have some melody and lyrics and some arrangement ideas and then we will work on it together for a bit and then we will work on it separately but our songs usually take a long time to finish because we’re never satisfied and we always want more out of them so if the ideas working really well then we will work on it, maybe put it aside and start to work on something else. And so that would still happen with collaborators, it’s a kinda similar process. They might come in at different times. They might come in at the start or they might come in at the end and they might help with something that they think is good or not good enough. Or it might be from scratch with them, and we give them a beat. But yeah, pretty multiplicand.

Yeah sounds like it. And so Tina Arena did a Foreign Affair, which is such an awesome song! So how did that come about, how did you get her to collaborate and what was her input with the song?
Harvey wrote some of the verse lyrics, “as we kiss on the beach of Sorrento,” he’s a huge Tina Arena fan and then when we wrote the chorus it was out of my register and I was like ‘I can’t sing that,’ so we thought to get a girl in and he was like ‘Tina!’ and then we told our manager who made it a reality, which we were blown away with. And she came in one session, she had already heard the song and liked it, and then she just put the lyrics in front of herself and smashed it out of the park. But she really put a spin on it. My biggest fear was that she would do her thing and she would sound great but she wouldn’t sound like Tina Arena, but she really does and it actually really suits her. It’s amazing because even just changing one note in the melody or like the affectation of your voice or what syllable you put the accent on can change things so much and that’s what she did. And it was like ‘wow, you’re singing it like this,’ and she’d just tweak it that little bit and it would just sound amazing. So we were just blown away.

Has she had an influence on how you would now sing or write songs?
I was more blown away with her conviction just in general, just because she has a lot of attitude, in a good way. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get the most out of the world which I really like. And she was very vocal, she was like – I don’t know how to describe it – almost like a family member that brings the party together among kids, that kind of vibe, like a mother figure.

Like the fun Auntie who brings all the good presents to Christmas.
Yeah yeah! She just had this like ‘fuck it, let’s do it attitude!’ which I really liked.

That sounds awesome. So Tina was Harvey’s dream collaborator, if you could pick someone who would be yours? Dead or alive.
I’d have to say Prince, because I spent that many years following him and researching him. And watching him play live and I’ve danced on stage with him and sung with him on stage but the only reason I’d like to collaborate with him is to just to witness him work in the studio because I just think he’s the pinnacle of recorded music.

When did you perform with him?
Before I was making my own music, I was, pretty much my life was Prince. And India. I used to travel to India quite a bit. And yeah I’d see him play live and he brought me up on stage on three occasions. I’d dance and sing a verse, it was nothing major but it was the best time of my life, the best memory of my life ever. It was once in Vegas, once in Sydney and once in Melbourne.

That sounds so epic! So the new single Wildlife, who came up with the idea of the 80s style tax evasion video clip and how did it all come together?
We’ve always loved the idea of the ATO and the ATO symbol and I think it was Harvey’s cousin, Tom Moody, who’s helped us out with a lot of film clips, was like ‘you need to be on run from the get go’. So we have these kind of Client Liasion flash ideas that we’re always talking about them and then when it came to this we thought it matched. And then we brought in a producer Ruth and our director Tim and they really ran with it and brought it to life. It was our first studio music video, which was really interesting. It was only two days of shooting, two huge days of shooting but very well organized.

Yeah I love the outfits you guys are wearing. Which brings me to my question about your clothing line, so you guys have created a clothing line that’s coming out this summer?
Yeah! We’ve just launched it in Melbourne. We’ve just packed up the store today and it was selling like hot cakes. So I don’t even know if it’s going to make it online because it’s selling out of so many items.

So what are you guys selling?
Bum bags, ladies one piece, high cut slim piece, budgie smugglers, rash vests, caps, t-shirts, shorts, sunglasses, straps, beach robes towels, it’s like a beach summer theme.

Nice. And on your expertise, because you both obviously have really great style, in your opinion what’s hot this summer? And what’s not?
Well peach and reef are hot and black is not.

[laughs] ok sounds good!
Because there are a lot of people out there that only wear black.

Yeah it’s a very Melbourne thing.
It is, it is. It exists in quite a few places and they actually think that they’re totally out there for only wearing all black but the reality is that your eyes just go straight past them. With my friends that only wear black, I always tell them ‘you’ve got to introduce colour into your life.’ Not just to be seen but to have some more happiness.

No I 100 percent agree, I love colour. And you guys are really into your Australiana, so here’s a scenario for you. You’re at Sizzler and you’ve just paid for the salad bar. You grab a plate and walk up to all the food, what’s the first thing you grab?
Cheesy toast of course.

Yep good answer!
So we don’t have Sizzler anymore in Melbourne.

What you don’t have Sizzler anymore?
No it’s dying. We’re trying to bring it back. Yeah and they’re rebranding and I don’t know if they’re rebranding too well. We had it growing up and we loved it and that’s why when we go to WA or Queensland, I think there’s only one in NSW as well, we always go straight to it. It’s reliving those glorious days of you know, family packed entertainment.

Yeah for sure! There’s quite a few left in Perth but they are more in the outer suburbs. I think there’s like three. But I don’t think they’re dying out anytime soon, I hope not! So when are you guys next in WA?
I think on the 7th of January.

Yeah that’s right for Falls. So you’re playing Falls, are there any other shows you’re playing that’s coming up?
Pretty much a festival in every state over summer, so it’s a pretty hectic time right now. But a lot of work to do with the live shows, because we’ve got a new album with new songs to put in.

So have you started preparing them yet?
Yeah I mean there’s a lot of back end work. Especially with computers and gear. So yeah we’ve made the first step.

You’re obviously very visual in your performing, with costumes, dancing and that kind of thing, is there anything that’s going to be a bit different this time?
We always try add more elements, little narrative style elements to the show so it segways together with moments of theatre and visuals but I think the festival experience is always different to our more theatre experience but yeah we’ll still keep it pumped up. We always try add new things.

That sounds good. So you and Harvey have known each other for a long time, what’s your fondest memory or your favourite memory that you’ve shared together?
There’s too many! I couldn’t pin down just one. Life is a constantly evolving experience in itself and we’ve done so many great things together.

It sounds like it and I’m sure there are even greater things to come! So what is on the cards after the summer of festivals, are you guys going to do any overseas trips?
Yeah! So we’ll do these festivals and then have a little bit of a break and then we’ll do a tour of our own around Australia and then go Europe and the States. That’s the plan and then a few more music videos; we’ve got another music video coming out soon.

What’s the single for it?
It’s “Off White Limousine”, we bought a white limousine for it. We’ve been riding around Melbourne in it. We did some press in it, we did a music video. We want to go into the limousine business next year.

[laughs] so do you guys have a driver or are you driving this thing yourselves?
I haven’t driven it, we’ve been driven around but it’s constantly evolving. We’ve got to get the perfect fit.

That’s awesome, you guys are killing it! Well that’s pretty much everything I have today, thanks so much for your time Monte!
No worries!

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