Two People: In the “Bubble” of ‘Second Body’ [Interview]

Interview with Two People

Melbourne duo Two People have a way of shrouding everything they touch in mystery, casting shadows of synths and dark, winding corridors of intrigue. At the same time, they’ll shock you with an indescribable transparency.

Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough have been all about compelling, less-is-more statements since the project’s debut in 2016. They’ve released two full bodies – literally – of work so far, moving from 2019’s ‘First Body’ on to recent release ‘Second Body’. “I think [the titles] in a way [were] about keeping the albums connected while also capturing the parts that had evolved,” vocalist Phoebe explains. “The music evolves like we evolve. We treat albums as worlds of their own, and they reflect a time and place creatively. There’s ambiguity to it, but it’s also just saying it how it is – in the same way that ‘Two People’ does.”

It’s almost as if the band presents listeners a chance to interpret the world of Two People as their own, without preconceived notions or thematic attachments. The cover art for ‘Second Body’: a simple, contrasting “2P” on a black background. The lyrics: poignant fragments of reality, like pieces of broken dreams. The sounds: at times, nostalgically familiar; at other moments, fascinatingly foreign – but always brimming with pulsating, addicting movements.

The two halves of the duo have their contrasts, with “deeply intuitive” Phoebe captivated by the written word, and “quiet and emotional” Joey drawing from instincts and explorations of feelings, as he describes. But since the pair see eye to eye about nearly everything, any differences act as complementary strengths. “The vision for our band is to make sounds and visuals that we want to hear and be in,” instrumentalist Joey relates. “We feel lucky that we both seem to always like the same things. That hasn’t really changed since we started the project. It’s just always been about creating a body of work reflective of the moments we are in.”

And when listening to ‘Second Body’, those moments envelop your senses. The album feels present and alive. At first impression, there’s something remarkable about how its digitally processed soundscape seems raw and undeniably human; on closer listen, its gritty and spontaneous atmosphere seems to be bursting with the sparks of electric currents running dangerously under the surface. The songs have the kind of cohesive vibrations that easily allow you to get lost inside of one space.

As Phoebe explains, taking refuge in an isolated cabin outside of Melbourne this time around was a game-changer for their creative process. “We made a really conscious choice to get out of the city and create our own bubble for this record,” she says. “We knew the songs were going to be a bit more forward and freaky, so we needed space to move and breathe with that vibe. We were on top of a hill with no one around – just a few cows and the weather. It was a really different experience compared to being in the middle of the city in our old studio with the trams and the constructions bleeding into the recordings.”

Maybe it’s their conscious effort to look inward and block out the world that establishes a timeless feel – as effortlessly cool as vintage clothing or grainy Polaroid photos. “I think we like the idea of music being neither old nor new,” Joey muses. “I guess we try don’t really think about it, whether it’s modern or more referential to the past. I feel like it just reflects what we listen to and seeps in.” These textures, although perceptible on ‘First Body’, are even more pronounced on ‘Second Body’. Whether it’s a dial turning on a synth line, the rebound of a fleeing echo, or the right ache in Phoebe’s voice, the tracks never cease to find beauty in deterioration.

In some cases, they find it in simplicity as well. Introductory single “Dream Steppin’” is a different kind of daring, with the vocals founded on one rhythm – and even one note – for the majority of the track. “This song is super special in that way,” Phoebe expresses. “It started out as just the groove; so just the bass, drums, and that rhythm in the percussion. It was just minimal and we kind of knew that was its strength, so we built out the chorus chords on the piano. There was something so compelling about those; they almost felt gospel. We had this perfect fuzzy organ sound on the Juno, and everything felt good and kind of hypnotic, but it was just instrumental at that point.”

“I had a page of words I’d written down from a month or so back, from dreams i was having,” she continues. ”I always write them down as soon as I wake up. I guess it helps me when I’m feeling terrified. But there was so much power in them, and I remember wanting to use them for this track and tribute that dark part of my brain or soul or whatever. I spent a whole day trying out melodies. Nothing fit. I was getting really frustrated and feeling the pressure. Eventually we tried one rhythm and one note, and the chord change in the chorus felt like a miracle. It was somehow enough. Sometimes less is way more, and we’re proud of this one.” The track snakes steadily forward and builds up like a chant until it bursts, dazzling bright like sunlight finally breaking through. Unique, still, is the painfully vivid way the phrases tumble out in a sequential drip, like brutally honest words spoken in haste: “Hot moonlight // She’s laughing // He’s craving // I’m dreaming”.

“I think I always write from a personal place,” the singer tells us. “I can’t help it in a way. I want the lyrics to carry more than a personal meaning, and become something bigger, something relatable.” She mentions the second verse in ‘Breaking the Silence’, in which she exhales, “Breaking the silence now that // I’m looking at you side lit while we chat // I’m usually private until I’m turning away taking it off // Living outside ain’t enough // When the windows so cold to touch // Yeah I went outside once swear I felt myself falling in love”. Her translation: “To me, this verse is really sultry and suggestive. It describes the tension behind a really intimate moment, and how it feels to let go and give in.”

Between sweet spots of restraint and glorious, colorful surges, it’s clear that Phoebe and Joey excel at toying with tension, both lyrically and sonically. “This is something we just do naturally I think,” Phoebe says. “It’s how we collaborate. It’s all about creating a feeling. I hear a lot of tension in ‘Loud’ and it feels so good to me, like it’s accepted it. It’s aware. It never really resolves…it could just groove on and on.” From the the track’s first clicks to the last traces of the groove fading into the distance, it’s an incessant circulation, with graceful, pining melodies embellishing the surface.

Whatever the future holds, we know that Two People are buzzing with innovative energy to come. Their music might capture you with its mystery, but you’ll soon realize just how real it is – and that’s sure to take your breath away.

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