Client Liaison On Their Debut Album, Evolving Aesthetic & Working With Tina Arena

Melbourne-hailing duo Client Liaison have carved out a niche in the music market over the past few years, winning fans across the country with their Australiana-themed beats and ’80s aesthetic. Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller’s hugely theatrical live show is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining going around at the moment, and now, after a long and hard slog, they’re finally releasing their debut album Diplomatic Immunity.

For Client Liaison, it’s the culmination of years of planning and work, and there’s a palpable sense of relief to have it finally completed. “It feels monumental,” says Morgan. “It feels like we were forever mixing, but it probably wasn’t that long. As you get towards the end everything becomes very finicky and you get diminishing returns with every investment that you put in. So to finally finish it is amazing.”

Now, they can finally get going with a bunch of other things that they’ve had to put on hold. Morgan explains, “It’s just one foot in front of the other now; we’re turning to press now, and getting on to our next venture which is our designer range and our limousine business. It’s nice to take a breath but then keep on running.”

Diplomatic Immunity is a record that is, perhaps unexpectedly, brimming with a hugely diverse range of sonic styles and sounds. There’s everything from the funk, synth-driven tunes we’ve come to love from the guys, to kookaburra samples, horns, and some bass-driven techno beats. Keeping themselves and their fans guessing is key for Client Liaison. “That’s one of the most important things that we do,” says Morgan. “We’re always looking for something different to change the flavour, just for our own sake as well,” he explains. “We like the idea of diversity, it comes very naturally to us as well,” adds Miller.

But despite the variety, all the tracks are still undeniably situated within the duo’s very distinctive sonic universe. “I think it’s in the sound and the instruments we use, and the fact that it’s me singing most of the time,” Morgan says. “That’s just the basis and Harvey’s production techniques usually one foot in front of the other. Harvey started introducing samples a few years ago, and started changed the way beats were constructed but it’s always just one step away from the last thing. It’s just adding, and we’re always trying to grow.”

A huge part of that sonic aesthetic is the use of Australiana driven samples – and the first song on the new record Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight is a veritable treasure trove of the sounds of this country. It starts off with a kookaburra laughing, played over the top of what sounds like a parliamentary debate. Miller explains that the sample was taken from actual audio from parliament house in Canberra, “Yes! Yes it’s real and yeah, it is real.”

“That song was probably overdoing the samples a little bit but we just wanted to create a palette of sonic gluttony and there’s a lot of samples in there, especially if you pop the headphones on you can really get the psycho-acoustics going,” continues Miller. “The subject matter of the lyrics is about the insider Canberra culture, and it was very fitting to- as the title of the track would suggest, have people from Canberra, from parliament house in the song.”

Although there are plenty of fun samples and other tidbits to wrap your ears around, Diplomatic Immunity is, first and foremost, a record based around exciting melodies and pulsating beats, with the samples coming later in the process. “They might be there from the start but they can always be moved around,” explains Morgan. “It starts with a beat and chord progressions, and a bassline usually – and from there it’s the melody and the lyrics – then it’s all the details after that.”

Inevitably, we come to talking about the hugely exciting cameo by Aussie ’90s darling Tina Arena, who sings vocals with Monte Morgan on the track A Foreign Affair. “Yeah, it was a dream come true,” Morgan says. “We’re huge fans of hers, and we just put it out there. Then our manager actually reached out to her management and she came in and smashed it out in one take. It was already referencing her already, with the reference to Sorrento Moon. When it actually happens it was really just a great realisation.”

Despite having a long-conceived vision for the track, Morgan admits that the addition of Arena was inspired and worked out better than he and Miller could have imagined. “Originally I was singing everything but it was out of my register,” says Morgan of the track.

“We’d had that song for quite a while, we’d worked on the vocals for a long time, and all the different harmonies we did. We’ll often do six vocal sessions for a song over three months, and every time we added more. Then when we got Tina’s voice in there it was a whole new palette and we went ‘wow!’ So we got to pick and choose parts and really get that idea of a duet. Each of us hitting different parts of our registers and separately.”

Another key part of keeping the Client Liaison aesthetic as a core part of the band’s music is through their incredible stylish video clips, the latest of which, Wild Life, has a tax evasion theme. Although keeping the style of the clip within the Liaison cannon was important, the guys explain that it all starts off as a bit of fun. “I think that’s the initial starting point for just about everything we do; fun,” says Morgan.

“We’re having a lot of fun, whether it’s designing clothes or writing songs, and I think that Wild Life is really fun – we just love the idea of the ATO cracking down on us and all the permutations of it,” continues Morgan. “From there it turns from fun to seriousness and you try to create a layered meaning, and make sure it’s conveyed well. And then there’s the logistical side of it. So you come out on the other end going ‘nice!’ But it’s only when you see other people laughing at it and having a fun time as well that you think yeah, it is fun.”

When it comes to their videos, their retro-outfitted skiing shenanigans in the clip for Feed The Rhythm have comfortably the most views on YouTube out of any of their videos. “I think it would be quite funny if we had the idea to do a skiing clip and it wasn’t us skiing,” laughs Miller. “That would probably be more interesting. But no, it is us. We grew up skiing and snowboarding, so it was always the ace up our sleeve and we’d always planned to do it for a clip. Feed The Rhythm was the perfect song for it.”

Truly, though, you haven’t experienced the full spectacle that is Client Liaison until you’ve seen them live, and with every show and every passing tour it is a show that seems to grow – adding more choreography, more props and better lighting. Monte Morgan’s dancing is truly inspired, and luckily enough it comes naturally to him.

“I’ve always danced, I’ve always loved dancing,” he says. “Pure expression, I think it’s the best of all expression. But I’ve always loved it. I used to walk up and down Chapel Street with friends and we’d wait until there was some funky music playing and I’d bust in, take over the dance floor and bust out. It seems like a natural extension to go on stage and dance, but it’s nice to refine it and bring the band in, and bring choreography in.“

“We’ve always said our goal is to present a multi-sensory experience, and that what we’ve aimed to try and do,” explains Miller. “When you’re entertaining there’s always one thing you haven’t thought of, so you need to remind yourself ‘hold on people are looking more than they’re listening,’ or there needs to be a narrative to this, or there needs to be a special moment in this song,” adds Morgan. “It comes from the concept of theatre, we like to use that term a lot. Basically, it’s theatre.”

As for what we can expect from Client Liaison from their forthcoming performances at festivals including Spilt Milk and Field Day? “There’ll be some new songs in the set,” reveals Miller. “We’re also making some additions to our live show staging. We’ve currently got the water coolers which you may have seen, but we’re also adding the reception desk to that. There’ll be more choreography, new lighting patterns, new visuals. There’s going to be everything on every front, added upon.”

‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is out now. Grab a copy here.

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