Slum Sociable is the latest band to emerge from the tidal wave of talent coming out of Australia’s thriving music scene.
Consisting of Miller Upchurch as the vocalist and percussionist, and Edward Quinn as the mastermind behind production, keys and guitar, the Melbourne duo’s early releases, while sparse, left us in a hypnotic trance and wanting more. Building on this, their long-awaited self-titled LP is shinier and more polished than ever.
“It’s a totally different sonic landscape from our previous material, despite it all having been written over the course of three years,” Upchurch told Lyfstyl.
While the duo refer to their own music as “lo-fo, washed out jazz hop,” there is truly no blueprint to their sound. Instead, Slum Sociable find themselves at the intersection of multiple genres, most notably electronica, soul and hip-hop. In the summer, the duo dropped the dark and brooding single “Castle” to drive home the announcement of their debut album, giving the music world a brief preview of the twelve polished and textured tracks that make up of Slum Sociable.
Leading up to the release, however, Upchurch shared a heartfelt message with fans out of the blue, addressing a lack of activity from pair. Citing the vocalist’s ongoing struggles with depression for the better part of the last ten months, Upchurch admitted to feeling like he was in a downward spiral mentally.
“You wake up in the morning stressed about nothing,” Upchurch wrote in a personal essay published to the Huffington Post last month. “You get tired by midday because it’s exhausting to fight yourself on every topic you think about, meticulously pick apart how your social interactions went and stop yourself from zoning out of conversations. Sometimes just keeping your head above water is the best you can do.”
With this sudden announcement also came their decision to push the release of their album to November 24th, as Upchurch’s mental condition no longer allowed for the initial early October timeline.
Since addressing their fans, the duo haven’t been shy about using their platform to raise awareness on mental health. Ed Quinn, who has been fiercely supportive of his musical partner throughout his ongoing struggles, revealed that when he recently lost someone close to him, it was Miller who had been there for him. The chemistry of the duo, as musical partners and long-time friends, is on full display, and the body of work that is of Slum Sociable is the product. The deep closeness of the issue to the bandmates is a storyline in itself and being able to speak out is something to be commended.
“I’ve personally had a lot of trouble with voicing my problems and addressing them with anyone, let alone the general public, so it felt like a bold move in the right direction for me,” Upchurch admitted. “It was a way of forcing myself to stop hiding from and ignoring the issue and to show other people that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
At its core, Slum Sociable is a great showcase for music’s role in emotion, mental health and personal growth. This is what makes this album, which started out as a university project between the two, truly special–how the real emotion felt by the duo carries over throughout the music. The essence of the album is epitomized on tracks like “Moby Bryant,” in which Upchurch himself sings about feelings of complacency and stagnation, and “Castle,” which dives deep into the walls we put up around ourselves and the process of breaking through them.
Upchurch, who writes all the lyrics himself, even admitted that the writing and recording process became increasingly challenging as time went on. The atmospheric mood of the tracks is further bolstered by the personal lyrical content, sung by Upchurch’s hazing, yet soothing vocals himself. Everything from the inherent tension to the highs and lows of the creative process can be heard and felt throughout Slum Sociable, humbly bridging the connection between music and emotion.
“It seems that no matter who you speak to, everyone has a song, album or artist of some kind that helps them cope,” Upchurch said. “It’s always so different as well, like I’ll listen to something like ‘Celebrate’ by Anderson .Paak if I want a mood boost, or anything by Sigur Ros if I really want to explore my sadness.”
Slum Sociable paints a picture of humanity in a very relatable manner. We all crave love and companionship, but how do we keep it going without it fizzling out? The twelve tracks that make up the album show complete synchronisation between Upchurch and Quinn, resulting in an album that leaves enough space to further explore emotion and meaning on each listen.
Words by Braeden Alexander.