Perth trio Crooked Colours have been topping the ARIA Australian Dance charts with their sophomore album Langata, which they released earlier this year. Phil Slabber, Leon Debaughn and Liam Merrett-Park have developed a must-see live show, from originally playing house parties to recently packing out Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival with an audience of thousands.
Having just touched down on home soil after an extensive back-to-back Australian/NZ and North American tour, we got the chance to quickly catch Leon for a chat before the boys head off on a string of summer festivals.
How are you doing Leon?
I’m good. Just in my studio, at home, about to head out to a festival actually this weekend, so getting ready for that.
Oh, very nice. Where is home for you right now?
I’m based in Perth at the moment.
That’s what I thought. I was wondering if you guys had kicked Perth or not… Be a nice time by the beach.
Yeah, that’s it. I’m just in Fremantle, so I’m not sure if you know Perth very well but it’s like a cool little town and it’s nice to come back here and chill out.
I’m well acquainted with Freo. It’s a good time there.
You’ve had a phenomenal year for Crooked Colours. You guys released your second studio album this year, Langata. And then you’ve toured it all around the world. How was the North American reception compared to Australia?
Yeah, it’s been crazy. We released the album and kicked off the Australian tour, which was incredible and didn’t have a break. After that we traveled straight over to the States and did all their summer festivals, which was eyeopening to say the least. Like the scale of the festivals there it’s incredible really. Like, the first one we played at was Bonnaroo, and that is 100,000 people or something. It was huge, so that was sick to do that. And then we did our own headline run that we’ve just come back from actually. All of September, and it’s been cool to see. We’ve got a big fan base there now and we’ve pulled out a bunch of shows. So that was, yeah, really exciting.
Yeah, that’d be really satisfying because I imagine it’s not the first time you’ve been to the States, so to see that reception grow and you’ve sold out a couple of shows over there, which is phenomenal. Is there a show that stood out from the tour or was it all kind of a blur?
No, I think one show which surprised us a lot was Denver, Colorado. Yeah, they have that really famous Red Rocks amphitheatre there, but they have a really big music culture. That show sold out pretty much straight away when it was put on sale, so I think they really love Australian music over there, so that’s a real surprise for us.
Do you get to see much on the road? Do you kind of treat it like Contiki where you’re like, “Oh, that place was great, I got to come back there.” You know what I mean?
A little bit. I mean we, a lot of it is we have a sprinter van that we drive to each state with. So, we get to see a lot of the countryside of America, which is fine. You don’t normally get to see much of, which is kind of cool. You get to see the real America, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I would just imagine a lot of desert and highways.
There’s a lot of desert highways, yeah. That’s really cool, to kind of drive through America, seeing what it’s all about, so now we drive.
Yeah, that’d be quite quintessential. You mentioned it before that you played a couple of festivals over there and you’ve got a bunch of Australian festivals lined up before the year’s out, including NYE In The Park. What a way to welcome a new decade!
Yeah I know. The lineup is huge. We’re just playing with Hermitude actually over the last couple of weekends at The Grass is Greener Festival. But I believe they’re headlining this one, so that’s crazy good.
Is there anyone else on the lineup you’re most excited to see?
Well, obviously the Safia boys. We’re really good friends with them, and I think Sneaky Sound System. I haven’t seen them play in forever. I’m interested to see what their set’s like these days.
I caught them at Yours and Owls Festival the other weekend and I’ll tell you right now, they are phenomenal live. I couldn’t… I just completely forgot! They were off my radar and then I was like, ah, Sneaky Sound System. It was insane.
Yeah, they were like what, 2010 kind of like smashing it out. They’ve got all those old hits…
‘UFO’ in the likes, exactly. And there’s a couple of Falcona friends on the lineup as well, which will be good for you guys.
Yeah, always good to have a little bit of a crew. I feel like it’s going to be a bit of a party. It’s going to be hard to keep a lid on it for that one.
Then you’ll be hitting up Falls pretty much straight away.
Exactly. I think we have to go the next morning, that is going to be a rough one.
Yeah, but well worth it. You’ve got to party hard.
Well worth it, that’s it. Yeah.
Talking about live show experiences, that’s quite a large part of your brand I would say. Is that, you know, Crooked Colours are known for their live shows. Is that something you really consider when you’re even making your music? Like when you’re going into a second album and the likes?
I think definitely. The first one, it wasn’t so much, just kind of wrote the song, not really thinking about the live. But, the second record, we wrote a lot of it on the road while we were touring the first album. So we kind of always were thinking about how that was going to be received live. So I think that’s probably the main reason we decided to make a little more dancier music. Just so that people can dance and have fun at the shows rather than just kind of standing there and watching us. So that’s always a good thing for us!
As an audience member, good thing for us to, I’d have to say!
Yeah, we definitely, moving forward as well, we’re looking to make dancier music because I think that’s just fun to play live. And I think we get the most enjoyment out of doing that.
So what else was in the pipeline for you guys? What should we expect in 2020?
I think, at the moment we are just planning another Australian tour actually, early next year. Going to some big venues and a big show. So we’re really excited about that. And then hopefully new music early next year too. We’re just trying to finish off a couple of tracks at the moment. Fingers crossed that all works out.
How exciting! So you’ve been writing on the road again?
We have, yeah, kind of. It’s something that we just have to do now, one of those bands that just have to constantly tour, say there’s not really much downtime in between tours now, so we just try and do it on the road.
I hope you get to put your feet up at some point. Have a little bit of a holiday somewhere.
Well, I’ve got a couple of weeks left over summer, so we’re going to try and spend some time… We’ve got a festival that we’re doing in Fiji. There’s like something over there, and we are going to hang out there for a week. I’m looking forward to that.
Jealous. That’ll be amazing. Get some Piña Colada’s on the beach!
And finally, I’ve always wanted to ask, where did the name Crooked Colours come from?
To be honest, we like, we were going through a phase when we first started, we were trying to make up the reason why we named it that. But me and Phil, we were just coming out with random words and we just stuck those two words together. It’s really the most boring answer, yeah.
It kind of sounds like one of those names that a Band Name Generator would spit out, like I’m pretty sure the Jungle Giants, they got their name off of a bandnames.com sort of thing… Where you just put a thing in and press enter.
We pretty much did the same thing.
I love that. I love good alliteration and great imagery, it’s worked well for your branding.
Thank you. Yeah no, it’s actually worked out really well.
Well, thank you so much Leon. And hopefully I’ll catch you at one of these festivals in the next coming weeks. It should be fun!
No doubt, thank you for having me.
See Crooked Colours at a string of Australian summer festivals. For more information, visit their website.
23 November | Grapevine Gathering | Grapevine Estate, VIC
30 November | Grapevine Gathering | Roche Estate, NSW
1 December | Grapevine Gathering | Sandalford Estate, WA
7 December | Wine Machine | McLaren Vale, SA
28 – 31 December | Falls Festival | Lorne, VIC
29 – 31 December | Falls Festival | Marion Bay, TAS
31 December | NYE In The Park | Camperdown, NSW
31 Dec – 02 January | Falls Festival | Byron Bay, NSW
04 – 05 January | Falls Festival | Fremantle, WA