Interview: Sneaky Sound System (AUS) on where they’ve been, crazy festivals and the Australian EDM scene.

Almost every Australian has heard of the iconic EDM duo Sneaky Sound System. From their radio-thrashed 2006 hit ‘UFO’ to their more recent singles ‘We Belong’ and ‘Can’t Help the Way That I Feel’, there’s a song that’s defined the dance floor for everyone.

2019 has seen Sneaky Sound System as a festival staple on lineups, bringing back nostalgia and now to festival-goers. With a string of festivals with their name on the bills heading your way, we caught up with Sneaky’s Angus McDonald to get caught up on the duo’s movements.

Angus, how are you doing? Where are you right now?

I’m feeling pretty good. I’m in Bondi Beach, at home. A part from being a little smokey it’s a pretty damn good day.

Are you going to hit the beach later? Do you have the day off?

Well, I might a little bit later, but I got to confess, I’m a bit of a mad golfer so I’m off to play golf.

What a lifestyle! You get the best of both worlds. Bit on the green, a bit in the waves, so good.

You know, I’ve got to live a little.

Yeah, that’s it. You’ve lived a lot, I would say. Straight up. I have to ask you, when I’ve told people that we’re going to have a chat, they’ve always been like, “Ah, Sneaky Sound System! What are these guys up to?”

You guys, although you haven’t released an album since 2011, have had a string of just banging singles under your belt since then. You’ve also had your Do Your Thing EP back in 2017. I’m curious, why did you decide to go down the road of just releasing solo singles?

Look, as much as we like doing albums, the reality is the world’s changed. It’s just an awful lot of work, time, and effort. I think, for us, we were playing a lot of parties, a lot of festivals, a lot more just house-ier dance events, and the world just got more techno really.

So we love that side of it, and for us, we just wanted to make music that we would play in our set. I just think, apart from growing our sound, it’s just difficult to get an audience for that kind of stuff, and I’m one of those people who’s not interested in people’s albums, and I’m a total music junkie and I buy record after record every week, but I can’t tell you the last time I bought an album.

So, hence our decision. We’re just trying to make good quality tracks. To be honest, in the past we’ve been with a label that’s just tried to push our stuff on the radio. I listen to the radio these days, and we don’t feel like we’re doing it anymore, so we just make stuff for the dance floor, and we’re happy doing that.

Yeah, so it’s kind of like the audience palatability, the audiences nowadays aren’t leaning towards a full body of work. They just like the instant grat, sort of thing…

But you know, it’s kind of cool. We started with stuff we released a couple of years ago that, while it might not have had what appears to be a critical success, you go to a festival and people know the words, tens of thousands of people know the words. So you know, it kind of creeps out there, and seeps out over time, to people who want to hear it, and there’s just so many ways for them to hear it. And I just think, like I said, the world’s changed and the measuring sticks are different.

Fair enough. And obviously you’ve built a family in that time too, I imagine, it would be easier to release singles rather than a whole album, when you’ve got that going on. That’s pretty big.

Look, to be honest with you that, we were always writing, we are always making music in the studio on the third floor of our house, so we don’t have to really, you know…

Leave?

When we’re not travelling, exactly. We’re not trekking across town. We’re always working. We’ve got a backlog of stuff, and it just depends. Like, we had a track last year that was still floating around in the Beatport top ten charts. It’s the way it works. They don’t want to hear want to hear another track, they’re like, “Listen, leave this song with us for a little bit longer.”

But if something doesn’t necessarily stick, then you can release some stuff a little quicker. So we’ve got a bit of a buffer on some stuff. I was pretty into an album, but I just think it just gets lost. We’ve got to let our little tunes have a little moment in the sun.

Let them breathe. I get that.

Yeah, let them breathe! Honestly the amount of music that’s being released, you’ve just got to be more patient these days.
To be honest we’ve been around for quite a long time now, so I just start to think, no matter who you are, people will see a never-ending onslaught of work… The slow and steady pace wins the race.

You guys are veterans of the EDM scene. You formed in the early 2000s, which is pre-Flume era to a lot of your audience. When did you really see the tide turn for the Australian EDM scene? Was it the onslaught of bedroom producers? 

Our first single came out in 2004, so our contemporaries at the time were Cut Copy, The Presets, and Midnight Juggernauts. These were the people who were making music, and it was a bit of a show for all of us to get record deals, or to be appreciated in essentially mainstream. It was still very much a rock and pop world.

Then it just steadily changed and opened a flood gate to a younger generation, who can actually have their youth growing up with these kind of artists. I think that’s when things slowed down, with artists like Flume who just blew the world apart, and just really put things on an international stage. And then there’s a whole bunch of people after him and it just continued the same. It’s kind of a vibrant scene, as well-respected as any in the world. It’s at the forefront, which is pretty awesome.

Yeah, it’s pretty phenomenal. And with you listing those artists then, we can see that the Australian scene is thriving. Has it made it easier or harder to be heard? I imagine there is an onslaught of people making this music now, and also more people listening to it.

It has, but you know good stuff just always finds a way of getting to the top. There’s just so many people who will go, and certainly labels and radio stations, they just want the same a lot of the time. But, thankfully there are a lot of fresh labels in Australia and artists that just do their thing. People aren’t stupid, they’ll find the good stuff, and it just will rise to the top.

So, I think what is tricky, is a lot of artists might have a massive moment and a tune. But it’s difficult to maintain that for a very long time. You’ve got to appreciate the highs and lows in your career, in the way it rolls. You’ve just got to be patient if you want to have a long-term career doing what we do, and you can’t always be jumping on bandwagons. People can smell the lack of authenticity pretty easily these days. So, yes it is hard, but if you’re really passionate about what you do, and you have a unique angle, you’ll thrive.

If your product’s worth hearing, it’ll find its way, that’s for sure. And another thing you guys are veterans of, is the festival circuit. Endless festivals with Sneaky Sound System! What would you say is the most wild festival set you’ve ever played? I’m curious.

Oh there’s been a few of those! I mean, I’d say one of the wildest ones was one of the first ones, when it just sort of blew up. We just had one of those moments where it just exploded. We were first playing a small stage at Big Day Out, and it was just out of control, and it got to the point where we only got to play one record, it was so insane. People and the fences were falling down – we just couldn’t play it, it’s too risky. They moved us to a much, much bigger stage in Melbourne, and it worked out a lot better, so that was pretty wild.

For us, Glastonbury was another wild one. We just didn’t really think that many people knew about us, I guess. We had a really good set in the main dance tent, and we got lost. It was so epic, massive, huge and elaborate a site to get in. It took us an hour and a half to actually walk through pretty much the fringe of festival to get in to it and we got there twenty minutes before our set time, and oh my God, it was so packed. We were so stressed out. It was just one of those moments, just the panic before we got there, and then the pandemonium while we’re in there, and it was all over, and because there are so many artists there, you only get the dressing rooms for that hour, and they’re like, “Oh okay, off you go. Piss off!” and then we just go, “Wow, that was pretty wild ride!”

Yeah, you’d be spit out on the other end of that, being like “What just happened?”

Exactly, that’s what it was like! And I don’t think anything could prepare you for going to something as huge as Glastonbury really. It’s just enormous.

It’s on the bucket list! I don’t understand how you can see all the acts you want to see. It almost stresses me out thinking about it.

It actually stresses me out telling you that. I was just remembering it.

Also the other thing is, it’s perfectly sunny weather in London and everywhere along the way, but when you get there, for some reason, you’re in just a massive mud-cess. We basically just could hardly walk and try to get to the stage anyway. It’s just a piles of mud.

Oh damn, that’s rough, and then there are lots of people, not a good mix.

Speaking of festivals though, you’ve got NYE in the Park coming up, as the clock ticks over into the roaring 20’s, who are you excited to see on that lineup?

Oh, kind of everyone, I think. Without a question this New Year’s line up is bang on, it’s just an epic lineup of great Australian artists.

Yeah, I know, Hermitude, Crooked Colours, Safia, Client Liaison…

Crooked Colours are amazing. Bag Raiders are great friends of ours. Hermitude... I mean take your pick, it’s going to be awesome!

Just the whole time, back-to-back excellent music. What else is coming up in the future for you? What will 2020 hold for Sneaky Sound System?

Well look, we’ve been heading to lots of smaller festivals… We just do lots of smaller ones around the country, and we’ve had a really good year. We had our first residency in Bali this year, spent two months over there. We normally do Europe, which was for four years before that. And Ibiza for about five, six years before that, so that was out first experience in Bali. We’re going to be doing that again next year for June, July, August, September.

We’re going to have a bunch of cool releases coming out too, a couple of collaborations, and each of them all a little bit different. Something a little bit disco, something a little bit more on the tech end of it. And, of course, more gigs, more shows, we just love performing really, so you know, just more, more, more, more.

Amazing, I can’t wait. A bit of a sea change from one beach to the next, and then just endless music, that’s what I love to hear. Angus, thank you so much for chatting with me today, I really appreciate it. I hope you have a great hit of golf this afternoon. De-stress from your Glastonbury story with a nice hole in one.

I’m already de-stressed. Thank you so much.

Catch Sneaky Sound System at an upcoming festival, with more ticket information here.

29 November | Perth’s Biggest Office Party |Perth, WA
31 December | NYE in the Park | Sydney, NSW
8 February | Party in the Paddock | Launceston, TAS
28 March | Sweetstock | Melbourne, VIC

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