Melbourne-based electronic duo, American Doubles have released their debut single The Swell, a luminous track steeped in blithe nostalgia. To accompany the track, the pair have released a spectacularly have-to-see-it-to-believe-it video, co-directed by Daniel and Jarred Daperis of LateNite Films (RÜFÜS) and filmed almost entirely underwater.
The Swell is recommended listening for a long, cool drive, perhaps one which involves a Miami Vice-esque nighttime cruise sequence; characterised by knowing nods to the 80s and to more recent electronic pioneers Metronomy, The Swell is a soaring yet subtle, unbelievably memorable smash. One half of the duo, Rob Smith, reflects on the conception of the song, 'I used to walk to St Kilda Pier and along the beach, which brought back memories of when I was growing up and spending summer holidays at our family's beach house in Cape Patterson. One of those memories is swimming out with a friend past the breakers, floating on our backs for a while and then diving down trying to touch the sea floor. I wanted to try and capture some of that sense of freedom that can come with being in the moment, letting go and having fun."
The video for The Swell must be seen to be believed. The underwater set is a feast for the eyes; an intriguing story plays out as a woman dives nonchalantly into the watery depths and finds herself in an aquatic bar scene. Patrons dance and drink, bartenders wipe the benches and the woman catches the eye of a man at the bar – all relatively normal, if it weren't for the fact that the entire scene is performed silently and deeply submerged in a pool of water. The filming process was no mean feat, with everyone from marine biologists, architects, construction workers and freedivers getting in on the action – all of which is documented in an extensive behind the scenes video, filmed over the course of the recording.
Proud of the ambitious, breath-taking clip, Smith discusses some of the issues that arose in the leadup, 'We were contacting the various departments including underwater cameraman, lighting, set construction, scuba divers, and more, and the enormity of the project really started to dawn on us…for example, one of the issues with using regular actors for underwater work is that after a while, at the depths we were shooting, the veins in their head start to pop out! We wanted everyone to look relaxed and graceful moving around in the water so it was an obvious choice, in the end, to use freedivers."
The Swell is a remarkable debut from American Doubles, one which refuses to leave the head after only a single listen.
Question: How would you describe your music?
American Doubles: American Doubles use a combination of electronic elements and live instrumentation to produce 80's inspired, synth infused, dreamy pop.
Question: What was the main inspiration behind The Swell?
Robert Smith : The main inspiration came from early childhood memories of summer holidays spent at my family's beach house in Cape Paterson in Victoria. I was living on St Kilda Road in Melbourne at the time and loved to walk to St Kilda Pier, and along the foreshore. This brought back a strong memory I have of swimming out to sea with a friend, diving under, and crashing through waves (occasionally getting dumped by one) before making it out into calmer waters again. I wanted to try to capture some of that sense of freedom we felt, lying on our backs, looking at the sky and competing with each other to touch the ocean floor.
Question: Can you tell us about filming the video clip for The Swell?
American Doubles: A friend recommended Chris Hocking and the creative team at LateNite Films after seeing one of their music videos in the St Kilda Film Festival. We were so impressed with the amazing and epic work they did that we decided to reach out to them. Not long after sending Chris the track Daniel and Jared Daperis, who co-directed the video, contacted us and we arranged to meet up for a coffee, and discuss some ideas they had. Inspired by the underwater sound and mood of the track, they pitched this idea:
Daniel Daperis: You guys have done an excellent job portraying the underwater feel to the song even before the vocals kick in. When we listen to it we feel like we are submerged under the ocean. Obviously then we see visuals that relate to that. Basically, it begins with people walking out and jumping off a normal pier to the bemused looks of passer-byers. We can't see from the surface, but submerged beneath, is a grand underwater world that has transformed into a secret ballroom. It's as if there's an element of magic in that, it's not the sea as we know it…
It was an incredibly challenging task to bring the idea to fruition and one which required enlisting the help of marine biologists, architects, construction workers, freedivers, scuba divers, and more.
We had about a month of pre-production, from initial conception to filming. We had one day to install the set into the pool, then half a day to continue setup, and one and a half days to film. Post Production took a few weeks of editing, and a few weeks of visual effects.
One of the biggest challenges we had was actually just making everything 'sink". Because we used wood for a lot of the construction (which floats), lots of weights were needed to get everything down to the bottom of the pool and keep it there.
The video was shot in Melbourne in May so it was also very cold. You get a sense of this by the thick jackets the crew are wearing in the Behind The Scenes video. The pool was heated all the way up to 30c degrees and the steam rising from the surface looked incredible!
One of the challenges for the freedivers was keeping their eyes open for long periods in the chlorinated pool. They would actually pour milk into their eyes to help soothe the effects of the chlorine.
Our lead female protagonist was freediver Melissa McKay, and she delivers an outstanding performance in this clip. Not only is she holding her breath and having to keep her eyes open, she's also wearing a weight belt and clothes that restrict movement, and somehow she still looks relaxed and graceful down there! All the freedivers were amazing!
Question: Do you write your own songs? What's your inspiration?
Robert Smith: Yes, we write all our own songs. The inspiration can really come from anything, anywhere and at anytime. I've found often the best writing is rewriting. One of the most important things is allowing yourself time to let ideas evolve. For example, a song entitled -Hit The Floor' from our upcoming EP explores interstellar themes. This led me to do some research online, which took me to all sorts of places. It was in pursuit of developing the initial idea that the song came into being.
Question: What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?
American Doubles: There are so many it's hard to narrow down to just a few. We're big fans of Chic, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre, Phoenix, Little Dragon, Sbtrkt and Anderson .Paak.
Question: Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel?
American Doubles: No, but that's not to imply it has always been easy either. What we've managed to achieve from starting out in a home studio with a microphone and a computer, has far exceeded all of our expectations. -The Swell' has been our most ambitious endeavour combining some seriously creative minds along the journey. It's been very exciting and rewarding working with the team we've to put together, and we have learnt so much in the process. We've certainly been faced with many challenges, but we've never contemplated giving up at any point.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
American Doubles: They are both equally enjoyable and rewarding, but they are very different. Recording happens in a more personal environment, it's a process that takes time, and there are stages in the writing process that you're not ready to share with other people. The reward comes from adding an idea that improves the track or completing a composition. Once it's finished, and with the support of other incredible musicians and our production crew, comes the thrill of performing the songs live.
Question: What/who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Robert Smith: I had an older cousin who was a musician and he showed me a few basic bass lines. He also gave my brother and me an electric guitar and amp. Soon after that I bought my first bass. It was a Fender Precision Bass copy made by a Korean manufacturer in the 80's, called a Torch Vintage Series. By this stage I was hooked and decided to start a band with a friend in high school. From that point I always wanted a career in the music industry, but it took some years for that dream to become a reality.
Justin Hamilton: There was no one particular person or reason why I got into music. I enjoyed listening to music from an early age and beyond learning the guitar, I really just followed my passion.
Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
American Doubles: Wearing too many hats! As independent musicians, starting out you usually have no choice but to do everything yourself - whether you know what your doing or not. It can take some time to learn the lingo and the correct way of going about things, but we have been fortunate to have had the help of some leading professionals in the music industry along the way. Reaching out to people has been hugely beneficial and having confidence in our music has been essential to enable this to happen. There have been many times we've been daunted by the task we set ourselves, but rather than panic we try remember to slow down, and trust the process. Staying positive and keeping it fun is key.
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
American Doubles: I would say it is probably the feeling you get in the moment of inspiration, there is no greater feeling than expressing yourself through music.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Robert Smith: It would be great to work with M-Phazes. I was fortunate enough to meet him at a music conference in Melbourne called Face The Music last year and I have always been a huge fan of his music. We both love his production style and he has collaborated with some of our favourite artists.
Question: What is the story behind the band's name?
American Doubles: Instead of inventing a name, we decided to use something that was part of the vernacular. -American Doubles' is an informal tennis rule where three players rotate court positions after each game. We both play multiple instruments and would be rotating positions in the studio during the recording sessions so in that way, the name kind of fitted.
Interview by Brooke Hunter