SOHN is on the bill for Laneway Festival 2015 and I was lucky enough to score a chat with him to discuss the success of his debut album Tremors, his plans for the New Year and well, the classic Aussie BBQ.
Hey mate, how are you?
I’m good, thanks. Nice to meet you.
You too. Where are you and what was the last thing you ate?
The last thing I ate was a tuna and beetroot sandwhich, which is highly recommended, and I’m sitting outside my new apartment in Los Angeles.
Your voice is incredible and so emotive, when did you realise you could sing?
Oh, thank you. I guess I always sang and then when I was very young at school before I was 10 or so, I’d do some after-school things where I did some singing and choir and things like that. Me and my sister both sang from an early age and I guess I was sort of following her into singing and acting as a kid.
Don’t mind me gushing, but I’m a huge fan of Tremors and rated it as my No. 1 album of 2014. Are you surprised with the huge positive response you’ve had to the album?
Wow. Cool. Yeah [laughs]. Yeah I am. Mainly because I think when I was making it, I didn’t really think about whether it was going to go anywhere or not. I got obsessed with making it and finishing it that I was actually prepared for the idea that, you know, it’s the first album that I’d put out and it’s on a great label, and it’s just, you know, it came out much bigger than I expected it to come out. So, to suddenly see so many people all over the world suddenly knowing this record and having written nice things about it was crazy.
With that success, do you feel any pressure to be able to replicate that impact with the next album?
Ahh, I do now. Cheers [laughs]. Well not really because, for me, somehow I think I’ve managed to understand myself to the extent that I can’t worry about that because it will weaken what I do. And so even if I would worry about it, I kind of have to force myself not to. Force myself just to do whatever’s going to come next to me. It’s a weird thing to follow up a first album after people have said really good things about it, because part of your brain says “Just keep doing what everyone likes”. But the thing is the world doesn’t work that way. That record was that record and that was released in April 2014, but if you release that album in October 2015 it wouldn’t come out the same if it was exactly the same record. The world moves and so you can’t ever sit and think “Oh, I can do what I did last time”.
You played a massive amount of shows last year (113 to be exact); do any stand out in particular?
A few do for different reasons. I think Melt Festival in Germany was the biggest one that I did and I think I was second or third from headline. It was like 20,000 people and that stood out for me for that reason because it was the most bizarre experience that I’d had. And then I guess the Australian ones for the reason that it was the furthest place away and to see that people knew the record was really a shock to me. Apart from those, the second run that we did in America was really good because all the (first) shows that were never my favourites, like New York and Los Angeles, were because something about the audiences, they’re a bit more sceptical. The same as London as well, because they get the best artists in the world every single day. The first couple of times I played in both of those cities I wasn’t overawed with the shows. But then I did New York City on Halloween and it was just an incredible show, and I remember thinking “Oh cool, we’re over that point where New York could be a problem”.
Tremors is quite an intimate-sounding record, so in playing in front of crowds of 20,000 people did you feel that what you were trying to get across would get lost in the masses?
I’m not sure. I mean you saw the show eight months ago, or something like that, and the show is slightly different to the record in terms of there are moments of power in the show that are not in the songs. And I’ve been really lucky I guess that that’s translated everywhere so far. There hasn’t been a show so far where I’ve thought “Man, I wish I’d more bangers to get these people more interested”. The set is quite manipulative to the audience, it brings them up and down in quite quick succession, so you don’t really get a chance to get halfway through the show and start looking at your friends thinking “Yeah, whatever”. There’s lots of moments where I just like to pull the rug from under the audience’s feet.
Have you done anything to celebrate what you achieved in 2014? Any extravagant purchases?
Nope. Nothing at all. Basically I got to the end of the tour on the sixth of December or something like that and I’d worked out that I’d had about 20 days off in two years, including any weekend, anything like that. Just 20 days off. I was doing so much production work and remixing and lighting work for other people when I wasn’t doing the SOHN stuff. I celebrated in the fact that I sat down on the floor and just let everything out and was sort of 20 minutes of weeping [laughs]. It was like, right, well I did that. Finished. I did it. For two years. And that’s the end of that first chapter. I guess coming out here to LA and getting a flat here and buying things; I’ve not had my own things for a long time. I’ve bought furniture and stuff like that, which, well for the last two years I didn’t have a home so that’s a little celebration in itself.
Your first tours of 2015 are in Australia and New Zealand for Laneway Festival, plus a couple sideshows for the lucky folk in Sydney and Melbourne, where you’re playing bigger venues than last time. Is there anyone on the Laneway bill you’re looking forward to meeting?
A lot really. It’s a massively good line-up this year. I know some of the people already and some I’m really looking forward to meeting. Like I know BANKS, obviously, and Jungle, FKA Twigs, and then there’s other ones like St. Vincent and Future Islands that I’m looking forward to meeting and seeing live. There’s loads this year. It’ll be great.
What can we expect from your show. Have you any new tracks that you’ll be sharing with us?
I guess we’ve mixed it up a little since last time and there’s a bit more energy at certain parts. There’s ‘The Chase’ which was not on the set last tour because it hadn’t been written. It’s a bit difficult now because my band are on the other side of the world so, we’ve had six weeks off since the end of the tour and it feels like it’s been six days. Just the fact that were about to go out on tour again it feels like it’s the end of the school holidays. I enjoyed it while I had the time off but now I feel like I’ve only finished school a minute ago!
Whilst you’re on tour are there any attractions or tourist things you didn’t do last time you were here that you’re looking to do this time around? Perhaps cuddle a koala?
[Laughs] Actually, it’s summer isn’t it? I would love to do a classic BBQ. I’d love to do that. I don’t really care that much for seeing famous things or anything like that. I’d love to be able to say “Remember that day when we were watching the sun go down having a barbeque on the beach?” I would love to do that.
As you mentioned, you’ve done quite a bit of producing (Banks, Kwabs) and remixing (Rhye, Disclosure) for other artists already, do you have a wish list of those who you’d like to collaborate with?
It changes a lot. I have different people for different reasons. I would really like to work with Usher, for example, and I can’t really pin why, but I’d just like to. I’d love to work with Bjork. There are a million great things that when I hear them I go “Oh, man I’d love to do something with that”. There was something that I was thinking just yesterday and I can’t remember what it was. So that’s really annoying.
What’s in the pipeline for SOHN in 2015. Have you got any exclusive news you can share with acid stag?
Writing, writing, writing, writing. That’s my first thing. Just three days ago I wrote my first song since Tremors, which is really exciting because it’s markedly different from that last stuff, but with enough, you know, it’s me who did it. I’m looking forward to maybe collaborating a bit more for my own stuff. And I’m working on a couple things which are really exciting but I can’t talk about it!
Well I hope you have a ball whilst you’re out here for Laneway Festival and that you manage to have that sunset BBQ!
Thanks a lot man.
If you don’t have your tickets for laneway 2015 yet, then what the hell are you waiting for?
WHAT: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2015
WHERE: Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne + Fremantle
WHEN: Saturday, January 31 – Sunday, February 8