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A Duo Called Two People

Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough built their own studio and signed to Solange’s label, before they'd even released their beautiful debut album 'First Body'.

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Two People’s Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough met in high school and quickly bonded over their shared musical sensibilities. As teenagers, they formed the five-piece indie pop act Snakadaktal with a few other schoolmates. At a bar around the corner from their present-day studio, Phoebe recalls ringing Joey after school to play him piano melodies over the phone in one of their early sessions, which would eventually evolve into ‘Dance Bear’, one of their first songs as Snakadaktal. The band’s addictive hooks went on to win them a Triple J Unearthed High prize, an I OH YOU deal, and a UK tour. “We were so young, we didn’t have a perspective on how cool that actually was,” Phoebe reflects today.

In 2014 Snakadaktal parted ways, and two years later, Phoebe and Joey resurfaced as Two People. The sensibly-named band released two singles, then began private putting together their 2018 debut album, First Body. You can hear the years they put into the project, recorded and produced solely by Phoebe and Joey. It’s labor of love so well-considered and immersive that it’s hard to tell the end from the beginning.

Hey guys. I’d wanted to congratulate you on signing with Terrible Records. How did that go down
Phoebe: It was pretty unexpected to be honest.
Joey: We met Max [Wortman, Terrible A&R] at Bigsound. He introduced himself, and we started hanging out.
Phoebe: He was really affectionate and positive about our music. It was really lovely.
Joey: Not at all the record label cliche.
Phoebe: At the IOHYOU showcase, we were setting up our gear and I was stressing about the sound being right. I looked out into the audience and there was this really smiley face. It was Max. I remember thinking “I’m really glad you’re here”, because that helped me to gather myself for the show.
Joey: The offer came through after Bigsound, we’re talking months later.

I know Rodaidh McDonald mixed your entire LP. How did that come about?
Joey: Well, we actually never really met him. It was just over the phone. We had a list of dream engineers, and we said it would be amazing if he mixed it. But we never really thought he’d say yes. Like he’s busy working with people like David Byrne. He heard a few songs and agreed to do it.
Phoebe: We were already big fans of his, in complete awe of him. We didn’t know how to pronounce his name right…

How long would you say it took for your entire album to come to fruition,from writing the songs to really being ready to share them?
Phoebe: Our production process was about a year, because we were busy studying and the like. It’s not like we could lock ourselves in a room and have it done in a month. But that’s also how we wanted to work, just to make sure it was right. The mixing took a year.
Joey: Roddy had to fit us in around other projects.
Phoebe: Fit us around Adele! It was nuts. We got very fortunate. It’s exciting working with people who we are inspired by. That’s why [Joey and I] got together… oh god, that was nice of me to say.

[Laughs] I’ve got it on record too. You’ve both known each other for a long time. Do you find that the way you work together has changed or developed in any way or has it very much remained the same?
Phoebe: Ten or eleven years. I think the way we write is the same as when we were 14 years old.
Joey: We’ve definitely developed individually and our skills have developed as well.
Phoebe: We still meet at the same place as we always have. I wonder if it ever will change? Probably not. If something works, just keep at it.

I want to ask about your double-headline tour with LUCIANBLOMKAMP. What’s your angle on touring?
Phoebe: It’s an interesting aspect isn’t it. When we started Two People we thought we wouldn’t tour. We thought we’d kind of keep it as a studio band. We were probably a bit tired of touring, especially from our experience with Snaka. We soon decided that we wanted to start playing the songs live, and that there were some other cool opportunities that we wanted to chase. We had to build the live aspect of our band from scratch. We were initially just a recording band, which means we reinvented the songs and the sounds to be communicated through a live setting. Which became a really exciting experiment, because we uncovered a whole bunch of different sounds and feelings that we’ll take with us into the next song writing. It’s been really fun, but it is hard.
Joey: There are definitely hard parts about it.
Phoebe: It’s rewarding but it’s hard.

Why that early desire to remain a studio band?
Joey: Mostly it was because we thought our music wouldn’t translate to being played live. Just because it’s electronic and experimental. I’ve seen some live shows where it’s just someone on a laptop, and that feel quite boring. We didn’t want to be that, and were unsure as to how we could make a good live show. That’s why we were kind of hesitant to do it.
Phoebe: I think we were also so inspired by artists that don’t tour. That whole thing of being able to be self sufficient wherever you are and use different avenues to spread your music. Especially through the house music scene. We didn’t know how much of a live thing it was going to be, or could be.

What made you change your minds to go live?
Phoebe: We had the drive to do it again.
Joey: And we had our studio, which was a great space to come up with a live show. We also had the time and spent a lot of it re-interpreting the songs. We brought in a drummer for the live show, but most of the time it’s just the two of us.
Phoebe: That’s the nature of being across so many aspects of our project. It’s just us, and there’s not much else to bounce off. That might be partly why we opened up to that idea of a live show—because it’s that opportunity to really connect with people, to get outside our bubble a little bit.

Are you guys writing constantly? Do you write in blocks? How does inspiration come to you?
Phoebe: It’s definitely always there. On and off, constantly jotting stuff down that feels good for no particular reason. Writing has been sporadic over the last little while, because we’ve been focusing on the album and its refining process. But we’re looking forward to focusing our writing into more of a block, and limiting that block to enable us to achieve a certain outcome. At the moment we want to write a whole bunch of songs in one month, and that be a really condensed period of time, rather than just an open free-for-all.
Joey: I think the next [body of work] we make is going to be a reaction to the last process. It wasn’t like the LP was random, and we just pulled tunes from lots of different ideas. It was certainly cohesive…
Phoebe: We just want to do it quicker next time.

Do you have any plans for Two People? What does this year hold for you?
Joey: The record is coming out early next year. There’ll be shows around that. We’d actually really love to go to America, with Terrible [Records]. On socials, it seems like there’s a bit of interest over there. Early last year we went over to LA to shoot a music video, which was great. We didn’t get to play any shows, so it’d be nice to go back and play some shows.
Phoebe: Next year we’ll hopefully be writing more, touring more. You know? Life plans. We just want to do as much as we can.

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