Text by Anthony Thomas
Media consumption is a strange and frustrating thing. Fueled by celebrity obsession and social media, ever demanding audiences seem to only experience satisfaction when they are being spoon-fed the latest shiny fad. As audience pleasers, media outlets by definition exist with the sole purpose of being the hand that feeds, and so, through continual reinforcement this vicious cycle has become normalised. The toxic wasteland of quasi-culture proudly bearing the unsaid slogan, “Same shit, different smell,” is the by-product we now have to navigate in the name of news. So, you can understand why this astronomical gap has formed between the music press and independent artists. But why is it that people are ok with reading the same interview a big band gave ten different magazines? I can’t tell you, but it bores me. Wouldn’t you rather read an interview with an artist who you’ve never heard of before? For instance, this one with Deja, a Melbourne duo made up of haxx and Rromarin. It was only by chance I stumbled across their latest single, Still Falling and with a sound founded on pushing the boundaries of electronic production as well as the music industry in a broader sense, it was hard to resist getting one of them on the phone. Not bound by the strategic rules of a PR, the chat I had with Rromarin was relaxed but informative; kind of like catching up with an old friend. The way an interview should be, right? Have a read and make a mental note to keep an eye out for a new EP in the works for later in 2013.
MM: How are you doing?
RR: Good! I’m madly pouring hot water into a pot of tea so that I can be coherent and answer questions. I’m one of those people that need a hot beverage in the morning to get my brain going. What about you, have cup of tea or coffee this morning?
I had an ice coffee actually. I’m not a hot beverage fan.
You are from a warmer state though so perhaps that has something to do with it, or is it just that you’re naturally inclined to the cold beverage?
It’s more an aversion to milk so I just try and avoid it at all costs.
What about soy? I’m drinking soy; you don’t like it either?
Not a big fan, hey.
It’s good! I mean I don’t humans should drink that much milk, it’s good that you’re not.
Obviously, milk is meant for a baby animal so too much of it in an adult animal of another species might not be very good. If you know what I mean?
Not really, but that leads me nicely to my first real question. You’re an animal carer by day, right?
Yes, but specifically by night. That’s why I’m struggling quickly to wake up to become a coherent person because I’ve got a tiny baby possum at the moment. She has been keeping me up at night because I have to feed her regularly so I’ve had really broken sleep lately. But it will end soon when she learns to drink milk on her own.
How did you get into animal caring?
I’ve always really liked animal,s but specifically wildlife care. I got into it about five years ago when I went to live in a remote country town in Western Australia. There was a really big animal shelter that I worked at for a summer looking after joeys and learning everything there. Then I came back to Melbourne. I wanted to become a licensed carer so I contacted Wildlife Victoria and became a volunteer with them.
Let’s talk about Deja. There wasn’t a whole lot of info out there about you guys I could find so forgive the introductory questions I’ve got to ask.
That’s fine! The band is still quite young. I mean haxx and I have been making music together for about five years but we’ve only been doing things and putting ourselves out there as Deja properly for about two.
Tell me about the band. How did you guys meet?
Haxx and I met so many moons ago when I was mucking around at a youth radio station, I was doing stuff on WinFM with the drummer in his old band. He [haxx] has been in a few different bands. Anyway, he coincidentally walked into the studio one day and we decided to start music from there.
Is the music you’re making now different to what you were back then?
Totally different. It had very teenage hangovers, it obviously younger and less developed conceptually. As far as the actual sound, there was more rock in. Really different influences to the ones we have ones now, pretty much all the music from our teens was coming into it. Stuff like The Strokes, Brand New, Death Cab For Cutie, Motor Ace and Radiohead were all really big influences at that time. But slowly everything changed and we listened to more music and started a totally different kind of band a few years later.
What was your motivation for shifting towards the more electronic side of the music field?
Specifically because haxx is a producer and as his interests and fascination with production grew, our sound changed. It became far more experimental and went into the realms of electro-pop music. Our tastes changed as well, we started discovering amazing new artists like Yeasayer, Little Dragon and even The Presets. Those things started to change the way sound. But yeah, the biggest reason was haxx started shifting away from playing the guitar and took me on a journey, which really became a production based one. That’s what marked the shift in our sound, how we were actually making our music. We worked from out home studio and just experimented with different sounds.
Has the dynamic between the two of you become stronger since you started working in this way?
It’s definitely been a work in progress. When we first started, our home studio was shit. I mean a home studio for anyone could really just be a laptop and a couple of mics. Our first home studios were just in our bedrooms in various share houses and over time they became better and better. Over that time as well, we’ve gelled more but that’s a maturity and growth thing too. As we’ve written more and more music together and become better producers, song-writers and I suppose humans beings, I’d hope we’d also become better collaborators.
How does it work when you guys write together?
Haxx is always making beats or starting with a foundation layer, he really loves beats and awesome bass lines. That’s where the concept usually starts, he’ll show me this sweet beat. He does a lot of his work late at night; his work hours will be between midnight and 4am, so I’m often not there for that process because I’m asleep but then he’ll show me a beat he’s been doing. Sometimes he’ll have chord or synth ideas, sometimes he won’t and from there we’ll write those ideas together. Once we’ve fleshed out the entire song then if we still like it or we think it has potential, and then we’ll move onto writing vocal melodies and stuff like that. So sometimes songs come really quickly and they feel so right straight away and we start recording vocals quite quickly. Sometimes we hold onto a beat or concept for months and months and sometime we’ll write and record a full song and then decide we hate and never release it. There’s been twenty of those over the last two years, which is why it’s taken us so long to get our EP our because we’ve striving to find the right songs.
At least you’ll have plenty on B-sides, right?
I don’t know, we’re pretty upright though, hey. Once we decide we don’t like a song, that’s it. I feel like we evolve past songs, we’ve grown a lot in the past two years. A lot of songs from 2011 have been rejected because we’ve moved on to different concepts. So yeah, I don’t know if you’ll ever hear those songs. A few people have them on their hardrives and we’re mortified that anyone has got them.
I get a feeling of escapism from your lyrics, is that your intention?
We rarely write songs about imaginary things. I’m more inclined to write whimsical fantasy songs lyrically, but I don’t tend to do that. In Deja we write very specifically about our own life; we draw from our experiences. Each song tends to be a commentary on something in our life, whether it’s some issue, struggle, or even a discovery. With the whole concept about getting away, are you talking about Holiday?
Yeah. Even Still Falling made me think of getting away.
Oh you’re absolutely right, yes! Still Falling is probably the first song that we’ve ever released that is more in the fantasy realm. The reason for that is, those lyrics came really magically out of nowhere and haxx actually wrote the lyrics to that song entirely. They just came to him. It is about escapism definitely; that’s what the entire song is about. I suppose as well, it’s alluding to parts of life. Haxx and I would really like to escape, we feel very bound to where we are for the past few years because we’re working so hard on a project and it’s something that we can’t just leave, you know? It’s almost like a child you have to constantly nurture and if you abandon it for any period of time that it will just stop. Which I know isn’t the case but it’s all part of the paranoid and psychosis that occurs when you make music. It’s us telling a make believe story. Themes of escapism run throughout it. Same with Holiday, although it is much more metaphorical in that, whereas in Still Falling it’s literally a story about escaping from the things that tie you down.
I wanted to talk about the production side as well. It’s all quite eclectic. Luststruck is so different to the rest of songs but it’s so Deja as well.
That’s funny and really cool for people to see this as we release songs. For the first three singles it was a bit confusing because each song had such different aesthetics but they are all our sound. Our concept or idea is to release a very eclectic EP, where every song is different but they are still glued together by the same underlying production values or conceptual aesthetics. So you’re right, Luststruck is so different but then we tie everything with the next two singles. We started with a really dark, phonetic, electronic-dancey type feel in our songs then moved onto Luststruck which was really ethereal, almost like Massive Attack; it was a totally different sound. Then Holiday was really psychedelic, lush and totally different again. Still Falling is obviously similar, but taking it even further. But then the next two singles will be like coming full circle, coming back to the crisper, more upbeat, dancey sound but we’ll be going back to my female vocals. By the time they’re all out it will be this little journey which is what we want. We don’t want to write songs that sound the same and I don’t think we could if we tried. I mean, we’re not signed or anything but I can imagine that would stress labels out if we released singles that sounded completely different all the time. But why the fuck not? That’s the whole the point of what we do, we want to push the boundaries and experiment with everything. So many musicians are learning how to produce and record their own music, and there’s so much more freedom that you don’t need to adhere to the typical structures in place. That’s our vibe, we just do what we want really and we want to redefine the model.