Burgers And Banter With Club Conquerers Set Mo

Written By Sam Murphy on 09/22/2015

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For most people a passion project involves selling homemade jars of sand at the local markets or learning yoga but for Sydney duo Nick Drabble and Stu Turner - their "passion project," as they put it, is fast-rising dance act Set Mo. The pair started the act as a way to play only the music they love but in three years it's developed into something far bigger as they have started to craft their own dance floor stompers.

In the past year the boys have toured in the US, played Splendour In The Grass and released a huge track, White Dress, that has clocked up over a million plays on Spotify. It's an impressive list of credentials for an act that have survived off their equal love for interesting deep house music. That's without even mentioning that they've been able to convince the likes of Wookie, Satin Jackets and Pantheon to churn out ace remixes for them.

With Australian club life buckling under the pressure of Government regulation, it's refreshing to see talent from the club world still emerging and taking Australian sounds to the rest of the world as Set Mo are.

We sat down with them while in Brisbane for BIGSOUND at Ben's Burgers for a bite to eat and a chat about the current state of the Sydney club scene, their mammoth single White Dress and the fall of Soundcloud. We also put them through their paces, testing them on their knowledge of each other with a relationship quiz that they actually nailed.

You guys must be really happy with how White Dress has been received?
Nick: Ecstatic.

I read that it’s had a million plays?
Nick: Yeah it cracked a million plays on Spotify.
Stu: We were lucky enough to get added to like a Spotify blanket playlist.
Nick: I think that helped a lot. None of us really even used Spotify, like we didn’t even have a profile and then when White Dress came out the label was like “you need to get a profile.” Until you get like 500 followers you can’t be a credited artist but that happened quite quickly and it’s now had more than twice the amount of plays on Spotify than it has on Soundcloud. For us we’ve always been like Soundcloud is the platform and we’ve raved so much about plays and followers and stuff but then in like six month Spotify has overtaken that.

It’s completely shifted. Are you guys still Soundcloud users?
Stu: Since we’ve got a Spotify subscription it’s switched.
Nick: Yeah Spotify is great for finding playlists and moods and discovering new music.

How are you guys finding being DJs in Sydney at the moment with the lockout laws?
Stu: It’s funny you say that, we’ve had this discussion a couple of times. We’re really grateful to have the opportunity to play and tour more in the States because there isn’t a great deal going on in Sydney. Particularly with the Imperial getting shut down.

It’s very sad right now.
Stu: It is. We both play bar gigs when we’re not doing Set Mo shows and it’s like we used to do Kings Cross hotel every Friday and there would be a really strong crowd coming through - we’d be playing proper underground house music til 4am in the morning and there would still be people there until lights on. Now, it’s like there’s no one there and the crowd's changed. It’s sad, it’s really sad. Even if they change the laws I don’t know how it’s going to bounce back.
Nick: Half the venues are closing.

How did you guys start as Set Mo?
Nick: We met through DJing. When we started as Set Mo it was always about the music we didn’t want to force playing Set Mo sets because we were already DJing enough individually. We were like, we’ll work on the music and then when that takes off I’m sure we can do parties. We never had to force ourselves to play parties.
Stu: It was a passion project really. We didn’t have big plans or dreams for it. We were hanging out, making mixtapes and just chilling pretty much. We would just be playing on Ableton and be like “check this out!”, “cool, let’s try and make a song.” It was just a natural evolution.

How long has it been now?
Nick: It’s been about five years since we met and about three years since we’ve been doing it properly.

What comes next? Are you going to keep releasing tracks or look towards an EP?
Nick: We’re thinking of sticking with singles for the time being on the label we’re on etcetc. But we also have an idea of next year putting out a club EP on a different label in the States or Europe. It kinda makes sense to be putting out singles on etcetc because they’re a little more indie and they’re not as straight up club music but we do make club music so it would be cool to put out something that’s a little more dance floor for the club without that song structure. We’d like to be able to go and play clubs in Europe.

How is the overseas touring going so far?
Nick: It’s pretty good. We’ve only been doing little bits and pieces. We were over in the States earlier this year and did WMC in Miami in March which was awesome. It was good to be over there and you realise that the Australian dance scene is just a small little pocket. There are so many different niches over there and the good thing about a conference like that is you can go and hear any type of dance music you want to. We always find these trips really motivating. We get back and we’re just ready to write music. It’s quite inspiring to be around all these people and see that there is a real big scene out there.

A lot of overseas producers we talk to want to chat about the Australian music scene and think it’s booming. Technically it is online and Australians are doing really well overseas but it’s a really bizarre juxtaposition compared to what’s actually happening in the live scene. Are you finding many Aussies overseas?
Stu: It’s so strong at the moment like there’s so much good stuff happening but you go to Sydney and there’s no nightlife. It’s pretty confusing and it is sad that we’re losing people to overseas because they really don’t have another option. You get to a certain point here and think “I wanna take it further.”

Are you finding back here in Australia, you’ve got a really good community behind you from the artists to the labels?
Nick: It’s not a huge niche and culture but everyone that we work with and work alongside are really like-minded. Australia has recently realised that we’re too small to be super competitive. It makes more sense to get along and help each other. The market isn’t big enough. It’s better to be friends and collaborate.
Stu: There’s no point in not helping eachother out.

And then how do you go about getting some amazing people to remix your work?
Nick: So far with most of the remixes because we don’t have a huge profile yet it’s been through some sort of connection. There’s been some that we’ve known their manager or something like that. The Wookie one came about because we did a remix for him a year ago - a track of his got licensed and I just reached out to him and said “Hey man, just wanted to let you know we’re remixing your tune, big fan and I’ve loved your shit for years.” I think I said to him, “I bought your debut album when I was 14 years old.” He was like, “you’re making me feel old bro but thank you I look forward to hearing the remix.” So we were in contact and it came to looking for remixes for White Dress and the label asked who we were interested in. We reached out to a few people and they either hadn’t ever heard of us or we just wouldn’t hear back so I reached out to Wookie and said, “would you be interested?” and he came back and said, “I’m into it. Get your label to speak to my people.”

How much reaching out to people do you do online?
Nick: A fair bit. Even The Satin Jackets, I saw them over in Germany a couple of years earlier and my girlfriend had worked with him and we were in Berlin and he happened to be in town so we went for a beer with him and at that stage Set Mo was barely doing anything so he wasn’t aware of the project. Then a couple of years later on we wanted something that was a bit more laid back and poolside on the remix pack so I reached out to him and said, “Hey, Tim would you be interested in remixing this?” and he said, “yeah sure.” I think it’s because he’s met you and knows what you’re like. It’s the same for us. If somebody from Germany hit us up who we’d never met unless the tune was absolutely amazing we’d probably be like, “sorry dude.” But if one of our homies from London hit us up we’d be a lot more likely to say yes.

Has anyone remixed one of your tunes and it came straight out of nowhere?
Stu: We had a Dropout Orchestra remix of one of the songs before our EP and we were expecting it to be quite funky and disco but it came back and it was this acid belter. And it wasn’t what we were expecting but it was sick.
Nick: It definitely was not what we were expecting.

On the topic of your original and working with vocalists - is that something you want to keep doing?
Stu: Yeah, it’s a huge part. All of our tunes have had vocals on it to this point. White Dress and the single we’re about to put out we’ve been involved in writing the lyrics. We’ve worked with a singer and come up with the concept and then recorded together.

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So you’re not the type to write it and just send it over to be recorded straight away?
Stu: Nah I think it’s important to have some input from the singer so there’s that connection. It’s nice having input on lyrics as well.

The Deutsche Duke vocal on White Dress is just so good.
Nick: He’s amazing right?

Yeah. Crazy good voice.
Nick: We call him the godfather. His studio is in our building and he’s been around in the music biz for a long time.

How’d you hook up with him?
Stu: Just because he’s in the same building.
Nick: We’d just got back from overseas and we’d written a few ideas while we were in London and we got back and played a couple to him. There was one where he was like, “that’s really cool,” so we worked on it together. We were in the studio one night and we pretty much wrote the whole top line and he laid down a guide so we could remember what it was like with the intention of recording final vocals later and then he recorded final vocals later and we liked the guide better. It was the most raw and emotive. When he spent heaps of time recording it, it lost a bit of the emotion. It took a little time to convince him.

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SetMoRelationshipQuiz

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For most people a passion project involves selling homemade jars of sand at the local markets or learning yoga but for Sydney duo Nick Drabble and Stu Turner - their "passion project," as they put it, is fast-rising dance act Set Mo. The pair started the act as a way to play only the music they love but in three years it's developed into something far bigger as they have started to craft their own dance floor stompers.

In the past year the boys have toured in the US, played Splendour In The Grass and released a huge track, White Dress, that has clocked up over a million plays on Spotify. It's an impressive list of credentials for an act that have survived off their equal love for interesting deep house music. That's without even mentioning that they've been able to convince the likes of Wookie, Satin Jackets and Pantheon to churn out ace remixes for them.

With Australian club life buckling under the pressure of Government regulation, it's refreshing to see talent from the club world still emerging and taking Australian sounds to the rest of the world as Set Mo are.

We sat down with them while in Brisbane for BIGSOUND at Ben's Burgers for a bite to eat and a chat about the current state of the Sydney club scene, their mammoth single White Dress and the fall of Soundcloud. We also put them through their paces, testing them on their knowledge of each other with a relationship quiz that they actually nailed.

You guys must be really happy with how White Dress has been received?
Nick: Ecstatic.

I read that it’s had a million plays?
Nick: Yeah it cracked a million plays on Spotify.
Stu: We were lucky enough to get added to like a Spotify blanket playlist.
Nick: I think that helped alot. None of us really even used Spotify, like we didn’t even have a profile and then when White Dress came out the label was like “you need to get a profile.” Until you get like 500 followers you can’t be a credited artist but that happened quite quickly and it’s now had more than twice the amount of plays on Spotify than it has on Soundcloud. For us we’ve always been like Soundcloud is the platform and we’ve raved so much about plays and followers and stuff but then in like six month Spotify has overtaken that.

It’s completely shifted. Are you guys still Soundcloud users?
Stu: Since we’ve got a Spotify subscription it’s switched.
Nick: Yeah Spotify is great for finding playlists and moods and discovering new music.

How are you guys finding being DJs in Sydney at the moment with the lockout laws?
Stu: It’s funny you say that, we’ve had this discussion a couple of times. We’re really grateful to have the opportunity to play and tour more in the States because there isn’t a great deal going on in Sydney. Particularly with the Imperial getting shut down.

It’s very sad right now.
Stu: It is. We both play bar gigs when we’re not doing Set Mo shows and it’s like we used to do Kings Cross hotel every Friday and there would be a really strong crowd coming through - we’d be playing proper underground house music til 4am in the morning and there would still be people there until lights on. Now, it’s like there’s no one there and the crowds changed. It’s sad, it’s really sad. Even if they change the laws I don’t know how it’s going to bounce back.
Nick: Half the venues are closing.

How did you guys start as Set Mo?
Nick: We met through DJing. When we started as Set Mo it was always about the music we didn’t want to force playing Set Mo sets because we were already DJing enough individually. We were like, we’ll work on the music and then when that takes off I’m sure we can do parties. We never had to force ourselves to play parties.
Stu: It was a passion project really. We didn’t have big plans or dreams for it. We were hanging out, making mixtapes and just chilling pretty much. We would just be playing on Ableton and be like “check this out!”, “cool, let’s try and make a song.” It was just a natural evolution.

How long has it been now?
Nick: It’s been about five years since we met and about three years since we’ve been doing it properly.

What comes next? Are you going to keep releasing tracks or look towards an EP?
Nick: We’re thinking of sticking with singles for the time being on the label we’re on etcetc But we also have an idea of next year putting out a club EP on a different label in the States or Europe. It kinda makes sense to be putting out singles on etcetc because they’re a little more indie and they’re not as straight up club music but we do make club music so it would be cool to put out something that’s a little more dance floor for the club without that song structure. We’d like to be able to go and play clubs in Europe.

How is the overseas touring going so far?
Nick: It’s pretty good. We’ve only been doing little bits and pieces. We were over in the States earlier this year and did WMC in Miami in March which was awesome. It was good to be over there and you realise that the Australian dance scene is just a small little pocket. There are so many different niches over there and the good thing about a conference like that is you can go and hear any type of dance music you want to. We always find these trips really motivating. We get back and we’re just ready to write music. It’s quite inspiring to be around all these people and see that there is a real big scene out there.

A lot of overseas producers we talk to want to chat about the Australian music scene and think it’s booming. Technically it is online and Australians are doing really well overseas but it’s a really bizarre juxtaposition compared to what’s actually happening in the live scene. Are you finding many Aussies overseas?
Stu: It’s so strong at the moment like there’s so much good stuff happening but you go to Sydney and there’s no nightlife. It’s pretty confusing and it is sad that we’re losing people to overseas because they really don’t have another option. You get to a certain point here and think “I wanna take it further.”

Are you finding back here in Australia, you’ve got a really good community behind you from the artists to the labels?
Nick: It’s not a huge niche and culture but everyone that we work with and work alongside are really like-minded. Australia has recently realised that we’re too small to be super competitive. It makes more sense to get along and help each other. The market isn’t big enough. It’s better to be friends and collaborate.
Stu: There’s no point in not helping each other out.

And then how do you go about getting some amazing people to remix your work?
Nick: So far with most of the remixes because we don’t have a huge profile yet it’s been through some sort of connection. There’s been some that we’ve known their manager or something like that. The Wookie one came about because we did a remix for him a year ago - a track of his got licensed and I just reached out to him and said “Hey man, just wanted to let you know we’re remixing your tune, big fan and I’ve loved your shit for years.” I think I said to him, “I bought your debut album when I was 14 years old.” He was like, “you’re making me feel old bro but thank you I look forward to hearing the remix.” So we were in contact and it came to looking for remixes for White Dress and the label asked who we were interested in. We reached out to a few people and they either hadn’t ever heard of us or we just wouldn’t hear back so I reached out to Wookie and said, “would you be interested?” and he came back and said, “I’m into it. Get your label to speak to my people.”

How much reaching out to people do you do online?
Nick: A fair bit. Even The Satin Jackets, I saw them over in Germany a couple of years earlier and my girlfriend had worked with him and we were in Berlin and he happened to be in town so we went for a beer with him and at that stage Set Mo was barely doing anything so he wasn’t aware of the project. Then a couple of years later on we wanted something that was a bit more laid back and poolside on the remix pack so I reached out to him and said, “Hey, Tim would you be interested in remixing this?” and he said, “yeah sure.” I think it’s because he’s met you and knows what you’re like. It’s the same for us. If somebody from Germany hit us up who we’d never met unless the tune was absolutely amazing we’d probably be like, “sorry dude.” But if one of our homies from London hit us up we’d be a lot more likely to say yes.

Has anyone remixed one of your tunes and it came straight out of nowhere?
Stu: We had a Dropout Orchestra remix of one of the songs before our EP and we were expecting it to be quite funky and disco but it came back and it was this acid belter. And it wasn’t what we were expecting but it was sick.
Nick: It definitely was not what we were expecting.

On the topic of your original and working with vocalists - is that something you want to keep doing?
Stu: Yeah, it’s a huge part. All of our tunes have had vocals on it to this point. White Dress and the single we’re about to put out we’ve been involved in writing the lyrics. We’ve worked with a singer and come up with the concept and then recorded together.

So you’re not the type to write it and just send it over to be recorded straight away?
Stu: Nah I think it’s important to have some input from the singer so there’s that connection. It’s nice having input on lyrics as well.

The Deutsche Duke vocal on White Dress is just so good.
Nick: He’s amazing right?

Yeah. Crazy good voice.
Nick: We call him the godfather. His studio is in our building and he’s been around in the music biz for a long time.

How’d you hook up with him?
Stu: Just because he’s in the same building.
Nick: We’d just got back from overseas and we’d written a few ideas while we were in London and we got back and played a couple to him. There was one where he was like, “that’s really cool,” so we worked on it together. We were in the studio one night and we pretty much wrote the whole top line and he laid down a guide so we could remember what it was like with the intention of recording final vocals later and then he recorded final vocals later and we liked the guide better. It was the most raw and emotive. When he spent heaps of time recording it, it lost a bit of the emotion. It took a little time to convince him.

SetMoRelationshipQuiz

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