Melbourne-based electronic duo GL (a.k.a Ella Thompson and Graeme Pogson) have released their latest studio album, You Read My Mind. From simmering percussion, to edgy pulsing synths, GL have continued to raise the bar for modern disco and funk, with a sprinkling of something unique. We had a chat to Graeme and Ella about releasing music in lockdown, spontaneity in the studio, and how friendship and music mix. We also take a little deep-dive into the record too.
You Read My Mind is an exotic time capsule that explores the psyche of GL and continues to hone in on the duo’s distinctive sound. Recorded at the band’s own Swimming Pool Studio in Fitzroy and released via Pool Records, the process was driven by spontaneity, with the pair also using the ultimate gift of time and control in their own studio space.
Speaking to Ella and Graeme a week before their release, there’s a sense of COVID-fatigue. ‘We’re in stage four lockdown and I haven’t seen Graeme for months‘, says Ella as Graeme laughs in the background. But despite the obscurity of the situation in Melbroune, ‘it must go on… [The album has] been with us for a while so it will be good to set it free.’
With four years since their previous record Touch, the pair have taken the time to play around musically and work on other projects. Ella explains ‘we were kind of unsure of what we wanted to do musically. We both tried out a lot of stuff and decided to come back to GL. It was really important to both of us. It happened quite naturally and before we knew it we had enough songs to start thinking about putting a record together.
‘There were things we wanted to think more consciously about in the project, like improving our live show. We added another percussionist and keyboard player. We wanted it to be more of a live band feel, so we’ve brought some of that to the record as well. We’re starting to get GL to be the way we always wanted it to be, I think.’
Devoid of any constraint, there’s an overwhelming euphoric lightness to this record. With Ella’s vocals soaring over the simmering percussion and colourful melodies, the excitement of the recording process is clear in the uninhibited compositions.
Speaking about the advantages of using their own studio, Graeme explains, ‘when we were writing it, it was just super fun to be able do that in a place where the sounds that you record the first time are often pretty good, rather than a full bedroom recording and then getting into the studio for the big moment.”
‘It’s always a great feeling, and you get the most excitement from that. But that can be a trap because you constantly try and capture that again. And often, if you don’t get it right when it’s happening spontaneously, sometimes it just gets diluted from there‘, says Graeme. ‘It’s really important to capture those spontaneous moments, because often they go on the record. There are so many demos of Ella singing amazing things that ended up being in the track somewhere because it’s the right sound‘.
As music that feels like it’s made for grooving, You Read My Mind has big live-show energy. ‘We can’t wait to play it live when we get the opportunity‘, says Ella. ‘I feel like that’s our real strength… we both love performing live. We kind of put that performance into this record, treating it like our show.’
The opening track, You Read My Mind, is an effervescent start to the album, with multilayered percussive elements and Ella’s sweeping vocals creating a fresh and feel-good vibe. Pistachio fills in some extra depth with deep synth beats and record scratches. It’s peak ’80s funk, mirroring The Gap Band’s classic track Outstanding. ‘Beneath our hard shells, we all want to share our secrets with somebody‘, says the duo, explaining that this track was the final ingredient in their delectable record (… and not just because pistachios are so delicious).
True throws in some darkness and carries the track through to disco, with a spectacular bassy synth that stands in startling contrast to Ella’s gorgeous high-range vocals. Night Habit continues with the deep power synth, sitting somewhere between Chaka Khan and Madonna.
Next in is Deliver with a spacey tune and off beat cowbells. An instant groove-inducer that transports you straight to the dance floor, it combines the punchy energy of the likes of Zapp, Afrika Bambaataa or Kurtis Blow.
Endlessly takes us back into Moloko-like dreamy pop. It’s a relaxing pleasure-seeker, a real floating-on-air love song. Turning your speakers up and letting the drums bounce from side to side creates a spellbinding experience. Ella says the song is ‘a celebration of love… If you’re having a tough one, remember there’s always someone looking out for you and that is precious‘.
All In My Head musically takes a step back to let Ella’s vocals shine, before Rush launches back into rich synths and a more entrancing heart-beat. Oyster, the penultimate track, really showcases the musicianship and creativity of the group. Written with the GL’s new live band, it’s a luscious instrumental track with a few sparkling vocals towards the end.
Capping off the album is Clouds, a gentle track with muted synths and fairy tale flourishes. There’s a sense of weightlessness in this song that lifts you up through the angelic vocal phrases. The softened outro gently lulls you back into relaxation, releasing all the energy the previous tracks had inspired.
This record is music you can move to, dance to, it simmers and purrs. More than ever we wanted to create a lot of it on the spot, so it was very fun and spontaneous… We are really thrilled to be back in the game releasing our second album, and as soon as we’re able to, we will be touring with our live band and bringing the live energy to this record. In the meantime, sing along at home, send us vids, tell your friends, reach out and stay in touch.GL
The limitations of 2020 drastically change the process for music releases. Creating an album is a fun but rigorous task, encapsulating an enormous amount of work and often such a generous display of emotion. The absence of a live show as an outlet and shared celebration must be strangely defeating. However, GL remain incredibly positive.
‘I think music is for listening. A lot of the time it’s tied into your entire campaign and kind of maximising what you can get out of your tour… but it’s nice just to release music and not have a tour on the back of it‘, Graeme says. ‘It’s almost like this is for listening, not coming to the show. I kind of like it.’
‘We’re definitely proud of what we’re about to put out. Obviously the circumstances have changed things but its so easy to write together. When you can put an album together with a friend pretty easily… and you have fun making it, that’s a good group to put your focus on. We just kind of remembered that when we got back together‘.
Ella adds, ‘the best thing is just making a project with a friend. You can’t underestimate that. It’s a pretty rewarding thing when you have this outcome of friendship and music.’
For the fans of classic ’80s disco and funk that are desperately craving a rhythmic release, You Read My Mind is a sensory adventure. For those who simply levitate with the bright vocals of Madonna, or melt at the soothing caress of Sade, the journey between tracks will equally buoy you and comfort you. Coming to your earphones at the perfect time, this 10-track freedom finder is the ultimate in upbeat escapism.
Stream You Read My Mind below: