Last week in between the middle of Set Mo’s ‘Stamina Session’ Tour, we were lucky enough to catch up with two of the dreamiest men in dance music for some beers, burgers and of course, banter at Dee Why Hotel. We (minus one vego in our camp) chowed down on the infamous Trufflenator burgers created by master chef Brad Johnston. The hype surrounding the Sydney show this weekend is absolutely legit, with the rest of the tour (Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne) all sold out, it’s just Sydney left and tickets are scarce. We managed to delve pretty deep into what the guys are about, why they wanted a 4-hour set and how they get so creative with their music.
Stu: Oh man, this beer is at least 2 standard drinks, I need to stop so I can drive.
Nick: Yeah one of us has to be responsible
US: Where has this obsession with burgers and beers come from?
Stu: Before DJing, we both worked in bars, so that’s probably where the love of beer came from.
Nick: I worked at Belgium bier café, so naturally the amount of beers that were there created a love. As for burgers, it’s just how can you not love one.
Stu: As long as it’s good beer though, like if someone was to sit there and offer us Superdry or something, probably not gonna take it. There’s definitely better things out there.
Nick: Yeah last time someone offered me a Pure Blonde I just said nah.
US: How was the Set Mo story started? How’d you guys meet and was it musical chemistry straight away?
Stu: So we both were DJing at Candys, separately though, and I was also working at Fringe Bar at the time and Falcona used to do a weekly Wednesday party there and we met there and got talking music. So we fiddled with Ableton a bit and formed up a duo. I think it was about a year in we both quit our day jobs and just focused on music 5 days a week, it took a lot of time playing Fifa and doing nothing, so we decided lets just focus.
Nick: Yeah we were right into like Hot Creations back in the day when we started, so it was always house.
Stu: Our first actual release was a remix of Miguel Miggs and it went out and that was kind of the first time we saw our name on the internet.
US: What label are you guys signed to at the moment?
Nick: Well we’ve just started Set Mo records, and I Belong Here is the first release.
Stu: We were on Etcetc records, but our contract just finished up and we finished this tune and wanted to get it out asap, and didn’t want to have to go through the whole process of negotiations and that before releasing it.
Nick: I mean, yeah we might go back to a label, who knows where this is going to take us. With streaming and that now and the way music being consumed changes so rapidly, that sometimes a deal with a label can change and not be covered with those revenue streams.
Stu: When we were at the label we were really picky with everything, who shot us, who filmed us, where we recorded. Everything.
US: So the Stamina tour is a 4-hour set, which is a bit of a marathon. What inspired the concept behind this?
Nick: Over the last couple of tours we did last year, some of the clubs we played we were booked for 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours and we’d just tell the promoter we might play over time. Then after getting to the 3-hour mark we realised we were loving it, it was nice to take people on journeys and smash out some bangers we wouldn’t normally get to play, which is sick. So we did a tour earlier in the year and it went off, which was sick. So now we want full control, book the warm up, book the venue, the lighting, the sound, everything. It gives you much more freedom to work with.
US: So you’ve got Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, why no love for Radelaide?
Stu: Just logistically it’s really hard to do, and also really expensive to do, so on the financial side we had a look and the numbers just didn’t add up. The market there for our music as well just isn’t as big, so it’s hard to do.
Nick: So yeah, the programming generally we get the warm up to play about 110-115 bpm just to get things moving, then we’ll jump on and start to bring it up to like 120-125.
Stu: Yeah by the end we’re going real deep and dark, 10 minute rollers and I think our last show we closed with Sasha, so that’s the vibe that it gets to. It’s good to have time as well to be a bit more experimental.
Nick: When you’re playing for 4 hours too, it’s not just going straight into bangers and holding the DF, it’s about building the room, going big, bringing it back down, bringing it big again.
US: What are some artists that you guys are really digging in the local scene at the moment?
Nick: Oh man, so many. Like the ones we play, obviously, but a bunch we don’t get to like Cosmos Midnight, Kushka, Nyxen, Flight Facilities, Rufus, Motez, Crooked Colours, Running Touch, Kite String Tangle.
Stu: There’s just so much good music coming out of Australia at the moment, it’s hard to choose really.
US: And do you think there’s a slight bubble in the Australian Music scene, where artists are getting really prolific here, but struggling to break the overseas markets?
Nick: We listen to a lot of music from everywhere in the world, we don’t really try write to a market, we just write what we feel and what we’re influenced by.
Stu: It’s tough as people don’t hear you, like here if you get on radio it’s good, but other people don’t hear that. It’s also expensive going overseas and trying to establish yourself in a new market.
US: Your recent track Merriwa was a lot darker and a lot more clubby than your other work, what was the influence behind that?
Stu: We’ve realised over the years as touring gets more intense, we’re not as productive in writing music. So the stuff we’re writing isn’t the deepest when on tour. So we took a writing trip to this little town called Merriwa, which the song is named after, like 4 and a half hours from Sydney, took the studio up there into this huge house and wrote for 10 days straight. No internet, no mobile reception, just a landline for our manager and girlfriend. So all we did was write. That track came out of that trip I think about 3 in the morning?
US: With this being your third tour this year, how do you find time to live, sleep and produce?
Stu: Those writing trips are key, as we can produce it on tour, it’s just the writing of the song that’s tough to find time for.
Nick: Every Set Mo single you’ve heard, was probably written in a day. But then we have to spend a month in the studio tweaking it, if you listened to the raw files for any of our track before they had been produced you’d hear it, but it’s just not polished. So after a writing trip, we sift through everything that we’ve done on tour and start on the production then.
Stu: It’s something that clicked with us about 18 months ago where we realised it’s best to separate the parts of the process. So we write, then we produce and then that’s how we get the best results.
US: You guys have just had a string of releases that have been going well, is there anything else you’ve got in the works?
Nick: We’ve got a lot that’s written and we’re just working on getting them done.
Stu: We are definitely working towards putting out a body of work as we’ve just got so much music there, ready and waiting. Sometimes you can fall into the trap of finishing a track and wanting to put it out straight away, then figuring out when to put it out, how to put it out and all that. Also with I Belong Here added to rotation on Triple J and doing well, there’s no need to get out more music as it can clutter the exposure you’re receiving and actually be counter productive.
Nick: Yeah sometimes a track just takes a life of it’s own and goes well for 6-12 months, and when that happens gives you more flexibility as to when you want put out music.
Stu: Definitely on the side of being proactive rather than reactive with production as well, so we are now in a position with so much music there that when the time is right, we can just put something out, rather than trying to create something to get it out due to a good opportunity.
US: Have you guys been overseas yet as Set Mo?
Stu: Ah not as a tour, but we went over a couple of years ago, went to ADE and did a showcase there, but no tour yet.
Nick: We spent a lot of time making music in London, I think of the 7 days in London we spent 5 in the studio. Like we made White Dress and Yeah then, but white dress came out about 2 years ago? But Yeah came out only not long ago, so we’ve had all this music sitting there waiting to release.
US: You guys seem to put a lot more effort and attention to detail into your overall brand, not just the music… where does that come from and how important is it to you?
Stu: You’re totally correct, however it wasn’t a contrived thing, like it wasn’t thought out per say, it’s just been a passion project and doing it naturally and I guess the brand reflects that.
Nick: It’s just us being ourselves and being honest, so we’re trying to portray that as best we can. As Stu said it’s always been a passion project, we are just wanting to make music, if we make it or not isn’t as important. We aren’t trying to force or rush anything with it, it’s just having a good time. So we aren’t compromising on our values and ideals for music. We always have to be 100% be into something to do it.
Stu: Yeah it waters down everything if you compromise and you just lose your drive for doing it.
Nick: Our whole team is behind our philosophy of if it’s not a f**k yeah, then it’s a deadset no and that makes the whole brand decision process a lot easier.
US: You just got added to Harbourlife and a post on your Facebook toted it as a huge bucket list gig. How did it feel and are there any other bucket list gigs for you guys?
Nick: I had a moment when it was announced and was like “f**k, that’s us” and that was a big moment for me.
Stu: Yeah literally, a bucket list for us.
Nick: From before we were even Set Mo, we were going there, frothing out as a punter. Then when we started playing shows we thought about how sick it would be to play there, as time progressed it became more of a potential reality and now here we are. For me it has been like a 10 year process, from going to my first Harbourlife to us being on the bill. 10 years is a long time, but like anything can happen it just shows. Now we’re on the line up next to the likes of Claptone and Daniel Avery.
Stu: I just wish my mum got it, I told her real excited and she was just like “what’s Harbourlife?”.
Nick: I fully had to describe it to my dad why it was so bucketlist and even then he was like “yeah, right, cool”. There really is something special about it, the view, the single stage, 5 or 6 acts, few thousand people, just everything comes together. We live in a beautiful city and playing against that backdrop would be dope.
Stu: Been a few times both together and individually and last year Derrick Carter played epic, so it’s just a real drive to play the best set we can and really step it up.
Nick: We put it out there a couple of years ago with the team and I don’t think our agent really chased it, but yeah just having it as a goal has really helped it come to fruition.
Stu: As for bucket lists, well just Ibiza in general would be amazing to do a season. It’s practically the pinnacle of music events.
Nick: Also just touring internationally, like a North America tour or European tour.
The boys at Dee Why beach
US: Do you guys prefer the festival set up or a club show?
Stu: Both, I was saying to Nick on the weekend that I always want to keep doing those gigs where you can high 5 the person front of the dance floor, then festival type set up you’re interacting with the crowd in a different way.
Nick: We’re in a unique position where we’re getting offered both types of shows. Some DJs fall into festival, others into intimate club settings. Our variety of music that we play opens it up, which is nice and helps keep us motivated as we don’t feel a limitation.
Stu: That’s kinda where the inspiration for after dark comes from too, there’ll be more of those down the line as we love that and want to always be able to play those 300 person club shows that this music suits.
US: Your sets often go a bit deeper and a bit more heavy than a lot of your music, which is more summer day time influenced. How do you manage that?
Nick: Yeah absolutely, we like the warm music, but often we get these club mixes done of them so that we do have that option to play at 3 in the arvo, but then also at 4 am.
Stu: Yeah absolutely, it’s about keeping the variety and writing what feels natural to us.
We have a very special Mpire family discount for the Set Mo ‘STamina Session’ show at the Metro this Saturday. CLICK HERE and use the code MPIREXSETMO for $25 (ex GST & BF) first release priced tickets (instead of the 40 bucks everyone else has to fork out)
Photos by Avilo