Release Date: 16 June
Words: Tom Grant

Nuanced production that manages to incorporate retro and forward-thinking sounds simultaneously
— XLR8R on Alba

Thomas Macalister and Sam Weston (Alba) are two of Sydney’s finest beat makers. Oscar Key Sung is a soulful Melbourne talent with a unique croon. We’re excited as all hell to be bringing them together for ‘So Easily’, a fluid and mesmerising 7” single with the b-side receiving the treatment from one our favourite paddlers of cosmic house, Dreems.

With ‘So Easily’ you’ll hear Alba’s shuffling minimalism mixed in with the unmistakable vocals of Key Sung. It’s a wondering number that unveils itself to you listen after listen, and it’ll stick with you for some time after. I had a chat with Sam and Tom not too long ago to gain insights and observations in to the genesis of the track, what it took to create it, and their plans going forward with it.

T: How did you set up working with Oscar Key Sung? Who approached who?

A: Oscar has been a friend of ours for many years, through playing shows and mutual friends. We had thrown around the idea of a collaboration for a while so we sent him an idea for a track that we had lying around and it all just fell into place. We all had a free day while he was in Sydney shortly after and we jumped in our studio and knocked out a couple of ideas.

What came first, the track or the vocals?

A: It all came together in a really fun way. We had gone in to record a completely different track and had no real intention of making any more than that. After working for a few hours we were kind of wrapping things up and Oscar showed us this demo that he'd recorded recently and asked if we'd be keen to do something with it. It was about 10 minutes long, just a 2-chord pad change with Oscar improvising over it, no tempo, no click, just really raw and cool. We started up a drum machine and hit play and it fell in to a really cool groove with the demo and got us all really excited, and over the next hour or so we were all running around the studio trying out parts on keyboards and programming drums and it was pretty much done. We never re-recorded any of Oscar's parts (it's probably inaccurate to call his recording a demo) and that's a large part of where all of the vibe of the song comes from, there's extra bars and beats all over the place and it just chugs along, working itself out as it goes.

It was about 10 minutes long, just a 2-chord pad change with Oscar improvising over it, no tempo, no click, just really raw and cool
— Alba
Key Sung wants to make all the sad pretty things dance
— Pitchfork

T: Your set at Plastic World 2nd Birthday was more explorative and ambient than previous, more driving affairs. That reflects in this track quite a lot, there is less of a consistent thump and more wandering atmospherics. Do you think that pairs with Oscar’s vocal style quite well?

A: There’s a pretty big gap between what we do live and what we do in the studio. When we play live there's a certain energy and mood we're trying to create, it's constantly changing and is often pretty improvised, so can depend a lot on our mood. At the Plastic World 2nd Birthday we had just gotten off a plane from another show in Melbourne to find the airline had misplaced one of our bags of gear, so I think we were both feeling pretty frantic after piecing together gear to make the show work and probably wanted to zone out and have some fun rather than play a really strict set.

When we're in the studio it's a different story, you're no longer responsible for a crowd of people having a good time and you can take your time exploring different moods or ideas. We've been working together for a long time, so when you put a third person in the room, with their own energy and ideas, things are obviously going to take a different course than they normally would. Oscar is an amazingly talented musician so it was a pleasure for us to be able to bounce ideas around with him and develop something together. When we initially got together we were listening to old Peven Everett and Roy Davis Jnr type "vocal house” tracks with the intention of writing something that was, while still melancholic, going to be pretty up tempo and dance floor ready. After hearing the recording Oscar had made it was obvious that we were about to make something more hushed and a little less straight forward, and it was a nice departure from the kind of work we had been doing at the time.

T: What kind of set up did you use to record the track?

A: The tune is pretty elementary, with only a bass line and drums added to Oscars keyboard and vocal performance. From memory we think Oscar said he'd done the demo with some kind of Juno and an SM-58. The parts that made the cut on our end we're from a TR-8 and a Jupiter 6, so the sound palate is pretty classic in that sense.

T: Will you be (have you been) incorporating So Easily into your live sets? You’ve not really used vocals in the past do you think that could work well?

A: We have played a different tune which we made with Oscar live in the past, but never So Easily. There is the potential that an instrumental version would work quite well, but we would only want to perform the vocal version if and when Oscar is able to join us on stage. For a purely vocal driven track like this it might feel a little alien or insincere to just play the vocal track as a recording.