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First You Get The Money, Then You Get The Power, Then You Make A Difference

24 November 2017 | 6:06 pm | Rod Whitfield

"I definitely explore some of the mental traps that you fall into along the way, but I always like to weave in a silver lining."

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Taking the activity or artform that you love doing most in the world and making a good living out of it is considered by some to be an 'earthly utopia'. Miller Upchurch, frontman of Melbourne-based jazz-pop duo Slum Sociable agrees with this motif, although he is also quick to point out that he has even more meaningful ambitions for his musical output. "We'd love this to be what pays the bills," he states. "Doing what you love as your job is pretty much the dream, so we have every intention of putting our all into it and making this a sustainable future.

"Every artist has different goals and intentions with their music. For us that's more of a humble goal, to do what you love for your work. At the same time, bringing up the mental health side of things, I'd like to take a stance on issues like that and others more in the future, once I figure out what else I'm passionate about. I'd love to use the platform that I've been given to raise awareness for some positive causes as well. Making a difference for people is another goal as well."

The mental health issue is one that is very near and dear to the heart of the singer, and it is dealt with in a very open and honest manner in the lyrics and imagery of the band's superb self-titled debut. He tells us that, while it is certainly a dark topic, he prefers to put a positive spin on it in his writing. "I don't like to dwell on the negative side of it too much," he explains, "I definitely explore some of the mental traps that you fall into along the way, but I always like to weave in a silver lining."

The record deals with several other related subjects across its journey as well. "It's also heavily about relationships that you have with people," he continues, "and it doesn't have to be romantic relationships, it can be workmates, it can be family, friends - it's all about how people interact and a lot of observations on that, and the way that works in with the emotions of it all. I sing about that as well, how these things affect you. 

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"So it's supposed to be a bit telling, as far as human interactions are concerned."

The band heads off on tour in support of the album in early December, and Upchurch is a little gobsmacked at the lift in profile and demand that they are experiencing with the release of the record, as he looks at some of the places they are playing. "We've been a support act at some of these venues before," he says, "and it's kind of surreal to be the headline act there now. Like, at the Corner we supported #1 Dads' band and it was a magical night. We'd just finished our set, we figured we'd killed it, we got offstage and we were pumped. And the audience loved it as well, thank you to everyone that came to that show.

"Then the main act comes on, and the electricity in the air is just palpable. So to be the main act ourselves at these places, we're humbled."

Listening to the album, their sound is very chill, even quite dreamy in its jazzy pop sensibilities. However, Upchurch reveals that the duo upsizes and transforms itself significantly in a live context, and anyone who hasn't seen them play before can expect something very different from what they hear on the record. "If you've listened to our stuff, you'd know that we're a two-piece when it comes to the writing side of things," he explains, "but when we get on stage we're a four-piece. The arrangements we do with the two other guys live are slightly different to the album versions and it definitely brings a whole new energy to the live show. We've always felt that albums and live shows are meant to be a bit of a separate world.

"Instead of the two of us playing and hitting samples and stuff like that, we like to take it up a notch or two."