“Doof you can cry to” — that’s how Australian group Huntly defines themselves. We’ll get into what the very Australian “doof” means later on, but know that the motto is more than appropriate: their first full-length album, Low Grade Buzz, combines dance-party electronic vibes with yearning, heartfelt vocals. Emotionally reaching, but ready-made for glo-stick festival sets, Huntly make music for people who want to feel real catharsis on the dance floor.
On Low Grade Buzz, Elspeth Scrine, Andrew McEwan, and Charlie Teitelbaum present a slick, smooth electronic album where voices often rise above the layered production, and at other times, deeply satisfying beats and notes bolster the vocals, framing them neatly and leading the voice through the song. Frequently satisfying and often surprising, Scrine’s vocals are a standout: clear, seductive and, frankly, gorgeous, they could sit neatly in any number of genres. All the same, it’s hard to imagine this voice anywhere but Huntly.
The three share songwriting duties, and their companionship was clear when they clustered together on a couch for our call, during which they explained “doof” to me, contained a runaway dog, and laughed with each other.
The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
VMP: Tell me how you got together.
Andy: Elly and I met on a beach in India.
Elly: We were both traveling in India, and we met and made friends and talked about music. A couple weeks later I ended up moving to Melbourne and I had cemented a friendship with Andy and I was really keen on playing music. Wait — there’s a dog escape.
(A dog jumps in the distance, then jumps onto the couch with them, as all three of them laugh.)
Andy: And now you’ve met our fourth member.
Charlie: In Melbourne, we met each other and became friends through different connections. We were all talking about music independently.
How was putting together Low Grade Buzz different than a single or EP?
Elly: The process was fairly similar, with the base of writing songs and having me playing them acoustically, many of the songs, and the band having a whole period of reconstructing the songs as Huntly songs, then having the period of recording them ourselves and then doing another, professional round of recording — but this time, we actually had access to a studio. Because we got a brand that enabled us to really lift the high production element of all the songs, we spent a lot of time on that element.
Andy: We also spent — probably because we knew it was an album — a long time recording as well. As one [track] would get better, there would be more pressure to make the others better. All the songs went through quite a few variations.
Elly: It was a discerning process, because we were like, OK, we want it to be around 10 songs, and we had more than that, so we had to actually go through cutting songs and deciding which would stay in. In the past, we’d be like, “Oh, this is a song that we finished.” But this was kind of our first serious thing, the album, so were intentional about having songs that we felt were perfect.
I kept coming across the phrase, in descriptions of your music, “doof you can cry to.” I thought that was so funny. I’d love to hear what that means to you guys.
Charlie: Yeah, do you know — do people use “doof” in America?
Not really, at least, I don’t think so.
Charlie: Do you know what it is? It’s from doof doof — I think it started in Australia in doofs, which are like raves, like parties.
Elly: So “doof” is both a noun and a verb, that is important to understand. (laughter) So you go to a doof, and that’s an event, like a rave, and to doof is to rave —
Andy: To say doof is a noun, it’s also dance music, so basically what we’re referring to is dance music you can cry to, that’s what that means.
Elly: Raving while expressing emotions. “Doof” is essentially our way of defining our music, which we think is in equal parts expressive and emotionally sensitive, while also deeply informed by dance music — being dance spaces and spaces for emotional expression.
This makes me think a lot about Charly Bliss, whose latest record has a lot of dance music that is deeply intimate and focused on heartbreak. You mention a lot this marrying of intimate lyrics and dance music — when you say that it’s intimate or emotional, are you covering a spectrum of emotions?
Elly: A lot of the songs are tied to particular experiences, and those experiences all range across an emotional spectrum, but there are some central themes I come back to in songwriting. Heartbreak is always one that I come back to, it’s where a lot of the stories are from, but then there’s grief, existentialism, joy — all the big ones.
I read an article in LNWY that said this album coincided with the end of a relationship. How much of the album would you say is — I don’t want to say a breakup album, but — framed in that experience?
Elly: Some of the songs, at least. Not all of them, much as my ex would like to think. But some of the songs are about the end of a relationship and the grief over that end and the journey into the next piece, but it is not the concept of the album at all. Some of the songs are separate from that. And there’s also a kind of breakup song about a different relationship, so there’s heartbreak and breakups, but they’re not all based on the same situation.
When you go in and start writing, is there a standard way songs come together?
Elly: It would depend on the song.
Andy: Some of them are written in isolation and some of them are added in a room, together, in a rehearsal. Because we’re doing electronic music, we used to always focus on really playing all of the elements, and as our music got more —
Andy: (laughs) Better, more complex, we definitely moved into exploring more sampling of ourselves.
Elly: When I think about the songs, they do feel quite distinct. The singles we released were a story that I wanted out, the chords and the melody and the lyrics adds this kind of framework to the band.
You talk a lot about the difference between production and the live show — which makes a lot of sense with electronic music. I know Elly, you have a degree as a music therapist — which, congrats! — and with that in mind, what kind of music community do you want to try to build with your fans, especially at these live shows?
Elly: That’s such a good question because, we haven’t really explicitly talked about this, but I think we have really built one in the past few years, and that’s incredible to see. I think dance music spaces and clubs, raves, electronic spaces, are ones that can feel extremely exclusive, judgmental. Even bands who talk lots about inclusivity and all these things — you don’t feel particularly welcome or comfortable at the show because you feel like everyone is cool.
Andy: [Creating a welcoming space is] really difficult to do explicitly. But it depends on the way you act on stage and how that translates to experience for everyone that’s watching. It’s definitely a new part of the Huntly journey, because more people have been coming to shows.
I know you guys will be touring a bit, but what’s next on your radar? How are you feeling?
Elly: (giving a thumbs up, a little panicked) Awesome!
Andy: We’re excited to start looking to the rest of the world — I find it really important to remember that five years ago, this was all that I wanted. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, this is normal life now, I have to do this interview,” but then it’s like, actually, I’m talking to someone on the other side of the world who’s been listening to our music and asking us questions about it. Moving forward, definitely going to be working on more music. Everyone always seems to want the next thing.
You need some time to enjoy the album that you put out three months ago!
Elly: We agonized over so many of the decisions on the album and we put so much time and energy into it with the goal of it being something significant enough that those decisions meant something. All of these little decisions. I was always like, “Come on, we need to finish it, it’s fine, the song’s fine, we don’t need to get those drums sounding any more bassy, they’re fine, no one’ll notice, let’s just finish the song and get it out,” whereas we were more like, “No, we need to be really precise about things.”
Andy: (sarcastically) We’re looking forward to doing that again.
Photo by Phebe Schmidt