Amongst a storm of change and uncertainty, Tornado Club prevail
On their debut EP Reset, Tornado Club - a project by Woodes and The Kite String Tangle - dissect unfamiliarity through dance music and t.A.T.u covers alike.
Header image by Mitch Lowe.
It’s unsurprising to learn that Woodes and The Kite String Tangle have become close friends over the last few years.
They’re both acts amongst the hallmark of Australian alt-pop music; whether it be via Woodes’ grand and cinematic indie-pop or the often-genre-clashing dance-pop The Kite String Tangle has become notorious for over the last decade. They share festival line-ups, songwriting camps and a mutual appreciation of artists on music’s outer fringes; an adoration of experimentalists such as Jonsí or Four Tet who inform how the pair push the boundaries in the music of their own. They’ve even worked together on music in the past, with The Kite String Tangle aiding the production of Woodes’ 2020-released debut album, Crystal Ball.
Nevertheless, news of the pair forming a new duo feels somewhat unexpected. “Tornado Club came from a really unique situation,” explains Woodes’ Elle Graham, talking over Zoom in Melbourne while The Kite String Tangle’s Danny Harle chimes in from his Brisbane studio: “It wouldn’t have happened under different circumstances.”
Born following their time spent collaborating on Crystal Ball, Tornado Club is a project that lives outside of the universes Woodes and The Kite String Tangle have spent the last decade meticulously creating. “It couldn’t really live within Woodes, and I think it was a little too raw for The Kite String Tangle, so we thought it would be better as something entirely different - not that we went into it thinking of it as something we’d end up releasing,” Elle continues. Initially, they were just writing music as a form of creative and personal expression whenever they’d find themselves in the same city as one another, tinkering away on music as a means of release and experimentation when the opportunities arose.
Then came pandemic-induced lockdowns, and when they pair found themselves continuing to work on music even while apart (Elle in Melbourne; Danny in Brisbane), they questioned what would happen if they did turn the music they were making with one another into a “proper project”, so to speak. “From there, it was a pretty organic conversation,” Elle elaborates. “We were getting really excited about something even though we were both releasing our own albums in a global pandemic - it was just something different.”
Tornado Club’s debut EP Reset is what resulted from Elle and Danny exploring their excitement down to its final product. Released at the tail-end of July, Reset is a poignant six tracks that feel unlike Woodes or The Kite String Tangle but instead a tug-of-war combination of them both, combining the juxtaposingly bold intimacy of Woodes’ discography with the clubbier, dance-focused sonic palette you’d expect from The Kite String Tangle.
It’s a sound encapsulated on the project’s first taste, Something Was Missing - a co-write worked on before Tornado Club was even conceived but “rehomed” into the project once its vision became clear. Something Was Missing presents an interesting contrast; stormy and dark through its invigorated, strobe-lit production yet intimate and comforting through its reflective lyricism and gentle vocals. In a way, it feels like the pair using the cathartic nature of dance music to process and reflect on themselves in real-time, amongst a rushing production that almost charades it entirely.
“A few of the songs were written in a period when Elle had just come off tour, and I had a breakdown of a ten-year relationship happening at the same time,” Danny explains. Listened front-to-back, Reset soundtracks the emotional journey happening simultaneously to the EP’s creation; peeling back the emotional processes of a relationship’s end from its darkest reflections (as shown through the EP-opening Intuition) right through to the resilience that’s left when you come out the other side and free yourself from that emotional burden, as told through the closing Let Go.
“Reset is me processing this all in real-time,” Danny continues. “It kind of forced me to speed up the process of getting over it and it helped me think more clearly as if it was days of therapy instead of songwriting.” He admits that being so personal with his music is new territory, but as each morsel of Tornado Club’s roll-out continues, it’s something he’s felt less anxious sharing. “I felt like I was almost oversharing, but it’s such a universal experience that it doesn’t come across like that. A lot of people have experienced the same thing, so I’m really happy with how people are relating to it.”
Intuition is the most powerful depiction of the reconciliation process, the pair agree; the more timid production of the song allowing the raw and overtly personal lyricism to move to the forefront. “It was the first song written after the break-up, and it feels the most powerful,” Danny says. “There’s something quite magical in how it came together,” Elle reiterates. “It’s when we first decided that we’d sing everything together - do this whole project together - and so I think it’s really indicative of the entire project. Intuition is really what started it all.”
That isn’t to say that Reset’s heavier and more club-ready moments aren’t intimate, though; Your Love - the song on the EP most comparable to the left-field experimentation of Four Tet or Nicolas Jaar’s Against All Logic project - still sits with a longing presence, even amongst the raging production that leads the charge. Then, there is Something Was Missing, the aforementioned debut single that encapsulates the EP’s greater vision and story through its second-most vigorous production.
There’s also All The Things She Said, a - you guessed it - cover of the cult-adored t.A.T.u anthem of the same name. It’s a cover that breathes new life into the Russian hit, taking the manic instrumentation of the original and altering it into a more tender song reflective of its theme - one that many seem to gloss over in favour of its unbridled energy and fits perfectly into the greater Reset puzzle being put together. “We both love covers, and they’re good to have up our sleeves for different live opportunities and things like that,” Elle says. “But All The Things She Said also matches the break-up reconciliation theme of the EP; it fits into the same world we were creating, in a way.”
As Tornado Club list the artists that influenced the project’s sonic blueprint, many of them are those that exist in other forms too. There are artists such as Four Tet that have aliases and off-shoots, or projects like Sigor Rós and Radiohead that have solo and side projects littered amongst their members. Nearly every act they list as an influence has some kind of alias, often purpose-built to encourage experimentation or evolution without the assumptions and expectations people have towards the musician’s main project. However, it’s something that both The Kite String Tangle and Woodes are experimenting with for the first time, and so, Tornado Club has come with questions about their own projects that they’ve had to figure out along the way.
“I think our vision for [Tornado Club] is that we want it to fit in between our own projects,” Elle explains, but there’s an enticing overlap between Tornado Club and what the pair do as Woodes and The Kite String Tangle. “We’ve tried really hard to push it as a new project, but it’s exciting that we can write together for any three of our projects, and we’ve already begun exploring that for Woodes, The Kite String Tangle and more Tornado Club work beyond this EP.”
It’s clear that there is a future in Tornado Club that the pair are incredibly excited to dissect and grow, whether it be on the live stage - with a headline tour to go ahead as soon as it’s safe to do so - or the recorded material beginning to emerge as the pair work remotely to craft a follow-up to Reset. “It’s so much fun,” Elle teases, talking about what the pair have made since finishing the Reset EP earlier in the year. “We wanted to move away from the more intimate side of things and perhaps explore something more fun and upbeat, something that would lend itself to the live show.”
“We got together again with that in mind, and on the first day, we made a song we really liked. That will probably set the tone for something bigger to come.”