Album Walkthrough: Two People dissect their second album, Second Body
On their first album two years ago, the duo proved that greatness can rise from the ashes of Snakadaktal. Now, they take it a step further.
Two years ago, Two People took us into their world. Their debut album First Body was a masterclass in shimmering electronica's intersection with pop and R&B, with the duo, composed of close friends and collaborators Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough, taking what they've learnt from being thrown into the deep end of the Australian commercial music world - as two members of Snakadaktal, Phoebe and Joey helped carve Australia's blossoming indie-pop world today - and applying it to intricate electronica, much of it being year-end bests come December.
Two People was a project built off intimacy, and a desire to share personal snapshots of their respective lives through a 'self-made' lens, away from the politics and hysteria that comes with being a commercially popular act. "Let’s aim small and let it be big" was the motto behind it all, and First Body encapsulated that, with the end result being a reflection of the duo reaching a new prime, and working their way up to get to that spot (in addition to writing and producing the whole record, the pair also led the duo creatively too, from press shots down to album covers).
In 2020, this "aim small, be big" ethos still plays a part in Two People's central core, but things have changed slightly. The duo have grown - both personally and musically - and creating an album with the exact same intentions wouldn't make sense. It's intimate and honest - even more so than their debut album - but done in a way that doesn't feel like you're encroaching on personal space. They're letting you in, guiding you by the hand as they reflect on a period of tension and the growth that comes with that, and how that translates musically.
The end result, is something that builds on First Body. It's a natural evolution rather than a natural progression, working out the kinks of their debut while experimenting on them, and furthering their sound so it's deeper and more dynamic; rich with the creative expression that fuels Two People, but in a way that we haven't seen before. "First Body was all about us exploring new sounds, feeling out edges, working with raw and fragile parts," the duo explain. "Second Body is definitive, deliberate and assertive. It’s more fierce and a little bit more fun…. A night in the desert, a dreamland, filmic and surreal…"
You can feel that across Second Body's movement, and how they occupy space that on the first album, was kept open. Dream Steppin' is awash with brooding synth and thick-cut percussion that Phoebe's delicate vocal contrasts, before it reaches a climactic moment that feels like sparkling maximalism far removed from First Body's subtle pace. Someone To Serve moves in a similar way, the duo fixing their eyes on this grand pop sound that makes itself known across much of the album's duration, which comparatively, feels like a louder sibling to the duo's debut.
However, there are still moments where the album reduces to a sheer whisper, and at those moments is when Two People feel their most potent. I Was Wrong Thinking You Were Right is upbeat and brooding with reflection, while The Line - which comes immediately prior - tackles an enchanting mix of soul and jazz. They're intimate snapshots that really capture the album's theme - "the tension that comes with being stuck in a place you don’t want to be."
Either way, it's an incredible album amongst the year's most lush, and one most definitely worth celebrating. Take a dive into the album below, alongside a track-by-track walkthrough from the duo themselves, who walk us through the album's inner themes and creation one song at a time.
Joey: This track was both really easy and difficult to put together. On the one hand, everything seemed to fall into place but on the other, we kept thinking that it wasn’t finished. That was until we decided to try singing the verse like a drum part. Then it all clicked. One my fav things we have ever done.
Phoebe: I see this track being the centrepiece of the record. Once it came together it sort of made the whole thing click. Joey had the beat and bassline groove floating around on his laptop and I really latched onto it. I had a page of lyrics from the previous couple of months describing all these freaky dreams I’d been having, stuff that I was having trouble shaking. It seemed like the right fit.
Phoebe: This song is all about yelling, especially after a long time either refusing it or not knowing how. Being jolted in, like a realisation of “oh I can actually say exactly what I want”. The production side of this track was really exciting. The more minimal we made it the groovier it got. Simmo just kept pulling things away and it left it with all this yummy space. At the time we wrote it we were really into Gorillaz, Bobby Womack, Gil Scott, stuff like that. It comes through.
Joey: The last 20 seconds on this song are very very good.
Phoebe: Lol. That’s true.
Someone To Serve
Joey: This song was born out of a really long psych-y rock jam thing we had lying around. I remember always really loving the feel of the organ/synth chords over the kinda progg-y bass line. I think the essence of that initial jam is still there in this one.
Phoebe: It’s like a dystopian rock song. We started writing the track back around 2018, when our first record was finished but before it’s release. There was all this angst and fight in us that was coming from the limbo phase we were in, so we captured it. We wanted to make something that felt really urgent and yet totally conscious, you know like grabbing the bull by it’s horns.
Joey: We kept coming back to this imagery of a car speeding through the desert, cliffs and dirt and nothing else. We didn’t muck around with perfecting things, the vocal take we used was one of the first where one night in the studio Phoebe was finishing off the lyrics and just hurtled in, that was the vibe. Simmo really pushed the sound where it needed to go and we just kept agreeing that it felt good and right.
Phoebe: It’s about that really rough energy that comes from total exhaustion.
Been A Little While
Joey: I remember we were messing around with this one a lot in the studio as well and it was only when we referenced Drake for the drumbeat that everything seemed to click. It’s about as minimal as we get on the record and it’s a nice moment. I really love the way everything falls over itself and kind of breaks apart towards the end of the song.
Phoebe: It’s like a love letter to sadness. Sometimes I wish people would cry more. But for some people, it’s a lot harder than it looks. The song is about all the good things that can come out of feeling blue. I remember the arrangement started off being kind of bandy and stompy, but the tone wasn’t right. Joey and Simmo started playing with different samples and really transformed the feel of the track. Then I kind of improvised what is now the chorus and the song got really tender and sexy which suited.
Breaking The Silence
Phoebe: This might be my fave track on the record. It’s like all my different influences coming together for a drink. Folk meets Portishead meets top 40 hip-hop meets I dunno, 2P. We all had this urge to put something really aggressive at the end of the song. I can’t really remember how we got there but one night I ended up in the vocal booth screaming into the mic like a maniac. Was truly terrifying and fun and a bit of a blur but I remember being on my knees and looking up through the glass to Simmo and Joey, desperate for some kind of reassurance about the past 20 minutes. Simmo just said “like a duck to water”.
Joey: We wanted to have more guitar on this record and that is really central to this song. We fell in love with Big Thief over the last couple of years and I reckon a bit of influence seeped in here. I think Phoebe’s vocal delivery is perfectly lazy on this. It’s hard to do that.
Joey: Well this is our disco song. We went round the twist trying to get the arrangement of this right and when you think about it, it’s a bit all over the shop but it all just flows naturally. We absolutely love live disco 4/4 drums. It’s kind of dumb but feels so good.
Phoebe: Yeah, euphoric. The lyrics are about desire, that innate pull. It’s about that idea of freedom and how it can trap you.
Joey: This tune changed a lot in the studio. Simmo who we worked with a cross the record brought a lot to this song changing the chords and adding a really light beat that counters the darkness in the vocal perfectly.
Phoebe: Yeah, Simmo really saved this track… The lyrics have a lot to say, it’s hard for me to explain this one in any other words. At a stretch, the song is about being forever lost.
I Was Wrong Thinking You Were Right
Joey: We really love dance music and while the first record probably had a bit more of that influence we wanted to keep elements of that on this one too. The beat and the kinda cheesy piano are that. A bit of reggaeton never hurt anyone.
Phoebe: What I love about this track is how polarizing the sound is to the story. This is rare to pull off but it was always how it needed to be. Sometimes you gotta treat the heaviest shit with the lightest hand. This song is about a misuse of power.
Under The Hood
Phoebe: I think this track is so much fun. Singing it makes me feel like a drunk cowboy. It’s about how hard it actually is to understand and to be understood. There are some parallels going on with the words. In one light it’s a relationship, in the other it’s an addiction. Both have devotion and sometimes it’s deranged.
Joey: Out of any, I keep listening back to this track. I love the way it creeps out of nowhere. This began life as a guitar riff, which is still there in the verse. It took us ages to get the drums right and Simmo definitely sorted us out there. I would have been most excited about this in a live context if we’d had the chance to perform it.
Follow Two People: FACEBOOK