What makes a band stylish and smart?
Stylish and smart are two words most people wouldn’t associate with music. Music means different things to different people, but I believe to stand out in the sea of others, bands must adopt a stylish and smart approach. A truly respected musician is smart enough to not change their style to suit the demands of a record label or radio, but instead produces their art authentically.
Here are three artists who are changing the way they produce their art, in a stylish, smart, and unique way.
Client Liaison immediately came to mind when I thought of smart and stylish. The Melbourne synth-pop quartet merges 80’s-Australiana-business aesthetic with an injection of pastel, to create something from a nostalgic dream. However, they are anything but out-dated; rather a time-transcending audio-visual feast for the senses- welcome to the world of Client Liaison.
“International in flavour, cosmopolitan in style- we are Client Liaison”
Filling the stage with strong vocals and in your face outfits- high-waisted suits in plain pastel or embroidered with Australian iconography- Client Liaison still have a suave and stylish feeling about them. It’s interesting to note that an all-male band actively puts effort into their fashion, with multiple costume changes in one set. To add to the bands personal style and aesthetic, they created their own clothing, Client Liaison Deluxe Line, which blurs the line between fashion and merchandise, a business venture never-before-seen in Australian music.
To complete the Client Liaison world, Expo Liaison, an Expo 88 themed mini festival for their “shareholders” (fans); a 7 hour event showcasing “all things Client Liaison.” With special guest, Australian legend John Farnham, Client Liaison continually link back to their style and kitsch of Australiana branding that fans have come to expect.
Client Liaison is loved for their unique music sound, but are also loved for their outlandish and bold fashion choices, and making those choices accessible to their fans. They have created a well-rounded artistic style, integrating music and fashion to create their own universe within the Australian music landscape.
Okay, but what if you don’t know what they look like?
Without the visual aid, can they still be stylish?
Whilst ‘looks’ is the obvious answer, stylish and smart can also relate to how the band sounds. Smooth vocals, sounds with a purpose, catchy lyrics and the ability to transform their environment into an intimate experience (whether live or listening through headphones) help obtain this image.
Running Touch is touted as a “mysterious producer” and multi-instrumentalist from Melbourne, producing electro-dance hits. Arguably his most stylish song, “Better Together” is a collaboration with Australian electro-pop singer Hayden James, drips with dapperness. It’s a hip-swinger within the first second. Clean and crisp beats create an infectious production, and James’ clever lyricism makes this a slick and stylish dance floor hit.
Unlike Client Liaison, Running Touch couldn’t be more separate from his music, stating, “I keep it anonymous to keep the limelight on the art…rather than who I am.” Anonymity allows him to escape the spotlight, and let the music speak for itself, rather than clutter the image of Running Touch- a minimalistic approach in a modern world defined by visuals. His music is full of atmospheric niceties, and using instruments to distinguish sections of “Better Together.”
Running Touch has used his privacy to focus on making his music sound better, without any “gimmicky” tricks. Listeners don’t always need a face, identity or persona to follow and cling to, as it can sometimes distract from what the artist actually represents- music.
Whilst you only see two band members, Confidence Man screams ‘effortlessly stylish.’ This semi elusive quartet is a conglomerate of Brisbane bands, all from indie-rock backgrounds, coming together to create a dance-pop sound. Moonlighting under the pseudonyms Janet Planet, Sugar Bones, Clarence McGuffie, and Reggie Goodchild, the band uses these hyperbole personalities to reflect the vanity and obnoxiousness in present in society.
Confidence Man has an artistic maximalist approach to their projects. Their video clips are littered with visual red herrings, however it is unapologetically aesthetic with professionally choreographed danced routines. Although they use pseudonyms, McGuffie & Goodchild wear black beekeeping hats even when on stage, giving a strange air of drama and intrigue to their style.
Their Splendour in the Grass 2017 set was divisive amongst critics. A choreographed dance routine to their hit single “Boyfriend (Repeat)” left some people confused as to what is music or art, however, it was quintessentially Confidence Man, stylishly sticking it to the man. You can’t deny the thousands of people all dancing full of energy is something to discredit the band for.
The band is visually overwhelming, however, their sound is anything but “littered.” Confidence Man has great commercial appeal, but their music doesn’t fit into the parameters of mainstream pop, nor does it reflect modern indie dance music; it’s a strange self-contained genre solely consisting of Confidence Man. A smart but bold choice for a band that is still in its infancy, only being signed in 2017.
On paper, these artists may have little in common; but they’re all just…cool, because they are passionate for the sound and the aesthetic world they have created. Client Liaison has created their own universe, Running Touch is a shadow in a world dominated by visuals, and Confidence Man live by their “stupider the better” motto. However, their choices don’t feel forced or a façade for something (or someone) else. They know who they are and aren’t ashamed of it. Now that’s pretty smart and stylish to me.