Embrace your Strangest Desires: Inside the compelling, dark world of COLLAR
Spencer White and Charles Murdoch are two celebrated musicians from Brisbane. Each have carved out their own paths (the former with his band Morning Harvey as well as other musical pursuits, and the latter with a career as one of Australia’s pioneering producers throughout the 2010’s), honing their skills and finessing their creativity along the way over the last few years. Brisbane is a small-ish capital city with an even smaller creative scene, so it’s only logical that the paths of these two would not only cross, but that they would eventually end up in the studio together. However, despite the fact White and Murdoch developing a collaborative musical project checks out, it’s the breadth of sonic exploration, the very clearly defined vision and the intoxicating and compelling nature of the project that has us immediately hooked.
Enter COLLAR, the newly minted duo comprised of White and Murdoch. Borne from a place of each other introducing their collaborative partner to new sounds and the freedom of working on something they didn’t quite know yet what it was, COLLAR and their debut EP, Strangest Desires, arrives on the scene fully-formed, completely realised and ready to unleash. Across four tracks, Strangest Desires is a snapshot into the very best of the enigmatic drama and lyrical prowess of White combined with the industrial, experimental and all-consuming production of Murdoch. Playing to each other strengths, COLLAR sits within a dark sonic soundscape, unafraid to explore the many complexities of humanity. The culmination of almost two years of writing and creating together, the Strangest Desires EP is a mysterious, slightly unnerving, fast-paced trip down the rabbit hole, the step beyond the dark red velvet curtain and into the beyond.
Across four songs comprised of two instrumentals and two with White‘s singing, the Strangest Desires EP is a full-bodied, immersive and intoxicating experience. Channeling the drama of Michael Hutchence or Dave Harrington with the industrial experimentation of Shlohmo or Darkside, each song is meticulously crafted to invite you further and further into their world. From the spatial first moments of the title track before a relentless beat kicks into gear and underpins the dark and hypnotic sprawl that follows, you are immediately bewitched by COLLAR. The frenetic ‘Euclid’ gives you a few moments of tense space with thundering atmospherics before kicking into an industrial rave moment, while ‘Safehouse’ hears White return for another dark and cinematic track “inspired by a late night Scorcese binge,” COLLAR ups the ante for a four to the floor rave song. As ‘Tomorrow I’ll Disappear’ begins and ends, the record is over far too soon but stays with you long after its done.
Speaking to White about how the EP came to be initially, he revealed to Purple Sneakers that while there was “no real plan on what we would put together,” the music stemmed from the pair just showing each other what they’d been working on. “I’ve always respected what [Charles] does and always have, and I’d always shown him for the things that I had songs I had written that were not necessarily anything that I was like looking to release,” White explained.
It wasn’t until they’d made their second song and the title track of their EP together that they began to hit their stride, and the vision of COLLAR began to crystalise. “I think it was the first song that gave us the idea there was something new that we should continue,” White said.
As the pair continued to steadily add more and more to the world of COLLAR, the vision of what they were achieving was also aided by their shared interests and opening up new worlds for each other to explore. For White, it was all about pushing his writing into new places, citing how “powerful” it can be for songwriters “when you discover a world that you haven’t yet ventured into,” while for Murdoch, who has enlisted guest vocalists in the past for his previous releases, it was about working closely and collaboratively with the songwriter to achieve the common goal.
In a cruel twist of fate, COLLAR was meant to debut their live show at this year’s DARK MOFO, which is the perfect setting for something of this calibre. Having geared up to encompass the live show and immediately cement it as an integral part of their identity, it was a conscious decision to ensure the live show was up to the standard they had set themselves. Speaking of this element of COLLAR, White said, “We were quite exhausted in some way with how people stopped at a certain point with the live show aspect. I felt like we both had the need to want to create something that was ‘the whole package’. That it was already there before we came out. The idea is to create something that can continuously grow and evolve with any direction we choose to take it.”
Developing the live show with mission to be able to immerse people completely into their performance and armed with a full stage set up including projections and an impressive light show, whenever they possibly can, COLLAR are anticipating the moment to be able to unveil this to audiences they’re yet to meet. “There’s so much especially with the light show and installations, there’s so much unexplored ground in that world.”
While 2020 might’ve had other plans for many, one good thing is the amount of music it has gifted us. And while we can’t enjoy it together just yet, there is still something to be said for deeply immersive music that immediately connects. Transporting the listener far away from their headphones is no easy task, particularly in a time when life can seem so mundane the days seem to all blend into one another. But such is the impact of COLLAR and Strangest Desires that it’s done exactly that. Providing momentary reprieve from the everyday, Strangest Desires is a welcome beckoning to delve deep into the night, urgently arriving with a new world ready to explore. So while things might not have gone exactly to plan for COLLAR, they still emerge triumphant with a formidable and impressive first body of work, a live show waiting to be unleashed and as a duo really just getting started.
Words by Emma Jones
Image: Alex Wall