The Naarm/Melbourne duo Deuce on how they crafted their self-titled debut album and the natural progression of their explorative partnership.
Born out of the extension of Melbourne's first lockdown back in 2020, Deuce's sound is like a soft pillow to lie on after a day in the sun, with fresh sheets that feel crisp on your skin as you slip into a world of slumber. The newly-formed duo create a sweet sensory load that floats around your body as you drift off into dreamland.
Constructed by two romantic partners, Curtis Wakeling and Kayleigh Heydon, the pair managed to write and produce their stunning self-titled debut album during Melbourne's COVID-19 lockdowns. Released back in June of 2021 through Dinosaur City Records, the duo's collection of slow-burning, layered jangle pop is both succinct and melancholic — there's a comforting warmth to the slowness of pace and minimalism, particularly on the contemplative saxophone-infused "Salt" and the glowing standout, "Wildflower."
Ahead of a few upcoming shows in April, we caught up with Wakeling and Heydon one sunny afternoon to uncover more about recording of the debut album and how they worked together to construct such a beautiful body of work.
Both Wakeling and Heydon have an extensive creative history, with Wakeling performing in bands such as The Ocean Party and Pop Filter, and Heydon having a background in visual art. It simply made sense to bring their two skill sets together to develop an album that represents their journey throughout their romantic relationship. After being presented with an extensive period of rest and isolation, and an opportunity to submit a song for a friend's compilation project, the two began playing around with instruments until they found a vibration that resonated within them.
"I've always been making art and have always loved music, but never been able to play anything. I thought it was this cool thing to watch people do, that I would never be able to do myself, and that was the end of the story. Then Curtis was like, 'No, it's way easier than you think,' So I fumbled my way through learning guitar and different instruments, and made it work," Heydon recounted over Zoom.
With a shared interest in artists such as Yo La Tengo, Mazzy Star, and Beach House; Deuce's self-titled debut is filled with various gentle and hazy melodies and slow, yet moving drum rhythms. The Mazzy Star aura is certainly present throughout the album, especially in tracks like "Heat Wave" or "Antipodes," where Heydon's vocals linger on, amongst simmering electric guitar. It almost feels like you are reading a diary of the couple, with lyrics about their relationship and progression through life. Paired with soft and cloudy hooks, the sonic experience develops into a whirlwind of intimacy and tenderness.
"I think some of the songs are quite obviously about our relationship, and then some of them are about friends and family and other things. They're all themes and topics that we've gone through together, and we give each other space to write about those things," Heydon described. "I don't think we had a super clear lyrical theme, like we didn't really coordinate ideas or anything. We sort of just wrote whatever we wanted" Wakeling added.
Using music as a method of expressing their feelings for each other and those around them, this was the first time that Heydon immersed herself in writing music. She revealed that it was a peaceful process together, as there was no pressure or urgency to make things perfect. Wakeling says he also chose to use this project as an opportunity to practice his mixing and producing skills, meaning the two were learning new talents together simultaneously — ultimately fitting the context of the album, encountering life's pursuit. As Wakeling spent his time watching YouTube videos of tricks for sound engineering, Heydon spent her time practicing her instrument and trying to comprehend how to assemble wondrous compositions.
"I didn't know anything about music, music theory, or the construction of songs. I felt like sometimes I had really interesting takes on the way I wanted something to sound, but it was also incredibly limiting and frustrating sometimes that I couldn't get that across. I had to be able to explain and describe things so that Curtis could try and put that into sound," Heydon explained.
As the tracks were being refined and tweaked, Heydon also whipped up the incredible cover art for the debut album. It's warm, yellow and burnt tones with a hint of bold blue pair perfectly with the hazy, feather of a record. Being a visual person herself, she described the importance of the artwork and how it connects to the music, communicating the mood and attitude of their audible ideas.
"I was playing around with album artwork from the middle of the album, and it changed so many times. It was actually going to be a photograph, and then I made this painting one day. Curtis and I spoke to Jordanne Chant of Dinosaur City Records and we were like, 'That actually looks like how it sounds.' It was way better than anything I've put together before so we didn't think too hard on it," Heydon said.
Bringing the album to life is something that excites both partners, even if it was nerve-racking at first. During their live incarnation, they are joined sometimes by their friends and fellow Naarm/Melbourne musicians including their go-to photographer Bridgette Winten (Winten), Angie Rose Brown (Golden Helmet, Skyways Are Highways), Hannah Blackburn, and Jake O'brien (NOCON). Along with some shows coming up in April, including a free show on Sunday, April 3 with the indie pop quartet Partner Look, the duo are also wrapping up the recording of their second album, which they aim to release sometime later this year. Until then, we will continue to relish in the delightful self-titled debut and dream of what could come next for the pair.
Deuce is out now via Dinosaur City Records.
Stream the new album below.