OFF THE RECORD: The DJ's and producers spicing up Canberra's creative scene
The Aston Shuffle
As The Aston Shuffle patiently pose for In the City, an offsider delivers some bad news: Mikah has just received a parking ticket.
“Aw, f***. That’s okay,” Mikah shrugs.
“We’ve got the number one record in the world right now, that’s cool.”
“You’ve got to ball a little bit right now,” Vance agrees.
The duo received this good news via SMS only a minute earlier, and while Mikah is technically incorrect – the Top 40 title is held by the indomitable Gangnam Style – this doesn’t diminish The Aston Shuffle’s immense achievement.
Their single Sunrise (Won’t Get Lost) has been reworked by Queensland expat Tommy Trash and picked up by the personal label of Swedish House Mafia member Axwell; within a week of its release, Sunrise has shot to number one on Beatport, the world’s premier online shop for electronic music.
Not only that, the Astons are midway through a national tour on the back of another single, Can’t Stop Now, which has received heavy radio play since its release in August.
“It’s been awesome,” Vance says.
“It’s had a lot of love on the old social media, it was the most-played track on Triple J pretty much the week that it came out… obviously we’re stoked with the response to [our] music.”
Even when they’re not putting out high rotation music, The Aston Shuffle are a Triple J staple with their weekly Friday Night Shuffle program, an eclectic look at the world of electronic music, from house to disco to EDM.
“The beauty with Triple J is, they trust us in our musical knowledge to play the right things,” Mikah explains.
“We’ve been DJing in clubs for years, we’ve been putting out records for a fairly long time, there’s a certain level of trust that they give us – it’s not like we just play 100 per cent music that we’re into.”
It was, in a sense, picking records that brought The Aston Shuffle together in 2005, when Mikah was working at Landspeed Records.
“Everyone loves Landspeed,” Mikah says.
“Probably not the service, but it’s such a cool place where…all the DJs used to hang out, it was kind of like a melting pot for music-lovers to hang out, and I got to push records on them I suppose. It was awesome.”
“I was in there buying records,” Vance adds.
“There’s always a special kind of relationship between that dude behind the counter and the customer – one person’s hunting for music, the other person’s in touch with what’s coming in every single week. You inevitably strike up conversations about what you’re into.”
After it emerged that Mikah and Vance were both into producing music, they got together with a since-departed third member and began writing material as The Aston Shuffle – a name that had originally been intended for an online label venture.
“Being dance music, it had to be something relevant to that,” Vance explains.
“So we figured, ‘Why not call it ‘something-something shuffle’ because it sounds like a dance move.
“So the question was: what’s the ‘something’ going to be? Aston was actually a mash-up of the suburbs we were all living in at the time; two dudes were living in Ainslie and I was living in Weston.”
The late-90s to mid-00s was an important period for electronic music in Canberra, Vance believes, producing a supportive, passionate and talented community.
“Per capita, Canberra punched way, way, way above its weight in that era,” he says.
“Yeah man,” Mikah agrees.
“It was pretty damn small, but everyone was definitely kicking goals.”
The Aston Shuffle were, of course, kicking goals of their own, starting with a remix of Killer Applikation by German electro producer Malente in 2006.
The years following produced a string of successful remixes, singles, and DJ mix albums for Ministry of Sound – all of which culminated in an artist album in 2011, Seventeen Past Midnight.
“You can take inspiration from pretty much anywhere,” Vance says of the songwriting process.
“The important thing at the end of the day is that songs connect with people and a good idea is apparent, regardless of the context it’s put in.
“That’s what drives us – good songs, basically. Memorable hooks, all of the elements that get stuck in people’s heads. That’s not exclusively the province of dance music, that’s a music thing in general.”
The duo is currently putting the final touches on a second album, which Vance tentatively expects to be released at “the start of next year – more than that we cannot say”.
“It’s definitely, like, the latter stages,” Mikah adds.
“Which is probably the hardest bit, because we’ve been writing music in a nice little bubble for the last year with no real deadlines.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but now we need to really knuckle down and finish it. If we haven’t finished it by the end of the year, I think our manager will fire us or my wife will leave me or something.”