Melbourne queer alt-pop sensation Max Lawrence continues his rise with the release of the new single Speak In Tongues, which is out now.After a massively engaged year which has already seen the multi-instrumentalist deliver the praised single Gasoline along with a host of scene-stealing, streamed performances for the likes of Delivered Live, Fringe Festival, Beat Magazine and Fashion Journal, Lawrence is now ready to step forward again.
Max’s brand new single Speak In Tongues aligns his blossoming, bold energy with the future pop of Christine and The Queens and Dorian Electra, while nodding to legends of the past such as Prince and The Jacksons. Bombastic and crisp, the production gives Max’s crafty hooks and assured vocal powers space to thrive, as an infectious New Jack Swing groove carves its way through this synth heavy adventure, taking the listener on a journey whose ultimate destination is the irresistible urge to play it all over again. Max answers a few questions about the single for Hi Fi Way.
How hard is it pushing your way through this health crisis and contemplating releasing new music?
Not being able to play gigs and engage with the community that I love so much has been tough, but even when we’re so isolated, music is still something that unites us all so strongly. Releasing music during this time is very weird, especially dance-y music, but I want people to move and get in touch with their bodies and sensuality again, and I find that the best way of doing that for me is by having a really good boogie.
Do you think people are more or less inclined to be chasing new music?
I honestly think people will be more inclined to listen to new music, in lockdown I’ve been listening to a new album every day, and I think having music playing throughout your house all the time is a really nice vibe, when you’re stuck inside the same four walls, you can at least flood it with new music to switch up the energy.
Have you learnt a new skill or finding other ways to pass the time in lock down?
I’ve recently been getting more into filmmaking and lighting, because I want to be able to make music videos and short films from the comfort of my bedroom (for obvious reasons haha). I’ve actually also been trying to slow down and not work as hard, and use this time to work on myself as a person, and also give love and time to my friends and loved ones more and more, which this lockdown has helped me realise.
Do you feel optimistic?
Thanks to the mother I had growing up, optimism is kind of hard wired into me. We’ll come through this stronger on the other side, we have to. This whole mess is a test, it’s making us observe and reconsider our own humanity, our fears and our strengths, and who we can be as a community moving forward. Yes it’s super hard, but we’ll rise out of this feeling more connected and joyful than we ever have at the gig, in the club, at the party. Maybe we took communities and connections for granted, but we definitely won’t anymore.
Congratulations on the single, what’s the story behind Speak In Tongues?
Speak In Tongues is about wanting to kiss someone in the club but having no idea what to say, and saying it all with your bodies rather than words. It paints desire and attraction as a kind of spiritual possession, a special kind of worship. Having gone to catholic school growing up, I discovered the concept of “Speaking in Tongues” from a religious textbook and was deeply fascinated by the idea of the holy spirit possessing your body and conjuring a tongue of flame above your head, causing you to scream out ancient languages. I thought this concept was a really cool way to represent desire, and how it can often feel like a possession.
How would you describe this single sonically?
It’s like this retro new jack swing groove that’s reminiscent of a Prince or Janet Jackson track, but with metallic, stabby synths that bring it into a future pop realm. I wanted the vocals to be really chanty and almost ominous, like this dark possession, but keeping it boppy and light with the groove.
Are you building towards an album?
I’m always writing new songs and exploring new territories in terms of genre, and at the moment I’m throwing lots of different stuff at the wall and painting with all the colours to see what I vibe with, which has been really fun. I love albums and larger bodies of work that are underpinned by a world or concept, and I’d definitely be building towards one, it’s just about getting all the puzzle pieces together.
Who would you consider as being significant influences for your music?
I listen to so many different kinds of music so that’s hard to say, but artists that I always hold close to me are the likes of Gorillaz, Christine & The Queens, Bjork, Perfume Genius and FKA Twigs. I’m always inspired by left of field songwriting and a really good groove.
What’s your next challenge?
I guess it would be adapting and moving forward during COVID. There are obviously no gigs so I’m focusing on moving more into online and recorded live performances, and how I can do that in an engaging and creative way, which I’m excited to try out!
How much are you looking forward to touring resuming?
SO MUCH! With some of the new music I’m working on I would just LOVE to play some festivals and throw some fun gig nights here in Melbourne to bring everyone together and unite around music once again, I’m gonna come out of the gate running!
What is something that people don’t know about Max Lawrence?
I’m actually freakishly good at catching food in my mouth, I’m like a circus seal, I have no idea why. I guess I won the genetic lottery and my mouth-eye coordination is just top tier!
Interview By Rob Lyon