Sean Young and Alex Colston-Ing are a Melbourne based vocal duo recording as The Living Creatures. They’ve just released a self-titled EP featuring 6 beautifully constructed ballads and it’s beginning to gain a considerable following. At the time of this interview, they were number 1 on the Australian ReverbNation Rock charts.
Sean and Alex are long-time high school friends who met at the age of 13 and began writing music together three years later. Sean is a vocalist, lyricist. Alex is a multi-instrumentalist with a knack for music arranging. Both work day jobs. Sean is in marketing and Alex is a music teacher. Their approach to a music career is careful and considered. They’ve recorded the six tracks for the EP, will record another six soon and will combine the 12 tracks as their debut solo album. As for performing the songs live, they won’t be drawn into a commitment until they’re good and ready.
“Really, what we have been doing is concentrating on this side of it,” says Sean. “We wanted to get the recording done first. We are just about to go back into the studio and record another six songs and put an album together and then we’ll start doing gigs. That’s going to be the next 12 month plan. We’ll spend the next six months recording and getting it down right, get the marketing right, then look at playing live.”
At the core of The Living Creatures appeal is the detail paid to their lush, emotion-filled harmonies. The pair believe that harmonies are an under-utilised creative tool in a lot of modern music but see it as one of The Living Creatures’ major strengths. Sean is thankful that his music-making partner is so adept at bringing that feature to the fore.
“That’s one of the best things Alex brings to us,” says Sean. “She blows me away with some of the harmony lines she comes up with. She has like ten harmonies for every song.”
One of the EP’s finest examples of Alex’s harmony talent lies in the opening track ‘Wide Awake’, a glorious multi-layered, meandering melody and it’s no surprise it’s one that the public has really latched onto.
“It’s my favourite and it was the same in the studio when we were recording it,” says Alex of her handiwork. “That one really came to life. The moment we finished it was like, yes. .. that’s what we wanted. There are quite a few harmony lines there … five at one point. If I had my way, I’d have them all in right from the start but Sean and the producer SImon Paul suggested we build them in slowly and have more effect dynamically.”
Despite what some reviewers have thought, the track ‘Wide Awake’ is not a love song. It’s a tale about Sean and Alex’s journey together as music collaborators. Having your lyrics interpreted at face value is an eternal dilemma songwriters have to contend with.
“If you take ‘Wide Awake’,” explains Alex. “From some of the reviews we have seen, people think it’s a love story but in fact that is about mine and Sean’s journey over the last ten years. ‘Wide Awake’ was written more as an ode to music, almost our love song to music rather than a relationship itself.”
Recorded at Simon Paul’s Ninety Nine100’s studio, Alex had the luxury of playing a divine Yamaha grand piano, which Paul captured superbly. Alex favours a Yamaha digital at home too. Both Alex and Sean were impressed by Paul’s production style. “It was brilliant to work with him because I had gone to a few different producers and he pretty much got what we were after straight away,” says Sean. “He made it a really enjoyable process.” The pair used session musicians to play the parts they couldn’t. They included Danny Boldiston on drums, Troy Male on guitar and Rob Walker played bass.
Of the next six tracks Sean and Alex will record, most will follow the richly produced road of the songs on the EP. However, they also hope to throw in a couple of stripped back tunes to give the album some contrast. “I’d like to mix it up but also like to do some that are a lot more acoustic, more stripped back with just one or two instruments,” says Sean. “Maybe even just me with Alex on piano. Some of the best work that I think we have done is just us and a piano recorded at Alex’s home. So there might be a couple of those.”
At the moment Sean and Alex are content with the pace and direction of their music career. They’ve had negative studio experiences in the past and are intent on doing things their own way and working to their own clock this time around.
“We recorded when we were younger and a lot of the ideas and the vibe we had got shaped by the producer we were working with and the final product wasn’t really what we wanted,” explains Alex. “This time around we wanted to get it right and walk away knowing we’ve captured the vibe that we wanted.” Sean is in total agreement. “The first time we recorded we had stars in our eyes and recorded it for everyone else. This time we’re recording for ourselves.”