Photo: Press (IN2STELLAR)
Sarah Morgan and Georgia Bird started out organising the Neurotiq Erotiq parties in Melbourne/Naarm in the mid-2010s. While both continue to play solo sets—the former as DJ Sarah, the latter under her real name—they have primarily become known for their joint work as IN2STELLAR, in which they seamlessly complement each other both as DJs and, newly so, producers. Having released their debut EP on the Phenomena label earlier this year, their contribution to our Groove podcast gives us a foretaste on new music by the duo.
You attended the same school, but only linked up after you had started your respective solo careers as DJs. How did the two of you get into electronic music in the first place?
Sarah: I guess we both had similar journeys into electronic music. We were both really into all kinds of music from a young age, but only truly discovering dance and electronic music once we started going clubbing and to festivals. Georgia’s iPod Nano from when she was 15 is pretty telling of her taste back then, full of Ministry Of Sound compilations, EDM and dance pop. I guess my first foray into electronic music was being introduced to Daft Punk and Groove Armada by my older cousins when I was 13. Once we started going out at about 16/17, we were introduced to more club music—some good, some bad—and started to see what DJing actually is.
One of the reasons why you ended up joining forces were the stylistic similarities between your sets. What type of music forms the common denominator between your respective tastes?
Sarah: We can definitely pick songs that each other would like, because although they have similarities there are still differences in our taste. Georgia seems to be more drawn to the synths, lead, or bass of a track, whereas I seem to gravitate toward percussive and rhythmic elements. It’s cool that we both have different styles even though we’re basically one brain by now. Often Georgia will buy an A-side of a record and I’ll buy a B-side track from the same EP without knowing we’re both into the same artist. I guess the common denominators change as our taste evolves but we both seem to be drawn to the sounds of the 1990s rave scene, dreamy breakbeats, early 2000s trance, 1990s house—anything with euphoric vocal samples or exciting percussion.
Before you officially formed the In2stellar duo, you started the Neurotiq Erotiq event series in Melbourne/Naarm. You have cited Discwoman as an inspiration for doing so. What did you want to achieve with the series?
Sarah: It’s been a long time now since we started Neurotiq Erotiq, around six years now, so our local scene was different back then. I came across Discwoman after watching a B2B by Volvox and Umfang on my phone while lying in a hostel bunk in London in 2017 and looked into their collective after becoming a superfan. It was one of the first times I had heard about a female-run party and event series, and shortly after I called Georgia and suggested we run a party ourselves, because at the time we didn’t really know many other female promoters and figured it was something different or new to offer the scene. We were young—both in age and DJ experience—and would often get booked for opening slots, so we used our own night as a platform to promote ourselves and our friends, and have always centered the events around our local (and now international) community. The party is a place for us to showcase both ourselves and what we’re loving at the time, and give our mates a space to DJ, party, and dance in.
As you’ve mentioned, you have booked both local DJs as well as international greats such as Helena Hauff. What’s important to you in terms of programming the line-ups?
Generally we like to have seen a DJ play before, and like to know their general vibe as both a DJ and a person. If their music resonates with us, that’s the most important thing, and we feel like the act is someone that our community will appreciate at the event. It’s important to us to have diverse line-ups at every party, as this is something we’re very vocal about within the community and feel is crucial to creating a safe, welcoming, and vibrant party atmosphere. We also love booking our friends or people we’ve come across in the community through like-minded events, and really love giving new DJs opportunities to play their first ever gig.
You’ve released your eponymous debut EP in Spring, which you have described as a “a snapshot into the sonic landscape [you’re] immersed in at the moment.” What does your overall working process look like and how were these particular four tracks made?
Sarah: Georgia does a lot of the driving and I do a lot of the talking, kind of like outside the studio. I’m kidding… Sort of… Some of the ideas for the tracks started while we were on tour in Europe last year. We came home, had some studio time and basically spent the whole Summer finishing them off.
The record came out on Phenomena, a label founded and run by Georgia together with Georgia Madden and Suzanne Gurusinghe. What is the concept behind the label and why did you decide for the IN2STELLAR EP as its inaugural release?
Georgia: The label was started in lockdown when we all lost our main work, so it was a way for us to connect to the wider music community. Like myself, a lot of local producers started making music in lockdown, so we wanted to showcase up and coming talent. At the time when we were writing our debut EP, we wanted to have autonomy over how it was released and when. A lot of labels had backlogs and we wanted the tracks out ASAP. Naturally, the brand of Phenomena and IN2STELLAR align, so it made a lot of sense. We’re very close with everyone on the label, we’re like a little family so it felt right.
Besides some contributions to various compilations, you had also released a slew of remixes before debuting with the EP. How do you approach working with someone else’s material?
Georgia: Remixes have always been a challenge for us. It is hard to keep the essence of the old track without compromising your own sound and style. When we started producing, we took on a lot of remixes which helped us learn more about production and to work within constraints. It’s a good way to see how other people make music. Generally it’s easiest to pull all the stems into Ableton and arrange them how the original producer did, then go through the stems and find what stands out to me. I like to make my own drums that are crunchy and feel on brand with our sound, and then try and add in a recognisable element from the track that can tie the remix to the original track. In our remix for Rigson, you can hear a lot of the same melodic elements that he had in his original track, but probably half of the drum sounds are new and there are more percussive layers.
When you play DJ sets together, you do it in a track-for-track way. How do you prepare for your sets or mixes with that in mind?
We’ve always played this way from the beginning, so we don’t know any different. We find playing this way helps us to be more in sync, and create a more seamless set. We’ve been playing together for so many years now that we can usually have a quick chat before we play, and flick through ten or so songs that we’re thinking is the “vibe” of the set and then that’s basically our plan. Sometimes we have a quick chat or ask each other a question during the set but for the most part we’re a pretty well-oiled machine when it comes to collaborating. The most important thing is to trust each other, and be open minded—this allows the set to flow properly and not let fear get in the way of an exciting moment during the set.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
We wanted to showcase what we’ve been playing in clubs late at night. These tracks are some of our favourite dancefloor fillers that have been on high rotation for us and we wanted to capture the energy of our club DJ sets. We’ve also got some sneak previews of our upcoming EP being released on Dansu Discs this September plus some of our already released music.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
We’re on tour in Europe until October with a bunch of shows lined up that we’re really excited for, and then back to Australia for a pretty busy festival season and Aussie Summer before moving back here for good next year! We’ve got our EP coming out next month and then a few other releases in the works for 2024. Stay tuned…
Stream: IN2STELLAR – Groove Podcast 390
01. Than This – Turk Turkleton
02. 440 Hz – Dance Fleur
03. Pakard – Limpio y Vulgar
04. Rigson – Princess of Disks (IN2STELLAR’S Space Dub for the Club Remix)
05. Mac Declos – Voy Voy
06. INVT – PONTE LAS PILAS
07. Vromo – Pongori
08. Trax Unit – Brick Beat
09. IN2STELLAR – Body Beat (Forthcoming)
10. Amraks – WantMe2
11. David Lölein – La Piscina
12. CULT – Keep It Trill
13. DJ Swisherman – Pouring Up
14. IN2STELLAR – Baby Bump (Spray Remix)
15. IN2STELLAR – Something I Said (Forthcoming)
16. Caldera – Turbine Mode (Underwater S)