For a long time it was all about the Dutch. Then came the Swedes. Could the Aussies be primed for the next wave of electronic-dance-music artists? If so, Feenixpawl is part of the movement. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Australian duo of Aden Forte (above, left) and Josh Soon (their moniker Feenixpawl comes from a variation of their middle names), it’s darned near impossible for you to have missed their smash hit “In My Mind” with fellow Aussie Ivan Gough (of TV Rock), featuring Georgi Kay. It’s all over EDM radio, a set staple in the clubs and it’s even featured in a Kia Soul commercial with those dancing hamsters. We learn more about the duo from down unda’ who’ve been working together since 2003 before their first U.S. tour, stopping in Las Vegas at Marquee on Nov. 17.
You only recently broke into the American market with “In My Mind,” but you’ve been working together for about nine years. How goes it?
Soon: It’s good. I mean, we don’t really fight or anything. We’ve never really had any clashes in terms of music, and I think the most important thing since we’ve started is that we’ve always done the same thing, we’ve always made the same kind of music. We’ve never really started making a particular genre just because it’s popular. We’ve always done big-room house music. If we were trying to do different things all the time, then we would get confused and it would be a bit of a clash of personalities, but we don’t have that. We’ve always been about the same thing, so that’s how it works for us.
Was it surprising when “In My Mind” hit, and did everything quickly change for you guys?
Soon: Definitely. We’ve had a checkered history with record labels and things like that, so it was always difficult for us to get our music out there. Basically, when we sent “In My Mind” to Axwell we didn’t really expect the response that we got and it was fantastic. It’s surreal, and we still can’t believe the year that’s gone past us. It’s been amazing. It’s been great to finally get a bit of recognition and hopefully get our names out there more in the future now, because Axwell [who signed it to his label and released a remix] really opened some doors for us.
Now that “In My Mind” is used in an advertising campaign, is your connection to the song affected?
Soon: Not really. If that’s how people discover the song, then that’s fine. I think it’s one of those tracks people derive their own meaning from; the vocals are abstract and people connect to it in different ways. It doesn’t necessarily bother us how it’s used or where people discover it, as long as they enjoy listening to it.
Are you guys tired of hearing and playing it yet?
Soon: [Laughs.] Yeah, we’ve heard it a lot, as you can imagine, but there’s always a different setting. We were in Miami in March and we heard Swedish House Mafia play it at their Masquerade Motel party, so that was great. We were kind of sick of it by then, but that was just the most surreal moment ever. The one thing you never get sick of is the reaction you get. People that are watching us play it for the first time, that’s something that will never get old, because there’s always a new reaction from different people. I think when we we’re in America in November, one thing that’s going to live with us forever is seeing a whole bunch of people who have never seen us before dancing to our tracks.
Is there added pressure to top that first hit, maybe not from the outside, but from yourselves?
Forte: Yeah, we’ve heard from a few people that it might be a bit of pressure. But we’ve never, ever really been interested in trying to top “In My Mind” or replicate it, because it is what it is. We’re always going to fail if we try to beat it. We’re going to try to release music that we’re happy with, that we like, that we would listen to as house music fans—and I think that’s where “In My Mind” came from. The day you try to start competing with one of your own tracks is the day you fail. Everyone will always try to compare everything we do to “In My Mind” and that’s OK, because we would rather have had a hit and everything after that be compared to it than have no hit and no one know who we are. When it comes to the territory, we’re just going to keep releasing music we’re happy with. If people like it, then that’s good; if they don’t, then that’s a shame. [Laughs.]
Who or what in the Australian scene cemented your desire to make house music?
Forte: I remember when I was DJing at the club Josh owned back in—it must have been 2004-2005—we saw Dirty South play there when he wasn’t quite that big, and he played his new song, [“It’s Too Late (Ride On),” a remix of] Evermore, which is the track that launched his career. I remember hearing him play that and thinking, “This is probably the best thing I’ve ever heard.” Around that time was when I decided I wanted to start making music seriously. I think he’s one of the inspirations.
Soon: For me, I think probably the first time I went to a music festival. There’s a festival down here called Summadayze. I went there to watch a lot of the big acts play—Bob Sinclar, [Martin] Solveig—and when you see them out in front of 20-30,000 people, and you feel that vibe, I said to myself, “I want to be doing that one day, standing in front of that many people doing the same.”
Before “In My Mind,” your remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was popular in DJ sets. Have you guys ever gotten any feedback from her camp?
Soon: No, we haven’t. That was a weird thing actually. A friend of ours contacted us one day and he goes, “You guys, you’ve got to hear this track.” That was before it was even out in Australia and we found the a capella online and made our own bootleg. We didn’t think it would become as big as it did and, no, we never got in contact with the label or heard from Adele’s camp or anything like that. It was probably the most remixed song in 2011.
You mention that “Rolling in the Deep” wasn’t out in Australia yet. Probably not so much now, but back in the days when everyone was still on vinyl, it was really difficult to get your hands on some new stuff. Is Australia still a little bit behind the times, or has the Internet eliminated the delay?
Forte: I don’t think it’s too behind now. Obviously, with the Internet, people are really up to date. There are a lot of blogs that are posting all-new music. Every song now is released internationally on Beatport, so as soon as it comes out in one country, you can get it here. The general population is a little bit more behind. It’s still a bit commercial here, but I think that has to do with population as well. There are only 21 million people in Australia, so it’s kind of hard to pack our clubs week in and week out—especially really big ones—just with house music. But in terms of music, it’s definitely on par with the rest of the world with being on the forefront of new music.
You guys have a track called “Xylophone.” Joachim Garraud plays a keytar, and I recently saw a DJ from France named Alpine play live accordion during his set. What do you think might be the next unconventional instrument to be incorporated or highlighted in EDM? Have you guys worked a didgeridoo into anything?
Soon: I don’t know actually. Maybe a sitar or something? People have always used different sounds in house music. I think that’s the best thing about house music: You can incorporate anything. We really haven’t been experimenting with anything recently. We just put a bit of guitar in our last track. Hopefully, we can think of something cool and different that we can use next time.
You guys have a goal of working with Stevie Nicks. Do you think collaboration will ever come to fruition?
Soon: No, It’s just a dream. You want to work with people who aren’t necessarily aren’t involved with house music. Stevie Nicks obviously did a track a few years ago with Deep Dish, and that just blew my mind. There are a lot of artists that we want to work with that don’t do house music and Florence [of Florence + The Machine] is definitely one of them. She just started doing some tracks at the moment, so she would be another one. I think that’s where we try to source our vocalists from. We don’t really listen to house music to try to find vocalists from house music, I think that’s a bit of a mistake. That’s where we found Georgi [Kay]; she never even listened to a house music track before. I think that’s the beauty of her vocals, it’s just so fresh to the genre.
Maybe like a Fleetwood Mac bootleg at least at some point?
Soon: Aden has this respect for Fleetwood Mac. We have a rule: We never ruin a classic. So, I don’t think we would be touching Fleetwood Mac in the near future. [Laughs.]
Since things are blowing up for you, have you considered relocating to the States, maybe room with fellow countrymen the Stafford Brothers and Tommy Trash in L.A.?
Soon: Yeah, for sure. We talk to the Staffords and Tommy a bit. Next year, we definitely plan on being in the States a fair bit. Just gonna go house-hunting I guess.
Will you guys start working on an artist album next?
Soon: Not quite an album, but we’ve been compiling a whole bunch of music. We didn’t really want to rush anything after “In My Mind,” especially with the success that it had. We’ve done more tracks with Ivan Gough. We’ve done a track with Adrian Lux. We’ve got a couple more singles; the next one is coming up is called, “Universe.” So we’re just trying to build the repertoire, to get it out during in 2013 and hopefully have a big year, spend a lot of time touring the States and Europe.