The year is 2004 on a dancefloor far away. The girls are in those cargo pants with flappy buckle strings twinned with spaghetti strap singlets. The boys are throwing shapes in Carhartt t-shirts and chunky DCs. Someone who wasn’t old enough to know better’s Von Dutch trucker cap casts a seedy wink through the clouds of indoor cigarette smoke. You’ll be listening to The Stanton Sessions or Eargasm on someone’s iPod again at the afterparty.
If you remember the golden era of breaks and electro there’s a high chance you would be frothing hard that electronic bass band Infusion are throwing a reunion – with none other than Phil K making his debut as an honorary member. As if that isn’t hype enough, all this is going down at what could possibly be the last ever Sunny party, a true stalwart of the Melbourne dance music scene since the days it all began.
Singer, keyboard player and all round loose unit Manny Sharrad may be in Sydney, but he is really looking forward to his upcoming trip to Melbourne to reform a new look Infusion at Sunny on 16 November. ‘Our last gig was support for Leftfield in 2012. It’s high time we got back to it.’ With today’s members scattered between two states, the challenge to bring it all together was part of the fun – and it’s always been a huge part of their fabric.
‘Even back in the old days, we never really rehearsed that much. The whole aesthetic was always all about the improv – it’s always been part of who we are. We’ve got the tracks ready to go. When we go on stage, we let them loose and see what happens.’
‘As a performer doing the singing, as long as I know when to come in, it all materialises. Other than that we just jam. This gives it much more of a raw element. I’d say 75% is already organised before we go on, but the rest is spontaneous.’
This is all very rockstar, but no matter how good a musician you are, surely you need some kind of structure or rehearsal, especially when you’re inviting a new band member?
‘I guess it’s an edge that many bands don’t have. If a whole set is locked in then that’s pretty boring. Most of the time, we don’t even know what track we are playing next. But the audience seems to really vibe off it that way.’
After over a seven year hiatus, the story behind the band’s reformation is one that deserves a proper toast.
‘Frank [Xavier, original Infusion band member] has got a fair load of other stuff on his plate with his record label Motorik. We’ve known Phil for years. We’d all had a few drinks at a wedding with loads of old school Melbourne music heads a few months back. Jamie [Stevens] and I were talking with Phil about getting the band back together. We asked him if he wanted to be a member. He said yes.’
‘Steve Ficai’s Sunny has been going for over 20 years and was one of the first events we played at when we first went to Melbourne to do shows in the late 90s and early noughties. We heard that Steve was planning one last Sunny. We called him, drunk from the wedding and he gave us the green light then and there. It’s like the stars aligned – it’s even held at La Di Di Da, where Phil’s fundraising benefit gig was held. It all just made sense.’
What awaits on the night certainly sounds like a particularly tasty treat, which will hopefully be the first of many back on the circuit for the new-look trio. It’s interesting to hear how their sound has evolved, both with their new band member and the fact that it’s nearly 25 years since their first release.
‘Put simply, we’ve asked Phil to do what he does, but over the top of our shit. We’re enjoying the back and forth of throwing files around to each other and trying different interpretations. We are planning on making the old material new by cutting and pasting it back together. Half of the set is material we never released; there’ll be the back to basics solid clubby shit, spliced with random chunks of banging shit that we only ever played live; classic and new vocals. Jamie has pulled parts of random, incredible things he was working on out of his arse. I’ll be singing on the keyboard, dropping random loops and fucking around. It’s going to be a right old jam sesh with extra vocal chunks. And we are delighted to have given Phil free reign to do whatever he wants.’
‘We’re that much in touch with each other. Everything we work with, we know back to front. For Phil it’s different. We want him to surprise us.’
We were lucky to catch a quick yarn with the OG Melbourne don himself to hear more about how he managed to sign himself up for band practice.
‘I have been experimenting with instruments while DJing for some time now,’ said Phil, who was enjoying some R&R in Bali, probably sipping a Pina Colada. ‘It’s always been on my mind on how I would go about incorporating this into a set. I thought the next step would be to perform live with those instruments and let the CDJs take a back seat. The idea of doing it solo was really quite daunting. I seem to work better as part of a team in studio-based work, so was on the hunt for a collaboration or partnership.’
‘I never really considered playing as part of Infusion before. The opportunity never really presented itself. But at the moment it did, it felt like something we could pull off. I’m really looking forward to the technical challenges ahead and the chance to update and mess with their vintage material.’
Manny echoes this sentiment and is understandably excited at the prospect of tweaking the material as an homage to old and new. ‘It’s been a bit of work to even get the old stuff up and running as in the seven-year void since we last produced, technology has changed so much. Now you can do ridiculous things! Trawling through the archives was an entertaining exercise, digging up tiny samples in weird little midi files running off various bits of equipment and then piecing them back together in Ableton.’
What also takes the load off their shoulders as performers in 2019 is saying goodbye (and also fuck off and don’t ever come back) to all the heavy equipment they had to load back and forth to every show.
‘The amount we used to carry round was ridiculous. We didn’t have roadies or anything – sometimes I wonder how we did it. Things were heavy AF. They’d break, or get thrown around by luggage handlers. It was good for the guns, but I’m relieved to not have to do that anymore. The old back isn’t what it used to be!’
For those who don’t know the vintage Infusion, or who just want to join us on a quick reminisce on their epic journey, the band was all about eclecticism and evolution. While there was always one foot firmly anchored in electronic bass, the years saw Infusions’s sound mutate multiple times.
‘We started out in the rave world in the mid 90s,’ says Manny. We progressed into breaks and shapeshifted into electro – we went funky, we went dark, we went proggy. It’s like we were always responding to a current sound that was popular, and then tweaking it to give it an Infusion flavour. We straddled genres and broke down boundaries. There was always a cross-over appeal. Later, we introduced vocals and song structures. I was an Indie kid. Frank came from a techno and hip hop back ground. Jamie was into the deeper electronic soundtracks. We fused together to create a rich mixed bag of a musical hybrid. Our common denominator was musicality.’
It’s exciting times for Manny to re-enter a world where tastes, technology and sounds have changed so much.
‘We expect the audience we will be performing our first gig to in over seven years to be a crowd who, for the most part, will know what to expect from our music. While this is a great way to dust things off and get what we do up and running again. We really want to get back into the club and festival scene. Against all odds, the Australian electronic music scene has remained respected and continued to be diverse.’
Manny has fond memories of when he and Infusion smashed the global festival circuit for season after season. He recalls playing Creamfields Argentina straight after The Prodigy, to a turbo-hyped audience of 40,000, with people as far as the eye can see. The sheer size of Glastonbury and the rite-of-passage worry that you were going to get your stuff nicked (newsflash: it even happens to the musicians). Coachella, which he refers to as the best organised festival he’s ever been to. And the fondest memories of Australia’s very own Big Day Out festival.
‘I’d rather play at a mixed genre festival. It’s such a buzz to see the audience who usually wouldn’t hear what you are playing lose their shit. I hope to see some new heads on 16th. That’s part of what we’re back in it for.’
Catch Infusion with Phil K at La Di Di in Melbourne on 16 November… and then coming to a festival near you soon we hope!