Balance leads to bliss. Extracting harmony from the union of seemingly disparate elements, Crooked Colours exist at an elusive crossroads between delicate acoustic instrumentation, evocative vocals, and dancefloor-ready synth transmissions. The Australian trio—Phil Slabber [vocals, guitar, production], Leon Debaughn [keys, production], and Liam Merrett-Park [drums]—could just as easily soothe a quaint coffeehouse or a chaotic club. Generating over 50 million streams, selling out shows on multiple continents, and garnering looks from ThisSongIsSick, NME, and more, the group further sharpen this shape-shifting sound on a series of singles and their forthcoming debut for Atlantic Records.
“You can listen to us when you wake up, when you party, or when you’re down and, hopefully, we’ll bring you back up,” exclaims Leon. “We’ve always thought our sound suits all manners of time.”
“It’s a utility vehicle,” smiles Liam. “You can listen to it at 3AM when you’re having an absolute rave or sip your morning coffee to it.”
In order to fulfill this vision, each member drew on a dynamic musical history. With dad a music teacher, Liam studied classical piano, clarinet, and drums. Meanwhile, Leon learned piano from his mom before picking up the decks and DJ-ing parties throughout high school. Eventually, he bought his first synths and started tinkering. At the same time, Phil developed his chops as a self-taught singer-songwriter by busking and performing at local dives. Introduced by mutual friends at a pub, Leon and Phil decided to jam. Inviting Liam behind the kit for their first gig, Crooked Colours came to life in 2013. Bonding over inspirations such as Jaime xx, Caribou, The Presets, Bag Raiders, and more, they carefully crafted a style of their own.
After winning triple j’s 2014 St Jerome’s Laneway Festival competition, the group signed to Sweat It Out! in Australia. During 2017, their full-length debut Vera yielded the hit “Flow,” which gathered north of 25 million Spotify streams. On its heels, the 2019 follow-up Langata boasted fan favorites “Do It Like You” (11.6 million Spotify streams), “I’ll Be There” (7.4 million Spotify streams), “Hold On” (4.9 million Spotify streams), and “Never Dance Alone” [feat. Ladyhawke] (2.5 million Spotify streams). Among many highlights, they sold out The Forum in Melbourne (as captured on the triple j Live At The Wireless – Forum Melbourne 2019 EP) and The Roxy in Los Angeles as well as delivering an unforgettable set at Bonnaroo.
Signing to Atlantic Records in 2020, the three-piece teamed up with multiplatinum sensation Don Toliver for a remix of his platinum smash “No Idea.” ThisSongIsSick described it as “Amazing” and wrote, “Crooked Colours turn Don Toliver’s ‘No Idea’ into an irresistible house jam.” Simultaneously, they wrote music for what would become their third full-length.
“It’s a combination of our first and second albums, but done a lot better,” notes Leon. “It’s got the chilled-out songs similar to Vera, but it’s also got dance-y cuts like Langata. We’ve got the dance and chill elements covered.”
Liam concurs, “We’ve grown into our sound. We’ve really become a band together, so the music comes out naturally. There’s a cohesive direction. We did all of these shows and festivals, and we’re able to bring both sides of what we do.”
The 2020 single “Love Language” exemplifies this evolution. Cymbals brush up against finger-snaps as Phil’s dynamic voice carries an intimate verse over a skittering beat and rich bass groove. Highlighted by lush keys, the vocals stretch into a hypnotic high register.
"This song is about the different ways in which we communicate our love for each other,” Phil said about the single. “How special it is to find someone that speaks the same love language as you. It's a celebration of the uniqueness of relationships."
“Phil had written the lyrics when he was living in L.A. at the end of last year,” recalls Leon. “We slowly worked on the music from there. I think it’s important to release a song like this right now. There’s a lot of hate and shit going on the world. There should be some more love.”
With every song and show, Crooked Colours ultimately emanate this upbeat energy. “I think of us as an overall vibe,” Liam leaves off. “I want you to feel positive energy.”
“Everything is so tense, we just want you to feel good,” agrees Leon. “I’m hoping people will feel that and be able to relax.”