Words: James Frostick

Not far removed from a frenzy of activity with their other project Terry, Al Montfort and Amy Hill slow things down a touch with their new two-piece project Sleeper and Snake. ‘Sugar and Gold’ takes a look at Queensland – a state built by mountains of sugar cane, colonial greed, the slave trade and oppressive heat.

Seeing as I live and work in Brisbane – and have my whole life – I feel as if I have a little bit of a personal insight into Queensland and its, for lack of a better word, ‘culture’. Brisbane sits in the south-eastern corner of the state, almost the furthest south you can get without flinging yourself into the ocean or down into New South Wales’ north coast. Typically, those with the means to move south generally do, as the tropical north end of Queensland is a sweaty quagmire which holds little prospects for those eager to join an industry outside of tourism and farming. The gorgeous natural resources of the state belie the backwards nature of a good portion of its inhabitants, and right-leaning political organisations tend to find ample support among rural communities above the Tropic of Capricorn. As frustrating as it is for those living in Brisbane –a self-appointed new-world city – the majority of the city’s residents still acknowledge that for most of its existence Brisbane itself has been labelled a ‘big country town’ with all of the societal trappings. I bring this up because Queensland is the conceptual basis for Sleeper and Snake’s new track ‘Sugar and Gold’, which is the lead cut from the duo’s forthcoming album Junction and High (out mid-February through AARGHT Records).

For the unfamiliar, Sleeper and Snake is Amy Hill and Al Montfort – two prominent figures in the Melbourne independent scene thanks to their work across acts such as Terry, Constant Mongrel, Primo, Total Control and Dick Diver. ‘Sugar and Gold’ sees the two stripping back their sound, crafting a plodding twang that ruminates languidly on various facets of life. In ‘Sugar and Gold’, Amy and Al focus on Queensland’s beginnings as a centre of the sugar cane industry, and the exploitive nature of said industry in its formative stages until now. It’s this auspicious beginning that most likely had a direct impact on the direction the state has taken since its establishment, where the laid-back reputation our country likes to put forward shields outsiders from the reality of our past – like a heat-shimmer coating a central-Queensland highway. As for the music, Amy and Al have crafted a low-key slice of Australiana indie-pop, given a modern edge with a drum loop, keys and heat-warped guitar slide. It’s an insightful, albeit subtle, piece of work from two musicians who are known to do it well.

View the clip for ‘Sugar and Gold’ here, then keep your eye out for Junction and High in February.