• Jarvis Halfpenny

In-Depth: Soup People, Bringing Weird to the West

Soup People is a totally undefinable musical project coming out of the west who have a mysterious origin story, a one-of-a-kind image, and a penchant for broth, bisque, and bouillon. Their 2021 self-titled album is a rapid-fire journey through a multitude of genres and styles, a total rollercoaster of both sound and soup that needs to be heard to be believed.

Photo Credit: Josh Butcher


Forever West:

Could you introduce yourselves along with your favourite soup?


Soup God:

I'm Soup God, I love all soups equally. With me I have Soup Demon, and from what I gather, he hates all soups equally. So we've got an interesting relationship dynamic here. And then we've got our tier one soup supporters – official album members, I guess – PS1 Hangrid, whose favourite soup is bakso soup, Chase McSoup, whose favourite soup is minestrone, and Boss, the Boss Boss Jr, whose favourite soup is winter vegetable soup. All great choices if you ask me, all terrible choices if you ask Soup Demon.


FW:

I'd like to know a little bit more about the genesis of the project. How did Soup People form? Was it a divine calling to create this music?


Soup Demon:

Depends who you ask.


SG:

When we were needed most, we disappeared…and then came back 100 years later.


There's lots of speculation. One particularly, I'd say, ‘entertaining’ story is that there was a small indie rock band coming from Williamstown, Melbourne, who were recording their third EP called ‘Remodelling the House’. And in those sessions, they were watching a video by popular YouTube channel WatchMojo… as you may know, the channel is very famous for their top 10s. And in fact, they've even got a video called Top 10 Soups. So that, you know, is rumoured to be the beginning of Soup People. But – that's not true. I don't know who made that up. The album is autobiographical. It's an autobiography. It wrote itself, it all really happened.


FW:

It’s amazing that so much misinformation is going around about Soup People, and the formation, especially. I'm really glad that we're doing this interview so you can clear some of this stuff up.


Moving on, what is the typical song writing process for your music?


SD:

As the rumours go, at the very beginning of Soup People, all the members were together writing songs, and everyone would throw their ideas in. But when the lockdown of 2020 happened, they all had to separate from each other, so the song writing process became quite independent, with each member writing their own parts.


But it kinda depends. Some of the songs were entirely made by one person, and then we’d each add our own bit to them. That'd be tracks like ‘Soup Web’, or…


SG:

…‘Soups Are All I Have Left’, pretty much.


SD:

Yeah. So there are a couple songs that were made almost entirely by one person, and then there were some that were really collaborative, either in the way that, you know, someone would come up with an idea, show it to everyone else, and then it would come back with added changes. So there was a little bit of everything.


SG:

As for the album as a concept, I guess, we started with the top 10, 20, whatever series, and then we realised how reflective it was of our lives, and that we could tell the rest of our story by filling in the gaps with other songs.


SD:

We were about six or seven songs deep before we were like, hey, we could make an entire album out of this!


SG:

Yeah. It’s cohesive – well, maybe not cohesive – but…to us it’s cohesive!


FW:

What are the biggest influences on the Soup People project? Do you draw direct inspiration from outside sources, or purely through collaborating with each other?


SD:

I'd say it's like a collective hive mind. When we would come up with ideas for songs, we wouldn't be really thinking about too much. As you can probably tell by listening to some of them, there wasn't an awful lot going through our heads. But when we would create sections or bits of a song, we'd be like ‘okay, where should we draw from to flesh this idea out?’, so there isn’t really a specific source of inspiration.


Soup God and I are both pretty diverse in terms of our musical tastes, so we've been able to draw from all kinds of different areas…whether it be metal, EDM, rap, 80s music, or indie, even. So rather than planning what we want each song to sound like and then working towards that, we'd come up with ideas and just add to them as they go. And it didn't really matter what the idea was, we would just be like, yeah, we'll work with it either way.


FW:

Does each member in the group have their own kind of specific role in terms of instrumentation and production? Or do you each kind of cover all bases?


SG:

I would say Demon is the brains behind everything. I might come up with an idea or a beat and send it to him. And I’ll think it's, you know, just okay, like maybe it has potential, but then he hears something in it and goes ‘holy shit bro, send me the MIDI, I'll fix it!’ and he sends it back and I'm like, ‘oh my god, where did this song come from! Are we listening to the same thing right now?’, so he's really like the mitochondria of Soup People.


SD:

Everyone wrote a couple beats, but most of the really hard-hitting ones came from Soup God, which would then get further produced upon. Similar to the writing process, there are a couple where one person would do all the production for the entire track, but the majority of them would, at the end of the day, kind of filter through to me, and I'd be the one doing the final touches and mixing the tracks.


Photo Credit: Josh Butcher


FW:

I've been I've been listening to your debut album over the past couple of days, and I'm amazed by the total contrast between the experimental, obtuse tracks like ‘Top 10 Soups’ and the soaring melodic ones like ‘Soup Ascension’. How does this stylistic variance come about?


SG:

I wish there was a good answer but…it's just totally random. Since we both really like a lot of different kinds of music, we just show that, yeah, we can rap badly. But we can also make 80s pop and weird metal music! So we’re really just having as much fun as possible, which adds to the ridiculousness.


SD:

I think exploring these genres was also a way for us to like, tell ourselves ‘yeah, we can do this. Maybe not very well, but we can do it regardless’. And halfway through doing it all, when we were considering whether to actually put the album together and release it or to just laugh about it - as was originally intended - we were looking at it, and we were like ‘we can either just forget about it, and not release it, or we could continue writing, and whether it's good or whether it's bad, it goes in either way’. The majority of the tracks were pretty bad at that point…*laughs* but that was about the time that we had started writing ‘Soups Are All I Have Left’ and ‘Soup Ascension’. And we're listening to those ones and we're like, ‘these are all good songs! These kind of don't belong on the album…’ But then we were like, why not? I guess that adds to the contrast having the ‘bottom tier’ songs that we would make almost entirely as jokes, and then have the ones that are actually pretty decent songs that we then put soup lyrics on. Which I think made it a bit more funny to listen through as a whole.


SG:

We said to ourselves, ‘Some of these musical ideas are totally unlistenable. But you know what? They're gonna be well produced!’


SD:

Yeah, we didn't forget about any of the songs. We never went ‘these are shit, so we're not going to bother working on them’. We figured, if it's gonna be a full album, the level of quality - not so much in the song writing, but the way that the album sounds - needs to have a certain level of quality. We tried to make each song as well-produced as they could be, even if they weren’t very good ideas.


Photo Credit: Josh Butcher


FW:

The stylistic ground that you cover makes me wonder how you translate your songs into a live setting. Could you describe for the people what a Soup People gig is like and how you prepare for one?


SG:

I have a very specific routine. I've got it written down here. I do this every day maybe like 5 to 10 years in advance of a gig…


Wake up at 2:05AM - time for breakfast. Cold soup, unground coffee, orally ingested with tomato stems. 2:06, it's ice bath time. 3:15 comes around and it’s time for edging - for discipline and for pleasure. Then it’s 14:25, and it’s time for lunch, which consists of boiling crack through a soup spoon, distortion, autotune, and limiters. At 14:37 it's time to edge again as punishment, then at 18:00 it's time to sprint to the gig. At 19:30 doors open, and we start playing until we pass out.


So that's just basically a little routine for body and soul, keeps me fresh, keeps the music fresh. I think it’s something everyone can do, it's not that hard. I'm just taking care of my body, you know?


SD:

In terms of like the technical side, it was kind of tough figuring out, because the songs are very production-heavy and electronic elements are quite prominent in the songs, especially sampling. So it was tricky to decide whether we would figure out how to trigger the samples live, or if we just have a couple of backing tracks. And then if that was the case, how we would get people to play them. Because you know, with us two, there's only so many things each of us can do. So we decided, in the end, that we would have the set be progressive. We started the show with almost entirely backing tracks, just us on vocals, guitar, and whatnot. And as the show progressed, we would drop the backing tracks out and bring musicians in.

And by the end of the set, there were no backing tracks. We thought that that was kind of clever. If we did it again, we might try and have more live instruments.


SG:

Yeah, we’re live music lovers!


SD:

We were quite pressed for time. We had like 2 weeks, so we didn't want to overload the musicians because we wanted to play for about an hour straight without pauses.


FW:

Could each of you name a local band or an artist that you love at the moment?


SD:

Plaza-Trg! From some of the rumours we mentioned earlier, they were the ones who were recording that EP.


SG:

There’s this solo SoundCloud artist. We think they're from Melbourne. We don't really know, but they’re called Asongcanmakeorruinyourdayifyouletitgettoyou. Really powerful tracks that are just…unforgettable, really. We also love Orange Orange and Blackwood. I always love to see them play.


SD:

Hollow December, Sydney Miller, Carpal Tunnel Band are some we’ve seen live recently. Lots of great bands in the inner west. And whether you're going to the Workers Club, Gasso, Bar Open – there’s always good shows around.


FW:

What’s next up for the world of Soup People?


SD:

The next thing we've got coming up is – and I would hazard people against listening to this for their safety – we’ve got the Bass Boosted Reverb-On-The-Master mix of the album coming out. We've also got a couple of music videos coming out eventually. ‘Soup Dogs’ is in the works, there's also going to be a video for ‘Soup Web’, and then there's going to be a live performance of ‘Soup Ascension’.


SG:

If everything goes well, all of those will be released. I'm not in Australia at the moment, so it's a bit trickier to organize these things, especially live performances, unfortunately. If Soup Demon wants to perform something, you'll have to talk to him!


Interview by Jarvis Halfpenny


Soup People

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