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How a four-year-old Australian song became the biggest hit in Europe

In 2017 Melbourne musicians Ed Service and Jack Madin recorded a song in their Brunswick studio. It was recorded with, and for, their friends.

The track got some love at local gigs and warehouse parties, but disappeared pretty quickly. Ed and Jack soon moved on with their lives and got day jobs.

But four years later that song they wrote has gone international. It’s playing at festivals and stadiums all over the world. It’s even been remixed by David Guetta. 

The track has been streamed millions of times and is rocketing up the charts.

So what happened? Today on The Culture we look at how two Melbourne musicians took the world by storm.


Guest: Ed Service and Jack Madin from Shouse.

Show Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

OSMAN:

Hey there, I'm Osman Faruqi and welcome to The Culture, a weekly show from Schwartz Media where we take a deep dive into the latest in the world of music, streaming, TV, film - everything in arts and entertainment. Today on the show we’re gonna be doing something a little bit different… we’re going to tell the story of one song. This song.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight by Shouse

OSMAN:

It’s called Love Tonight, and it’s by an Australian duo called Shouse.


Archival Tape -- Love Tonight by Shouse

OSMAN:

It was recorded in 2017 in a small, garage studio in Melbourne’s inner city suburb, Collingwood. It was played at a few small gigs and warehouse parties but then it disappeared, it’s a pretty common experience for a lot of Australian acts...but now it’s back. Somehow, this track has become one of the biggest songs in the world right now. It’s been streamed millions and millions of times in the past few weeks, and is rocketing up the charts.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight by Shouse

OSMAN:

As Europe and the United States reopen, the song has become an unofficial anthem of a post-Covid world, playing at stadiums, festivals and huge festivals. It’s even been remixed by David Guetta. So how did an Australian song, recorded by a little known duo four years ago become the biggest track in the world? And what exactly is it about this song that has seen it resonate with so many people? That’s what we’re going to find out today, on The Culture.

[Theme Music ends]

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight by Shouse

OSMAN:

Guys, tell me what has happened to you in the past couple of weeks, what have they been like?

JACK:

...after you.

ED:

You know, exponential increase in attention, I guess. We've long been we've been keeping an eye on this little song of ours, what was once a little song of ours, pattering away around the world and slowly following clicking through statistics on Spotify, watching this graph climb gradually, gently up and up and up and up, and then finally exponentially and dramatically from day to day. So, yeah, we've just seen our song explode around the world and...

OSMAN:

Which I guess brings us to this interview.

ED:

Thanks for noticing. Thank you. 

OSMAN:

Can we start just by getting you guys one by one to introduce yourselves?

ED:

Hi, I'm Ed. I'm one half of Shouse - I’m on the synths and the drum machines and the production. And I also work as a community manager at Collingwood Yards in Melbourne. 

JACK:

Hi, I'm Jack. I'm the other half of Shouse and I don't know exactly what I do in Shouse society. Well, hang around, watch. But um… and my day job is a primary school music teacher. 

OSMAN:

Tell me about the music you guys were making separately before you guys met. 

ED:

I was in this weird little, I guess, cosmic dance band called iiot with my buddy Tony Barneo from New Zealand, live saxophone beats and aethereal cosmic soundscapes it might be said.

OSMAN:

And what about you, Jack? What was your musical background?

JACK:

I've been in, sort of, local Melbourne bands. The Harpoons was one that I was in for a long time, and that was with my brother and a few other friends that I'd grown up with because I grew up in a sort of a folky...yeah, Folky music world.

OSMAN:

Ok so you’ve both been doing your own musical projects separately. Tell me about how you came together, where did you meet?

ED:

We met across a dance floor in 24 moons in Northcote.

Archival Tape -- 24 MOONS soundscape

ED:

There was a brief period there when 24 moons, which is an old strip club. It was a really special place for a few months there.

Archival Tape -- 24 MOONS soundscape

JACK:

And I remember seeing Ed. Yeah. Just across across a room upstairs with kind of a paper bag, which which was such a good it was 

ED:

...about this time of year. A few months earlier....

JACK:

Yeah. Yeah, it was twenty fifteen. Yeah. Mushroom season. 

OSMAN:

I was going to ask what's in the paper bag. But you just went there.

JACK:

Yeah. And it was, it...

ED:

..was Merri Creek mushrooms. Local. Organic. Yeah. Yes.

JACK:

And it was you know it was… we really just started making music. So it was sort of ...

ED:

...we had a really special night that night….

JACK:

...We did have a special night…

Archival Tape -- 24 MOONS soundscape

JACK:

...but it was built off music and then a sort of friendship grew. 

OSMAN:

So you guys both have a musical background. You meet on the dance floor of this Northcote nightclub. Your eyes lock from across the room. You have a great night on shrooms. You decide to get together, get into Ed’s studio in Collingwood and start making music together. Tell me about that experience. How did you musically collide?

ED:

Yeah, well Jack came very much from a folk bush camp music pedigree and I came very much from a Brunswick bedroom computer music pedigree. And the first time we ever got together outside of the first time we met, was in that studio where we wrote Love Tonight and that we set up a basic beat on a drum machine...

Archival Tape - Love Tonight By Shouse - Drums only

ED:

I was playing on my little MS20 synthesizer...

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight By Shouse Drums - Synth begins as well

ED:

Jack, we set him down at this big old MIDI keyboard, plugged into a plug-in in the computer with a weird flute setting on it.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight By Shouse Drums - Flute begins as well

ED:

And so it was a synth, it was a flute sample and a drum machine...

JACK:

You’re making me cry...no but it was beautiful 

OSMAN:

And that was the first track you guys ever wrote?

ED:

I think it's this track we're talking about today, which is Love Tonight. And I was playing a bass line. Jack was playing the weirdest flute melody, which can often get lost in the song. I just sugges, anyone listening back to it.. 

JACK:

...listen out for the flute.

ED:

It's quite present. But you miss it if you're not listening for it and started singing along the words. 

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight By Shouse Drums - Choir Begins singing

All I need / is your love tonight”

JACK:

Yeah. And it was the meeting of the kind of.. I like writing songs and sort of I don't have production computer-y skills at all. And so I come along with chords, little ideas and Ed is just great at just sort of banging through, banging into production or like drilling into it or something. There's something about, I don't know, I've done it with a few other people, but Ed just like goes hard, harder and faster than anyone, you know, and sloppier, you know, it's kind of like it's all wacky and weird stuff, but it just is *explosion sound*

Archival Tape -- Jack’s explosion sound, echoes

OSMAN:

How long did it take you guys before you had the track kind of largely as we hear it now?

ED:

Years. Years and years. And so we wrote this. Yeah. We wrote like a sprawling ten minute version that day. And, it kinda faded away, sat on hard drives for a while, and one day it occurred to us we needed a choir and we put together a big event. We bought some pizza and some beers, we hired out a warehouse in Brunswick and got one single VHS camera and another one that was broken and just got the gang together, a bunch of what was at the time. And the song kind of became an ode to the Melbourne Underground electronic scene at the time. And we got together some of what you might call the quote unquote, stars of the scene at the time.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight (choir)

“All I need / is your love tonight ”

OSMAN:

Tell me about the decision to bring on the choir, because I feel like that added this whole extra element to the track, and when I first heard the track and I watched the music video, I thought I had you guys just been watching like ‘We are the World’ or ‘Do they know it's Christmas’?

JACK:

That is exactly it. Yes, that is exactly what we were doing. And I think a lot of that comes from the community music stuff, which is where you kind of know, you ultimately want everyone to be able to be involved. And so it's less of the exclusive side. And so that's why we mentioned some of the names of the singers that people, you know, would have known and were friends. But there was actually a whole bunch of other friends...

ED:

So many others...

JACK:

...who were just our mates. And they are the you know, they are just as important on this track when you got that big choir. 

OSMAN:

That's interesting because that was a question I was going to ask you whether or not... because that choir creates this sense of togetherness, belonging, community. And I was going to ask how deliberate that was. And it sounds like it was very deliberate.

JACK:

Yeah. And it was the lack of the ability to get every, you know, famous Australian musician, which would have been fun...

OSMAN:

Did you reach out to any famous Australian musicians?

JACK:

Uhhhh... we- No, I don't think we... I think we sort of realised at a certain point that it was just if we just used a few of these mates...

ED:

...and it was about the community, you know, at the end of the day, particularly retrospectively, you look at it and the song is about togetherness, is about connectedness, is about solidarity. And that is only properly communicated through amateur choir. Really.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight (choir)

“All I need / is your love tonight”

OSMAN:

We’ll be back after this break

[ ADVERTISEMENT]

OSMAN:

So you guys, you finished the track, you've been working on it for a few years in the background, you add this choir, you record this video on VHS, you drop Love Tonight comes out and obviously you blow up, quit your day jobs. And you're everywhere right? 

ED:

 

Yes. The classic musician’s story. No, rather, more the actual classic musicians story relates to this song and it just slowly spikes and disappears into the void. I think, like a very common experience for artists, for musicians, as you put your heart and soul and everything into it and somehow you think everyone's going to care about it. 

OSMAN:

So what was the actual reaction when it came out?

JACK:

Lukewarm, at best.

ED:

A few people got around it who we got a little nod from, but it was a bit lukewarm at best. Like we played it with the friends. We had huge singalongs in clubs and we were like the song has done what it was meant to do. But it had an ulterior motive, I guess. 

OSMAN:

But here we are now in 2021 talking about this song you released four years ago. So what happened? Something has happened, right?

ED:

I remember in 2019 I just stumbled across this video on YouTube that someone had found and re-uploaded it under their own channel and it had like two million plays which at the time was astonishing. And it was a Lithuanian person. All the comments, all the comments were in Lithuanian,  hundreds of comments and the can't just keep going up and a lot of excited comments in Lithuanian and started to Google translate some of these comments, trying to ask people questions in English and piece together what was going on. 

OSMAN:

Ok so Love Tonight enters Europe via this Lithuanian YouTube, basically. What happens then? Did the song keep spreading?

ED:

Well, I'm the big data guy in the band, Jack, was to ignore data, but he liked the numbers when I.. 

OSMAN:

Its not clear to me what Jack does in the band! [laughs]

ED:

Following the comments and following the data when Europe was in the depths of the lockdown down, the song really started to see exponential growth and surges, and I think a lot of people found a lot of meaning in the connectedness and solidarity and the lyrics and then send it to their friends and film videos of them singing it to each other.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight (choir)

ED:

Something about the song, which is the same reasons we made it for, with the Melbourne scene, which is solidarity, connectedness, being there for each other, touch, you know, with the same principles that were really resonating with people at the time.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight with people singing along

ED:

And something about the song and something about that moment allowed it to communicate to both the lockdown and sharing that love and as will go on to the release and celebrating being together. So there's something about running that perfect line of the middle and that may be overreading or over analysis of the phenomenon, but that's how I see it. 

OSMAN:

Right, so it sort of plays this melancholy role soundtracking the world as we went enter lockdown. But over the past few weeks, as the northern hemisphere has entered summer and started reopening, the song’s numbers started spiking again. When did you learn that was happening? Were you guys checking your phones, were you getting tagged on social media?

ED:

Our label called us, like, guys, this is getting serious. This is starting to reach the upper echelons of plays globally. You need to get back on board. So we've got an Instagram account again because...

OSMAN:

We didn't even have an Instagram account at this stage...

ED:

...Jack had deleted it, in some kind of ...

JACK:

...given up with it…

ED:

...some kind of philosophical point. Yeah, and we've got an Instagram account again. So we were getting 500,000 plays a day or something and we had about two hundred followers on Instagram and we started seeing that the tags, the plays going up, I check the stats every day and we just started seeing this astonishing exponential growth, but particularly in the last month, it just started hitting some pretty absurd numbers. And I think one of the big triggers is when we hit the top 200 Shazam charts, which is an interesting chart, because Shazam, it's not a radio chart, it's not a hits chart...

Archival Tape -- Pete Tong BBC Radio One

“Now most essential new tunes are brand new to your ears... “

ED:

Shazam counts how many times people hear your song and go, what's that track and pull their phone out and press that button and hold the phone up because they say they're feeling something right

Archival Tape -- Pete Tong BBC Radio One

“This record actually came out, believe it or not, four years ago. 2017!”. 

ED:

Our song is a weird song for that chat, like the song. It's not a usual pop song, to be honest. Like it's a rough...Jack was talking about my production techniques and stuff and our working together...it's a rough raw chugging song and to have it in the top 20 of the Shazam charts is quite bizarre...

Archival Tape -- Pete Tong BBC Radio One

“...which means by the summer of twenty twenty one has been streamed over 50 million times, it's pretty damn large. It's already out there. You're probably going to know it, but we want to give it the accolade of an essential new tune because I think it's going to go on to a whole new level from here…”

JACK:

It definitely was hard to connect because it felt so far and it felt so foreign, it felt so...it wasn't actually I'm a I'm a very, I don't know, physical, tangible sort of person. And there wasn't any connexion with my reality.

ED:

It was bizarre. Yeah.

JACK:

Yeah. It was sort of this purely algorithmic numbers based thing. And we saw the videos. We saw these amazing things that people were doing, 

ED:

Amazing parties…

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight play at festivals, people screaming!

JACK:

Huge festivals. And it was just I think almost it was a bit of the sort of sadness of not being able to be involved. That made me want to disconnect a bit until, you know, about the last couple of weeks when it just started to feel like, you know, Europe seems to be a bit open. You know, I'm watching Wimbledon. There's a big- a lot of crowds, you know, in the...

ED:

...playing the song at Wembley during the Euro.

OSMAN:

Did they really? No way! That must be surreal.

JACK:

Yeah.

OSMAN:

And what has there been one moment. So I mean it all sounds very surreal, but has there been one or two particular things, whether it's at Wembley or a particular show or something like that, that you're like, whoah

ED:

So there's actually a video online of David Guetta making the remix...

Archival Tape -- David Guetta making Love Tonight remix

“This is all I'm going to use from the record, just a hook. All right, so that's it. I think it's something really crazy. Now, a few hours later, we got it…”

ED:

Apparently, he just said this is a huge track right now. So, David Guetta saying ‘that is something. Yes. But it's not quite ravey enough for me. So I'm not going to for my set tonight’. Wow. And then the next day, we get an email from the label going, hey, guys, David Guetta wants to do a remix. And that's just jaw dropping. Like, OK, one of those things probably won't happen. Next day, here's the remix. He's done it.

Archival Tape -- David Guetta - Love Tonight (remix)

ED:

So that would be one of the more surreal moments.

JACK:

It’s a pretty tasteful in the scheme of things

OSMAN:

We’ll be back after the break

Archival Tape -- David Guetta - Love Tonight (remix)

[ ADVERTISEMENT ]

OSMAN:

I think its fascinating that it’s in Europe where the song has really taken off. I was thinking about why that was the case. I mean it’s a really simple hook. And even if you don’t know a lot of English… you can understand the concept of “Love Tonight”. It’s a feeling and it’s a time. This is the moment I want love. It’s perfect for a club or festival vibe. Does that make sense to you?

ED:

Yeah, I think yes. I mean, we've been thinking about this a bit, and I think you're right. The song is most popular in non English speaking countries. And a few of the key principles I've thought about and we've thought about is you hear the chorus once, you can sing it again, you speak English as a second or additional or maybe not even speak English. And you can maybe kind of get what's going on and sing it. You can turn to your friend on the dance floor and look in their eyes and sing it to them. And that is one of the key principles, I think, that it's about tonight. You know, it's about each other and you can sing it to each other. And I think that's- I think that principle was part of the reason why it really connects. 

JACK:

Yeah

OSMAN:

And just to go back to something you guys were saying before about the fact that, like, obviously we're with a chorus, with a choir, there's a lot of different components. There's just the fact that you're listening to layered vocals, which evokes this sense of community. It sounds like a bunch of people who really love each other singing a song together. Yeah. And do you feel like that community element of it, the fact that it does sound like people coming together is also why it might have connected at this particular moment in history? 

ED:

 I think that's a good analysis. Yeah.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight - Choir only

ED:

In creating the song and in creating the recording of the song we were creating, just trying to engineer a moment for all our friends to come together and sing together and create that feeling. And I think I think you're right. People hear a bunch of friends singing together and being together and partying together. And that's kind of what they're craving now more than anything. And when they can actually do it together and express the song together now, which is why we're seeing the song explode around the world right now, is it, you know, quote unquote unlocks maybe for a bit. I think you've hit the nail on the head there. 

OSMAN:

And what's next for you guys? You have said you shut down the Shouse Instagram account. You go on to your day jobs. We're back, baby. We're back in the studio. 

JACK:

Yeah, yeah, yes. No one knows anything except one song. We're really in a moment of sort of like creation. We don't know.

ED:

But we're loving making music again. We spent the weekend at Jack’s folks place in the country. And Jack's dad makes a lot of a weird, incredible instruments. He's an instrument inventor. He's got hundreds of them. And we've been recording them, sampling them, making tracks. We recorded some frogs in the pond.

OSMAN:

Watch out Avalanches.

JACK:

Yeah, yes. Yeah, that's exactly right.

ED:

That's where we need to be. But we're really excited to be making music again. And we hope to.

JACK:

Yeah. Oh, it's the most glorious, you know, sort of triumphant kind of feeling that people like this, this old song, you know. Yeah. It just pushes us. I think it's that moment of kind of like affirming why we did it, why we kind of do music and the fact that it you know, I've been able to find this great place in a little primary school in Brunswick, you know, and they are so supportive of me.

OSMAN:

Do the kids know that you're a huge star now? 

JACK:

And they they will hopefully soon. They even know

OSMAN:

that they will when they listen to this.

JACK:

But then when they tune in to 7am.. Yeah, no, these kids are great because they don't care. They just would never care if you and they just take you in the moment and you do fun stuff and then you know, you have a great time 

ED:

To touch on what you were asking before. Like, I think it reaffirms why we make music, which for me and Jack is largely about bringing people together, inspiring community, inspiring connectedness, inspiring solidarity. I know that sounds so cheesy, but I genuinely believe in the power of music and collective experiences to bring people together.

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight - Choir Only

OSMAN:

Thanks so much for chatting to me about it 

ED:

Thanks Os

JACK:

A pleasure

Archival Tape -- Love Tonight - Choir Only

[Theme Music Starts]

OSMAN:

Thanks for listening to the show, The Culture will be back in your feeds next week, as usual.

 

On the next episode, we’re going to be exploring the campaign to Free Britney Spears… we got a lot of messages from you asking us to delve into it, and I hope it delivers. If you have other ideas or things you want us to cover, let us know on Instagram! We’re at theculture.pod. If you’ve missed our previous episodes, go and check them out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts

 

The Culture is a weekly show from Schwartz Media.

 

It's produced by Bez Zewdie and Atticus Bastow, Our editor-in-chief is Erik Jensen, and our theme music is by Hermitude. Special thanks to Alex Gow for production on this week’s episode

 

I’m Osman Faruqi, see ya next week

[Theme Music Ends]

 

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