Lush atmospherics and rowdy dance floor favourites by two of Melbourne’s finest, Millú and Pjenné.
With a finely honed approach to their creative pursuits, Millú and Pjenné have built themselves a solid reputation that goes far beyond the confines of Aussie borders. Both great DJs and radio hosts in their own right, Penny takes good care of her weekly Passing Notes show at PBS Radio, whilst Milly shares her classy finds via her Full Circle show on Triple R. In the absence of events over the past months, the two sonic soulmates have been busy at work channeling their predilection for ethereal 90s electronica and meditative leftfield sounds with the start of their record label, Companion.
Intrigued to hear more, we got in touch to get the low-down on the new project, life in Australia, and their weekly radio shows, among other things. Furthermore, the two found a gap in their busy timetable and laid down a beautiful mix for us, which glides from contemplative mind soothers to fist-pumping party vibes in a seamless, 70-minute transmission.
Good to have you on, Milly & Penny. How’s things over in Melbourne? You both recently played your first gig in a long while.. Must have felt good to be able to share music with a physical audience again. Tell us about that experience and the emotions that came with it. And, how has the whole situation developed over the Aussie Summer?
P: Hello from Melbourne and thank you for having us on the ever-inspiring Oddysee series! We are back at what seems to be, relatively full force here in Melbourne, so much so that the dark depths of winter and lockdowns seem like a distant memory
M: It’s been strange readjusting to ‘normal’ life again to be honest – it felt for a while like we’d never step onto a dance-floor or booth again! We feel incredibly lucky to be able to come together and dance again. Our first gig back playing b2b was a special one as well, to celebrate the launch of our newly announced label Companion
P: The Fairfield amphitheatre is a magical outdoor venue, tiered bluestone on the banks of the Birrurung (Yarra River) – and although it’s always a special experience playing in such serene surrounds, playing to our nearest and dearest for this occasion left us with full hearts and an eagerness to share what we’ve been dreaming up for the label
The event marks the start of a seriously exciting new venture as well – the launch of your joined record label, Companion. Tell us about the idea behind Companion, how the project came to life, and how the ride has been so far.
P: Many creative seeds seem to have been sown during the forced periods of reflection over the past year. We’ve definitely seen this with the ongoing stream of superb releases, new labels and creative outputs emerging in the global electronic music community of late
M: I guess we were no different in that sense – having both dreamt of starting individual labels, the lockdowns and long walks together around our neighborhood were the catalyst for us taking a collaborative approach to a label. Missing working on sets together and also finding we had a shared vision for our respective labels helped us decide to take the plunge together
P: Fortunately, the peak state government body for funding of the arts, Creative Victoria were also rolling out COVID recovery grant programs which really kicked us into gear with getting our ideas on to paper. The journey so far has been full of learning on the job, lots of communication, hard work and most of all a very symbiotic relationship.
M: Working on something with such purpose and harmony has already been incredibly rewarding for us both. It’s felt so organic and exciting.
With the label setting out to focus on “downtempo and atmospheric iterations of the electronic underground” and bringing “the language of ethereal 90s electronica, psychedelic IDM and ambient trance and techno to the present day”, tell us a bit about your connection to those particular sounds from that era. Can you give us some examples of music from that period that had a lasting impact on you personally, and why?
We have always been drawn to these nostalgic sounds prominent in the 90s, ever since our humble beginnings as DJs some five years ago. Although we have similar tastes as individuals, this is where our taste overlaps the most and a sound that we like to focus on and have come to be known for when we play as ‘Pjenne & Millu’. For the longest time, before our shift from dancefloor to DJ, we also had an affinity for sounds that translate from bush doof to bedroom. Our friendship was founded on shared experience of these sounds and we both believe in the power of them to help us heal, connect and explore the outerworldly.
Some tracks that we believe embody that of the Companion vision include:
Set to release early May, what do you’ve in store for the label’s debut outing and what can we expect in the coming months?
M: We’ve been working with a Naarm/Melbourne based producer who goes by KiTA for the label’s first release – it’s also the debut release for KiTA so it’s been a pretty special experience across the board I think. The record is being cut as we speak, at a new local plant called Program Records. There’ll be a limited run vinyl pressing and then digis available through Bandcamp.
P: The release is five tracks that tether the line between hypnotic ambience, atmospheric electro and woozy breaks – it feels incredibly cinematic. We can’t wait to get it out into the world.
M: We’ve got another local release lined up for a little later in the year as well, and it’s been cool working with friends on that one. It feels really nice to be keeping the momentum going.
Being close friends and having previously worked together on other projects, can tell us a bit about this partnership? Is there a particular division of tasks between the two of you? And with Bugdumb taking care of Companion’s logo, what can we expect from the label in terms of visual identity and artwork?
P: As we’ve mentioned previously, we’re taking a collaborative approach to the operations of the label. That said, we both have very different, yet complementary skill sets which allow the division of labour to be a rather natural process. For example, Milly has many laudable skills which allow our visual ideas to come to life..
M: It’s been a minute since I’ve had the chance to work on design stuff, so I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to do so for a project i’m genuinely passionate about. In terms of Companion’s visual identity I guess we initially drew inspiration from label branding and sleeve artworks and hope to nod to some of our favourite designs from that same 90s era. Although there’s a lot of nostalgia involved in the vision, we’ll be forging our own contemporary approach. We want to incorporate a range of physical mediums – painting, lino print – anything that takes the design a step away from the screen/digital realm.
P: There’s also a big focus on collaboration – we want the label to provide a platform for local artists, particularly engaging other women and GNC folk, people of colour, and people from the LGBTIQ+ community. Shouts to both Bugdumb for our logo and to Jaime Brohier for the sleeve artwork for our forthcoming debut release.
Aside from the new venture, you’ve been keeping your ace Full Circle radio transmissions on an impressive level as well, Milly. Filling a two hour show on a weekly basis isn’t the easiest thing to do.. How do you manage to keep it fresh, both for yourself and the music you play out?
M: Though I’ve been involved with community radio for the better part of the decade, I only started presenting Full Circle as a weekly slot at the start of last year – just before things got really hectic with COVID. The learning curve was initially pretty steep and I guess that was heightened by being forced into home-broadcasting. The intention was always to have lots of guests through the station whilst they were in town for gigs etc, but in the absence of that the show has quickly taken a bit of a different approach. Guests have been few and far between but there’s still a big focus on new local music which allowed me to maintain a connection to the dance music community during the lockdown. At home I was listening almost exclusively to downtempo electronica, jazz, shoegaze and psych-y kinds of stuff, so presenting the show each week sort of forced me to keep up with new dance releases as well as the chance to just have a mix! Community radio in Australia is such a special thing to be a part of here – I’m obviously biased but I think it’s pretty unparalleled elsewhere in the world. It’s so validating to be a part of this community it’s easy to feel motivated week after week.
Same can be said for your Passing Notes show, Penny. Working more with guest DJ appearances on the show, how do you approach the curation part for Passing Notes?
P: As you said above, it’s no easy feat committing to two hours of radio every week, but at the same time I feel so privileged to be a broadcaster at PBS. There really is something magical about live FM radio that doesn’t translate to the more contemporary online radio platforms that we have today. I think it’s this magic, the format and sheer frequency of the shows that takes the pressure off in a way. Even though there’s undoubtedly a level of commitment involved, there’s always room to explore, revisit and share whatever you have been connecting with in that week rather than the more ‘hyper-curated’ way I would go about doing online radio. A more fluid and free take, if you will! In terms of curation, there’s a natural tendency for me to use this slot to share some of the more downtempo, wave-y and experimental sounds that I usually don’t get to share at gigs, but being a Friday night slot the second half of the show always lands in dance and club territory. Like Milly, I also have a strong focus on local artists – even more so now that international guests aren’t coming through Melbourne for events. Being a connection between the local electronic music community and community radio is such an important part of what we do. Not only providing a platform for artists, but building meaning around electronic and dance music beyond the clubs has always been something I’ve aspired to do.
What kind of energy are you bringing us with this mix today? Any upcoming bits from the label tucked away in there?
M: We haven’t worked on a mix together in a long while… in fact I’m pretty sure that last mix we recorded as a duo was in 2017. Not entirely sure why it’s been so long between mixes, but it was fun to put our minds together again. We drew on the same kind of vibe we played last month at our label launch party, albeit with a little more energy than what’s expected for the label itself
P: We recorded this over a couple of wines at Milly’s place one Saturday night in – it progresses from ambient trance through to some of our favourite old stompers. There’s a few local friends featured as well, including a track from the first Companion release from KiTA.
Finally, what else is on the horizon for this year?
M: We’ve got lots of b2b sets coming up in the next couple of months, providing things don’t turn sour again with the pandemic. We’re both really looking forward to playing our first all-night-long set this coming Friday at Colour Club, going in for a 7 hour set together.
P: Beyond that – I guess time will tell! The label will be keeping us busy, with the first few releases in the works already. We’d love to do some more events as Companion as well, again using the label as a platform to celebrate lesser represented artists across the local scene and hopefully one day further afield.