Music / Features
Track by Track:
Poppongene - Futures Unsure
Words by Conor Lochrie
Tuesday 14th July, 2020
Off the back of the release of her eagerly-awaited debut EP earlier this month, psych-pop luminary Poppongene has invited us into the dreamy world of Futures Unsure and taken us through it track by track.
Poppongene is Sophie Treloar, the Melbourne-based artist creating the bubbly and buoyant soundtrack to your next breakup. On her debut EP Futures Unsure, just released by the excellent Our Golden Friend, she wryly spins tales of love and relationships that will be immediately relatable to anyone who’s braved the Melbourne dating scene.

Under the Poppongene name, Treloar works both alone and in collaboration with a rotating cast of musicians. For this EP, she was joined by Gemma Helms (bass), Deeanna Rumsaviche (Juno keyboard, backing vocals), and Damien Meoli (drums, percussion), with production help from Tim Harvey (Jade Imagine, Emma Louise).

It’s a confident record and will undoubtedly secure Poppongene an extended following - her bright and dreamy pop is instantly affecting - but it’s above all optimistic. Treloar acknowledges the trials and travails of being in and out of love but never lets it wither her spirit, her hypnotic delivery revealing a firm resolve to emerge unscathed from the chaos of a breakup. Mirroring this idea, ‘Futures Unsure’ is relentlessly upbeat and poppy in its sound - when Treloar effuses, she always sounds sunny and self-aware.

While a Melbourne contemporary like Julia Jacklin considered a breakup from a contemplative and melancholic distance, Poppongene positively embraces the absurd and bittersweet nature of them. There is sadness and woe, certainly, but release always comes after. The single ‘Eternally Alone’ is the record’s standout, a humorous and melodic ode to not allowing for complacency when looking for love (watch the comical and biting video for the song, in which Treloar faces the prospect of speed dating with an eccentric cast of potential partners).

On it, Treloar sings “Eternally alone, hopefully not / Eternally by my phone, hopefully not”. We’ve all, at one moment or another, considered those exact thoughts - the future may be unsure but it probably will work out in the end.

To help us journey a little further into the world of Poppongene, Sophie has kindly taken us through each track on Futures Unsure below.
Not Wrong

‘Not Wrong’ is a kind of a ~secret~ coming out song. I suppose at the time of writing it was based in the feeling of lust and the allure of a new type of connection. It’s a glittering slow burn, equal parts thrill and uncertainty of attraction and sexuality. The strong and hypnotic bassline pulls you into a comfy chasm where you can comfortably watch the guitar and synth dance above it. I feel like dynamically and musically it’s the most ‘wild ride’ song on the EP, lots of peaks and valleys. It also has a cheeky drone throughout most of it that is very Camille ‘Le Fil’ (without being anywhere near that lol). 

This one was the first single off the EP so it really set the stage for what was to come. 

Don’t Even Know

‘Don't Even Know’ was written in the midst of a relationship breakdown. It follows the subtle observations of change and disconnection. It's punchy and direct, both lyrically and tonally. I distinctly remember feeling particularly irked when I wrote this song, a feeling which translates suitably. It’s commanding and has a real finality to it. It feels like a small step away from the usual dreamy nature of my music which is a refreshing change. 

Tell Me How You Feel

‘Tell Me How You Feel’ is a very tender and sincere song. The first half of the song is solitary and cavernous. It speaks of loneliness, heartache, and wanting to be strong minded; and simultaneously the backward feeling of wanting to put your own needs aside and reach out and help the one that has hurt you. This is a very huge Cancer Venus mood.

In the second half of the song this vacant sentiment dissolves into a reclamation of this very femme feeling. It’s this aching to want to communicate, to want to help, to be optimistic that things won’t change too wildly - but you know that it has to. It’s gotta! On the song I had six of my very important female music people sing in a choir at the end of the song, and it felt powerful hearing other women sing these lines that I feel is such a common experience. There’s also the fuzzy bassy Juno sound in the second part of the song, which really makes it feel like a big hug. 

Eternally Alone

‘Eternally Alone’ is about not settling for something that doesn't work for you, and additionally, the comical aspect of the alone-ness that can run parallel to this way of being. It’s very poppy and very sweet. It’s got a bunch of fun ping-pong delayed percussion, earworm riffs and angelic backing vocals. It's a cheeky and humorous pop song about wanting warm connection without warped compromise. A consistent theme on this EP is DO NOT SETTLE! 

I Can’t Be What You Need

‘I Can’t Be What You Need’ is a fun bop with lots of guitar shimmer. The lyrics speak of being in a pretty average place emotionally, but leaning on your self determination to get you through.

It’s a realisation song, a kind of hindsight that you can’t (or shouldn’t) change yourself to make sense of a life with someone you have outgrown. It’s the slopes of up and down and around of working yourself out, but knowing it’s not linear; which I think is reflected in the tightly paced verses and the buttery sweet choruses. It drives home the fact that you should pour your energy into yourself because you’re important! 

Wet Towel

‘Wet Towel’ describes the disconnect and parallel release at the end of a relationship. It’s a punchy and sparse song about the multitude of feelings loss brings. At its core, ‘Wet Towel’ snapshots the frustration of not being able to help someone you love - and the bittersweet realisation that you’re not responsible for anyone other than yourself. ‘Wet Towel’ has a certain coldness to it, a dismissiveness. It’s tired and fed up and it’s reached its limit, it’s done. 

Already Gone

‘Already Gone’ has a certain contemplative softness and tenderness. It has a lot of grounding in trusting your intuition, recognising change and embracing growth. Many of the lyrics grab those key moments of awareness you have with yourself, those that have a quiet and enduring ceiling-stare quality to them. The song instrumentally expands and develops with the narrative of the lyrics. With dreamy layered backing vocals and a stunning three-layered bass part, the outro blossoms into a radiant release of despair and triumph. 

You’ll Never Know

‘You’ll Never Know’ is a reflective song. It questions how things end up the way they do and examines how difficult disconnection and change can be. It shifts as it progresses and surges into a delightful and glittering “empower-ballad”, with a haughty sentiment of ‘you’ll never know, because I’ve decided you’re not particularly welcome anymore’. It’s kind of a heartbreaker, but it’s also kind of a small groover too? I can imagine this in a movie scene set at a school dance and all of the dorky teens are slow dancing in a foggy school hall with soft lilac lights. 

Futures Unsure is out now through Our Golden Friend - head here to purchase the EP on limited cassette.