After the February release of her sophomore album Crushing, Julia Jacklin played to a sold-out crowd at iconic Melbourne venue The Forum Theatre whilst on her first national tour for 2019. Having recently moved to Melbourne, and on her last tour selling out two Corner Hotel gigs, she is clearly loved in her new home-town.
In the venue, the audience’s adoration was evidenced throughout the night – gentle humming and singing in the background of every tune. Nevertheless, Jacklin still seems surprised by her fame: “I’m struck by the absurdity of what I’m doing. I’m just playing guitar on a stage with my friends.”
And that is exactly what she does. Jacklin’s live show doesn’t rely on any distractions or tricks. Instead, her performance is one that is understated yet immense. The instrumentals are sparse and restrained, but powerful in the way they fill the space. This allows Jacklin’s voice to be the centrepiece, and the acoustics are clear enough to showcase her skills as a classically trained vocalist.
Her music is the perfect fit for a venue this size or smaller: its lyrics are intimate and thoughtful, reflective in nature and tending towards self-examination. With the Forum’s cerulean-blue ceiling lit to imitate the evening sky, the overall effect is breathtaking and powerful. This was felt particularly moments before ‘When the Family Flies in‘ as Jacklin recounted for the audience the loss of a friend, and to whom the song was dedicated – “this song isn’t pleasant at all.”
However, the entire evening was punctuated with more moments of humour than seriousness. Not long after this sombre moment she gave a shout out to “Ryan The Sound Guy”, recalling a time when they had a night out which ended with her waking up, covered in fries. She is everyone’s secret spirit animal.
Stories aside though, Jacklin’s music is immersive and captivating, uniting her audience as one big-love-entity. As the night came to an end, with her eyes closed, head rocking back to the sky, crowd singing along to ‘Motherland‘ and hearing “And oh I’m good, I think I’m good; Will I be great, will I be great?”… well, we believe the evidence is clear that Julia Jacklin is and always will be “Great”.
Off the back of his self-titled debut in 2015, Roland Tings became a mainstay of the Australian electronic scene. Throughout 2016 he played countless gigs, peddling his unique brand of layered, rolling electro across the country before taking some time to regroup.
In late 2016 he released the first pieces of new music in over a year, with his recognisable arpeggios and percussion accompanied by a slight shift in tone and influences. New, house-ier moments in tracks like ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘Eyes Closed’ set the tone for what was to come in the critically praised EP Each Moment A Diamond. As we learned from our recent chat with Roland, this EP was a long time in the making — and perhaps even longer in securing it’s release.
Roland recently embarked on a massive Australian and New Zeland tour, and despite the delays in releasing new music it became clear that fans had not lost interest. Kicking off in March the tour covered Canberra, Wollongong, Perth, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane before heading south for Wellington and Auckland. The new live show brings to the stage the two man live arrangement recently seen at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival and supporting RUFUS on their tour.
We were lucky enough to catch the extra Thursday show at Howler in Melbourne, only added after the Friday night performance sold out very quickly. As the Howler band room slowly started to fill, the audience found their feet to high-energy, intricate house productions by Fishing. Highlights from their recent EP Pleasure Dome — such as ‘Yuma’ and the title track ‘Pleasure Dome’ — perfectly set the pace of the evening.
After the support from Fishing and Venus II, there was an atmosphere of excitement and heady anticipation by the time Roland Tings took to the stage — which he capitalised on by immediately launching in to new material. Long, progressive tracks helped build tension in the room — like the distorted harps of ‘Turn Your Face To The Sun’ — and made the most of the impressive rack of synths and relays that adorned the stage.
Accompaniment from a live percussionist gave many tracks an added sense of weight, without overpowering the overall sound output. New numbers like ‘Hedonist’ particularly benefitted from the heightened performance value added by live drums. Its broad, reverbed-out synth lines left heaps of space for the full-bodied bass and punching kicks to cut through Howler’s sound system. Inspired by the Australian outback, the track’s sense of atmosphere made it a stand out on the recent EP and it was received as such live.
More upbeat new tracks like ‘Eyes Closed’ and ‘Garden Piano‘ were spread throughout favourites from Tings’ debut album, which helped to maintain a strong energy during the hour and a half set. The progression from track to track was often seamless, largely due to the extensions and reworks of key elements between each one. The live aspects of the performance helped to transition these extended versions together to create one continuous soundtrack for the night. The slow-to-start but eventually powerful ‘Slow Centre’ proved to be a highlight of these transitions, as it moves from a Bonobo-esque percussion piece into a powerful dance floor shaker. Another highlight was the unexpected move into a Roland staple; ‘Floating On a Salt Lake’. Its drawn out introduction was weaved so effortlessly into the proceeding sounds that the dramatic cut to only the bass line came as a welcome surprise.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest moments of the night came from recent lead single ‘Higher Ground’. The stabbing top line synths and bouncing bassline would have been more than sufficient to raise the energy in the room again, but the inclusion of the first vocals lines of the night (from local singer Nylo) gave the audience an additional element to latch onto and inevitably sing along with. A crowd singing back the words to a recently released song always creates a special moment, and through the impressive light and smoke show Howler had put on it was clear that the two piece on stage were enjoying it just as much as the audience. Bringing the set to a close was undoubtedly Roland Ting’s biggest release to date, ‘Pala’. Hearing such an often-played track live gave it a new energy that the crowd lapped up in their final dancing moments.
Despite only being in his early 20s, Darcy Baylis has been around the Melbourne scene for half a decade with several impressive releases. His undefined ambition, unique combination of skills and ability to execute his work so well, has caught the praise of critics and fellow musicians alike. Rather than looking to fit in, Darcy chooses his own subconscious path, involving genres spawning from every decade since the ’70s. Wanting to further pursue this approach in more interesting and different depths, makes his work some of the most memorable of our plethora of local artists we have today.
We sat down at Dr. Morse and talked with Darcy about recording Intimacy & Isolation (out via DOWNTIME) while travelling last year, the importance of vocals in his music and looking to work with local rappers and improve Australian rap music.
Marcus Rimondini: I’ll start with – how was the Golden Plains experience last year? Is that the biggest crowd you’ve performed to?
Darcy Baylis: It was like the greatest night of my life. Categorically, objectively – it stands out as the best hour. I have no other way to describe it. I don’t even know if I was expecting it to be that good. I guess because I had never played anything remotely on that level I knew I had to step it up. Funnily enough as well, it was the only gig where I wasn’t nervous. My manager said to me “Do you want to have a look at the crowd to get ready?” So I did, and even though it was a lot of people, I just felt so prepared and like nothing could go wrong.
You the spent last year travelling and recording this album – what gear did you take on you on your trip to record? Did you borrow gear? What do you wish you took with you?
Just my laptop and microphone. [Laughs] I’m not a big gear person, synthesisers are cool I guess, but it’s just not my thing. I think even if I had money to access things, I probably still wouldn’t buy much gear. I primarily work within my laptop – I consider that to be my main instrument. I didn’t borrow any gear. I just took my laptop and some clothes and I was good, didn’t really need anything else.
Did you try to collaborate with anyone for the album? Anyone you’d love to work with?
I think it’s very important that I’m transparent about the collaborations that were involved on the album. For instance, on the first track there’s a reading of a poem by my friend Polly titled ‘All I Is’. I think that poem is integral to a lot of the words in the album, she also co-wrote some lyrics for ‘Emergency’.
I came back to Australia with a large portion of the album half done, and I went to the studio with my closest friend and collaborator Joseph Buchan. I asked “What do you think?” and he’s someone who won’t appease me for the sake of it. For instance, I’ll play music to other people and they’ll say “This is great!” but with Joe it’s more constructive – “I think you can do better”.
As far as collaborative work, those two people were integral in encouraging me to get better, step back and think about why I’m doing what I’m doing, how the best way to do it is, and how I can actually make it stand out. As opposed to making it as good as something I’ve done before.
There’s a ‘90s sound that sticks out, artists like The KLF. Was there a particular era or sound that influenced the album or is that just naturally what comes out when you produce at the moment?
It’s just kind of everything, which seems like a cop out to say that. I think because a lot of this album was written with a deadline, because I needed new material for Golden Plains, I figured out the only way to make good music quickly is to not think about style, I pretty much gave up on the idea of making a house song, or an electronic record, or whatever. It’s literally all the things I like, democratised in a way, and all given their equal share of play. There’s definitely things like Orbital, Aphex Twin, but there’s also contemporary rap, like Future and Drake. Even some of favourite albums of all time like Björk’s Vespertine.
So it’s more of a natural stream of thought?
I think so. It’s very important to me in my practice, the democratising of style, and making sure that things that are traditionally considered highbrow are lowbrow, or are presented as equally important. Rather than here’s a techno record with an ironic flourish of pop, I don’t do anything ironically. I’m at a point where it’s really hard for me to find music that I dislike.
You mentioned how you hope this album appeals to teens – is that because you feel that’s difficult to do or just because you want them to access more interesting music?
Yeah totally. Teenagers are the future. The way that they approach social media and interact with each other, they’re figuratively and literally the future. I think they have the most innovating taste out there and I think that’s really interesting. I think it’s also really important to discover music that you love as a teeenager. I feel everyone’s obsession with music begins at that point.
If you had to associate yourself with any other similar artists in Australia, who comes to mind. Friendships to me would be the closest artist. Are you familiar with their work? What do you think is the main difference between your works? Or do you feel there’s nobody exploring the same territory?
I try not to compare myself to other people as a general rule of thumb because I used to spend so much time doing that. It drove me insane, falling into this weird insecurity, aspiration anxiety. I have a lot of respect for Friendships, I think they’re great, incredible musicians and artists. They sound a little bit like me, but not heaps. I’ve been trying to actively consume more Australian music, but I don’t try to think about what I do compared to other people. I think there’s an importance between influence and reference, there’s things that my music literally sounds like, but there’s actual reference points. I just consume music and see what happens.
There’s a lot of effects on your vocals throughout this album and your previous EP – do you feel the vocal manipulation separates you a little from the other local electronic producers?
That’s a really nice thing to point out! I appreciate that, nobody’s actually mentioned that. I think that was an essential part of the record. In contemporary rap and pop music, the timbre of the voice has kind of become the main instrument. Auto-tune itself has become a very malleable instrument, vocal processing has become an instrument, and it’s also become essential to innovative or standout or create interesting music. The human voice is this transformative, transcendent thing. I think if you spend three hours working on a synth sound and then just sing over it, seems kind of pointless, I think everything should be given equal treatment.
Do you find it easier to use your voice than a sampled voice?
Yeah I find it way easier, the big difference making this album was I had a good microphone for the first time in my life. I could get the ideas out quickly and make the music. A lot of the lyrics, I don’t tend to write them down, they’re just phrases in my head at some stage.
What’s the meaning behind the line “Force won’t kill me”?
That’s an example of a sentence that just appeared in my head, fully formed in that rhythmic melody. If anything it’s an embrace of nihilism – that point where you stopped being so concerned about not being afraid to die, but you also very much celebrate life as well. I feel those two things are very close. That point in the middle, where it doesn’t make sense that you’re here, but you’re going to do your best to figure it out. Which is a grand statement to explore.
Did you performed the guitar solo in ‘Emergency’?
Yeah. Guitar was my first instrument, I started when I was 11 years old, my sister played me ‘The Taste Of Ink’ by The Used. The next day I was like, I need to learn how to play this song. I started off playing punk music, then jazz and classical. After this I discovered electronic music, so the guitar has always been around, and something that’s existed parallel to my own electronic music. I think for the next show I play, I’d like to shred a bit more, to show that it’s something that I can do and because it’s fun.
Now you’re going back to university – how big of a commitment is it? Does it keep you free to make music and tour?
It’s bigger than I thought – on my first day back I was thinking “… I might be in a bit too deep here”, juggling study, touring this album, trying to write a 45 minute composition with an accompanied thesis, text people back and still get eight hours sleep a night. [Laughs] it’s going to be pretty tough but I think I’m very much capable of it. I don’t want any of it to slow down as a result of it. I’ll just be looking stressed out for the rest of the year, but I’m prepared for that. I think the greatest resource I have at university is the ability to bounce ideas off peers. Collaboration is so integral for any good arts, that’s why I can’t stop going back, because I want to see what all my friends are up too. I’m such a nerd about it, I want to be there all the time.
You mentioned a song called ‘Cucks’ that you’ll play live – what is it about and why does it not feature on the album?
It was made just after the album and is about me being traditionally not a very masculine person and my friends not really associating with either side of the gender binary. So being perhaps a male presented person, who embraces the ‘cuck-hold’, I guess. It’s part joke, part very, VERY serious. The song itself is like a really cheesey ‘70s new-wave, synth-pop. It almost sounds like primitive Kraftwerk before they got cool. There are other songs I’ve been writing since the album that contain more guitar, and you could definitely describe them as tech-grunge [laughs]. I’m just trying to get weirder, in terms of lyrical content and what it sounds like. I think I’m done with being suicidal and sad but with a tech beat – it was fun, but I’m ready to do something vastly different.
You’ve also mentioned producing for rappers. Any rappers in mind, local or international?
I’ve been in talks with a few in Australia. I don’t like to talk about things until they’re confirmed, because if they don’t happen it’s devastating. It’s something I used to do with weird American internet rappers a while ago. I figured I was mostly listening to rap music, and rather than being like “Australian music sucks”, why not try to make it good? Reach out to people you do admire, see if they want to work with you and try make something good out of it. People underestimate the importance of the beats, it’s weird. I feel like you don’t really realise it until you hear a great beat but with a really lackluster rapper over the top – it’s integral. Even though production is 50% or more of a song, the rapper is everything, that’s just how that form of music works.
I remember actually catching your set as ‘Namine’ at Strawberry Fields 2013. I was quite impressed, is there any advice you’d give to your 17 year old self?
Wow, yeah just wait a bit longer. If I could go back, I probably wouldn’t put anything out until this album. But then it’s stupid to think that you put out something that I think is this good as your first record, you have to put out a few average ones first.
Saatsuma are a Melbourne-based collaboration between Memphis Kelly, Cesar Rodrigues and Joel Ma on the recording side, but the group transforms for the live shows to a five piece — Cesar and Memphis perform, along with Maddy Kelly (sister to Memphis), Andrew Congues and Lachlan Stuckey. With support from Eilish Gilligan and OCDANTAR, they put on a beautiful night of electronic music at The Toff in Town to celebrate the launch of their sublime video for ‘Floating’. Dream Kit (Declan Kelly), sometime collaborator with Saatsuma and brother to Memphis and Maddy, provided solid vibes throughout the night DJing in between the acts.
Singer/songwriter Eilish Gilligan and her live band (consisting of Max Dowling and Lewis Coleman) had just started when I arrived, and were firmly setting the scene for a night of ambient synth and rich dance tracks. Gilligan’s emotive lyrics and vulnerable performance style created an intimate atmosphere immediately for people walking through the door, drawing people in with her powerful vocals. The earlier songs in her set tended towards a similar structure and sound, and while they were engaging her real strength as an artist came through in the final two songs. She played her beautiful single ‘All the Time’ second to last and it was the standout, captivating the crowd with haunting lyrics and sparse beats. Her last song, which is new, was less beat heavy and was exciting to see as a signpost for how her sound might expand to add more variation to her catalogue.
During Gilligan’s performance there were moments of slightly overzealous lighting, particularly the incidence of a brief green strobe breaking the spell she had over the audience for a minute to give way for laughter from crowd and band alike. Unfortunately the distraction from the lighting continued into the start of OCDANTAR (Joshua Delaney), before calming to give the artist space on stage. It was great to see someone trying interesting effects, particularly at the Toff which hasn’t always had the setup to do so, however it was overbearing at times.
OCDANTAR started ethereal, with minimal vocals and then ebbed and flowed impressively through deeper bass without losing momentum. He played a cohesive set and made excellent use of samples, both of his own voice and others. I would love to see him headline, because although there were a few people keeping the dancefloor going it seemed like people took his set as a chance to have a dance break and enjoy his music from afar and he was in turn less engaged with the crowd.
People were still taking advantage of the break in music to get in drinks and cigarettes when the screening of the video began, slightly ahead of schedule. It’s a beautiful film clip, with minimal action and a focus on choreography and movement which reflects the push and pull of insomnia explored in the lyrics of ‘Floating’. The video was projected onto the back of the stage, and would have benefitted from a more dramatic setting with lower lights so the crowd could see the indigo colouring more accurately.
After the curtains closed on the stage, Dream Kit started playing tunes again and the crowd jostled into position, ready for Saatsuma to play. The atmosphere shifted from cheerful anticipation to a bit antsy, as the wait between the video and their set was just slightly too long to hold the excitement over from the screening of the video. Nonetheless everyone was there to see them, and when they took to the stage all was forgiven.
Occasionally electronic acts seem awkward or lacking in a live set, as they can struggle to find a way to translate sample and effect heavy tunes to the stage. Saatsuma beautifully navigate this, with an altered lineup for the stage and a real depth in their live performance. Memphis Kelly is a captivating front-woman and the addition of live drums and Maddy Kelly on backup vocals give richness to both their sound and performance live, keeping the live show interesting and something special. The lighting for the rest of the night made more sense now, as the changes and intensity were used to incredibly good effect to draw focus back to Memphis where needed, and not overwhelming while there were more people on stage, though still occasionally clunky in parts.
Their set peaked beautifully towards the end, playing their first single ‘Storm’ which got the crowd dancing and then new song, ‘Breathless’, which was a satisfying change and a good choice for between their two best known songs. ‘Floating’ was of course their closer, and exemplified the mood change from their recorded songs to live in a beautiful way. There was a lot of love in the room, the band clearly impressed with the majority of crowd singing along and all of the crowd dancing. Vocals start dominating at the end of the song, music fading for Memphis’s voice to ring out over the crowd sans accompaniment, with a split second break as though the crowd were awed into silence before many cheers and fierce applause.
As soon as the red velvet curtains closed, Dream Kit began playing again to a satisfied crowd. Saatsuma and supports put on a sweet night, and it’s exciting to see them developing a breed of electronic music which is danceable without sacrificing feeling and emotion.
After a bit of a break from the live scene, we decided to get together with some of our favourite Melbourne acts at the Gasometer Hotel to share an evening of music with you all. We’re chuffed to have been able to curate a night of such great melodic guitar music that truly showcased the strength of Melbourne’s up-and-coming talent, and we hope to share more amazing Australian talent with you all in future shows down the track.
The first band to grace the stage was five-piece surf outfit DIET. who have impressed us right off the bat with their releases like ‘Your House’ and more recently ‘Life Limbo’, a new single to be included on their forthcoming EP release.
DIET. // @diet.music
Hollow Everdaze with their beautiful cinematic guitar pop that suits a live setting so well were up next. Their single ‘Last Laugh’, reminiscent of a journey and night setup under the stars, have their new album Cartoonson the way – expect more wondrous releases that take you away.
Hollow Everdaze // facebook.com/HollowEverdaze
Our third act for the evening Good Morning have had a massive year. Their Glory EP, released in February via Solitaire, demonstrated innate songwriting ability – melding lo-fi style with genuine musicianship. Lead single ‘Cab Deg’ drilled into our brains, and we’ve been hooked ever since.
Good Morning // facebook.com/goodmorningisaband
Our headliner Summer Flake is the harmony-laden project from mastermind Stephanie Crase. Her sound is a glorious melange of genres and styles, equal parts Sonic Youth and Mac DeMarco, Hole and Karen Dalton. Crase, along with band members Antony Bourmas and Joel Cary, having just released the wonderful LP ‘Hello Friends’, were a joy to watch on stage as they brought our evening of wonderful Melbourne talent to an end.
I didn’t want our time with Habits to end, really – it felt more like a friendly catch up than an interview. Habits are pioneering a new space for music in Melbourne, so I felt privileged to have the chance to chat with the pair about their thoughts on our local scene, music genres, the birth of Habits, and the process behind the creation of their music and visual art.
I am so excited not only for the future of these talented musicians, but also for the inspiration they spark in their peers, fans, and community. Ugly Cry, their debut EP, is absolutely magical. It’s so humbling to know that the artists behind such a creative and striking piece of work are also genuinely marvellous people.
Kassie: I’ve heard so many great reviews from friends about your Ugly Cry launch gig. How was it?
Maia: Well, there was a lot on our plate, so it was quite stressful leading up to it and I kind of don’t remember it. It was amazing but it just sort of passed in a flash, and I was kind of somewhere else just constantly thinking about the next thing. Looking back, there was really amazing energy from the audience, it was really special.
Kassie: I know that feeling, when you have a huge adrenalin rush from so much anticipation.
Maia: It did kind of rush past. Now I can look back and I remember it, but at the time it didn’t feel like that.
Mo: It did just rush by.
Maia: It was really beautiful though, everyone was dancing and giving us a lot of energy to work with.
Kassie: You have quite notoriously amazing live shows, what’s the preparation for a show like?
Maia: I find now, I have to be at least one to two drinks in, just to let out the inner diva. We do – I don’t know if this is interesting – but we do throat gargles so our voices are fresh.
Mo: We have a ritual. It’s Aspro Clear, at least two drinks.
Kassie: What’s Aspro Clear?
Mo: Kind of like panadol for the throat. Not that glamorous.
Maia: You gotta undo all the damage from chain smoking. Gotta chain smoke while we’re rehearsing and then undo it all when we perform.
Kassie: What was the process of creating the debut EP like?
Mo: Long. We recorded it about two years ago and then it kind of swapped hands once or twice. It took a while to get out there. It went between mixers, so it’s two years old.
Kassie: You can’t tell from the sound.
Maia: Thank you. Yeah, I still like it and it still represents us. Some of those songs are the first songs we ever really made together, so it definitely represents this time. Some of the songs we still play and I still really like them.
Kassie: How do you hold onto the freshness of the songs when you’re playing live?
Mo: They definitely have a place.
Maia: I think because we still play the songs live, we find new ways to relate to them. I think they were genuine when we wrote them so it’s still genuine. Also I think a two year wait is something to be expected in this glitz glam industry (laughs).
Kassie: I read in an interview about Reverend Mother that Maia, you bring the pop element, and Mo, you bring a goth sound – is that something that applies to your process throughout the whole EP?
Mo: I’m more attracted to gothy, industrial music, but I still have a place for R’n’B. I’m trying to mesh them together. I think post-EP, the sound has kind of honed in a bit more. It’s a bit more together. So yes, that’s the sound we were after, and it’s been an experimental EP and us getting to know what we’re after too.
Maia: It’s not intentionally formulaic, but I feel like it ends up with that pop/goth kind of mix. It just sort of happens every time.
Kassie: I feel like those two elements together do carve such a fresh sound. One of my favourite parts about Ugly Cry was that I felt no need to even try and define it within a genre. How do you describe Habits to people like your grandparents for example?
Maia: Anyone who asks me what kind of music we make, I struggle.
Maia: Yeah we usually say electronic. There are so many electronic music genres and I just wouldn’t even know some of them. I don’t really try to explain it, except one time years ago one of our friends was like “I like Habits because it’s like party jams but also sad goth”, and then we started using that phrase – ‘sad goth party jams’.
Mo: It’s everywhere now!
Maia: Yeah it’s got a life of its own now. So now I just say sad goth party jams because I think it works. It’s just easier to say that too.
Kassie: Your EP includes some remixes by Catlips, me_irl and Air Max 97. Has networking with other Melbourne musicians influenced your music in any way?
Mo: It’s quite special when you get another musician to extract something from a song that you’ve created yourself, and come up with something completely different.
Maia: I think the industrial vibes in Melbourne have been influential. I don’t know how much of that is ‘networking’ as much as just being fans and then happening to know them. We’ve just been very inspired by our peers in Melbourne.
Mo: We’re quite spoilt. Everyone is giving here, instead of like “no one’s allowed!”. Everyone’s sharing.
Kassie: Yeah there’s definitely an ambitious atmosphere, but not in a competitive way.
Mo: Yeah, especially at the level we’re at, no one seems bitter about “making it” – whatever that means.
Maia: The remixes just happened very casually as well. Catlips we met at Paradise, and she was just like, “Oh hey, I want to do a remix”.
Mo: Ollie (Air Max 97) also came to us – that was at Paradise as well.
Kassie: So I read that you started out as a garage band?
Maia: Kind of. I mean, we started out as a garage band that only sometimes had a guitar. We used to use my housemate’s guitar when she wasn’t using it.
Mo: And my drum kit.
Maia: Yeah, so Mo’s drum kit was at my house. It was still kind of gothy. It was a drum kit, my loop station, an old keyboard, and sometimes a guitar. It did have garage vibes.
Mo: Synth-garage Rihanna covers.
Kassie: Omg that sounds amazing.
Mo: And really loose rave bangers. Borderline tragic.
Maia: Yeah but our tragic is cool (laughs).
Mo: Oh teenagers…
Kassie: What brought about the change in sound?
Maia: I feel like we just sort of started working towards making the music that we liked listening to.
Mo: We took a chance and bought software. That’s what has really made it all come together.
Kassie: What do you use?
Maia: We didn’t know anything about music production, but we had already sort of started playing.
Mo: So we’ve just been growing with it.
Kassie: Did you learn to use Maschine from friends or just on your own?
Maia: Maschine is very user-friendly; I think it’s a lot easier to learn than Ableton, but still very vast in its capabilities.
Kassie: Yeah I’ve heard that sometimes it’s just better to learn it on your own and work out what works for you.
Maia: You come up with great stuff when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Kassie: I love your cover art. How long have you been making visual art? Is that something you share?
Mo: We met in art class, does that answer everything (laughs)?
Maia: Angsty teens in art class.
Mo: Emos without being actual emos.
Maia: I think – and I don’t know if this is embarrassing to say in an interview – but I kind of thought initially, something like the Versace logo. Just something that was uniform so they all kind of matched. Ever since I was a kid I have always loved things like that. Like the Power Rangers, they’re all the same but different colours.
Mo: Like a collection.
Maia: But to be honest they were all pretty like, “Oh shit, we need a cover! Oh..”
Mo: But I felt like it was a real collaborative effort. Our styles are quite similar, so it worked out well. We tried to include our latex black long fingernail hands.
Maia: Kind of a motif in our career (laughs).
Kassie: Which came first, visual art or music?
Mo: I think my outlet is music. It’s a lot more cathartic and somehow less stressful.
Kassie: Outside of music, what are your main inspirations?
Mo: Goosebumps on TV – that was integral. I’m really into horror; when I was a kid I watched so many scary films. The slime and the art was just… It was so spooky, and I loved it.
Maia: I guess just my peers and I moved to the northern suburbs from Oakleigh. Everyone is doing things that they’re passionate about there, especially the queer and trans scene. Melbourne is very inspiring for me; there aren’t lots of opportunities, but everyone is working away regardless.
Mo: Yeah, we started to play interstate, and it’s really eye-opening to how different it is, especially with the new laws – there’s hardly anywhere to play. Yeah, we’re spoilt here. And everyone is in a band!
Maia: Also Melbourne and its environment. The gloominess is really conducive to creativity sometimes.
Mo: Coming back from Sydney, we had a great time and we kind of weren’t ready to come back. But once we landed, it was gloomy – there was a big foggy cloud over the city – and it was sort of like, well, all of these industrial, gothy bands wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have the landscape as well.
Maia: After one of our shows in Sydney, people came up to us and asked us what Melbourne was like, and we said that there’s really amazing industrial synthy goth stuff, and they’re like “Oh, ’cause it’s so gloomy!” (laughs).
Kassie: What’s next for Habits?
Mo: We’re going to try and work on an album, hopefully by next year.
Maia: It’s going to be very collaborative, we’re going to get lots of our friends to work on it with us.
After a hiatus interviewing, the arrangement to meet with the Melbourne electronic pop/hip-hop duo Hoodlem at Schoolhouse studios was a little intimidating, a little nerve wracking, but of course very exciting. Fortunately, having a chat with the humble yet enthralling vocalist was enough to level out my manic emotions and make me re-realise why I enjoy interviewing musicians. With her last show in Melbourne approaching, having the chance to talk about her studio life, touring life, and some tumultuous phases she has gone through with music was a treasured opportunity.
With Hoodlem’s debut EP having been released last week, as well as the planning for the final Melbourne show at Howler this April, I’m enthused about the way the project will continue to thrive when they take on the rest of the world.
Kassie Junkeer: Your debut EP is coming out in a few days, what was the creative process like?
Hoodlem: It was long. We basically recorded all of it in Northcote – we’ve made a bit of a studio out of a shed. So that was really cool. It was a lot of just hanging out there and making weird and wacky shit. It was good fun. We’ve made sure that we don’t do anything very long distance, so it was mostly done at the one place, which is good.
Do you usually do much long distance recording? I read that you’ve been doing a bit of travel overseas.
We haven’t recorded long distance. It’s really hard to do. And you get better chemistry if you’re in the room together. Ideas travel a lot faster. So no long distance.
I read recently that ‘Kintsugi’ was inspired by your experience in Japan with the art form kintsugi, which is repairing broken pottery with gold. What was your first encounter with kintsugi like?
I guess I went to Japan and came home with a few little concepts really. That one just stuck with me because they make these broken pots into something really beautiful. They kind of embellish the cracks I guess. And then at the time it sort of mirrored something I was going through and just all came about from that encounter. I didn’t really come home really gung-ho about kintsugi, but it just struck a chord.
Other than music, are there any other forms of art that you have experimented with?
As much as you do until you discover that you are actually only good at one. So I guess I’ve done a bit of painting and dancing. I love that sort of stuff. I’m definitely drawn to art in forms other than music, definitely. As far as whether I’d call myself anything else – no.
And are there any other types of art that you’ve been inspired by?
Sculpture, painting… I love watching dance. I think I’m very drawn to just through the body movement and how that represents sound. I’m really drawn to that. I’d love to do more with that concept.
I love the idea of the physical representing the sonic.
You both have backgrounds in classical music, so what music were you interested in when you were growing up?
I was kind of forced to do classical music, I’ve never really chosen it. I think I only really appreciate it now as an adult. I wish I appreciated it back then, because I would have taken it more seriously. But I loved classical, and I really do genuinely like anything. But I think the classical stuff we’re far enough away from that we can leave it behind, and draw on it when we need to. It’s very subconsciously in there so we have the flexibility within that which is handy, but we don’t go to it to create.
It’s good to have those foundations so you can unlearn them.
Yes, so you can break all the rules.
What sort of projects were you doing before Hoodlem?
I was doing a lot of vocal work and finding my feet in what I wanted to do. And then I thought that I didn’t want to do music anymore so I quit for a couple of years and stopped playing and listening to music altogether. I started exploring other areas, but I came back to it and then started Hoodlem.
What was that experience like – the years off music?
It was kind of weird and I think I sort of forced myself to not do it. I sold all my music equipment and I didn’t listen to music. I sort of had this hateful break up, which was really strange and I just had to start writing again because I didn’t have any other outlet at that time. It was kind of like self punishment or something… I don’t know, it was really bizarre.
It’s been such a busy past few years for you with touring and releases, how are you experiencing this momentum?
It’s nice to be able to just get a good run on working outside of the studio. That’s been really good. We’ve nearly finished the next EP now, which is nice to have done and it’s just felt really good to get a really good run. And touring was great and heaps of fun, we met heaps of great people along the way. It’s sort of exhausting but it’s nice to be spontaneous and write on the go and have to sort of force yourself to immerse yourself. You can’t really just stay at home in pyjamas.
Yeah that must be the validating part of all of it – the exhaustion.
You traded tunes with us recently but I’d like to ask you what sort artists you would collaborate with? And what do you take into consideration when collaborating?
I would generally collaborate with anyone who would want to collaborate. I think sometimes the worst sounding pairings are the best sounding pairings in the end. Anyone can bring anything to the table, so I’m genuinely excited to wait and see what happens out of it. I love people that love hardware. Anyone that brings weird synths or weird things to hear is always really fun.
We’ve got heaps of plans, it’s going to be really fun. I’m a huge Nico fan, I think he’s so cool and he’s such a sweet dude too. I’ve sort of picked artists that I personally really like because it will be my last show in Melbourne.
Oh really, for how long?
I don’t know, a while I think. I’m moving overseas again. It’s going to be good. And that’s why I wanted to put my own spin on who’s going to play with us. But we’ve definitely got lots of special things lined up!
Can you share?
I can’t! you’ll have to come to the show!
Fair enough. How do you usually prepare for gigs?
I still haven’t really got that down. I still get painfully nervous, so generally a few drinks before I perform (laughs). I don’t know – if you know your shit and you’ve practised… We’re still pretty old school, we’ll still practise a lot before our shows. We take it pretty seriously, we don’t just rock up and not know what’s going on. We’re very organised, and we always still make sure we’ve got all the right things and are prepared.
I really like performing – we both do. We both have a really good time performing together, which is nice but also sad, because we won’t be doing that anymore. I think I do a lot of shows solo, so when I do get to perform with someone else I really enjoy it. But I still get really nervous, so there’s generally a bit of quiet time and pretending like nothing’s happening, and then imagining everyone naked.
Yeah you never know who could be out there.
Exactly, I try and block it out and just enjoy it. There have been so many gigs I haven’t enjoyed through taking too long to settle into them. I now just try and enjoy it from the start, because what’s the point in doing it if you don’t enjoy it, really?
Exactly. I know this is a broad question but what’s your favourite part of being in Hoodlem?
I love the recording process, we have so much fun. Anything goes in our set up. Some of things we’ve sampled… it feels like an adventure every time. Every time we’re setting up a beat we’ll run around and find all this crap we can hit, cans we can spray… anything. So that’s really fun, we’re like two little kids. That’s always my favourite time.
Do you experiment much while you’re recording or do you have a set plan?
The whole thing is pretty much experimenting. There are so many bits in songs that have been accidents that we’ve liked after it’s happened. Like the headphones will echo into the mic, or someone will hit a guitar and we’ll just end up keeping it. So there’s a lot of experimentation.
You mentioned you were going overseas, so what other creative plans do you have for the future?
Lots of writing once I get a few collaborations, which will be really good. A few shows. Just working on the next stage I guess!