Interview by Toyah Hoetzel / Image provided
It’s been an interesting 12-months for electronic music in Australia. It’s no secret that the genre is at the forefront of mainstream and underground music right now, and while both sides of the spectrum have their champions, there is a grey area that is blossoming with incredible acts that are turning heads with their blend of forward thinking, genre-bending releases. Alice Ivy is one of those acts.
We first stumbled upon her music early last year, in the way of her remix of Taj Ralph’s ‘Beat The Keeper‘. It was clear upon first listen that Alice had the sauce, and from here, a string of singles such as ‘Be Friends‘ and ‘Chasing Stars‘ ft. Bertie Blackman slashed any doubt that she was a new force in electronic spectrum.
Fast forward to today, the Melbourne based artist has released her debut album, ‘I’m Dreaming’. The 11-track project is reflective of the title. Each track is a dreamy, seemingly effortless culmination of instrumental perfection matched with immaculate sampling, as well as collaborations with fellow Australian artists such as Georgia van Etten, E^ST, Charlie Threads and more.
Stoney Roads’ Toyah Hoetzel caught up with Alice last week to speak about her album, and delve a little deeper into her musical process, the power of collaboration, touring and more.
STONEY ROADS: Alice Ivy thanks so much for talking to us today. You’ve got an entirely self-produced album and it’s called I’m Dreaming coming out that everyone here at Stoney Roads is talking about and I think it’s pretty special. Can you tell us a bit about it and when it’s due out?
ALICE IVY: Yeah the album is coming out on Feb 9. I’m really excited because it’s the first big body of work that I’ve released. Up until now, I’ve only been releasing singles. I’m a really big fan of sitting down and listening to whole records and I think it’s sort of a dying thing with streaming and everything being online so I’m just really excited to get a whole body of work out there. I guess it’s written in a way to be listened to from start to finish, I’m a really big fan of that kind of thing. I feel it’s really hard to tell a story in three minutes when you can listen to a record and get an understanding of what the artist is trying to do and what it’s about. You’ll probably already notice that there are already released singles from the album, Charlie was one I’d already released and I took it back into the studio for the album and I revisited it. I feel like there is no shame and no rules broken in doing that, it shows how much as a producer how you’ve progressed over the years. I’ve been producing for three years so I’m still fresh to this kind of stuff, and to three years later have a large body of work out and be playing festival shows and touring it’s a pretty sick feeling.
S: I think that is no small feat. Are you pretty proud of yourself because I think I would be if I were in your shoes.
A: It’s funny that you say that, especially over the past week, with the release of Chasing Stars and even crossing over new years, you know how a lot of people look back at your year and think did I do everything properly, did I do okay? Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking back at the last few years and I worked my absolute arse off to be where I am now. I’ve realised I should be really proud of where I am and I don’t really get those moments a lot. I’m not the kind of person that lets things ease off a little bit, I’m always working and working and working, I don’t stop. So to sort of take a step back and look at what I’ve achieved is a pretty rare thing for me to do.
S: That covers some the questions I was going to ask. One of them was that you seem to be dropping tracks or remixes all the time, and how is it that you stay focused because it does seem that you are non stop.
A: I guess yeah I don’t…I don’t know (laughs) I don’t know how I do keep focussed. I’m also not at the point where I’m living off my music, I’m almost there but I still work a hospo job three days a week. I used to say that that used to keep me sane, I don’t have my phone on me I’m not checking emails, I’m listening to music in the cafe and I’m like shit, y’know, this is a sick way of finding different samples and listening to music for joy. But I am getting to the point where it is too much now and getting really hard to do that and I just finished Falls and I finished Foster The People and then I spent a week in Sydney talking about the album and playing shows and then going to work at 7 am the next day. It’s a really hard thing to do but I just have a really strong determination and I just want to keep getting better and being a better producer and I love playing shows and meeting awesome people, and I just want to keep making music, I guess that’s what kept my head above water.
S: You’ve worked on a lot of collaborations. Are you strictly composing and producing or do you have input with the lyrics, How do you go about your collabs?
A: If you look at the record, most of the collabs on there I generally go into the studio with the artist and we write it together. I might have an idea or some beats and we will sit down and work on the melodies. The Bertie Blackman collab was an interesting situation, it was started long distance. I sent her a beat and she sent me something back and we decided that working over email correspondence is really hard sometimes. We are two different artists coming from two different backgrounds, it’s always so much better setting aside a day in the studio together so I flew up to Sydney and we got in a studio and we spent not even a day, maybe like two hours. We got it down in two hours, polishing lyrics and changing a few things, we just didn’t need any more time than that. I like to keep it as collaborative as possible, together in the studio. I feel like that’s the best thing for me, it’s the best way to learn.
S: Do you think that working with another person really helps you develop a vibe and some excitement creatively?
A: Oh! One hundred percent. It’s the best feeling when you kind of don’t have any expectations and you go into the studio with artists you’ve never met before. You have that first half an hour where you’re like “So hey, what do you like what are you listening to right now, what do you want to make” and then after you break the ice a little bit its the best feeling when you achieve something by the end of the day and you walk away with a song or two. It’s a great feeling when you get to walk away with something amazing in a day or a matter of hours. I think it’s the best way to get better at your own craft. You’re in a studio with completely different artists and they write in a completely different way and everyone’s bringing their best skills to the table and I learn along the way and that’s really the most exciting thing of collaborating is walking out of a studio with something you love and feeling hungry for more.
S: I’m so curious because so many producers work so differently. Do you work on several tracks at once or are you a ‘one at a time’ kind of person.
A: I work on so many beats at once, my computer is a mess, my desktop is just horrendous right now, so many projects are open, and I’m doing a fair bit of production work right now so my desktop is a zoo. I’m also doing a bit of teaching for an all-girls production workshop at the arts centre teaching Ableton and getting a bit more of work like that so I’ve got my fingers in many different areas of making music and its really cool, but yeah I’m not the kind of producer that works on one track I generally have a lot going on and lots of beats happening at the same time.
S: I’ve listened to the Album a couple of times over the last few days and correct me if I’m wrong but sometimes when I listen to your music I can hear things that make me think that there’s a marrying of elements heard in pop, like a Michael Jackson vibe and then there’s this kind of Avalanches feel to it, especially the track Bella; there’s this side chain on the vocals that really has a Michale Jackson resonance to it.
A: Aww! That’s amazing, I haven’t heard the Michael Jackson influence yet, that’s amazing though. When I was writing this I was listening to a lot of producers like Kaytranada and J Dilla and so when I was kind of writing that one especially, it’s interesting that you say that because I started with the drums, that really slow beat with he skippy sort of high hats and then I really wanted to write this song about a friend of mine who is like the happiest stoner in the world who gets up and smokes a joint and just slowly cruises on through the day with no dramas. It’s interesting that you say Michael Jackson because like I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan but I sort of wasn’t really into him at the time of writing this.
S: I really love that track, Bella’s probably one of my favourites apart from Chasing Stars which is on repeat at the moment.
A: Oh sick! Well yeah, Bella’s the last track on the first side of the vinyl, it’s the fade out before you flip it over and I kind of wrote it to break up the album. It’s so good that you appreciate that track that makes me so happy. Even like bands like Pheonix they have that instrumental track in the middle to break it up and I really wanted to do that, I’m a really big fan of that.
S: You do that in your live sets as well don’t you?
A: Yeah totally. I’m a really big fan of interludes. I guess when I’m playing live I don’t ever stop playing, my sections continuously flow from start to finish so an interlude just gives everyone a chance to breathe.
S: There’s definitely a lot of ‘journey’ written into your individual tracks and we’ve talked about it in reference to your album on a larger scale. Is there a particular type of journey you’re trying to take the listener on with your album?
A: I want it to be more subjective to the person that’s listening, I wanted it to sort of carry someone. What I did when I was writing this was I had a bunch of songs that I wanted to put together, and I chose the ones I wanted on this album and then I pieced it together and wrote songs in between to help it flow. I kind of want people to sit down and listen to it and get spat out the other side and just be like ‘yeah cool’ I’m not kind of wanting to direct people on the journey, more for them to experience their own journey.
S: You’re about to go on your own journey where you’re about to go pretty much everywhere on tour. Can you give us a bit of a rundown of your next few shows and tell us a bit about your support acts?
A: I’m doing the old east coast run and Perth and Adelaide, the first date is on the 16th of February at the Hudson Ballroom, Sydney and I’m bringing a soul-rapper Nasti Mars with me and he’s fucking amazing, I saw him a while ago at Howler and he played with a live band the Good Morning Guys and that absolutely blew me away, so I’m really stoked to have him. Oh Boy is opening in Sydney who I met when he was touring with Mallrat and with me at Howler I’ll have Francois and Sophiegrophy. Francois is amazing, I met him on an APRA song hub workshop for a week, really nice guy and his music is amazing and Sophigrophy is just unreal and a really great artist. Howlers’s unreal and I decided to put four bands on the bill and a few special guests from the album coming on stage so I’m super excited so Howler is going to be like a little festival. Then hitting up Adelaide and Perth and then doing Panama music festival and then I’m going to be at SXSW for a week and then come back and play Hills Are Alive Festival and then we’re doing Bendigo after that. So the next couple of months is looking pretty hectic.
S: Is this your biggest tour?
A: Yeah as a headline act yeah definitely my biggest tour. What I really want to try to do is visit more rural towns. I was really lucky to go on tour with Urthboy last year and Urthboy took me to Darwin and Alice Springs and Central Coast and all these places I hadn’t visited before. I think all Australian artists should venture to those places.
S: So I think one thing about your music and your beginning specifically, it reminds a lot of another very skilled writer and producer Sia. She started with albums that were sort of this electronic hip-hop vibe and you know this was well over fifteen or sixteen years ago and Lorde’s sort of done the same thing. Do you feel some form of affinity with what they’ve done?
A: I’m a huge Sia fan, I saw Sia a couple weeks ago and that show blew me away. My ultimate goal would be to be in a situation with what Sia does. She has so much power over her own career and has the ability to decide what she wants. If she wants to go on tour or not but she’s continuously writing and surrounding herself with music and also being able to hide from it and have the power to do that. I feel when you look at artists like Sia in particular, I guess who knows what goes on behind the scenes but it seems to me that her team has so much control and I’d love to be in a position like. It’s pretty interesting, that journey you know could be on the cards, I’m looking to overseas in the next couple of years and just see where it goes.
S: You know I tend to call artists like that from our side of the world that really dominate globally the ‘Oceania Royalty’ and I really hope to see you become part of that.
A: Oh haha thank you! Yeah as a small goal I’d love to be able to push myself to the extent where I can live off my music and be able to write and have control over my career, that’s the ultimate goal, but I feel like I’m already doing that. Every person on my record is a total legend, I chose them because I think they’re amazing artists and they’re amazing people. I perform with equally amazing artists and people and my team is incredible and I sort of have been able to do that and the ultimate goal is to keep that up.
S: Well congratulations on all your hard work and I look forward to seeing what happens with the album over the next six months and where you’re at later on after the tour.
A: Yeah let’s catch up after the tour!
Listen to Alice Ivy’s debut album ‘I’m Dreaming’ in full below, and be sure to catch her on tour across Australia.
FRI 16 FEB Hudson Ballroom, Sydney w/ special guests Nasty Mars & Oh Boy
FRI 23 FEB Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane w/ special guests Nasty Mars & Keelan Mak
SAT 24 FEB Howler, Melbourne w/ special guests Nasty Mars & The Martians, François, Sophiegrophy and more TBA
FRI 2 MAR Rocket Bar, Adelaide w/ Strictface & Skivvybeats
SAT 3 MAR Mr Lonely, Perth w/ special guests TBA
THU 29 MAR Star Bar, Bendigo w/ special guests TBA