There is only one word to describe Sydney’s Andy Garvey; She is a doer! A young woman completely engrossed in her local scene, over the last eight years, her journey has seen her acquire projects a-plenty; driving gender equality in her local scene and injecting new life into her city’s nightlife.
With her first ever EP finding its home on Lobster Theremin, we caught up with Andy, digging down into just how she keeps those many plates spinning (and the scales of work and life balanced).
Who is Andy Garvey? Can you some her up in a few words.
Well, I’m one of those people who never stops, I’m always looking for things to do. I guess I’m a little buzzing thing, that’s always zipping around doing stuff. There is always at least ten things I have to do everyday.
Your Eternal Recurrence EP came out a few days ago on Lobster Theremin, you also recently had one track come out on ‘Smooth Sensation’; a various artists compilation with Sydney imprint, Body Promise. These appear to be your first releases? Where has Andy Garvey been up until now? Why is now the right time for you to start releasing music?
I first bought Ableton around seven years ago and I had no idea how to use it. I did a course to try and teach myself, but I’m a pretty slow learner and I wasn’t really that engaged with it. Then about two years ago I thought, actually I think I really want to give this a proper shot. I was doing so much more at that point and had a much better idea of what I liked. Whereas before, I was like ‘I like everything, I can do anything’ so it made it really overwhelming. Now that I have a more adult understanding of what I really enjoy and the music I want to be making, it made it a lot easier to look at the software and get results from it.
I also found that collaborating and hanging out with friends really taught me to have more confidence with what I was doing. When I first started, I felt like the end product was so much more complicated than it actually is. I felt like ‘This is crazy, what am I doing, oh my god!’. Through working with and around other people in the studio, my understanding was reaffirmed by others being like ‘Oh yeh, that’s sick!’
For the Lobster release, I sent Jimmy a bunch of stuff via Instagram and he came back to me a while later, asking me to send him everything! I exported all of this stuff that I hadn’t looked at in a while and he picked out all of these tracks, that I had never thought about sending to anyone. Having someone like him picking them out telling me ‘okay, these four are going on this record and these four will go on another one’ really made sense to me; it gave me confidence that it would work. Especially a label that has such a history with the type of music that I’m making – it all made sense.
I understand that you started DJing when you were 18. Where did your musical journey begin? What inspired you to get behind the decks?
Yeh, I used to listen to music heaps as a kid. I’d listen to a lot of the BBC Essential Mixes and Annie Mac mini-mixes when I was in High School. When I started going out, it was great to see that visually in a club and be like ‘Oh! This is how those people make the mixes that I love!’. I’d be looking in track lists and everything, but I still couldn’t understand how DJing worked. I had some friends who I was finding and sharing music with and as we turned 18 some of them bought decks. They showed me how to do it and I was instantly hooked. I’ve always had this real obsession with collecting music, that’s always been with me since I was a teenager. However, then learning how to build a set and how to play too people is something I was instantly drawn to.
I grew up in Canberra and when I lived there, there wasn’t anywhere that I wanted to play. The move to Sydney was very much centred around the fact that, I always used to go out there and find something cool. I felt like I should live there and engross myself in the scene. We used to go out a lot in Kings Cross before the lock-out laws and we used to go to all the clubs there. You’d go to five different clubs and not really know what was going on. There was this hive of energy around dance music there, that just was non-existent in Canberra. When I moved to Sydney, there was GOOD GOD, which is now shut down and Astral People events were a big part of my early days in Sydney. It took me about two years to find my crew and find the parties I wanted to go to every weekend, but I’m so glad I’ve stuck it out here; it’s a good place.
Aside of your music making and DJing, you are quite a busy lady over in Australia; you’re a programmer at Triple J Radio, host your ‘Pure Space’ show on FBi Radio, co-run an artist and events agency called Nectar and manage a programme called ‘Dance Class’. Which of these projects came first? And how did the rest of them follow?
Triple J is my day job but my Pure Space radio show came first. I’d been working for a label called Future Classic, which is a pretty big indie record label here; from a business perspective, they have definitely influenced how I want to run Pure Space as a label. I’d finished uni and in my job I was pretty much at the bottom of the run, so I quit that, but then the job at Triple J came up. It’s funny because it’s a very specific job but it was a very ordinary job application process. A lot of people think that role is something you get head-hunted and picked for, but it was normal; although the process itself was pretty intense. I do my job at Triple J a few days per week, programming five DJ mixes; one being the ‘Mix Up’ program on a Saturday night.
Among all of this, you have been co-running a booking agency. That seems such a big thing to do, as you represent quite a few artists. Why and how did Nectar come to be?
There are four of us who manage that agency and it actually began because one of the girls, Jemma Cole, was running a party series. That dissolved and she still had a booking of Courtesy and Mama Snake that she’d already paid the deposit for, but she didn’t have anyone to throw the party with. She reached out to my friend Tia Newling, who works for Boiler Room, then they reached out to me. When we met up, we immediately knew we had to get our friend Amelia Jenner involved; we knew it would be a dream team.
We worked on this party together over a few months and we thought it would only be a one off, we never set out to be a booking agency. Whilst we were working together, we had a lot of long discussions about the things that frustrated us in the music scene and the artists we really liked. I could see that Tia and Amelia were both getting the short straw, with some of the people they were working with for their own DJ bookings. From there, I said why don’t I step in and be a middle man for a little while; see if we can stop you getting bullshit, from people who don’t want to respect their warm up DJ’s.
This led us to wanting to represent one another. We thought we should just look after ourselves and add the people we are really close with, who would make sense on the roster. We recently added five acts and they’re the first that have come from outside our immediate circle, some of them are even based in Melbourne. The roster has just grown in this way, that we now feel like we’re actually a booking agency. We’re doing ourselves successfully and we have the steps in place, to make this quite a functional thing that we can give to other people.
Something to note is that, although we’re a booking agency we’re not getting paid to it. It’s not a hobby but it’s not necessarily how a normal agent would pay themselves. All of the fees we take are being put into a bank account, that we can collectively use for something. We’re thinking about putting that money into possibly getting a set of decks and a studio, that people can use as a workshop space. There is more of a community building aspect to it than it being a money maker. For us it’s a passion project, we’re helping these people get booked and giving that leg up to those who need and deserve it. It’s increasing the weight of our scene dramatically and having such a positive impact; that is the whole point of Nectar.
Talking about giving back, you manage a program called ‘Dance Class’. This is a 3-month long intensive DJ workshop for women. How did you become involved with this project?
‘Dance Class’ was a project that FBi (radio) had wanted to do for a while. They got offered a bunch of sponsorships and then they approached me and asked if I’d like to run a female DJ mentorship programme; I was like ‘alright cool!’. It’s pretty intensive, running over three months. It’s fifty fifty if the girls will make a career out of DJing or events, or just working in the music industry.
It has definitely had a positive impact on the Sydney centric scene, in making that point of having gender balanced line-ups. It’s a point that people talk about during those months and it’s a go to for promoters. Every year when the programme opens I have promoters hitting me up, asking which person will fit the vibe of their party; the girls are automatically getting booked for gigs. It really amplifies them starting out as DJ’s and gives them this exponential step up, into playing in the local scene.
As you have mentioned, your work here is integral to the wider DJ community in Sydney, and making changes towards gender balance. As a woman who has worked her way up in the music industry, can you tell us what this means to you?
Eight years ago, when I was cutting my teeth and trying to get as many gigs as possible, there really wasn’t that many women. I was like ‘where are all the chicks?!’, even with the DJ shows on FBi there wasn’t many women. Then I was like ‘fuck, how do I get these dude promoters to book me?!’. With the visibility of that project, the last three editions of Dance Class have seen some of the girls do quite well. Now there is a clear distinction, that if you put yourself into this scene you can actually do well as a woman.
There have been a few chicks such as Nite Fleit who has just moved to the UK and Lauren Hanson who is now living in Amsterdam, who were a part of the Sydney scene. They’ve really stretched out of it and are now pushing themselves internationally. There have been these stories over the last few years, that show you can fully make a career as a woman in this industry. With Dance Class, there is this element of community building and pushing the local scene. Everything is baby steps, but I think the most important thing for me has been seeing this change. I could see it wasn’t there when I was coming up so I thought ‘Well, I’ll just try and make it happen’.
On the topic of Sydney, you spoke about how the energy of the place drew you there from your hometown of Canberra. Can you tell us a little about the scene there?
When I moved here in 2012, that was pre-lockouts and The Cross was buzzing. When the lock-out laws came in, they flipped the clubbing culture in Sydney and sucked the life out of it. There was a time when Sydney felt really weak, it felt like we were pushing everything up a hill trying to make things work. Out of that, there has been a lot of new ideas and new spaces. There are more underground warehouse raves and I think that has played a big part in shaping my sound as an artist. The interests of the local scene moved towards really embracing the more experimental styles of music; you could expect to hear that stuff out, even on a Saturday night.
The energy of the new warehouse parties adds this uniqueness to the scene here. When the lock-out laws came in, there was this period where no one had anywhere to play. Me and Nite Fleit, my other friend Bobby (Vibe Positive) and this other chick Valerie, decided to throw this warehouse party. We felt like we had to just make it happen. We couldn’t just wait around for the clubs to start booking us again, so we did our own thing. There was a real DIY-ness that came into play with these laws.
How does the Sydney scene compare to other areas of the world?
I’ve only played overseas a few times, however, Corsica Studios definitely reminds me of the old school, GOOD GOD in that it’s quite a young crowd and everyone is knowledgeable. A lot of what draws Australian people overseas to Europe in summer, are those institutional clubs that are open for-evvverrrr!. That is unheard of in Sydney, spaces open and close but that legacy is not very common. De School is such a talked about place in Sydney.
The most interesting part for me when I go overseas is, I’ll play the same music as I do in Australia and it gets a good reaction. It’s really nice to be able to travel to the other side of the world and know that what you’re doing is still a vibe. I definitely want to play more shows in Europe and I’m coming back in September which is exciting! Europe is definitely a place I resonate with.
Alongside all the projects we have discussed, you have also recently announced the start of your new label, Pure Space. Can you tell us about how and why you started this label? I’m led to believe it was quite an organic process?
Running a label is something that I have always thought about doing since I was 18. Leaving school, I knew I wanted to work at Future Classic; I wanted to learn how to work in that area of the music industry. Pure Space was the first radio show idea I had pitched and created for myself. With the name, I wanted to do something that was quite dark and reflected the sound of the music I wanted to play; acid, broken-beat, electro and techno stuff. It’s a late time slot so I can push that into the stranger ambient stuff too. Each week I play whatever I think encapsulates that sound.
I started having guest mixes and hitting up artists for music. I was receiving a lot of music from artists that hadn’t been released yet and I was also talking to a lot of producers about their demos. There were a few that came to me and asked what I thought of their tracks. It was cool to be able to give them actual feedback and that wasn’t even for the label. I came to this point where I had all of these tracks I really really liked and I just knew it was finally the time to start this project. I always knew I would at some point.
One thing I pride myself on is being restrained, I try to make sure that every idea I have is really well thought out and purposeful. Doing this now, I feel like I’ve already done the groundwork by working at an independent label. I’ve understood the process of getting records pressed and how to pitch PR stuff. I understand how that all fits together and I can do it in a way that is competent. I also know all the artists personally, so there is that level of trust there and we respect each other. I have worked with many of them before, so they know I will work with their music in a professional way.
You mentioned earlier, how your time working at Future Classic had influenced a lot of how you want to run Pure Space. What are the key things you learned during your time there? How has that influenced you in running Pure Space?
I guess there are two main things. The first comes from a business perspective. My manager would be constantly grilling me saying ‘what if it doesn’t work out’. You always have to have plans for things not being as big a success as you thought they would be. For example, with the sales of records – how many do you really think you’re going to sell? You could balls out and say you can sell 500, but realistically you should probably start out really small. Test the market, test your promotion skills. Work out which outlets are really going to want to hear what you’re putting out there. Be smart and be cautious.
The second thing came from doing a lot of A&R work. I was listening to music with an ear that said ‘what do you like about this track?’, ‘what is working and what isn’t working?’. I really like giving artists feedback, whether that be for Pure Space or for their own artistry. I like to think about getting the most out of the music that is in front of me; whether that be ‘this drop could be tighter’ or ‘these hats are too high in the mix, you could pull them back and focus on the main part of the track’. It’s those kind of things that I think really make a difference. There are artists who need that more than others, and artists who also just want that as well.
Some of the artists who I’m working with, they’re new to this and this is their first release; they’ve never had to think of their mix-down’s in a way that will be used in a club. The functionality of this music needs to be thought about in that way. My objective is to make the music, the best it could possibly be. Obviously, if someone doesn’t agree with what I have to say, we work around it in a way that works for both of us. I’ve found that when I’ve asked people if they’d like some feedback, or told them I have some ideas for the track, people have been really receptive to it.
What drives you creatively?
I started making music simply because I wanted to understand how other people make it. A lot of the tracks on the Lobster Record were just me trying to make ‘stuff’. There is this constant process of experimentation and trying new things. I’m always listening to things that I like and thinking about how it has been made. I always get fixated on certain sounds and try to recreate it, but the end product always comes out completely different. When I first started I knew absolutely nothing, but just understanding how to make stuff was a big part of why I wanted to.
With such a lot of things on your plate. The need for down time and relaxation is very important. How do you keep that balance? What is your perfect idea of relaxing and zoning out?
After I do big days of work, I like to go to a gym or go for a run; I have this big track that I try to do once per week. I definitely feel like sport keeps me balanced. When I have so much music stuff to do, I also have to have time to make my body feel good, otherwise I’m still buzzing at the end of the day. I really enjoy just looking out whilst I’m running at the park; rather than looking at a screen or writing in my notebook. As I work at home a lot, getting out of the house is important.
Eating good food is also a big thing for me. Whether that’s in a park or cooking and sharing food with friends. Over the last few months, since returning from touring in Europe and the summer in Australia over Christmas, I’ve definitely needed the down time. Recently, my weekends have been quite social and chilled which has been really nice.
What is coming up for you this year? Across releases, touring and beyond?
The next things that stand out for me, I’m playing this festival called Inner Varnika which is one of the most interesting Australian festivals; I’m really pleased to be playing this year. It’s only around 1200 people, it goes over three or four days and the programming is always super sick.
Then I’ll be doing an Australian tour in a few months and there will be another release on a Lobster sub-label a few months after that. In September, I’ll be coming back to Europe; really excited about that. With Pure Space the first release will come out and then we are going to do a cassette a few months later. I’ve just finished working up the first artist EP for Pure Space this year too. That will be my year, along with doing a few parties with Nectar too.
Eternal Recurrence is out now on Lobster Theremin. Buy it here.
Words: Sophie McNulty
Featured Image: Jackson Grant