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Interview: Astro Children and Indi Talk Red Bull Music Academy

Interview: Astro Children and Indi Talk Red Bull Music Academy

Josie Campbell / Illustrations by Chester Holme / Thursday 11th October, 2018 4:47PM

In 2018, the world-traveling Red Bull Music Academy celebrates its 20th anniversary and returns to the city where it all started: Berlin. Over five weeks, 61 up-and-coming music makers will come together at Funkhaus, a historic recording complex in East Berlin. There, they’ll attend daily lectures with musical luminaries and collaborate with their peers in custom-built studios. Academy participants will also perform as part of the Red Bull Music Festival Berlin, which shines a light on the sounds and scenes shaping the modern musical landscape. There are two terms, each with a kiwi on board to take in everything RMBA has to offer. Dunedin’s Millicent Lovelock (Astro Children) is part of the second intake, getting underway this week, while Christchurch’s Indira Force (indi) has wrapped up her time at academy’s first term. Both shared their thoughts on the academy with Josie Campbell.

The front woman for Dunedin-based duo Astro Children, New Zealand’s Millicent Lovelock commands your attention, whether she’s playing aggressive chords on her Fender Telecaster or singing with a delivery that oscillates between angst-ridden and blasé. On songs like 'Boys Encourage Female Rivalry' and 'Play it As It Lays', Astro Children carve out a space between alternative and shoegaze, their fuzzy, distorted melodies the perfect complement to Lovelock’s incisive feminist lyrics. A devoted reader who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in English Literature, Lovelock also records as Repulsive Woman (an affectionate nod to one of her literary idols, Djuna Barnes). For that project, in addition to earnest, poignantly rendered guitar-covers of One Direction songs, she composes original material on guitar and cello.

Millicent, how are you feeling about heading into the academy?

When I applied for the academy last year it seemed like something that existed in some kind of fun-to-imagine alternate universe, it never really felt like a reality, even when I received the email telling me I was going. It especially hit home when I was playing a farewell show with Astro Children and I recorded the crowd using my Granular Convolver (instrument that RBMA made for participants) and suddenly realised, oh god this is real, I’m taking this weird little thing with crowd noise from a DIY show I’m playing in Dunedin, New Zealand and going to Berlin because there are people there who think I’m good at this.

What are you most looking forward to?

I love collaboration and I love seeing how other people work. One if the best parts of music for me is getting to merge my skill set with someone else’s, so I’m really, really looking forward to meeting the other participants and making music with them. It’s dream come true to be surrounded by so much talent, it makes me sweat just thinking about it.

Between 2013 and 2016, Indira Force was half of Doprah, a neo-trip-hop duo who opened for Lorde and whose debut album, 2016’s Wasting, received international attention. When the band split, Force – who also composes film soundtracks, dance scores and even music for political campaigns – stepped out on her own to become indi. Despite her trepidation at embarking on a project by herself, her first solo album, 2017’s Precipice, was a triumph, performed with saxophonists, trombonists and a violin septet to bring Force’s lush, baroque vision to life. Inspired by the natural world and the dreaming state, there are echoes of Björk and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith in Force’s music, whether stately and ornate – such as on 'Airportal' – or tactile, like the gently drifting 'Demeter'.

Indi, what were the most valuable parts of RBMA for you?

I initially found it to be quite a socially challenging environment as you are interacting and collaborating with other people from breakfast til late at night every day. However, with this came a strong sense of community and constant excitement. The lectures were intense but probably the most valuable aspect of the two weeks, as these gave us insights into the lives of highly accomplished music makers and they all had a range of different approaches to the process. The analog room set up encouraged us all to get involved with using classic and modular synths and sequencers, and frequent visits to this room gave me confidence with machines I would normally be intimidated by. I am especially excited to be taking home with me Tatsuya Takahashi's Granular Convolver which opens up a lot of sonic possibilities that I am sure will be used all over my next album.

What talks and sessions did you get the most out of during the two weeks?

Jlin: her emphasis on originality, on creating something that doesn't sound like anyone else - 'never put the kick on the 1'.

Nina Kravitz: I loved her stories of mixing between radio stations on her tape recorder late at night. Also knowing that she had come from the other side of the couch (she had been an RBMA participant at one point) was inspirational, and it was reassuring to hear about her experiences from that time.

Mandy Parnell: Mandy showed us the pre-masters and masters of tracks she worked on and it was astounding to hear just how much the sound of the final track relies on the mastering. She also had some cool ideas around crystals and frequencies - I loved her simultaneously spiritual and technical approach to engineering. She kept saying, 'just follow the emotion' and that the sound is 'just a tool' for conveying the emotion.. which I believe to be true.

One of the biggest highlights for me was the 4D Sound system demonstration. I found the set up and programming of this speaker system fascinating as it is, to me, the most hyper-realistic method of conveying concepts and spaces through sound. It is a huge dream of mine to work in this room and create something for this system, and I am looking forward to seeing how it evolves over time (especially in relation to the development of audio-visual experiences).

What's next for you?

I am staying in Berlin, after a tour of the major cities of Japan with my label there 2670 Records. I would also love to play in other parts of EU/UK too, especially in Prague, Paris, Amsterdam and London - so fingers crossed that can happen! I am currently working on my next album as well as an orchestral score for a beautiful short film that will be doing the rounds at some international film festivals early next year, I believe. I would really like to learn the harp over the next year too, as i have recently become infatuated with the sound. In the meantime, my debut album Precipice will be released internationally on the 12th of October on all streaming platforms as well as on vinyl through Flying Nun Records.


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