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Interview: Vanessa Worm and Eden Burns

Interview: Vanessa Worm and Eden Burns

Chris Cudby / Tuesday 11th May, 2021 1:40PM

Attracting an ever-expanding global fanbase for both her electrifying live performances and excellent 2020 debut album VANESSA 77, electronic dance innovator Vanessa Worm (the nom de plume of Tessa Forde) is playing a special double-headline show with partner in crime, DJ and producer Eden Burns this week at Tāmaki Makaurau's Phoenix Cabaret. Standouts at Friendly Potential's Catacombs and Beacon festivals, the latter of which was beamed out internationally for Boiler Room, the duo recently relocated back to Aotearoa from Melbourne and are currently getting amongst Pōneke's fertile artistic community. I had the opportunity to chat with both artists late last week as they were blowing up balloons for a Club 121 event. Delve into our conversation below and don't dare miss Vanessa Worm and Eden Burns bringing the party with special guests "post-empire themed dungeon power techno" three-piece Grecco Romank on Friday...

Undertheradar proudly presents...

Vanessa Worm (Live) & Eden Burns
Friday 14th May - Phoenix Cabaret, Auckland w/ Grecco Romank

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Chris Cudby: Could you please chat about your journey over the past year to living back in New Zealand, from living in Melbourne?

Eden Burns: We've been living in Wellington for about three months now, and really loving it.

Vanessa Worm: We came back from Melbourne in July, so obviously Covid happened and all of our housemates left back to New Zealand. We stuck out in Melbourne for a little bit until it started to expand a bit more... and then came back end of July. And then we were in Invercargill with my parents, then to Wellington.

What kind of Wellington communities are you currently participating in?

VW: Eden went on tour with the 121 guys in January. Through that, the room that we're living in now became available, so we're quite closely tight knit with them. But for me personally there's still so much much more I want to get involved in, I just haven't been here long enough.

EB: And it's not necessarily just 121 or DJs and things, there's a lot of people around that are making music and all seem to support each other and be friends. Bands or DJs or rappers or whatever. Everyone's just very friendly and supportive.

You do a radio show together as well?

VW: We're hosting RadioActive's Monday Flow show. That's a combination of some of their playlist songs and the music that we like to play as well. That's really great fun and the RadioActive people they're so amazing. That's another community that is very strong.

How would you describe your collaborative relationship with each other?

EB: We've just finished an EP of sort of weird, post-punky sort of stuff. But I don't know, we don't actually make a hell of a lot of music together.

VW: It's something that we both want to do, just a matter of time and when we're both ready for it. I think we've just been putting a focus on our own work. But we're collaborating through Head Rush, throwing parties, and we're DJing together tonight... we've been talking about making music and stuff, so that's in the works.

Are you both originally from Invercargill?

VW: I went to boarding school in Dunedin, at high school. Eden grew up in Christchurch and then went to Dunedin. I was born in Invercargill but I grew up in Winton, which is like 30 minutes from Invercargill on a small lifestyle farm / block thing.

You moved away from Dunedin after high school — did you get a chance to see any of Dunedin's live music scene back then?

EB: When we were younger. When I first met Tessa, she took me to some house parties that had live bands. We'd go to The Crown quite often and watch our friends' bands and stuff like that. We were fairly involved... We used to spend a lot of time with The Attic, which was a bit of an institution in Dunedin.

VW: I was at boarding school and I was super into music, but there was only two other girls at my school that were into it. So, I must have 16 or 17, I decided to go to Chicks Hotel. That just introduced me to like all of this underground music that was going on, in Dunedin, I made friends there. From there I got quite amongst it really. But I was still really young. Me and my friends we used to do this thing called The Dungeon, and it's this underground, warehouse sort of space in the Octagon of Dunedin. We would throw gigs, use it as a studio, we got people in to do art exhibitions and stuff. There's an article about it on Vice from ages ago.

I'm quite interested in the relationship between your recordings Tessa and how you interpret them live. When I see your shows they feel both inclusive and kind of confronting as well — I feel moved to dance. What is important to you in live performance?

VW: I think what carries me through my live performances is holding a level of acceptance, for myself and the energy that is coming through me. Whether it feels good or doesn't feel good, if it's confronting for me or... whatever it is, it's just holding a level of acceptance. I've had a lot of people mention that they watched my performances and that helps them feel more accepted. So I guess that's a big one. In regards to the music side of it, I mostly choose to perform and sing on the songs... the music gives me a way to share energy with people. Do you understand what I mean?

I can think of it as like sharing a feeling that you have, sharing that feeling with the audience.

VW: Yeah. When I'm pretty much opening myself up completely. Singing and performing in front of people, I generally find really scary, so it brings up a lot of emotion in me. The music is a platform for me to discover a lot of those feelings, move through a lot of these feelings in a way that I can share it with other people. I don't know why my life performance is that way, it just is. Sometimes I tried to do something different, more musical in nature, in the sense of doing more things on Ableton or whatever. But generally it comes back to me being on a microphone, using my voice as a way to move through different feelings.

Both times I saw you play [at Catacombs and Newtown Festival], I wasn't sure whether the audiences that you're playing to were super familiar with your music, but it seemed like people were into it immediately. How much of your live approach is improvised?

VW: Heaps [laughs]. There's lyrics to my songs. But I don't practice the singing before I play. I just get up and do it. 'Tiny Revolutions' I've got the lyrics there, but I generally tend to bounce off and do something different. Maybe 30% of the songs don't have any lyrical content, so it's just whatever happens, happens.

Speaking of lyrical content, to my ears there seem to be some elemental themes running through songs on VANESSA 77, like 'Bones and Blood' and 'Heaven to Hell'. What informs your lyrical process... how do the words take shape?

VW: It's coming up two years ago that I made a lot of those songs, so it's hard for me to remember exactly the process. But again, when I recorded the lyrics, pretty much one take, and whatever comes out of my mouth, so pretty much improvised. I think 'Bones and Blood', I had written a poem and then I sung those lyrics. But every other song has been just literally one take, chuck the lyrics on, pretty much improvise those lyrics and they came out like that. I don't really know where they come from... At the time those were the ways that I could describe this make believe kind of reality. To make sense of basically the process of growth, I'd say, in the process of overcoming certain burdens or emotions.

Eden, can you please tell me what is the idea behind your Big Beat Manifesto series?

EB: Pretty much after I released my first record with Public Possession, I was sending them about five new tracks a week. Very quickly, they ended up having quite a big collection of all these little demos that I've made. That was an idea that we both came up with. To start this small series of these little, I guess, goofy conventional club tracks, and put out quite a lot of records in small runs. I's a way for me to get all the little jams and silly club songs out.

I wish I'd managed to grab a copy of the latest one on vinyl.

EB: I'm actually still waiting for my personal copies to come. They've been stuck in Frankfurt for about three or four months.

You'll both be playing with Grecco Romank in Auckland. Have you heard or seen Grecco Romank before? They're quite a sensational live experience.

EB: I haven't seen them live, but last time we were in Auckland Sam [Harmony] was showing me and Tessa the music in the car when he picked us up from the airport. We both really, really love it. Really looking forward to seeing them play live.

Just to wrap everything up and let you guys do your tasks — what releases do you both have coming up in the pipeline soon?

EB: I've got another Big Beat Manifesto record coming out in June. So that'll be volume three. And then I believe volume one and two are actually getting repressed as well, in June. And then me and Tessa, we have a EP together, which is under a different name. That will be coming out towards the end of the year.

VW: I've got a few collaborations in the works.


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