“It’s really loud. I had to drop something off on Chapel Street in Melbourne and I’m in a cafe – they’re blasting this old-school mix with all the electronic bangers on it! It’s so good to have a little bit of time off!”
It’s a suitable start to my chat with Alice Ivy as she relaxes in the sun on a warm summer’s day in Melbourne. The multitalented musician known as Annika Schmarsel to her mum, deserves the rest after a busy 2017 which included writing and recording her soon to be released debut album – hitting up festivals and shows around the world. Things aren’t about to slow down however as she prepares to head out on her debut album headline tour.
The album, suitably called I’m Dreaming, is a perfect soundtrack to the summer months. Light, poppy and undeniably happy. It’s the sort of music that you’d turn on if you want to cheer yourself up whilst doing the housework because Schmarsel has that effect – not just in her music, but also onstage and in person.
What is Schmarsel thinking of when she writes? Is she in a good mood?
“Whenever I write music, I am always like – what will go down really well live? What could possibly be the best thing to hear live? I want everyone to feel the best and I think that’s the sort of mode I get into whenever I approach songwriting.”
Having played in an all-girl soul band called The Sweethearts at a younger age, Schmarsel is used to performing happy and uplifting music and this comes through in her on-stage performance – where you get to view the joy she projects first-hand.
The first time I saw Schmarsel on-stage was at the BIGSOUND music conference of 2016. On one of the smaller stages, she came out and blew the attendees away with not only her well-designed beats and ear-catching melodies, but her fun and somewhat eclectic dance moves. It’s these sorts of first experiences that can make all the difference and instantly create fans.
Whilst Schmarsel’s sound is fresh it can sometimes sound like she is using older samples to sprinkle amongst the electronic menagerie of music.
“Sampling is a lot of things. I’ve done a bunch of field recordings when I’ve been traveling – like through Japan and Europe. For example… I recorded some tones at a train station in Japan and I resampled them into Ableton and put them on a keyboard and started messing around with different sounds. Just like the old-school soul stuff there are things that really capture me like horn lines, lead lines and vocal hooks that really excite me and I listen to and go ‘Damn, this is fucking awesome. I can totally hear this in a live scenario.’”
“I used to sample off my own record collection, but I’m not a very wealthy person and vinyl can be pretty expensive. To be honest, nowadays I’m creating my own samples at home or in the studio or using the Zoom recorder whilst traveling or the internet. As lame as it seems – the internet is huge and there’s so much stuff on there.”
Alice Ivy has a great ear for something that will work, picking up on the unique melodies that play at Japanese train stations are something she might use in her music. Does she want to bring those jingles back there and play? “I haven’t played any shows in Japan. Apparently, it’s really hard to crack, but it’s 100% on my list! The music scene over there is wild.”
We go back to talking about the album and discuss the mix of contributions to the album, including old bandmate Georgia Van Etten, Bertie Blackman, E^ST, Charlie Threads and Cazeaux O.S.L.O. and Tim De Cotta. “Everyone on the album is a total legend!”, she exclaims as she runs through the way she’s met everyone, which invariably involves them playing support for her, or her playing support for them. After that, Schmarsel’s sparkling personality takes over.
“That’s the beauty of this album. Most of the collaborations happened on tour and most of the recording was done in Brunswick. It’s a record full of my mates and it’s so real. That’s what I love about it!”
It’s a beauty of an album – destined to launch Schmarsel towards her dreams just that little bit faster. Catch her on her headline album tour – which starts at Hudson Ballroom in Sydney on 16 February before hitting Fortitude Valley, Brunswick, Adelaide, Fremantle and Bendigo. Schmarsel is excited to show off her new show along with a few special guests along the way.
“We’ve put so much effort into [the show], it’s going to be amazing! You’re not just paying to see me, you’re paying to see a bunch of really, really big artists that are doing amazing things and a couple of surprises!” She has also just been added as a support for an epic Jungle Giants tour around the country, ensuring even more exposure and soon to be hooked new fans.
I hung up the phone with Alice Ivy with a smile and that’s exactly the sort of reaction you can expect when you hear her music or see her live. Trust me – while her dreams will keep getting bigger and bigger, so will her music.
16 February, Hudson Ballroom, Sydney
23 February, Black Bear Lodge, Fortitude Valley
24 February, Howler, Brunswick
2 March, Rocket Bar, Adelaide
3 March, Mr Lonely, Freemantle
29 March, Star Bar, Bendigo