We had a small talk with australian up & coming artist, Allysha Joy, who drew our attention this year with Acadie : Raw, her first album as a leader. The singer and keyboard player shared her views on her music as well as on feminism and racism in Australia.
How did it start with Gondwana Records?
Matthew Halsall found out about my music through Worldwide FM. I was touring, at the time, over in the UK. He hit me up, I sent him the music. I had already made the record and was planning on putting it out independently. So we decided to release together, which is nice!
You wanted to do something as a leader?
In the music world, things take a really long time. And it’s awesome to work on my own thing while 30/70 is touring or recording, and just like having an other project on the go means that I can be constantly creating and have a vision of my own. 30/70 is very collaborative, so it’s nice to have something to see my full vision through to the end.
What does your album title mean?
Acadie is a word that I sort of made up. It symbolizes the process that I went through this whole album: teaching myself piano, teaching myself production, creating those tunes from scratch, creating something completely on my own. Raw symbolizes the same thing: that it’s truthful and real of where I am now. The production as well is quite grooty: it sounds like vinyl simulation. I wanted that sound. It’s picking up from a hip-hop sound, in a way.
You must be proud to do you everything yourself.
Totally, and to be able to be involved in the whole process with the 30/70 family. We sit down and do sessions together. It’s great to feel included and equal in that world! It’s a beautiful feeling.
What’s the difference in the process between the two projects? In this one, do you compose everything?
In 30/70, we jam before composing together. Someone will come up with an idea and we’ll try it out. It’s free in the way to interpret the music as wished. Whereas in my project, I present my ideas to the band at the studio and tell them how I imagine the music played.
What did you start first? Did you start as a key player or singer?
I’ve been singing my whole life. I just sort of start to play piano five years ago now. And I’ve just taught myself. I’ve always played music and drums and sung.
Why did you suddenly start?
I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be able to play completely on my own, which was really liberating and challenging as well. As a female, you’re so often discredited. It’s hard to get your point across sometimes. Being as educated as I can be in production, in music, in composing and writing, allows me more power in those situations. People have more respect!
So you do feel a lot of discrimination towards women in music?
It happens in a really subtle way, sometimes. It’s underlined in the expectations can have in you as a female artists, before you even played! It’s sometimes pretty shocking. For example, sound engineers will ask you if you’re with the band. Or saying, “oh don’t worry about that, I can do that for you”. I had sound engineers saying horrible things. Which is a whole other thing. But it can be questions like “did you really play the key part in the record?”, “did this person help you?”. Expecting less of you because you are a female.
You seem pretty engaged about discrimination, in the album. Do you want to help making things different with your art? And here, with the track “Know your Power”, for example?
A lot of my music comes out in moments of passion: I have to share this to the world to be able to process it. That song came out of a really difficult situation where I found myself in a situation where somebody that held more power than I do abused it and put me in a very difficult. It happens all the time. When, in your workplace, if somebody tells you to do something and your job is in their hands, you’re going to do it even if it’s something you do not agree with. I think this happens a lot with women in every work place. Music is no different. [She sighs] That’s kind of what it’s about in a not-too-descript sense. Women should not have to take a stand against those behaviours. Men should confront themselves and apologize.
I saw that you cancelled a show in a venue because its boss said something racist?
Australia is a pretty racist country which colonial past is still not really admitted. There are a lot of people in Australia that still haven’t acknowledge the fact that there is an indigenous community and that they’ve been for 4000 years. A lot of australians wouldn’t know this. Racism is pretty rash in Australia. And I like to think that most of the time, the music industry is forward thinking. Artists interested in society and culture want to be at the forefront of these ideas. Especially in a soul, world music and jazz scene, coming from African heritage, it shouldn’t be happening. This one dude said some really dumb shit. It was related to something that was going on in the newspaper and some propaganda that was cycling through the news and I guess I believe that artists should be taking a stand against that. Because you can set a precedent for how you want the community to act. Melbourne is pretty forward thinking, so hopefully we will continue to grow.
It makes me think of Nai Palm, who worked her solo skills, before touring and recording a solo album. In that album, she stood up for indigenous people. You know her personally.
I know that whole crew. Melbourne is a small scene. They’ve been around for a while now. We jammed together. I’m in the process of making music with one of the guys of Hiatus Kaiyoté. The record we just put out with 30/70 was mixed by Paul Bender. This crew is family. It’s super inspiring for me to see how they continuously are growing. Nai Palm is an amazing artist. It’s been interesting for me to have somebody to look up to! In the saying that she is a boss in her instrument and a very cool vocalist! It’s very inspiring. She’s beautiful!
The members of Hiatus Kaiyoté are older than you guys from 30/70.
Which is very nice to have that guide or leadership. We also jammed together, being on the same level, just creating music and getting different tips. They always make you comfortable. You can just express yourself in these settings.
So they did help you grow and develop yourselves?
The whole scene in Melbourne is responsible for that. There is a community of people surrounding us whole and everyone has a part to play in that world. There are awesome musicians in Melbourne, people like Taylor Crawford, Tanika Smith and all these people that make an incredible community. It helps everyone to grow and explore things.
Tanika Smith is in 30/70. Not Taylor Crawford.
Taylor Crawford is one of my favorite australian artists. He is a genius that not many people know about. He’s just an awesome dude too, to jam with. He’s super inspiring.
Allysha Joy, Acadie : Raw (Gondwana Records)