Community, collaboration and ‘Complex Clarity’: In conversation with Andy Garvey
Andy Garvey gets stuff done. Music producer, label boss at Pure Space, admired radio host on FBi and Triple J to co-founder of agency Nectar, Andy Garvey is a dance music authority in Sydney and beyond, with community at the forefront of every project. It’s absolutely no surprise then that personal connection has led her to her latest endeavour, releasing two EPs through the iconic Lobster Theremin label. The label, founded by highly acclaimed producer Asquith is home to some of the most renowned dance releases of the past decade. From Ross From Friends, Palms Trax to DJ Seinfeld, the label acts as a platform for the most forward thinking dance music globally, so it’s only fitting that one of Australia’s most impressive creatives has found a home there as well.
Andy Garvey, first and foremost, is a community member. Hugely respected in the local scene and beyond, she acknowledges the majority of her education and career is inspired by the people around her. For instance, she references the first time she met like minded individuals when she moved from the ACT and had her first few days at Sydney community radio station FBi.
“I know there’s definitely people in the world who prefer to work individually, but I’m so lucky that once I started volunteering at FBi I was able to meet like-minded people since, before then, I didn’t really have many. None of my high school friends were into the same things as me and it made me isolated. Coming to Sydney, finding FBi and being in that community really helped me find my place.”
It’s from here that she’s started her own label Pure Space, which has recently released Melbourne based Jennifer Loveless’ debut EP. She’s also a co-founder of Australia’s Nectar, one of the most progressive and forward-thinking booking agencies and promoters in the country as well as participating in the organisation of prestigious Sydney marathon event Community Chest. It’s being in the room with these people that makes Andy Garvey excited.
“I think working with Pure Space, with people I trust and Nectar and Community Chest being very collaborative… Working with people to create things, bounce ideas off and be thoughtful is something that I like. I don’t think I could have done close to as much as I have by myself. I learn a lot through those kinds of relationships and partnerships. For example, the Nectar girls all work in music as our day jobs but we all work in such different facets of the music industry. When we all combine, we have such different ideas and attitudes and can discuss what we should be doing and our ethos’.”
Collaboration is a key part in everything Andy Garvey has to offer. Her experience has developed in part from her drive to always learn something new, and from mentors in the scene who have helped her along the way. It’s in this that she was able to develop the sounds we can now hear on Complex Clarity as she steadily learned from other people while also teaching herself along the way.
“The tipping point for my production was when I had the confidence to collaborate with other people and sit in studios with others. I felt so incompetent when I did it, but seeing other people work really helped me understand functional ways of making music. Really simple things that YouTube can be annoying to get the answers out of.”
Fast forward to 2020, and Andy Garvey now has two grandiose projects out in the world that both show a previously unexplored side of Andy’s work. It was through a chance encounter with label head Asquith at a Lobster Theremin park party that would mean Andy would back herself enough to send him what she thought was her first EP.
“After a very slow turn of events, weeks going by, he replied with two plans for EPs. The first one on Lobster Theremin, and the second on Lobster Theremin Under.”
Known for her community driven projects, the EPs are a warm welcome to the sonic direction and inspiration for these projects. After bringing life to Sydney underground techno for so many years, the first of the two, Eternal Recurrence, showed that Andy Garvey can also produce one hell of a banger herself. Her latest, Complex Clarity, shines a light on her more developed ear for soundscapes, banger proving aside.
On Complex Clarity, Garvey brings a machine-driven funk, an acidic alchemy that is balanced to perfection. Tripped-out explorations through the darkest and deepest corners of dance drive the project forward. Her ability to make a fully-fledged dance music journey through the project is one of its most profound takeaways. The undeniable skill to build a cyber-driven world is on flex here, presented in a genre that it is often geared toward endless hedonism rather than precision and care.
The undeniable feeling of being taken on a journey throughout Complex Clarity is derived from Andy’s creative process, one more of discovery and refinement than overthought or overproduction.
“For a lot of the tracks on the EP, it was a lot of experimenting. There was a long period of time where I was really going on [and] not knowing where I was going to end up. There was no going into tracks knowing what I was going to make. I was going in with curiosity wondering what I could do with a certain sound or piece of equipment. The EP wrote itself backwards.”
The opening track, ‘Red Stars’, is my personal favourite. Written in Darwin while she was there with Sleep D, Waxo Paradiso and CC:DISCO! for a week, the track is a safari through cosmic funk and wobbly acid lines. It’s as unsettling as it is comforting, a warm welcome to the production zone of the Garvey project. Imagine riding through space with time seemingly stopped. The track reflects the cover art perfectly; a calm blue builds familiarity, but its landscape is unique.
“I’ll always be on an endless journey of learning. Starting with samples, moving to midi based, and now moving towards hardware. I’m sure if I stayed in one of those worlds I’d get really good, but my curiosity is still taking over. I suppose every artist does this, endless wanting to learn more and try new things, be inspired by new sounds and write.”
It was here that I was reminded that despite her knowledge, skill and passion for production, the Andy Garvey story is so much more than a standard artistic venture.
“I’ve learnt I really like being involved in a lot of different things. I think I have a better grasp of my capacity so I don’t overwork myself, I’m better at saying no to things when I know I don’t have the brain space for it.”
Before we parted ways, we both discussed the clothing we were wearing, with Andy decked out in Perks and Mini and me in the latest Worldwind Worldwide tee. Yet again, we started speaking on community and how important that is in fostering culture and creativity.
There’s no conversation about Sydney dance and fashion without the infamous Pelvis crew. The esteemed record label, events company and fashion label is a staple in Sydney dance culture and history.
“I remember actually the first Pelvis party. It was their underwater themed party, where Ryan Powderly was playing all these dolphin noises and had echo effects on his voice and MCing this party from underwater. There were all these toys, arm floaties, and they had fully done up Goodgod. I haven’t danced that hard in so long, and I was out with these people that I wasn’t that close with, thinking, ‘What the bloody hell is this?!’”
“Through following them you discover their clothing. The way they work as a community and each individually contribute to a facet of the brand is great. This whole collective that works towards a reason to have an outlet for anything creative. It’s super interesting and really inspiring to be able to facilitate creative people doing creative things.”
As the conversation wrapped up we had spoken about it all: DJing, producing, fashion, events, radio and community. As a stakeholder in every corner of our Sydney dance industry, there’s no denying the influence Andy Garvey holds both locally and beyond, but with this influence does come its own burdens as well. I asked Andy, given all of this, how she personally achieves clarity, and for the first time in the entire conversation she responded with herself at the centre of the answer.
“I don’t think there’s one way to achieve clarity in the world. I think as I get older I’m trying to have more fun. I think there were a few years I was going for it. Now I’m a lot more relaxed and want to live life as well as do all those projects. Making time for when I finish work to relax and not just go home and keep working. Being healthy, eating well, taking time for yourself.”
Complex Clarity is out now.
Words by Parry Tritsiniotis
Image by Alex Johnstone