Hyfe chats becoming a DJ, running a publication and being a multidisciplinary designer

hyfe

Alex Stevenson is a name in Sydney/Eora that does not get enough credit. You might know her as Hyfe, having DJed consistently across the city for years, she’s an artist with a finger in every pot, exploring a range of creative mediums with the ethos of conveying incredible stories. In 2020 she started a new local publication named Soft Stir. It explores and reflects on art, music, culture and philosophy from the perspective of emerging Australian creatives. Combining with brains trust Gab Flood and Bernie Fingleton, they’ve fabricated an inclusive space for emerging artists and writers to share their work, tell their stories and explore pressing topics in their own practice and voice.

On their website they have stated, “From bushfires raging across the Australian landscape, and smokey hazes enveloping our cities and lungs; to COVID-19 threatening our health and safety, it’s been quite a hectic year. Now, as we spend our days primarily in our homes, it seems like an apt time to process and assess what home means to us and how we can cultivate safe and healthy environments for the future.” Their first issue acts a reflective journal, engaging the minds of creatives explaining the meaning of home in their respective lives from poetry, artwork to memoir style writing.

Visually you’ve also probably caught the eye of Stevenson’s work. She’s taken care of design for festivals Roadwerk and Rainbow Mountain by Heaps Gay, Atheltica, Honey Point and Sucrose’s Splice Live Stream, Purple Sneaker’s Night Call club events and Marrickville’s street festival Bad Friday.

We were lucky enough to chat to the creative, digging into her creative process and her evolution into the artist she is today.

What are your creative mediums?
I’m a multidisciplinary designer and DJ. My “mediums” include creative direction, graphic design (for screen, print and more recently fabric), research, curating/producing, editing, facilitating, and DJing. I fluctuate between client work and self-initiated projects.

Where are you from?
I grew up in a small town in the northern rivers of NSW called Grafton. Grafton is known for its annual Jacaranda Festival, famous bendy bridge, Cold Chisel’s Flame Tree and electro-noir band Grafton Primary. I’ve lived in a few other cities – Wollongong, Montreal, and small stints in Leura and Istanbul – but I’ve been settled in Sydney for a while now.

Why did you start DJing?
My best friend and I used to frequently play b2b YouTube sets at kick ons; fading in and out of tracks selected in different tabs. We decided to give the real deal a go and went down to our local pawn shop to pick up a dusty set of Gemini MDJ-900’s. It took us a while to get the hang of beatmatching on those clunky decks, but eventually it clicked. I really enjoyed digging for new tracks and connecting with audiences at the club, which motivated me to keep at it. DJing definitely started as a fling, but has developed into real love.

What were the biggest challenges in starting a publication like Soft Stir?
The future of print has been uncertain for quite some time now. In a time when so many of Australia’s major publications were being shut down, we took on the challenge of keeping it alive – and there’s no doubt it’s been a challenge! There’s a lot to navigate when starting any self-initiated project; devising the intentions, values, framework and desired outcomes. Then there’s figuring out more practical things like how it’s funded, and balancing the workload, since all the team members (myself included) are currently dedicating our time to this project unpaid. Printing comes with an expensive process and material costs, meaning the project has a lot of overhead. So far, we’ve been able to afford it through crowdfunding, thanks to a super supportive community. 

Starting a publication has its difficulties, but keeping it alive and well is a whole other story. It’s a constant negotiation balancing this project with other self-initiated work, freelance work, DJing and life. Not going to lie, I, like my team and many others, have experienced many a burn out trying to juggle everything. It makes keeping any sort of independent project alive a constant challenge. But with these challenges come great opportunities to learn how to balance life and work in healthier and more manageable ways. And it’s forced us to strategise ways in which we can ensure the efficiency and sustainability of Soft Stir. At the moment it’s fuelled by a lot of passion and I really believe in the growing impact it will continue to have as it gains a larger audience.

What’s the most rewarding process/result of the first publication?
Unboxing and flicking through the freshly printed pages of the first issue was such a rewarding moment. It was incredible to hold in my hands the physical product of a vision and a years’ worth of hard work. At the launch event of the first issue, Gab (fellow co-founder) and I presented the mag to Toohey, our cover star, and their ecstatic reaction was such a marker of achievement for me. Besides the mushy moments, I’ve really enjoyed much of the process; the editorial journey, curating and supporting artists to develop their best work, and designing our brand and how it translates to each page of our print publication.

Shout out to Gab Flood, Bernie Fingleton and Chloe Hayman for bringing the publication to life with me, to all the incredible contributors for sharing their work and stories, to the generous supporters of the first issue and those that continue to show us love.

How do you measure your community impact, both as an individual and in your respective projects?
I think I’m making the biggest impact on my community through Soft Stir – our whole ethos is about supporting emerging creatives and creating an experience. Whether it’s through events, social media, or the stories we tell inside the pages of the publication, we aim to celebrate and strengthen the communities we operate in. The more we grow, the more our platform can keep making a meaningful impact. Feedback is a good way to measure how it’s being received, and for the most part we’ve had really positive and warm reviews from the community – near and far. It’s always exciting when it comes from an artist that we work with as it means we’re seeing out our intentions. Receiving a grant from the Inner West Council and knowing they saw merit in our project was an assuring experience too. And seeing our t-shirts being worn out and about always gives me a kick!

In terms of DJing and design, it’s a little trickier to quantify. If people are having a good time at my sets, or someone messages to say they’re into a design I did, that’s really exciting. I’m not sure if that’s a particularly profound impact but I’m stoked to be doing something that connects with people.

How do these projects, from design to editorial to DJing overlap? Either creatively/ therapeutically or if not, why do they work together?
I’d identify curatorial processes as a throughline in design, editorial and DJing. Simply put, design is a curation of visual semantics, editorial is curating texts into a body of work, and DJing is curating a selection of tracks. I enjoy the variety of working across each of these projects and their respective mediums – it allows me to express my creativity in different modes. While the creative process and ways of thinking have started to blend between these outputs, there’s definitely something unique to get out of each of them. Design is likely my long-term career, editorial is a passion project and DJing is a space for me to freely express and have fun. 

What does a typical day look like for you?
I aim to get up relatively early, do some exercise and usually have breakfast while reading a book on the front porch. Then I’ll launch into a work day made up of doing either graphic design, editorial work, admin (especially as a freelancer) or track digging; most days there’s a mix of all of the above. Today, I started on a logo design for a production company, had an editorial meeting for Soft Stir, and sat down to answer these questions!

Where can we find you?
At a sunny cafe. Bent over my laptop at the Marrickville library. Watching the sunset and dogs frolic at Henson Park. At the front of the dance floor. 

Online, you can find me at https://alexstevensondesign.com/ and on instagram as @hyfe__. For Soft Stir things, go to https://softstir.co/ or @softstir on Instagram.

What can we look forward to from you in the next year?
I’ve got some big dreams for the year ahead. We’ll be releasing the second issue of Soft Stir in November this year. It’ll be a lovingly designed print publication full of talented creatives and their interpretation of this years’ theme: Stories of Healing. We’ve had some incredible submissions – from an interactive auto-fiction to a recipe-poem to an interview with one of Sydney’s best young musicians – and can’t wait for everyone to read them.

Plus some pretty exciting Soft Stir events, DJ sets, installation artworks, and writing. I’m currently developing a radio show and taking Ableton lessons – so stay tuned for some original tracks and hearing Hyfe on the digital airwaves!

What song are you vibing with this week?
I’m a little late to the party with this one, but vibing nonetheless.

Words and questions PARRY TRITSINIOTIS and EVIE WEILY

LISTEN TO NEW MUSIC HERE

SEE ALSO
INTRODUCING SOFT STIR: AN INDEPENDENT PUBLICATION EXAMINING AUSTRALIAN ART, MUSIC AND CULTURE AND PHILOSOPHY
PSEUSHI OWNER WESLEY CHIANG CHATS RUNNING ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S FASTEST GROWING CLOTHING BRANDS

About:

Parry Talks, and also writes.