Getting to know Andy Garvey: Moving for your passion and making good radio
“Hey!! Shit!! I totally just remembered we were going to meet early tonight!! I’m leaving my place in 2 min.” I was late anyway, so at least I’d be off the hook. FBi Radio is like a second home to me and to many other like-minded people too. It’s a place where people can find a start; musicians, radio presenters, industry folk and budding journalists.
Andy Garvey is a woman of many feats. She’s a radio presenter, DJ, producer, outspoken community member, extreme fashionista and space enthusiast. With an immense artillery of skills behind her, 2015 and 2016 have seen Andy go from strength to strength. From playing massive shows for Astral People as part of their Summer Series, to curating FBi’s annual female-orientated Dance Class program, to taking the reins on her very own intergalactic radio feature that is Pure Space, these epic feats are a result of the outstanding work ethic Andy has. “I’ve had some really random stuff thrown at me – opportunities I guess. And one of the things I always really push myself to do is to always say yes and always take every opportunity, don’t think that you’re too tired. If you get excited when you’re asked to do something, definitely say yes. You can always shuffle things or make things work.” Even today, she’s intensely dedicated and shows immense passion towards everything that she does, but in saying that, she had to start somewhere.
Growing up in Canberra, she and her childhood friend Charlie shared a common interest in music. “He would send me a lot of music on MSN, and we would just share music. As we got older, we were hanging out and he’d just learned how to DJ, and he was like “Let’s have a mix.” I was like “What do you mean? I can’t DJ.”” Something must have instantly clicked, because a few weeks later she decided to go out and blow her savings on a pair of decks from eBay. “It was the summer after I’d finished high school. I was at home all of the time, I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have parents around, so I just locked myself in my room all day everyday and taught myself how to mix”.
A tentative time for most, age 18 saw Andy at the start of her now incredibly fruitful career. After spending time navigating her way around the ins and outs of DJing, she sent a mixtape to a promoter who used to run a bar called Trinity Bar in Canberra. “He booked me for my first gig like a week after that, and I was so nervous. I was physically shaking, I’d planned the whole set. I knew every single mix. I think the peak dancefloor was like 3 people and I was still just freaking out, but it went great.” What had begun as a hobby has since become the lifeblood of all that she involves herself with.
I remember when I first met Andy. It was fleeting, as most interactions with people are when you frequent Sydney’s FBi Radio. For a place that surrounds itself with the temporal, it only follows that it lives in a state of transiency: ever-changing music, rotating presenters and shifting concepts and ideas. The Allnighter was the kind of intro slot to presenting. Running from 1-6am on a weekday or 3-7am on a weekend, it’s a good time to get comfortable with presenting without the added pressures of a big audience. The timing was perfect for her, because after about three sessions on the Allnighter, Andy was invited to co-present Spin The Bottle with Johnny Lieu – FBi’s Saturday morning dance music special. “I got thrown in the deep end,” Andy said. “I wasn’t ready. It was kind of scary because I actually didn’t know Johnny at all at the time. So I was kind of just like in a room with a random person, and I didn’t know anything about his music tastes.” Aside from the intensity at the start, Andy persevered with the Allnighter, continuing to hone in her presenting skills. Presenting on Spin The Bottle gave her the opportunity to begin interviewing and speaking to new producers. “One of the things I loved about working on Spin The Bottle was the fact that I got to meet so many new people every week. You learn so much so quickly by meeting someone new all of the time, which I think is a really good thing about being involved with radio.”
After moving on from the Allnighter, Andy went on to co-present Future Classic’s Sunset slot on a Friday night. She hosted both this show and Spin The Bottle at the same time until they could find a suitable presenter to fill her shoes (queue Lauren Hansom – a graduate from FBi Dance Class’s first intake). “That show kind of came to an end a few months ago. My co-hosts, Chad Gillard and James Mcinnes, were both so busy and I have a slightly different taste, so doing two hours so often was kind of a bit too much for what I wanted to be programming”. And I think it’s interesting that she mentioned this, because after wrapping up Future Classic’s show, Andy took a break for a couple of months, giving herself the time and space to regroup. If you’ve followed some of the work Andy’s been doing, you’d piece together that there’s a subtle recurring theme here.
A couple of months ago, i-D gave Andy the chance to share some of her sounds with us all. In what is definitely a defining mix in Andy’s career, she delivered a solid hour of tunes that were ‘Inspired by ancient alien theories and altered states of consciousness.’ “I put so much time into that, and then sat on it for so long being like, ‘Is this right?’ and then just before I sent it away, I changed the ending and I’m really glad that I did”. Perfectionism isn’t a worry for Andy, she just wants to create sounds that mean something. Evidentially with each project Andy undertakes, it’s obvious that she’s intent on pushing herself.
At 24 years of age now, Andy is starting to settle into her own sort of niche. “I played one of my own tracks for the first time at a warehouse party a couple of weeks ago and it was really good. I had some really cool feedback from my friends.” There’s a snippet of this track on her Instagram, and from what I could see and hear, it’s shaping up to be one huge project. The room looked packed, people were sweating and all I could hear was this epic bass-heavy beat stirring in the background. “That’s going to be the next big step for me in the story of what I’m doing. I’ll be releasing my own stuff, which is really exciting.”
Sitting on Ableton for years, she’s always had the program, but has never been so inclined to use it. “I bought a drum machine and started writing beats outside of my laptop and started recording them in,” and this was the game changer for Andy. By relying on physical instruments rather than VST’s, she feels more in touch with what she can create.
“I have only a couple of tracks that are actually finished, but I’m kind of again, just sitting on them. I’ve got to wait until I’m sure that I want to do this.” Attention to detail and being positively certain about things are two of Andy’s most recognisable characteristics throughout each of her bodies of work. It’s even evident in the way she approaches her new show, Pure Space too.
Pure Space is her newest undertaking at FBi Radio, and it’s seen her definitely change her approach to radio. From playing broad dance tunes with Spin The Bottle to a variety of genres and sounds on the Allnighter, Pure Space sees her take on a new set of sounds completely. “The show kind of ranges from ambient techno through to really clubby, kind of warehouse style stuff,” and although the show sits on a Monday night (which universally, is the most un-clubby night in modern history), Andy sees it as a positive. Presenting on a Monday has given her the time to work more on weekends at parties and events. Quietly laughing to herself, she mentions, “Occasionally when I don’t DJ, I actually have a weekend which is also really nice.” But presenting Pure Space has also given her the opportunity to give her friends some exposure too. “It’s nice to have a space to be like ‘Hey, you have a release coming up. Do you want to do a mix? Let’s promo that and let’s get your tracks played,’” and since the show’s inception a few months ago, she’s already got a good run of featured mixes on her Pure Space SoundCloud page.
Her path to presenting radio isn’t the only path she’s followed with FBi, however. FBi runs an annual program called Dance Class that’s coordinated by Andy. The program has just successfully finished up for its second year. It’s a great initiative that gives five or so girls each year the skills to DJ, present and manage their career business-wise (if that’s something that they want to pursue). The idea originally came about around three years ago, but was passed on through multiple people before it got to Andy and actually got off the ground. “It only got handed to me once V were on board and had said, ‘We want to sponsor something on FBi,’ and they were excited about Dance Class.” It was after the funding was secured that brainstorming and planning for the actual program begun. “We were brainstorming how it was going to look and sound; it’s a team effort. It’s not just me. There’s sponsorship people behind it and we have a girl doing social media for it too, so there’s a larger team involved.”
It was an entirely new experience for Andy. It’s one thing teaching yourself to DJ, but to translate that knowledge into easy-to-understand terms and to then teach it to a group of people is quite intense. “It was pretty nuts just kind of thinking how to teach people how to DJ and how to go from thinking of all of the things I wish I knew from the very beginning which took me ages to work out.” Andy’s got a great structure down pat now, giving them an introduction to mixing, information on how to EQ and what that sounds like, and then physically teaching them how to DJ using CDJ’s, vinyl, laptops and programs like Serato. The program ends with the girls in the program hosting a show on FBi Click for a month.
She was ecstatic when speaking about the results she could see from Dance Class: “Some of the girls from last year started throwing parties together and booking each other and continuing to support each other. This year’s girls hang out on the weekends and are really supportive of each other too.” From my own perspective, I see it as an inventive, genuine and extremely rewarding way to get more women involved in not only presenting, but also DJing and throwing parties too.
“I hope that as I get older, I can influence more women to go and be themselves and whatever they want to do and not feel like they have to go down that really mainstream path. I think it’s mainstream culture that puts pressure on women to create a persona that’s not really what they’re like at home. Maybe they are, I don’t know”. I don’t know either. But I do know that Andy’s interest in creating opportunities for women and her continual efforts with projects like Dance Class resonate deeply with all members of the music community, whether they be men, women, musicians, DJs, journalists or none of these things. She’s becoming more recognised not only for her intense passion for music, but also for the way she absolutely puts her heart and soul into everything that she does.
I look down at the time and we’ve been talking for over half an hour.
“What time do you need to leave? You’ve got about 8 minutes until your show starts,” I remind her.
She laughs saying, “Oh crap! I didn’t realise how long we’d been talking for.”
I hang around to catch the first couple of minutes of Pure Space for another week. She opens with an epic number from Dan White called ‘Fearless Freak’, and as I wave goodbye and head out into the crisp night, I’m feeling genuinely excited for Andy: excited for her future prospects and also selfishly excited to hear what she’s going to undertake next, because her motivation is contagious. And that in itself is incredibly inspiring.
Words by Caitlin Medcalf