INTERVIEW: Johann Ponniah, I OH YOU
We had a chat to JOHANN PONNIAH, the man behind the infamous I OH YOU series of warehouse parties which has recently grown into an awesome record label, releasing music for bands like BLEEDING KNEES CLUB, SNAKADAKTAL, DZ DEATHRAYS, VIOLENT SOHO and CITY CALM DOWN.
Aside from this I OH YOU also tour acts around the country, recently they brought TOTALLY ENORMOUS EXTINCT DINOSAURS downunder and very soon they’ll be helping Australian audiences experience TYLER THE CREATOR & EARL SWEATSHIRT live.
What initially made you want to start I OH YOU?
My housemates and I had a few overdue utility bills that needed to be paid ASAP and we had no money, we decided to throw a house party and charge a ‘donation’ fee. The party went really well, so we just kept throwing them. At the same time I was managing a band called ‘Howl’ (now Hunting Grounds) and they needed to put an EP out, so we decided to release it ourselves through the I OH YOU brand.
What has been a highlight for you since the label / parties began?
To be honest, I don’t think there’s one key highlight. Lots of cool shit has happened in the last three years! It all blends into one thing eventually. That being said, we’re super appreciative of the opportunities and experiences we’ve had.
What do you look for in potential bands when signing them?
We’ve only ever looked for two things. Good music and good people.
All of the acts under I OH YOU seem to be very close, Luke of Violent Soho talks very fondly of DZ Deathrays and vice versa. Has the label become almost like a small family?
Yeah there’s definitely a lot of camaraderie amongst the I OH YOU label roster (and even some of the bands who have played our parties) and I really love that. Our bands hang out, go to each others shows and just generally support each other. I remember the BLEEDING KNEES CLUB guys hooking SNAKADAKTAL up with their Falls passes when they had to leave early… SNAKADAKTAL then posted them back to the Gold Coast after the festival, those bands hardly knew each other at the time. Similarly, I met all the bands on our label through friends or going out before ever working with them… I think that instills a certain ethos from the very beginning.
You seem to be a regular crowd surfer / boogie boarder at plenty of the I OH YOU band’s shows, do you tour with everyone much?
Hahaha nah I don’t tour that much – which is probably a good thing. I love going and seeing our bands play shows though so I always get to as many as I can… and sometimes get a bit carried away (PUN!).
What’s been the craziest tour you’ve been on?
Call The Cops with BLEEDING KNEES CLUB, DZ DEATHRAYS and YACHT CLUB DJs. No doubt about it.
You’ve only got a handful of artists signed to I OH YOU now, are there any up and coming acts you’ve been digging lately?
There’s so much awesome new shit out there at the moment. I wouldn’t do it justice by only naming a few.
I’ve noticed that you’ve met some pretty big artists in your travels, do you still get star struck?
I met NARDWUAR at SXSW and freaked the fuck out. That guy is a genius.
Are there any tips you can give to emerging artists?
WRITE GOOD SONGS, BE GOOD DUDES.
Words by Lauren Payne