Alice Ivy is wide awake and ready for the world with her new album, ‘Don’t Sleep’
ALICE IVY‘s music exists to make you feel. With a focus on connecting first with her collaborators and then with her listeners, she crafts entire worlds within just a few minutes in which you can get completely lost in. She has always had this knack from her very first singles some five years ago, and in 2018 we received her first body of work in which she explored this more than ever.
That body of work was titled I’m Dreaming, and as far as debut albums go, it was as impressive as they come. Leaning into her mission of bringing out the best in her collaborators so they can bring out the best in her, I’m Dreaming was a blissful, escapist, genre-melding dreamscape that cemented Alice Ivy as a serious force to be reckoned with as a producer and songwriter. Fast forward two years, and she’s back to do it all again with another body of work in Don’t Sleep. A continuation of sorts from where she left off with I’m Dreaming, Don’t Sleep is twelve tracks of expert collaboration, a “less is more” approach and a whole lot of fun. It represents Alice Ivy‘s journey from 2018 going from an emerging artist to a globe-trotting producer-in-demand.
Written predominately across the world, Ivy employed a veritable cast of legends for Don’t Sleep. From established acts in their own rights like Thelma Plum, Ecca Vandal, and Odette through to emerging names like imbi and BOI, to even international names you might not have been familiar with like Cadence Weapon, SWSH or Teef, Don’t Sleep is another escapist, blissful dreamscape but this time, Ivy knows who she is and it shows. She knows what she’s capable of, she’s not afraid to push herself and she most of all has risen to every challenge she set herself. Because of this, she has created a record that is one of this year’s best.
Across the twelve tracks, Alice Ivy effortlessly navigates many emotional landscapes, guiding you along her expertly-crafted sonic journey. From the devastatingly heartfelt in songs like ‘Ticket To Heaven’ featuring Thelma Plum to the boldly defiant title track featuring imbi and BOI; the all-out turn up of ‘All Hit Radio’ featuring Teef and Tessa, to the reflective and meditative ‘Gold’ featuring Bertie Blackman; the kaleidoscopic trip of ‘In My Mind’ featuring Ecca Vandal or the powerful and raw ‘I’ll Find It’ featuring Odette — every single song is its own microcosm of palpable emotion and it’s this that makes it such a special album. Alice Ivy has never strayed from her mission to make her listeners feel. Whether that’s on a packed dancefloor with all your best friends (which we can’t do right now) or alone with headphones on and your eyes closed, Don’t Sleep is a flawless, moving, and passionate body of work that elevates Alice Ivy to a platform she’s so very deserving of — that of one of the most accomplished, impressive and capable producers in the country. Don’t Sleep is a testament to the five years Alice Ivy to reach this level, and now she’s there, we don’t expect her going anywhere else but up.
Congratulations on the album. It is so epic, I have listened to it so many times start to finish. Every time I listen to it, I hear something new that I didn’t hear before. How does it feel to be releasing a record second time around? Is it easier? Is it more scary?
It’s scary! I feel like the second record is harder because I’m Dreaming did well in a sense that it sort of put me on the map and it opened up a lot of writing opportunities, all these career opportunities, I probably got four tours straight off the back of that record. It helped my profile grow but I feel like the second record is harder because I’m not in the honeymoon phase anymore. With the first record it’s like, “Woo it’s my first album, it doesn’t matter!” I didn’t have any expectations. Now you have to back it up really successfully, and also you’ve got targets and you’ve got to meet those targets. You got to meet those goals, so that’s why it’s exciting but it’s hard, it’s scary, it’s very mixed feelings about it.
Comparing I’m Dreaming to Don’t Sleep, I know it’s hard to compare the records, but for me when I was listening through to it, it felt more like a bolder, more assertive, self-realised, older sibling. They’re related, they’re connected but it’s a bit different. Does it feel that way to you and did you intend for the titles to be connected in a way as well?
Yeah. It totally does. I’m Dreaming is the story of my first couple of years as producer and the honeymoon phase. It was very instrumental focused and it was all about the good times and big bright moments and it’s almost like you’re living in a daydream. Don’t Sleep kind of represents… not giving in to the slumber, it’s more real. I feel like this record focuses a lot more on song variety. The focus is a lot more on my songwriting and also I think I matured as a producer and that too. I feel like in sound especially, less is more.
The general ethos of the record’s thoughts is “Don’t Sleep on the diverse voices represented on the album”. I wanted to ask, why was that so important for you to achieve on this record?
What I did when I made this record, I didn’t seek out to make a record like that. I sought out to write a record with all of the artists I really, really, really fucking love and I’ve always looked up to and I think are incredible, and they are incredibly inspiring. And it all fell into place like that. I feel like that’s how it should be. I feel like I sought out to write this record with artists I really wanted to work with and it just so happened to work out like that which is amazing. I feel like that’s how it should be.
On the flip side, we’re the same age so we would have grown up listening to a lot of the same albums and I think there was definitely a period of time, where you’d see a record by a male producer and every featured artist would be a male, or there might be one woman on the record, right? They didn’t ask why that happened and if someone did, they said, “Well it wasn’t on purpose it just kind of happened that way.” It feels almost like you’re saying the same thing. It wasn’t on purpose — it just happened that way but it’s the most diverse, amazing kind of cast of legends on this record. It’s so perfect that, it’s the same thing but the results is completely different.
Yeah! I also knew this is all because of collaboration. I wanted to just go for it, I just wanted to write with artists that I really love and I really wanted to write with. I try to go in with a free mind and just write what we’re feeling on the day and it’s pretty amazing. No matter what kind of artist you are, what your background is, what struggle you come from, if you can be on the same level of writing, the art you can create is totally amazing. I feel like I’ve been on a really lucky streak over the past two years. That’s how the album resulted.
With your collaborations on I’m Dreaming, while they’re definitely diverse there was still some love from the same world. On Don’t Sleep it feels broader. You’ve got people like Ecca, you’ve got Ben from SAFIA, Imbi, Cadence — there’s so much on this record. Was it a deliberate decision to challenge yourself sonically on this record?
Absolutely. I feel like it was a challenge. I think going into any writing session is a challenge because you never know what it’s going to be like. It’s like a Tinder date, you don’t know what it is going to be like especially if you don’t know who they are. You have to go through this whole introduction phase. You have to be like, “Hey what’s up? How are you feeling today?” and then it’s like, alright! Now you’ve got to pour your feelings out on the page, even though it’s really hard thing to do. I absolutely tried to challenge myself as much as I could.
This album reminds me so much of Mark Ronson’s albums, especially Late Night Feelings and Record Collection in that he’s very particular with who he works with. The songs stand alone in what they mean, but they are all connected in the broader sense of the record. Obviously he’s an artist that would be really inspirational to you, same with Jamie xx, Grimes and obviously The Avalanches as well. What is it about these artists that inspires you so much?
I feel like that there’s variety when we’re playing. I feel like another really good example is, Mark Ronson does this, but also a specific example to talk about is Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That record covers disco, stadium rock, hip-hop. When that record came out, everyone freaked out. Everyone just went “what is this?!” But it is a masterpiece and it absolutely paved the way. Have you heard Jamie xx’s new song that just came out?
I have listened to that song more times than I can count!
It is incredible. I’ve never heard anything like that before and I feel like that’s what I really love about these producers — that you should be doing your own thing and pave your own way. Another really good example coming out of Australia is Ninajirachi! She is so fucking cool, honestly. I don’t know any other artist that is making music like her right now. All her drops, they go so hard. Artists like that are so inspiring. They don’t care, they just literally put out music that they want to put out and I guess that’s also the great thing about being a producer, is you can have a little bit more freedom to be able to make push genres and break the rules a little bit.
The record feels totally escapist and it comes at a time when escapist music is really, really vital. Following the releases over the year so far, artists like Four Tet, Caribou, closer to home with artists like Juno Mamba — all those really meditative, soulful, electronic albums. I feel like this Don’t Sleep fits in that world as well and it is really escapist and people really need that. Has this record taken on a new meaning for you given that the world that you now find yourself in, compared to the way that you created it in is so different?
I don’t think it’s changed meaning, I think it still means the same. When we chose to put this record out, we asked ourselves, “Do we put it out?” And we decided yeah, we should put it out because first of all it contains voices that need to be amplified and so there’s that. There’s also the theme of hope, and it’s a very colourful album. It’s euphoric and it does kind of take you on a bit of a sonic journey. I feel like people need that right now and that’s why we decided to stick with the timeline as well, so I guess the meaning for me hasn’t really changed, it’s just been amplified a little bit.
One thing that I love about who you are as an artist is you’re so unapologetic about what you believe in, and this applies to the collaborators on the record, as well. You’re working with artists like Imbi, Thelma, Ecca — they are not embarrassed or ashamed of what they believe in, and that’s something that you’ve evolved into as well. Do you think you’re attracted to collaborators who are bold in their beliefs as well and do you think that uncompromising belief comes through in their music?
Totally. That’s an interesting question. I totally believe that. I feel like it’s pretty amazing being able to work with artists who have very strong beliefs and are very vocal. I feel honoured to be able to collab with artists like that. I do draw to artists who are very vocal in their beliefs because they seem so true to me. They just seem more honest and I really value and I really, really respect that. Being able to be given the opportunity to write with artists that are like that is a complete honour and I’m really grateful.
It’s interesting because perhaps going in with the idea of, “this record is going to be about this,” you’ve actually gone in instead and given the mic over to people, and still come out with a body of work that explores similar themes. It’s powerful in how in-your-face it is, with My Turn or All Hit Radio. It’s really emotional and devastating with Ticket to Heaven or I’ll Find It. They’re all so different but it’s still very connected. I wondered, do you find it liberating going in and aiming to work with someone on an idea that comes to you together, rather than prescribing an idea to them and coming in and doing the job?
Yeah it is. I do go in with an open mind. The wonderful thing about it is to start you never know what’s going to happen: sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes you can have a dreadful time, sometimes it just doesn’t click. I kind of go in with an instrumental ideas to automatically spark the creativity. It’s good to have a few things up your sleeve just so you don’t go in fully with a blank slate. In terms of lyrical content and melodies I try to leave that as open as possible for the session just so we can both fully experience it together. I feel like going in open minded gets the best out of —and I don’t mean to sound like a wanker when I say this— but going in with an open mind with things, can get the best out of the artists, because they’re so emotionally more invested in the idea. If you go into a session with lyrics and melodies and content and stuff like that, it’s not so much of a collaborative situation as it could be. I feel like they’re not so emotionally invested in the song and I feel like team work really helps with how it goes and how much more they’re invested in the song. It’s a challenge but it’s really great, because so many good things come out of challenges.
It feels like in a way a lot of your songs are Alice Ivy songs but they’re also the other person’s song as well, rather than just being an Alice Ivy song that someone’s come and sung on. It’s a joint ownership, this joint thing that people have slaved over and I think it means just as much to them, and you can really hear that on a lot of the lyrical delivery on the record, especially that Thelma song.
Exactly, I feel like the Thelma example’s a really good example, the Odette song I’ll Find It is another really good example where I feel like you have a little spark, and you both get the chance to explore how you’re feeling and you’re both so eagerly emotionally invested in it. I feel like I get that song out of that.
Don’t Sleep is out now via Dew Process. Buy/stream here. Check Alice Ivy tour dates below:
ALICE IVY TOUR DATES
Thu 17 Sep – Enmore Theatre – Sydney
Fri 18 Sep – Bar On The Hill – Newcastle
Sat 19 Sep – Winter Wine Festival – Gerringong, NSW
Wed 30 Sep – Canberra Theatre – Canberra
Thu 8 Oct – Fortitude Music Hall – Brisbane
Fri 9 Oct – Moncrieff Entertainment Centre – Bundaberg
Sat 10 Oct – Highfields Tavern – Toowoomba
Thu 15 Oct – Forum – Melbourne
Fri 16 Oct – Torquay Hotel – Torquay
Sat 17 Oct – Wine Machine – Perth
Sat 24 Oct – Splendour In The Grass – Byron Bay
Fri 30 Oct – Gap View Hotel – Alice Springs
Fri 13 Nov – The Gov – Adelaide
Wed 18 Nov – Great Western – Rockhampton
Thu 19 Nov – Seabreeze – Mackay
Fri 20 Nov – Otherwise – Townsville
Sat 21 Nov – Tanks Arts Centre – Cairns
Wed 25 Nov – Riverlinks Westside – Shepparton
Thu 26 Nov – Ulumbarra Theatre – Bendigo
Fri 27 Nov – Beer Deluxe – Albury
Thu 3 Dec – Altar – Hobart
Fri 4 Dec – Altar – Hobart
Sat 5 Dec – Saloon Bar – Launceston
Sun 6 Dec – Forth Pub – Forth
Interview by Emma Jones
Image by Michelle Grace Hunder