AK SPORTS on rolling with the punches and her brilliant debut EP
AK SPORTS is a veteran DJ, community member and now producer from Sydney, Australia. The AK SPORTS brand is one synonymous with raucous energy behind the decks, and an impeccable knack for showcases a wide but cohesive variety in her excellent selections. After years of taste making through her DJ sets, work as a promoter and agent in the music industry, radio presenting and promoting marginalised voices, Madi Carr has entered the world of production, with her stunning debut EP ‘Polarize’ out now via Gallery.
Starting behind the scenes in the music industry, Carr had an eye for what it took to become dominant in the music space. Having thrown parties across a pre-lockout Sydney, her love for DJing began as she started to play the opening slots at her own parties. Noticing the clear lack of diversity and at times toxically masculine nature of the music industry and dance communities at the time, she made it her mission to promote femme voices in these communities. With this clear vision alongside a penchant for refined and sophisticated sets, she rose through the ranks of underground dance. She’s pleased crowds at Lost Paradise, Secret Gardens, Spilt Milk and was due to take Splendour in the Grass by storm this year (before that was dashed thanks to the pandemic).
While we have a body of work from her now in Polarize, the first we heard from AK SPORTS was actually in the form of her debut single, ‘Professor Bitch’. Dropping as part of Of Leisure’s first Blue Line Steppers compilation back in 2018, the label provided an appropriate platform as the project is one hailed to champion the community minded brains of Sydney’s dance scene. ‘Professor Bitch’ was as impressive as first impressions can be, with sharp drums and a raging acid line and was dedicated to “all of the ladies getting it done, and the men who back them”. It was all systems go from here, with the track having kicking off a steady stream of more brilliant singles. Tooflez Musik of Berlin and Start Local Records in the UK have been fortunate enough to press two burners from her discography, with both relationships solidified thanks to Carr‘s recent move to the UK where she hosts a monthly show on BALAMII radio (alongside the likes of Chaos in the CBD and DJ Seinfeld).
From this amalgamation of experience, passion and adventure comes Polarize. A range full of emotions, ripping low ends, playful tones of UK Garage all the way to straight up jacking house, there’s a taste that will pique anyone’s interests. From emotional, cathartic rhythms on personal track, ‘Dit Quelque Chose’, to the experimentally-brilliant ‘Tank Girl’, it’s a full-bodied listening experience that doubles as a sonic statement from AK SPORTS. She asserts herself not just as master of ceremonies when it comes to her radio or DJing efforts, but now captain of her own ship as well, effortlessly steering her listeners through a diverse and polished body of work. Polarize distills all that AK SPORTS is, from being an absolute weapon on the decks to an artist and industry figure with a mission to increase diversity wherever and however she can. It’s bold, ambitious and packs more than a few punches, which could be said about AK SPORTS herself as well.
On the morning of her EP release day, July 31, we sat down with the producer to talk all about her journey so far, what Polarize means to her and what’s still to come.
The EP is finally out! Congratulations, how does it feel? Is it relief, excitement or something in between?
I’ve been sitting on this music for a few years now. It’s the first music I pumped out when I started producing so it’s super exciting to finally get it out there. I have been dropping things for a bit, but nothing that’s been a complete project with a lot of care. I’ve also been working with Angus Russell the label executive of Gallery Records to polish it off and finish it up for a little while now as well, so it’s really cool to have a friend in the process of it as well.
It’s obviously really important to have a strong connection to the label who is taking care of your music. Why was Gallery the right fit for your project, how did that relationship start?
The first track I ever put out was thanks to Angus at his old job, he reached out once he found out I was making music and put me straight onto a compilation. He’s supported me from day one. He’s a part of a really nice clique in Sydney that I associate myself with. It all also happened really organically too. I was playing songs out loud at a friends house and he was super inspired by it and wanted to put it out. It’s his passion, he’s just a down right legend. It’s great to see both of us involved as people in the industry that have come out the other side in such unique ways.
Why do these tracks stick out more than the ones you were putting out previously? What makes these songs a body of work relative to the tracks you were putting out previously?
The other music I’ve been releasing over the past couple of years were just a few singles. This was the stuff that I wrote all together in a period of time. Categorising them through their time frame was super important and acts like a sort of marker of where I was at writing those tracks.
I also don’t think I’ll be writing music like this at all again, so it’s important it sees the limelight before I move on. I know it’s breakbeat in various forms and is quite emotional in form, whereas the stuff I’m writing now is straight up rave.
Do you think there is a responsibility for the debut EP to be more refined and leave a stamp on the discography before moving onto the more clubby/focussed work?
There are plenty of other artists that would have developed their sound and audiences more before going for the jugular sonically like I have. For instance, focussing in on one genre rather than covering lots of ground like I did on a debut. All up though, I really wanted to do a nice rounding out of my abilities which are quite varied production wise and production style. Even though for me the tracks feel different to me, from an outsider’s perspective I’ve heard they all do tie together.
It’s because you made them! When it’s coming from a singular brain they’ll subconsciously have some creative overlap.
I’ve definitely tried to take on as free a creative writing process as possible. It sounds somewhat analogue, even though I don’t use much gear at all. I try to keep my songwriting structure non-traditional from standard dance music, especially in the somewhat repetitive tone of dance music.
With such a free creative process and without much traditional structure, was there a moment where you felt the tracks came together as an EP?
There really wasn’t that big bang moment. I had this playlist of music with a couple of stronger tracks. Houdini and A Flash Storm were in there and I always knew they had to live together. Angus actually heard Tank Girl and had a vision for that on the B side, which ended up being the second single. It ended up being a group effort between me and the label and ended up coming together surprisingly well.
What else was on that playlist?
There were a lot of tracks that were unfortunately cut now that won’t see the light of day.
Is leaving songs behind that you wrote so early on hard knowing they probably will never come out?
It doesn’t matter a whole lot to me. I feel like they didn’t make the cut for a reason and that my songwriting abilities have improved so much since then. They’ll still serve a purpose though, to learn off and also to take ideas from. If I need a cool bass sound I could go back into old projects, so they’re still extremely valuable. I feel like one of the big things I’ve learnt in music when writing it is that nothing you do ever really goes to complete waste.
Let’s dig more into the EP. The first single A Flash Storm (And Then it Was Gone) is an experimental way to introduce the audience into the sonic world of AK SPORTS. Can you tell me about why you decided to lead with that track?
It’s just a fucking belter to be honest. It’s really dirty and gritty. I think we did the right thing. It got heaps of love and I was super grateful for the community support. It’s a really slow burner, and it took me a while to properly love its long winded intro. I love how easy to get lost in . Its repetitive nature helps create almost a state of trance. Someone recently described it quite creatively which sums the track up great, something along the lines of it felt like they were getting chased around a cyborg world by these robots. Just this crazy shit, and that’s exactly how I wanted it to feel.
I’m a massive fan of that track, it brings the EP to life so quickly.
It’s great because it subverts the listener’s expectations of the EP as well, because the rest of it sounds nothing like it.
That’s the point though, it leaves no expectations but opens the sonic gates pretty wide for what’s to come.
I love that it’s not a standard acid run. With the intro, a listener could probably guess it was going to head into that genre world.
Speaking of creating no expectations, the second single Tank Girl came after that, which was a statement in itself.
Yeah, Tank Girl is so different. I wanted that to be the last track, a bit of a hidden gem per se. A couple of the people around me though, that I trust taste-wise said that was their favourite. I sent it to Eddy who does Human Movement and Tank Girl was his fav, so I just thought, “Stuff it, let’s make it the second single!”
You can’t be too precious with it either.
Exactly, the first two singles are both so contrasting. I feel like it’d help cover a lot of ground if people liked one or the other more. A bit of something for everyone.
Now that we are talking about Tank Girl. I love a lot of the visual direction for the EP. From the Tank Girl music video, to the artwork, to the other music videos coming out as well. How is it sitting with these tracks for so long, and seeing other creatives bring them into their worlds?
With everyone that’s done visuals for the tracks, it’s all been a collaboration. It was super important for me to have a cool visual with every song. It’s art at the end of the day and I didn’t want to limit it to one medium. In terms of handing them over, I was super excited to get another perspective on the tracks. I’ve been sitting on these tracks for some time now, so seeing them in a new light is fantastic.
Music videos are the best. Having the visual element definitely adds to the sentiment of the tracks. Dance music can be quite limiting but having that extra layer to the sounds is great. — especially in terms of messaging not quite literally, but emotionally.
Yeah, bang on! It’s also for me supporting women that are creative. Two of the clips are done by female directors/animators. It was super great to support them and their art, and having the female perspective on the visual directions of the tracks is not just super interesting, but really important.
Speaking of sentiment, Dit Quelque Chose is my favourite track and it’s definitely one of the most emotional on the EP. What does that mean? Where does the inspiration come from?
It translates to ‘Say Something’ in French. I really just wanted to write an emotional track and ‘Say Something’ with my music based on how I was feeling. I do speak French so I thought it’d be great to go with that. It’s great not just to hide behind French lyrics, but also adds a level of anonymity and ambiguity to it which is really interesting creatively.
Where were you when you wrote it? What were you feeling?
I wrote it in the attic at my old place in Erskineville in Sydney. I just started with the chords and I knew when I started I wanted a big crescendo through drums. Given it’s such a personal track about feeling somewhat insecure and sad, it was easy to express myself through the French lyrics. I went into it knowing it wasn’t a club track, I just wanted it to be an emotional belter. I like that it’s fairly simple and builds, then becomes erratic with the percussion. You know that feeling you get when you listen to Bicep? That’s sort of what I wanted.
There’s obviously a big social drive behind your project. Where do you think that community and political drive comes from and how has it impacted your work as a producer?
I started in the back end of the music industry and it was really apparent how much of a boys club it was. I just really witnessed first hand a lot of injustices across a lot of facets of the industry. I was doing my bit to connect and empower women in that corner of the industry. Now as an artist I have more of a voice and I really want to continue that work in spreading the love across these undermined voices.
What do you think the biggest challenge has been, or what do you think you’ve learnt the most about life across writing this EP?
I was really anxious to release the music when I wrote it. I had no patience and I had to let it roll out the way the universe wanted it to roll out. I’m so grateful I didn’t push or refuse to be compliant to all the challenges in releasing it. It worked out perfectly even if it was a couple years down the track. The label situation worked out well, and timing wise it ended up perfectly if we were able to play shows with recognition from some festivals I had been working up to for a while. If it wasn’t for letting it happen, a lot of great things would not have happened. I’m super grateful I rolled with the punches. If you take a wrong turn, check out the nooks and crannies of that wrong turn.
Polarize is out now via Gallery.
Words by Parry Tritsiniotis
Image via Krissy Jaman