Sampology and Allysha Joy chat their collaboration, ‘Suffer and Swim’, mental health and their creative process

sampology

Last week, Meanjin/Brisbane producer Sampology shared his single with Allysha Joy, ‘Suffer and Swim’. A clinical lesson in good collaboration, ‘Suffer and Swim’ was given a second life after Joy’s influence. Planned as a bright, soulful broken beat instrumental, she took it to the next sonic level. It’s a euphoric, serotonin inducing number. 

The two artists have provided their incredible musical talents over a significant period of time across a range of distinct projects. Sampology is a DJ, radio host and vinyl enthusiast, with his love for electronic music and production starting at the age of 17, playing Brisbane venues underrage. He’s now working towards his debut album, ‘Regrowth’ (out on September 3rd), following two standout EPs. Allysha Joy has solidified herself as a world class talent recently, contributing to Melbourne’s 30/70 collective, as well as a singer, poet and pianist.

On the collaboration, Sampology says: ‘Allysha is doing such great things down in Melbourne and I’ve wanted to collaborate with her for a while, I’m such a fan and when she sent me back her vocals, I listened on repeat for 20 minutes. Beau contributed the beautiful guitar parts and you can clearly hear his signature style come through. I’m so appreciative to have been able to collaborate with Allysha & Beau and share this track out into the world.’

We were lucky enough to listen to the two incredible artists have a thorough conversation about their respective creative processes, coming together on the creation of the track and unpacking their careers so far. 

Sampology
I wanted to start by asking about lyrics because I’m always fascinated by people that can write lyrics effectively. The people that do that seem like magicians to me, they’re just summoning magic out of thin air. Do you have a creative routine for writing as it relates to lyrics specifically?

Allysha (Joy)
Yeah, actually, when I wrote the words to this I was writing a song every day, which is a pretty awesome creative act or goal to undertake. That was both playing piano and writing lyrics and I guess it allowed me to take things less seriously and immediately find the centrepoint of the emotion you’re trying to capture and get there really quickly; what is it you’re actually trying to say and how do you say that. Sometimes if I’m working on a piece of music over a long period of time, I can diverge a little further from what the centre of the emotion is. But yeah, I think just going through that process and really trying to articulate myself, succinctly and like, quickly and accurately, but also be creative and find lots of different ways to say the same thing was definitely a practice I was doing at that point in time. Yeah.

Sampology
That’s beautiful, thanks for sharing that. With the lyrics for ‘Suffer and Swim’ I get a very empathetic feeling of wanting to be there for someone you care about. I wonder how it relates to mental health in music and the wider creative community?

Allysha
Yeah. Mental health in music is a really huge problem and I guess something that we need to talk about more as a community, whether it’s through music or through the industry as well. But yeah, at that point in time, I guess the writing of the song really came from witnessing friends and specifically my peers go through a hard time mentally and the challenges of being a musician, like the serious ups and downs and incredible highs and incredible lows. There’s not much space to talk about it because there’s a desire for people to show a facade of how well things are doing and the industry kind of perpetuates that idea because if you show vulnerability or show that you’re struggling, somehow people perceive it to be a reflection whether you’re successful or not in music which is not at all the case or not relevant. I think like through everything that I write it is just an expression of truth and what I’m feeling in the moment and I often don’t think about how it’s released or how it’s received. 

But I hope that people receive this and think about the music industry and how it affects musicians and how it affects people. Because we’re such a tight knit community if someone is suffering there is this intense experience of empathy we all suffer, so we really need to find ways to talk about it and ways to assist each other so that we’re not having to all suffer together and struggle through this industry that wants to kind of put us all on pedestals or create this shiny image of what’s going on on the outside. In this song I’m talking about diving in to save someone, which is not the ideal situation, it’s the last resort. I think there needs to be infrastructure so that we can support each other

Sampology
In terms of diving in to save other people, do you have any thoughts about balancing being there for others and being there for yourself as well? 

Allysha
Yeah, I actually did a Mental Health First Aid course through Support Act earlier this year and somehow through Covid lockdowns managed to also complete a diploma in counselling and psychotherapy which was amazing and has provided me with a heap of tools and resources. But I think just learning skills around knowing how to ask questions in order to ensure people feel safe and feel able to be vulnerable with other people. Like understanding your own ability to regulate your emotions and maybe recognising when you’re not able to help I think is really important. Also, recognising when you have the energy and mental stability to help, and that comes in waves. And I think just creating networks and creating support systems, whether that’s through your friends and family or through mental health workers, support workers, counsellors, therapists, and creating a network of people that can support you. But also your own ways that bring you back to yourself, like getting sleep, exercising, eating well, drinking lots of water, just really simple things.

Sampology
Thinking about Regrowth as a concept, when things start to open up and the music industry gets back to a healthy stage, what do you see as a potential positive for things actually changing and regrowing that you’d like to personally see as a musician or even just a punter?

Allysha
Yeah, I mean, throughout the past year and a half I think there’s been incredibly poignant conversations being had all over the world about the Black Lives Matter movement and really recognising to a greater degree in this country the amount of First Nations people dying in custody and being brutalised by the police. Hopefully people have had time and space to learn more about other people’s positions and take some time out to acknowledge where they can create change and create growth within the community to make space and ensure that how they’re operating is from a place of inclusivity and awareness. 

I feel like that has happened to a degree and there’s been some really incredible conversations happening within the music industry. Diversity is becoming more present and I hope that mental health is part of that. Even through COVID in this country, people were allowed to get free mental health care plans and these conversations became more present and acknowledging where people might need support. Hopefully, those conversations are ongoing and we recognise that people need support, not just in a lockdown, but in everyday life and in different capacities for every individual. I hope that social justice issues are more present in people’s minds now, because this lockdown has really made people aware that people’s experiences are very different depending on their circumstances.

Sampology
Lastly, super different, but I’m thinking about the last time you were in Brisbane when you came out to perform. After the performance, you played a DJ set that everyone was talking about the next day in such a positive way because people were all loving it. I wanted to know, because you’re such a great vocalist, instrumentalist, and writer, if you ever get influenced by when you’re spinning? And you’re seeing people moving? Has it ever influenced your writing as well? 

Allysha
Yeah, definitely. And DJing has only really been a part of my life in the last two years, and one of those years was spent in my bedroom. I’ve had some crazy opportunities come up for DJing, like playing with Geology, Gilles Peterson, DJ JNETT and CC Disco. But it has hugely impacted the music that I’m making now. Like I’m really interested at the moment in making broken beat music and more dance-orientated music. But yeah, really just broken beat, like soulful vocals, people like Omar and Kaidi Tatham, Atjazz and Bembe Segue, they’re the people that are inspiring me now. I think that’s just through DJing and finding my sound in that realm and I really want to do more of it. 

Anyway. Flipping the script now Sam, my first question for you is to provide some context to the upcoming record Regrowth. What has the journey been like for you leading into this moment, particularly as you’re someone that came onto the scene so hot and saw so much success, touring overseas, and working with amazing musicians back here in Australia. I want to know how the musical journey so far has been for you – musically and emotionally.

Sampology
Yeah the journey and the theme of Regrowth, in my mind, I think about as from the year 2016 to now. In 2016 I released Natural Selections and then a couple years later Mt Glorious and now in September I’m releasing Regrowth, and that’s all kind of one thing for me. There’s tracks on the album that are from 2016 that I’ve been saving for that album, not consciously, but just through a feeling of understanding they were for something else. The journey side of it is interesting. Sometimes when working on projects, you start and you think ‘Oh, this is what this project is going to be about’, and in my experience, when you aim for something it always ends up changing anyway. So I’ve learned to be more open to how things just happen naturally. With this album, definitely about a year ago around the time of the bushfires, coincidentally, I had enough tracks for an album and they were all kind of talking to each other. I sat back and looked at all the songs broadly, and the way that all of the different songs were talking to each other kind of informed the work that needed to be done and what the momentum and feeling of the project was. 

Then, I was thinking about myself personally and my own life at that point and leading up to that point. I was trying to think of a name, that kind of simple name that sums up that feeling and Regrowth just kind of came out of it. Just watching the news of all the fires and all the trees that were coming down, so for me personally I feel like it’s a word that can mean so many things to different people. And it does mean a lot of different things to me. I wouldn’t go into the specifics but both personally and environmentally, that’s what stamped it at that point in time a bit over a year ago now. That was then a really beautiful, fun challenge, putting all the songs together completed and wrapping it up into a bow.

Allysha
I wonder if we can talk about your trajectory as an artist? Experiencing releasing music with Jordan Rakei, touring the US and Europe and then coming back home?

Sampology
I started playing out in Brisbane when I was only 17 in clubs and venues. So I was always the young underage guy that had to leave after my set and didn’t get to hang around. Then I started playing interstate with DJing and then started doing this crazy visual show which I toured a lot more and went overseas with. It’s funny, I love travelling so much and miss it obviously so much at the moment, but I remember being at an airport in Canada maybe five or six years ago now. All of a sudden, I went from being totally okay with travelling by myself to just being kind of lonely on the road. I had this weird feeling, like you’re around so many people, like physically there’s thousands of people in the airport but then you feel like you’re by yourself at the same time. So that was just like one little thing that just popped into my head. 

But yeah, I was doing this visual show and I kind of reached a point just before 2016 where I went from feeling really creatively fulfilled to being like, ‘ah, I know that I need to change and do something different now.I don’t know where this passage is from, but sometimes for something new to grow, you’ve got to let something die. The visual side of things that I learnt at that time had definitely come back around and I’ve used those skills to marry up with the audio productions. I guess from 2016 onwards I got a lot more interested in community as well. Hanging out with musicians in my home town and going out to a lot more midweek local gigs, and just kind of just looking around on the dance floor and saying, ‘Who else is here?’.
With the Jordan Rakei connection our families knew each other coming up, we both had siblings who went to the same kindergarten and high school together. 

Allysha
I love what you’ve written in your write up about the record; ‘I hope this album gives something very pleasurable for people to immerse themselves in for 40 minutes and take in the regrowth spirit on whatever personal level resonates with them.’ I just love that idea and wanted to ask how you intentionally create this music and try to encapsulate some sense of spirit?

Sampology
I thought a lot about mood and environment. I imagined a lot of it as someone listening on headphones, even though there’s grooves to dance to, and I definitely mix the tracks to sound great over sound systems as well. I personally really love that meditative feeling of being alone with music on headphones. Or even if you’re out and about with other people, in crowded spaces, if you’ve got headphones on it kind of gives you a bit of an insular feeling. I just enjoy memories of being young, and like listening to albums by myself in my room and like, I don’t know, I feel like the Beach Boys song ‘In My Room’, this really melancholy song, really sums up my feelings on that. Yeah, it heals you a bit. I really liked that challenge of having an album that gives that feeling but knowing that my influence is very electronic and dance. I feel like I fit in that electronic space, but I love using organic sounds and shapes. I both didn’t think about it, but I also did think about it alot at certain points. When I zoomed out I thought about the project and knew that I wanted to herd the songs in that direction. 

Allysha
That’s a beautiful answer. That feeling of being in your bedroom as a kid and how you listen to music at that age, just in headphones. What was it like for you growing up with such creative and artistic parents? Both musically and visually?

Sampology
I totally took it for granted. It’s like, just Mum and Dad, you know? My auntie was a viola player in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and my dad is a double bass player in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. And my mom’s a visual artist mostly working in prints with lino and teaches art as well. I just remember riding around in the car and like classic FM was on, and just being like, ‘where’s the beats bro?’

Allysha
Dad I wanna listen to the Black Eyed Peas, come on!

Sampology
It’s funny, I initially never really enjoyed listening to classical music in the car. I did really love orchestral music in those beautiful halls that are designed specifically to acoustically push out the sound and hit you right in the feels, you know? I love that feeling. I remember that feeling of just being like, whoa, you know? It’s the same physical feeling of being in a club and the music hitting you in the chest if the soundsystem’s really good, and just being like, wow, this week was stressful but now I’m physically getting it out on the dance floor. 

I always like to bring that point up with dance music culture that dancing on the weekend in welcoming spaces is such a healing activity to life’s stresses.

But yeah, it was great positive having musicians and artists around me. I’ve definitely appreciated it and I feel like it’s really important to use what’s around you. Because obviously, what’s around you influences you. And collaborating with my mom on certain visual things has been really great because there’s a shorthand there. 

Allysha
It’s really cool how you’ve integrated so much of your family’s work in this album, but also in lots of your work.

Sampology
Yeah, I think sometimes you gotta beg and borrow and not steal, but just putting together a string quartet for example, like getting my auntie and her friends in to help with that kind of stuff. Because as an independent artist you have to kind of just make it happen the best you can. Yeah.

Allysha
But I also think it creates this completely individual palette of art that nobody else could collate but you. Whereas, you know, there’s lots of really famous visual designers or people that create artwork that lots of artists would use, but you’re the only person that would collate your family in that way. And that kind of makes it this really beautifully personal and unique thing.

Sampology
I’m really conscious that it’s a wise decision to make, to use people that are around me and that I’m connected to. But I’m also 100% conscious of the privilege of being able to do that, like pointing a microphone at my dad or my auntie or working with my mom. I’m hugely privileged to have those connections and lucky to be able to have those opportunities. 

Allysha
You kind of talked about writing songs in 2016 that you’re putting out now, so what is something that you’re really excited about right now, and maybe like looking into the future? What are you cooking up right now? What are you excited about?

Sam
Of my stuff?

Allysha
Yeah. 

Sampology
Um, well, not my stuff. But I’m just excited about the soulful, Australian wave of broken beat that’s about to be unleashed in the next two years. Real talk. There’s lots of collaborations for next year, and there’s a remix I did for Gordon Koang that is coming out around the time of the album as well. And I really want to tell you about the film clip thing I’m working on at the moment that involves an old lady sewing group making props for me. One of the tracks on the album…

Allysha
An old lady sewing group?

Sampology
Yeah, involving felt sewing for a bespoke prop for a film clip. I don’t know if you have this feeling sometimes where you’ll be working on a creative project and you’ll find yourself getting stuff done for it and it’ll be the most random weird thing. Like today I have to do this task and it’s just the most bizarre thing because you have to get it done for the project and it’s kind of on you to do it. There’s not a specific old lady sewing group liaison officer as part of my team. I call up myself, and I’m like, oh, this is funny, this is a funny moment to remember. Working on creative projects is fun. Who knew that we were going to be doing this stuff? 

Words by PARRY TRITSINIOTIS

LISTEN TO NEW MUSIC HERE

SEE ALSO
SAMPOLOGY’S TOP FIVE DREAM COLLABORATORS

About:

Parry Talks, and also writes.