Something In The Water: Exploring Melbourne's Coastal Culture
Located in the southernmost tip of Australia, nestled into an inland cove away from the swirling tidal currents of the Indian Ocean’s Bass Strait, is Melbourne.
Australia’s second largest city, with a population of almost five million people, the coastal city has birthed more than its fair share of notable musicians and artists (ranging from Nick Cave to Kylie Minogue to Hiatus Kaiyote and Francis Inferno Orchestra across the decades.
It is specifically over the last five years however, that the fertile grounds of Melbourne’s underground DIY scene have produced a new crop of artists, whose broad cosmic influences have slowly permeated the consciousness of the wider world.
With records such as Brownswood’s ‘Sunny Side Up’ compilation and London record labels such as Rhythm Section and Touching Bass forging deep connections with the local eclectic and exuberant jazz /soul scene, music fans across the globe have in turn begun casting their eyes to Australia’s cultural capital as a hub of some of the most executing emerging talent.
To get a feel for the city, we enlisted the help of globe trotting psychedelic soul savant Jitwam (who is himself a Melbourne native) to speak with a handful of the city's most exciting musical talents to find out just what’s in the water down there.
He sat down with Ziggy Zeitgeist (drummer of 30/70 and bandleader of Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange), 30/70 vocalist and solo artist Allysha Joy, rising house producer Teymori, cosmic soul producer musicians/producers Horatio Luna and Elle Shimada...
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What are the city’s best kept secrets / What should we know about the scene? Ziggy Zeitgeist (Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange)
“African Music was blessed in Melbourne to have a strong African community and a few platforms really promoting these artists. Buskers on Little Bourke St, This is the centre of Chinatown there’s a few really hot buskers that play traditional music here (one may have appeared on a 30/70 track). Lupine studios, Sydney Rd- this is the kind of place you will book a rehearsal in the shop front of this tiny town house, to realise there is a recording session taking place in the hallway and a video shoot in the backyard. Cafe Flo on high st - they play Edith Piaf and make good coffee. Enough said...”
Amin Payne / Teymori
“My best kept secret in Melbourne is still a secret to me as I’m still trying to figure what’s in the water that is responsible for so much fresh music coming out of this city. But we got more than good music here so if you stay long enough all the secrets slowly reveal themselves.”
“I can speak about the Melbourne scene only from my experience and involvement in the scene and from the beginning it’s felt like a family affair and a big community. All my favourite artists are my friends and it’s been beautiful to watch them evolve and receive the love they deserve for years of hard work and consistent input which seems to be the key to success and being relevant.”
“I feel like if you disappear for too long and not be involved in the scene then you are forgotten about purely because there are a lot of artists on the rise and most seem hungry enough to commit full time so you have to keep up with the pace. The support in the city is next to none for me that i haven't experienced elsewhere...yet.”
“My best kept secrets are best kept secrets haha! I would say check out DJ J’Nett’s night Wildlife in the CBD every Saturday, anywhere Mike Gurrieri is playing and Uncomfortable Science.”
Allysha Joy (Singer of 30/70)
“Well I don't think its a secret anymore, but in case you didn’t know women run the scene in Melbourne, especially the DJ scene. DJ Jnett, Lori, CC Disco, Mamacita Bonita, Emelyne, Soju Gang, Sophie McAlister, Lady Erica, Shio, the list goes on.”
“One of my favourite spots in Melbourne is ‘The Toff’ on a Saturday night with DJ Jnett, it’s no bullshit just serious dancing and good tunes. Also people don't know but the best dancers are really in Sydney, that’s where the freaks are really at Melbourne is where the studio rats are, but Sydney knows how to dance.”
“The vibe is high in the underground music/art scene. There are at least five gigs going on every night of the week here... Get here and get lost in endless nights of ecstasy.”
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What are your go to spots for inspiration in Melbourne?
Ziggy Zeitgeist (Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange)
“Northside Records: Shouts to Chris Gil - a local legend who endlessly supports new music in the city. He runs as a Record Shop/label, gig-space, Radio show, Home of Funk, Soul, Jazz, Hip-Hop. Natural Selection - the new spot on the block with a very promising team on hand. Serious dealers of Jazz, soulful to electronic. Plug 7- Again, a great team, strong radio presence also specialise in rare grooves and jazz. Wax Museum - Another key crew in establishing many up and coming artists, especially in the hip-hop to dance music circles.”
“Evelyn Hotel more or less has been the institution for upcoming original bands in Melbourne… with its openness to different genres and bands seven days a week policy including monthly residencies this is a real platform for bands to establish a sound and a following.”
“Night Cat- perhaps the first ‘in the round’ style-venue (now all the rage in the UK jazz scene). This is one of a kind music space with excellent sound and supportive/curated bookings. A real breeding ground for the Jazz-Doof sound, offering bands late slots between DJ’s and crossing a lot of club/live music culture. Also the Home of Latin music community. Legendary Sunday Salsa sessions.”
Amin Payne / Teymori
“Night Cat, Toff In Town & The Evelyn Hotel are my regular spots for checking out bands. Section8 for msome of the best Dj sets which also inspire me to compose and to be a better DJ. Honorable mention to Northside records, Wax Museum & Plug 7 for being my local diggin spot and great stores which support local music.”
“I love the nature spots for inspiration, Merri Creek or out in Warrandyte/Eltham way to the river. In the city make sure you check out Northside records, Angel Bar, Plug 7 or hang out with the Crown Ruler crew to get the local knowledge. There’s a new spot on high street too called Capers just opened up and its going to be a vibe for sure. also Kau and co. for the coffee”.
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“Northside Records is like a church for musicians. You’ll be greeted with positive energy and then you’ll be coming home with a few local or jazz/afrobeats/world/house records but while you’re digging they’ll take you on a deep journey in jazz history and local gig recommendations. Many cute venues around the city for sure, but for me, house parties and jam sessions are my main source of inspiration - Melbourne is blessed with shared houses with cozy and dope DIY recording studios.”
“Last weekend a UK label Touching Bass crew put together an intimate recorded jam session at Clever Austin’s new crib featuring some of the freshest musicians in town (Silent Jay, Remi, Baro, Hiatus Kaiyote/Mandarin Dreams crew, Quartz Pistol, Lori etc...)”
“We transcended till hours after the sun came up and I’m still buzzing with ideas for new songs. That’s the shit that keeps me thriving and dreaming and we owe it to how much space we have here in Melbourne unlike other culturally dense cities around the world.”
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How do you feel that your music fits into the the Melbourne Music Continuum?
“Well, I moved to Melbourne when I first heard Hiatus Kaiyote, and I couldn’t believe this stuff was coming out of Australia. So, I moved the next month from Sydney and at that stage they were still playing Tuesday Night Residencies at the Evelyn Hotel for $3 on the door. This was the beginning of a new movement of music from Australia (not rock or bogan rap).”
Soon after we started the 30/70 collective and it had similar roots (especially in 90’s hip-hop and soul music). bridging to the more modern electronic styles like the Brainfeeder / Flying Lotus kind of stuff that everyone was going crazy for back then. In the last two or three years we’ve really found our way more into House, Broken Beat, Techno, - which is the stuff like you hear now coming from Z.F.E.X, Horatio Luna, Elle Shimada (too many to name) etc.”
It’s bridging the gap once again by mixing up in a lot more club nights, and playing amongst DJs etc. This was a large part inspired by the UK new jazz meets club sounds, but of course we got our own thing out here...but ya’ll already know that.”
“I don’t like to fit in. So I try my best doing something unique to my own device. Although I’m grateful for the Melbourne fam and who came before for the inspirations and collaborations.”
“I’ve got no clue what Melbourne sounds are perceived from the rest of the world but for me, it’s sounds like a ‘jazz-ish’ joints made in car garages, using milk crate as a mic stand w a real nice vintage mics and semi broken instruments (we call that luxury budget) - healthy dose of hiss and buzz mixed with world class musicians jamming all night till it sounds right.”
“We create lots together so we are all riding the same big wave in our own little universe.”
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While the current Covid-19 lockdown may have us all dreaming of days spent anywhere else than in our living rooms, the musical output of Melbourne’s vibrant ecosystem will no doubt provide a perfect soundtrack to our daydreaming (until the time comes we’re able to visit and experience it for ourselves).
To aid this astral travelling, Jitwam has kindly put together a playlist of some must-hear Melbourne jams to keep you dreaming in the meantime.
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Words: Joshua Byrne
The new Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange release 'Freedom Energy Exchange Vol II' is out now via The Jazz Diaries. Teymori + Jace XL’s 'Running For You' will be released on Darker Than Wax’s brand new ‘BODYCLOCK Vol 1’ on May 1st.
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