I recently had the chance to interview local musician Indi about her solo project, collaborations and upcoming album release/tour prior to her departure to Europe next year. Thank you to Indi for these fascinating and thoughtful answers to my questions!
AQ: You have released a collection of solo instrumental recordings, an album with Motte as New Dawn and most recently a soundtrack to a dance work. Your debut solo album is due out soon as well. You can tell a lot of detail goes into every track. Can you talk a bit about your process with all the different solo works and collaborations?
Indi: i learned how to use DAW back in school by messing around on logic. i wrote and recorded soundscapes constantly, as they seemed to me the most natural form of music through which to learn about recording techniques and FX. i was irreverent about the pieces and my online content, so i chucked them up on soundcloud as soon as i wrote them and the response to those informed me that it was something i was actually okay at. doprah was my first collaborative project (aside from a couple producers here and there that sony had put me with after rockquest) and i hadn’t really grown into myself musically when that started, so i wrote only the vocals the first couple of times. once we started working on a body of work, however, i was starting to understand that my strength wasn’t actually in the vocals, but in the arrangement side of things – so the writing process developed into more of a 50/50 situation.
my collaboration with anita came about from my fandom of her solo project ‘motte’, which was stunning – all looped violin. anita was the catalyst for my love affair with strings. for new dawn, i wanted her strings to still be in the spotlight, so i saw my role as simply filling in the frequencies around what she played. collaborations are sometimes painful and a struggle, and other times they are so magical, like you and this other person have suddenly become telepathic. you learn a lot either way so it’s worth it. my solo stuff makes me the happiest though. i can dedicate all my energy and time to it and the ideas flow much more easily and instinctively when you don’t have to discuss it with another person or justify why you think that sounds good. i think the detailed stuff comes from my very low attention threshold; the music has to be evolving and surprising me continuously, otherwise it’s boring. i’m trying to create more space and less details these days though. i’m sure i’ll look back on this album and think, ‘that was so busy and messy…’ i am already starting to think that. but that quality in my music is so reflective of the inside of my head, so maybe it will always sound like that and that’s okay.
AQ: Your music has a strong emotional quality whether it’s expressed vocally or instrumentally. Is there a difference between creating in each of those ways?
Indi: emotion is the only reason i would write a song. if there is no emotion, there is no point. to me the voice is an instrument in its own right, although is different in that it can have words tied to it, which to some people can have more meaning (though i was never inclined to place all the weight on lyrical content). to me, it isn’t about expressing it either way, it is more about the piece. if the piece needs vocals to articulate the emotional message, then i use vocals. if it wants a certain instrument or several, then i use those. if it needs both then it needs both. i’m essentially a slave to the song.
AQ: A lot of artistic and natural inspirations come through in your music as well. Do you have any you’d like to share with readers?
Indi: i grew up in a beautiful place; titirangi is a rainforest and i think that natural surroundings will remain my biggest influence.
AQ: I know you have worked with orchestral settings for your album. How was that process? Is there a tension between the more classical and the more experimental? What artists inspire you?
Indi: classical/orchestral music has produced some of the best experimental/avant-garde pieces in history, so to me the tension doesn’t exist there. it lives more between the classical instruments and electronic sounds: one pre-dates another by hundreds of years ( i think). however, i think there is strength in that juxtaposition, and the amalgam of the two is like time travel.
in terms of process, i orchestrate and record everything in midi, usually with basic kontakt sample library. for the album i had a friend in auckland, alex eichelbaum who i knew was a conductor, so he kindly notated all of the pieces by ear for me ( i’m not great at the classical theory aspect of the work, so this was extremely helpful). then those strings, woodwind and brass were recorded in different studios in both auckland and christchurch, and even my bedroom studio, with a combination of both professional and non-professional players.
I was watching a lot of studio ghibli films when i wrote this, as well as listening to the bollywood film devdas’ score and howard shore’s score for lord of the rings a lot. composers of these magical film scores are those who most resonate with me at the moment, because i am very attracted to that fantasy/ancient otherworldly style of writing and it is the most obvious influence in this particular album. of course artists like suzanne ciani and bjork inspire me a lot too, because i see them and think, “yes, there are women in that place and they have created a space for others like me”.
AQ: In other interviews you have alluded to how now seems to be quite an exciting time for women artists in New Zealand and also about wanting to connect with an overseas audience more. How do you think the local and New Zealand scene compares to overseas?
Indi: this question is sort of two questions. it is a really good time for women artists in NZ (aldous, lorde, fazerdaze, chelsea jade, tiny ruins, soccer practice, etc) but i also think we have a lot of work to do before it becomes an exciting and intersectional scene. i applaud APRA for changing their policy and encouraging more women to join as writers, and i hope that this is a step in the direction of other actions like ensuring there are safe spaces for us, putting an equal amount of women and men on festival line-ups and the language used about and directed to us in the media. i think this applies even more so for minorities such as LGBTQ, maori and other POCs, and we need to listen to what they are saying about their experience of the current music scene in NZ. we have a lot of years of white men being the only group legally allowed to be educated and allowed to compose/publish music to catch up on.
with regards to overseas, i haven’t been overseas enough to really speak for the music scenes there. i do think the quality of work in nz is very unique in comparison however, due to our geographical isolation from the rest of the world and our lush natural environment. (cue unashamed green party plugging)
AQ: I love the music video for Precipice. Are there more music videos and/or live shows planned? I was lucky enough to catch a New Dawn show earlier this year. It was magical and the audience is definitely taken to another place during your performances. Creating a full atmosphere and experience is obviously very important to you whether it’s in a video or a live show.
Indi: yes i think my musical priority is teleportation. if i can convince you and toto that you are not in kansas anymore then i have succeeded.
there will be a nz tour in oct-nov but i haven’t booked the dates yet, as well as a EU tour next year because i am moving there.
i have a couple really beautiful videos planned, one for ‘Woman’ and one for ‘Airportal’ but they won’t be released til the end of this year because i am a busy human and these things take love and time.