Photo: Dominik Schmarsel

20 Questions: Alice Ivy

Can't wait for the next Avalanches album? Melbourne's Alice Ivy cites them as an influence but carves out a sample-based beatscape all her own, making for a compelling listen from one of the year's breakout stars.

I'm Dreaming
Alive Ivy
Dew Process

Don’t be fooled.

Alice Ivy is only 24 years old, but this Melbourne beatmaker is doing something special. With a smashed-up and sample-driven style that recalls the likes of the Avalanches and Skylar Spence, Ivy — born Annika Schmarsel — started out as the guitarist in a soul band before discovering her love of all things electronic, but her love of soul music helps ground her songs and give them true emotion.

It was a 2016 one-off single called “Touch” with Georiga van Etten — with its looped bell sounds, spoken-word samples, and a heavy, bass-thumping beat — that brought Ivy into the spotlight, soon allowing her to play shows and tour under her stage moniker. However, 2018 was unique because Ivy has made one thing clear: she’s not one to put out EPs. They’re “not enough” in her estimation, meaning that she will focus entirely on full-length albums whenever possible. It’s a bold move, but as her debut set
I’m Dreaming shows, she is not messing around. Sprawling, playful, messy, and danceable, Ivy’s debut absolutely earns its Avalanches and Spence comparisons while still standing out as a voice all on its own. It may go down as the best debut album of the year. (No joke.)

To mark the release, Ivy tackles PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing her likeness to members of
The Simpsons clan, her great affinity for Marvin Gaye, and the perks of being a Virgin Airlines frequent flier.

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I have this really bad habit of always crying over movies on planes (usually into the window). The last time I cried was on a flight to LA last year when I watched Finding Dory. I didn’t have very high expectations but it’s such a good film!

2. The fictional character most like you ?

I’d say a cross between Bart and Lisa Simpson. I used to be a little bit of a pushover, but I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t care what people think of me as much. I’m a pretty outgoing, social person and I’m also super loyal. I’m also kind of like Lisa; I have my wits about me, I’m a perfectionist and have pretty high expectations of myself.

3. The greatest album ever?

The greatest album ever is
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. This album came out at an important time in history. To me, this is the greatest album ever because it introduced me to soul/Motown music, which has such a big influence on the music I make today. Marvin Gaye’s lyrics on songs such as “Inner City Blues” and “What’s Going On” have so much depth and meaning it’s hard not to get sucked in. The instrumentation itself is incredible. Soul music has given me a good understanding of how to approach instrumentation; every instrument is so clearly defined, even if it’s a small percussive instrument. A collage of sounds is what I like to call it, and I approach my songwriting the same way.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars; I’ve actually never seen Star Trek in my life.

5. Your ideal brain food?

I would say collaborating with other artists. There is nothing more stimulating then going into the studio with another creative. You both put your best skills on the table, which you can take away. Walking away with a new song after a day in the studio is the best feeling! I
love it!

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment? But why?

I’m so proud to be a Virgin Airlines gold frequent flyer finally. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be able to make toasted sandwiches in the lounge before I board a flight on tour. Why? It takes a lot of flying to get to this point, and I’m super stoked that I have a job that allows me to do it!

7. You want to be remembered for ?

I generally really do care about being as down to Earth as possible no matter what stage I’m at in my career. I want to be known as a badass producer, who is an amazing artist to see live and also someone you can just totally sink a beer with.

8. Of those who have come before, the most inspirational are?

Those artists who choose to take the hard road to express their own art and beliefs, despite society’s expectations. I’m talking artists like David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and more recently Australian artists such as Camp Cope, Cub Sport, and Miss Blanks.

9. The creative masterpiece that you wish bore your signature?

I’m gonna say something cliché, especially when talking about sample-based music. J Dilla’s
Donuts is genius and such a beautiful record. Every time I listen to it I think to myself man I wish I could make something this perfect one day.

10. Your hidden talents?

I’ll tell you two! I work as a barista a couple of days a week at a café in Fitzroy Melbourne, and I’ll be honest with you I can make a darn good coffee. I also speak fluent German.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

I’d say the best person for any kind of advice especially with working in music is my mate Sarah Thompson who plays in an Australian band called Camp Cope. She gave me this wonderful piece of advice that I pass on to others all the time: “Don’t ever rush art.” Don’t let people pressure you into releasing something that you don’t think is ready or do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Be yourself as an artist and allow your team to guide you through your journey.

12. The best thing you have ever bought / stolen or borrowed?

My guitarist and I played this massive gay party in Sydney. It was amazing and soooo much fun, we played a great show! Ended up partying very late into the night and we decided it was a really great idea to steal a 2.5M wide set of balloon wings. The aim was to keep them on for as long as possible, which resulted in loading out the gear with the wings on, getting into an Uber with the wings on, and getting tucked into bed and waking up the next morning not remembering where the wings came from.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis?

To be honest, the best jeans I get are from this place called Dejour in Brunswick Melbourne. It’s this tiny shop where they do so many different styles of jeans for only AUD $50.00 and they come tailored! The best.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Gwen Stefani. I wanna know what it would have been like playing in a punk band in the ’90s and then transform into one of the biggest pop stars in the mid 2000s. Plus she’s so badass I’d love to just talk day-to-day life with her.

15. Time travel: where when and why?

I would love to travel to pre-war Berlin. I love Berlin so much as it is, but in the early 1900s Berlin was a social capital of the world. It was such an exciting time for art and everyone was partying. It would have been such a different city before much of it was destroyed by war.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa weekend or Prozac?

Spa weekend for sure! Just swimming in general is the best. Whenever I get stuck on an idea or go through writer’s block I hit the pool at the end of my street and do a couple of laps. Something about just being fully submerged in water eliminates all my worries.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate or…. ?

My essentials to life are coffee and my dog Lexie.

18. Environ of choice: City or country, and where on the map?

I’m definitely more of a city person. I love spending time in the country but I love the freedom of living in a city particularly Melbourne where there is so much to do and see everyday. I would love to live in Tokyo for a little bit. I’ve spent a month in Japan a couple of years ago, and I feel like didn’t even get the tip of the iceberg, especially the different Japanese music scenes. It would be a very cool place to live for a bit.

19 . What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Peace out man. How about being a leader for a change?

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on right now?

I’m deep into a lot of remix work right now but also working on a couple of collabs in between tours!