Brisbane artist Carly Dickenson started her music career as a vocalist back in 2002, but over time became increasingly interested in the production side of things.
This month, she launches her debut solo EP ‘Still Life’. Dickenson says it’s only recently that she’s developed the urge to share her music with other people. “Music for me has always been about friendship, and understanding myself and my own emotions. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve been interested in performing … before that it was just me on a Saturday night with a glass of red wine doing my stuff, writing ambient soundscapes, and stuff that I’d keep to myself.”
She says at times she’s tried to fight her dreamy, trip hop style and make it more pop. But now she’s reached a point where she’s happy to let it be what it is. “I’ve always been really interested in textures. I started from an ambient music type background, very influenced by Brian Eno … eventually I got very interested in trip hop, people like Portishead and Massive Attack, who use those soundscape-y, noise elements in a very contemporary song framework.”
While Dickenson wrote 90 percent of the music on the EP herself, she brought in fellow Brisbane producers Rafe Sholer and John Teh to help her ‘polish’ a few of the tracks. “I worked with Rafe on ‘Lark’ and ‘Millions’. I wrote all the music, did all the recording and then he came in and did a little bit of electronic arrangement and mixing, so it was really a co-production type thing. John Teh co-produced ‘Underwater’, and he very much worked on the beats and bass elements of that. But yeah, I did all the recording and what not myself. I got ‘Relapse’ mixed by Yanto Browning; he’s a producer but he just did mixing for me. The other two tracks I did all the mixing and everything myself.”
When it comes to performing her music, Dickenson says she thinks of live electronic music in the same way she thinks about live instrumentation. “I’ve replaced some of the parts with a bass player and a string trio. I’ve got a viola player who has a five string modified viola that runs through a whole bunch of live electronic effects … but I feel that my live performance is really about my vocals, so I make sure that I keep that as the focus.”
Dickenson admits that working predominantly as a solo artist can be lonely at times, but being part of Brisbane creative collective Lady Electronica has been a great help. The collective started with a female electronic music showcase put on by Michelle Xen and Heidi Millington in 2010. Dickenson joined after that, along with Donna Hewitt and Kiley Gaffney.
“It’s really nice having that network of people to help. I do backing vocals for Michelle Xen. Heidi Millington and I collaborate. She’s written some lyrics for me and I’m helping her with some production on her new EP. We do collaborate in that sense but we also support each other through different things … it’s really about enabling each other to be the best we can be through whatever means that is, whether it’s going and having a drink and telling each other to keep going, or whether it’s listening and providing feedback on tracks.”
The collective has also benefitted from studio visits from Regurgitator’s Quan Yeomans and Wally de Backer aka Gotye. “Yeah, I’m very fortunate I was able to get Wally to come. I know him through a mutual friend and approached him to be part of Lady Electronica. He came during his tour and gave me a lot of insight into his process, it’s really interesting … the way that he writes music is very individual.”
The collective’s next visit will be from producer Scott Horscroft who’s worked with the likes of The Presets and The Sleepy Jackson, and Dickenson is looking forward to getting his input. Another Lady Electronica showcase is also planned for later in the year.
“What I’d really like to do is make Lady Electronica an annual showcase where we bring in emerging electronic artists and showcase them … Brisbane becoming known for Lady Electronica, or Australia generally known for Lady Electronica and female electronic artists would be an amazing outcome for the project so I hope that we can get close to achieving that.”
CARLY DICKENSON LAUNCHES ‘STILL LIFE’ AT BLACK BEAR LODGE WEDNESDAY MAY 16.