Lucy Cliché Is Saying Something New In Techno

Following this Sydney producer deep into the depths of dance music.

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26 February 2015, 12:45am

Lucy Cliché is an asset to the Sydney music scene. If you've been paying attention you'll know that Lucy, operating under various other names, has been spreading new ideas in music for a while now. Whether it be with her shoegaze-veiled project Naked On The Vague, her beyond lo-fi group Knitted Abyss, or with Matthew Hopkins in Half High, Lucy has made a signatory mark on a wild range of styles and genres. Now, stepping out on her own, Lucy Cliché has already released her first EP Drain Down - a four-track 12" - on the freshly minted Noise In My Head label. It's the perfect time to get better aquainted. Lucy joined me for a conversation, discussed independence, her exploring of unheard sounds, and shared thoughts on the continuing story of gender in dance music. We're also pleased to have first listen of this new song Smash:

THUMP: You've been making music under various names for a while, but this new project feels like a chance to get to know you in a very different way. Who exactly is Lucy Cliché?
Lucy Cliche: Years ago I did a poetry zine called I Love You Dear Cliché, all of which were relatively absurdist in nature. Some of these poems became the inspiration for lyrics for my band Naked On The Vague, and then I just adopted the name Lucy Cliché while playing and recording. So, when I started dabbling with doing solo stuff, it just made sense to keep the name Lucy Cliché. There's no strict concept behind Lucy Cliché or what I do under that name, I am Lucy Cliché.

On the subject of identity, there's no getting around the fact that electronic music has been a male-dominated scene for a long time. It's definitely something I think about, and it's encouraging and inspiring that recently there seems to be greater visibility and opportunities for female producers. Is this something you think about in reference to your career in music?
Ha, this is a big question and something I consider all the time. Yes it definitely does seem like more and more women are making electronic music, or at least more women are being acknowledged, putting out records, and getting media attention. It's hard to say how much has changed though. I think there is an obvious gender imbalance in all sorts of music genres. There are a lot of challenges, such as the lack of opportunities presented to women being overlooked by promoters, labels, and radio programmers. All of this isn't exactly an encouraging environment for women to put themselves out there. It's perhaps a compounding effect and speaking from my own personal experience, for sure I've found it hard to garner the confidence to play music, especially solo stuff. That said I really think these institutions, like radio stations, festivals, or even just show promoters need to be really proactive about including women in their programming. It's not hard to do, and it's not a compromise either.

You've been around the traps for a while now, playing with Naked On The Vague, Knitted Abyss and Half High. Are there any general lessons you've learnt from these projects?
Well yeah, as I was just saying, I've definitely learnt to be more confident about making music, to keep learning new things and also just working hard on stuff and not giving up if something is challenging for whatever reason. Also I've learned it's OK to be critical of yourself and to put things aside if you're not happy with them, despite how much work you might have put into it! Another thing, coming from a self-taught background, is that there isn't a right way to approach putting sounds together. People will try and tell you there is, but I think it's OK to just bang stuff together, and sometimes that's where the interesting stuff happens.

Knowing both sides of the story, can you tell us about the pros and cons of working solo?
The solo thing just came about kind of naturally after Naked On The Vague dissipated. At that time I wasn't really doing much with my other long term project Knitted Abyss either. I just wanted something to work on, another creative project, so I decided to work solo. Working this way allowed me to be very independent and self-directed with what I do, and it's been nice to just retreat into myself and indulge in whatever I feel like doing, not having to communicate with anyone about it. But yeah, the flip-side is you can work in a bit of a vacuum too. It can be hard to get perspective sometimes.

Correct me if I'm wrong but your music seems to explore the borders of techno among a bunch of other interesting sounds you can't really put a label on. How did you land making music like this?
I think your description is spot on, my music and approach is probably a techno purist's nightmare. I borrow from a lot of different genres and I work pretty intuitively. Sometimes I just jam around until I find something that I like and works, and then I develop it more from there, processing sounds, making samples, adding extra effects, until I think it's more or less finished.

There are a few videos around of you performing, mainly at 107 Projects in Redfern, and you can see there's a strong visual element backing you in some of these performances. Are you responsible for these visuals, and what is their relationship with your music?
Oh yeah the visuals are great, they really add an extra element to the performance. But I'm not responsible for them, mostly my friend Tim Dwyer (Timothy DDT/ Horse Macgyver) has done visuals for me. He does them live in terms of using live video footage and then processing with a video mixer and other programs. He actually just did an incredible film clip for one of the songs on my video "Passing Time", using more or less the same approach I think. And another time Stephanie Overs did really fantastic visuals at 107 Projects for an event I organised for the Sound Summit Festival in 2013.

Speaking of collaborations you've previously written, "In Australia I feel there is a very supportive and vibrant local music scene/community, which personally...has been extremely important to my development as a musician." In what ways have you experienced this support?
In the mid 2000s I stumbled across a bunch of liked minded people all loosely involved in the experimental and punk scenes centred around Sydney's warehouse spaces like Hibernian House and Lan Franchis amongst others. This "scene" was incredible in terms of really fostering a more DIY approach to playing music, forming bands, performance. There wasn't really any expectation of musical proficiency, it was more centred around an attitude towards putting sounds together. You just didn't have to know how to shred on the guitar, it was better if it was shambolic. Pair that up with a mouth organ and a tambourine, and you've got a band, ha! To put this in context, before the time when I met all these people, I'd really wanted to make music, but didn't know how to approach it, so this really opened things up for me

And now we're here, your Drain Down EP is finally out there in the world. How do you feel about this?
It's always an exciting feeling having a record come out, I was really stoked when Michael Kucyk from Noise In My Head asked me to work on a record. I really respect him; he works hard and is genuinely interested and passionate about what he does, so I owe a lot to him for giving this release its legs.

Is there a special significance to the name Drain Down?
Well I used to do a radio show called Down the Drain, which was dedicated to underground, experimental, and freeform music. It was based on the idea that a drain is this unknown: you go down the drain, and who knows what you'll find. It's a gurgling pit, probably a bit dirty and mysterious too, so this release Drain Down is an extension of the idea of going down the drain. It's another exploration of ideas, sounds and experiments.

We know you don't like to repeat yourself, so what's next for Lucy Cliché?
Working a bunch on my live set ahead my launch shows for the EP which will be throughout late March, April and May. Keep a look out! Also, at this very moment, I'm working on a soundtrack commission for a contemporary dance video with the talented dancer, choreographer and director, Deb Brown. After that's complete I'll probably get back in the studio to work on some new tracks.

Follow Lucy Cliché into the unknown here.
Drain Down EP is out now via Noise In My Head