Kim Gordon’s Body/Head, brooding noise merchants Swans, party machine Dan Deacon, Japanese acid-punkers Bo Ningen, prodigal son Kirin J Callinan and headliner Nas performing his classic 1994 debut Illmatic join LA pop maestro Ariel Pink as part of the Sugar Mountain lineup for 2015.
Taking place at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) Southbank campus on Saturday January 24, the progressive arts and music festival will also include UK dance fantasists the 2 Bears, the lush beats of Odeza and How to Dress Well and New York producer Anthony Naples. Australian music festival stalwarts Midnight Juggernauts will head a local contingent that includes Chela, Twerps, Banoffee, No Zu, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Rat and Co.
After a year off, the 2015 Sugar Mountain crew of Tig Huggins, Pete Keen and Brett Louis have teamed up with the Mushroom Group and moved out of Melbourne’s Forum Theatre, where the festival has taken place since 2011. The new 5500 person capacity site at VCA will be primarily outdoors and sprawl over streets, gallery spaces, theatres, carparks and lawns. The college is a fitting space for a festival with such a strong visual art component that continues this year with artists including Leif Podhajsky, Hisham Bharoocha, Abby Portner, Robin Fox, Johaan Rashid, Cara Stricker and John Kirby, and VCA alumnus Ash Keating who will take over the car park stage that runs alongside Sturt Street.
Though Nas may not listen to it anymore, Illmatic is considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time and it’s impact helped the New York MC become a hip hop legend.
Body/Head are a noise guitar duo of Kim Gordon and Bill Nace who released their debut album Coming Apart last year. After a confrontational and controversial performance at the 2013 festival Kirin J Callinan has been invited back for a special one off show titled Terrible Love that features Brooklyn label Terrible Records.
We caught up with two of the Sugar Mountain curators Pete Keen and Tig Huggins.
Noisey: The thought of Ariel Pink and Michael Gira walking around the site eating pork rolls and discussing art and music is pretty cool. The lineup seems ‘arty’ but accessible.
Pete: The lineup is a healthy extension from what we’ve done in the previous three years. With an even healthier dose of pork rolls;)
Things might get much ‘artier’ with the years but we’ll be aiming to make things as accessible as possible. We can’t have everyone sittin’ back stroking their chins. There’s a greater deal of focus on a fully immersive experience. Think block party meets carnival meets arts gala thingy (ha I can’t believe that’s how I’ve just described our festival).
Tig: As Pete said, we’re curating a musical and visual arts lineup based around providing a really fun, thought provoking and interactive experience for festival goers. You may not know all the acts, but you know you’re going to have a good time.
Did the year off help in putting everything together for 2015?
Tig: Taking a year off to get our joint venture with Mushroom and new site together was really important. These things are complex and take time. We never wanted to make hasty decisions and we were focused on making sure the decisions were in the long-term interest of the festival and our strategy was consistent.
Pete: Everything has that new, young, bounce of energy within it again! I’m really excited to be working with these idiots again (haha) It’s a great feeling.
VCA seems appropriate as a new site considering the artistic element of Sugar Mountain. What can we expect with the new site?
Tig: We are stoked to be at this site and thankful to be working with a great organization like the VCA who’ve been so supportive of the festival. We’re excited to be able to contribute in a small way to the establishment of Melbourne’s new arts precinct.
Pete: Home court. It feels great to be in the arts precinct and to have the festival housed in the breeding ground of up and coming talent. The Forum saw the possibility of numerous rooms big and small being activated for one off performances, installations, etc. The VCA grounds offer an extensive amount of options for spaces to play with. There are more than enough ways we can expand, and explore the site year to year.
Pete I know that the Sugar Mountain team work on curating the festival but your special interest in the art side. This year features Hisham Baroocha, Leif Podhajsky, Joey Rashid and Cara Stricker and John Kirby among others. Has the reputation of the festivals art side grown over the years?
Pete: We aim to develop a festival that will be seen as a balanced offering of music and art. Unlike the regular Australian festival experience, of seeing a band on stage, then walking 100 metres to see another band on stage, we hope that the growth of the festival will see an increased interest in the arts side of things, along with the collaborations, and one-off performances. These characteristics will definitely increase year to year, with hopes that in one, two or three years from now we will have a large amount of people attending with just as much, if not more, interest in the arts lineup.
What’s it been like teaming up with Mushroom? I notice you left Barnesy off the bill (ha!) What have they brought to the festival besides coin?
Pete: I can honestly say working with Mushroom has been the most positive working experience I’ve encountered. They have helped us to grow, as individual contributors, and as a team. They’ve brought with them a gazillion years of music industry experience. Everyone internally has had an input into the shaping of this year’s Sugar Mountain at some point. It feels great to have so many people care for this project. Flipping back to your earlier question, I would actually love to see Barnesy, Ariel Pink & Michael Gira (of Swans) hit it off over a pork roll at Sugar Mountain!
Tig: As Pete said, it’s been amazing to work with such a great group of people, we couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. From the first discussion about our partnership we knew that Matt, Gerard and their teams really understood our vision for SMF and were as passionate as we are about seeing festival grow and flourish.
Can you see the festival going national?
Tig: At this stage we’re focusing on Melbourne but we’re always open to the idea of putting on Sugar Mountain in other places. As we’ve mentioned before, we’re very keen to look at building relationships with creative people in different locations both local and overseas, so that it make sense for us to go to those places.
What are you excited most about the festival this year?
Pete: Bo Ningen. They were, hands-down by far my favourite act of SXSW this year. After their first mind-destroying performance, I stumbled along transfixed, mesmerized and hypnotized to three or four further performances in the same day. They are ridiculously good! Also a very special one-off performance by No Zu and Sal P of 1980s NYC post-punk, post-disco band Liquid Liquid. And Kirin’s return.
Tig: Nas performing Illmatic. To have one of the greatest rappers perform one the most iconic hip hop records is very special.
Sugar Mountain 2015
Nas performs Illmatic
Body/Head (Kim Gordon + Bill Nace)
Horse Meat Disco
The 2 Bears
Terrible Love featuring Kirin J Callinan
How to Dress Well
Midnight Juggernauts MJX Pty Ltd
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
No Zu + Sal P (Liquid Liquid)
Oscar Key Sung x Cassius Select
Rat & Co
Noise In My Head
Cara Stricker x John Kirby
Saturday January 24 Melbourne VCA (Victorian College of the Arts)
On sale Monday October 20 through Moshtix
More info at Sugar Mountain