Luke Dearnley: The Conductor

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | In conversation with Sydney’s venerable electronic music maestro and underground intelligentsia, Luke ‘Snarl’ Dearnley

To those familiar with the electronic music scene in Sydney over the past 30 years, Luke Dearnley of sound system duo Sub Bass Snarl ( will need little introduction. His own twitter bio portrays him as a ‘programmer, webnerd, live sound engineer, deejay, cat fancier, hobby aquarist, science enthusiast, [and] lover of sub frequencies’. He is indeed, all those things. What this modest description may not convey is the fact that Luke has been something of a prime mover and pioneer in the realm of electronic music in Australia, having worked to bring emerging sonic arts to the notice of the Australian public since the early 1990s. He’s also a conduit for vast amounts of knowledge and information on the subject; assiduously and meticulously illuminating the often-mystifying intersection where electronics, infotech, music, and visual arts meet. For those that would like more of an introduction, a brief biography follows the short interview, below.

Meanwhile, I spoke with Luke recently to find out how he spent the last few years, and to find out what shows he has coming up in the not-too-distant future. There’s one on September 29th, for those in Sydney town…

What have you been working on lately?

‘Well, I’ve been putting together a solo live set for a gig. Phil Smart ( is running a weekly night called Tempo Comodo ( and the idea is that all the music should be under 120bpm, which I found an intriguing concept. I boldly suggested I could do a live set down there, and he has me down for late September – it’s good to have a deadline to work to, or I’d never get anything done. I’m going to try and use a modular synth setup and do it all out of that. Playing solo live is quite new thing for me, so we’ll see how it goes. Lots of work to do yet.

I’ve also been slowly working on a few of my own Eurorack modular synth module designs, and plan to launch them, hopefully later this year.

Last year I did a brief run of eight Thursday nights of live electronic performance called Vitalise, in the Rocks, at a 2-month pop-up venue called Good Space ( For those who remember the old days, I suppose it was a bit like Frigid [which Luke ran with Seb Chan, Shane ‘Sir Robbo’ Roberts, and Dale Harrison]. This time, it was quite tricky to do by myself. I roped in a bunch of awesome helpers, but it was still a big workload. So, I have expanded the team somewhat and there have been a couple of spot gigs here and there. Good Space will be returning with an even bigger complex of pop-up venue spaces in Summer, and Vitalise may well appear there again in a weekly capacity.’

‘Of course, with gigs returning, my work with bands such as Hermitude has started up again, with a short album tour under our belts, and some festival shows on the horizon.’

The last couple of years (pandemic lockdowns, etc) have impacted music and the arts heavily. What changes did you observe within the arts, and electronic music scene?

‘Things lurched to a sudden halt almost overnight. People I knew with 6 or 9 months of [gig] bookings suddenly had everything cancelled, and zero chance of earning any income; not just the performers, but the sound engineers, tour managers, lighting operators, roadies, veejays, hire companies, venues, merch sellers, and so on. The impact was huge. Way bigger than many people realise.

So, people started coming up with ways of ‘carrying on’ such as streamed live gigs…
Please no, I just spent all day on Zoom at work…

And then when things (repeatedly) opened up a bit? Sit down gigs. Umm… No.
Really, no. These things were all terrible, and hopefully go away, and don’t come back.’

Now that restrictions have eased and all bets are off, what have you seen emerging in music and the arts?

‘Now gigs are back it is really, REALLY hard to get crew, presumably because many such people shifted into other lines of work when COVID killed their existing income streams. I’ve [recently] been to some gigs where the crowds were oddly small. I’m not sure if it’s because there are way more gigs on all of a sudden, or that people are still nervous about going out, but it’s pretty crazy. More uncertain than usual when putting on a gig. Also, I’ve found going back to the juggle between a day job and gig work a lot more challenging than usual, both time management wise, and stress level wise.’

How did you weather the ‘pandemic years’ yourself?

‘I’ve always had a blend of ‘normal job’ and music related stuff – be it deejaying, putting on gigs, touring with bands doing sound, or whatever. So, I simply retreated into the former, since there was for the most part, no option for the latter.

There was an odd 2 months [during 2021] where I put on [the aforementioned] Vitalise, with weekly electronic music performances, which seems surreal now. But yeah, generally no music stuff apart from occasionally noodling round at home with my modular synths and other gear. ‘

Tell us about the music you’re making at the moment.

‘So, I mentioned before the upcoming live set at Tempo Comodo. A few weeks back Seb and I did a ‘ye olde’ Sub Bass Snarl set at a ‘ye olde’ Swarm party. Sub Bass Snarl gigs are pretty rare these days, as Seb lives in Melbourne [Seb Chan is currently the director and CEO of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image] so it was great to get an opportunity to do a set again.
This is the recording: 

I’ve also participated in quite an unusual ‘shared’ process of making tracks using modular synth, called Modular Theme Time Sessions. The original idea started in Melbourne where a bunch of modular synth artists would get together, jam and end up recording an EP. But when COVID hit, the idea went online. The participants are put into groups of three to four people and given a theme. The first member of the group records a sound and uploads it, the next person in the group downloads that and adds a sound, and uploads the result. This goes on until you loop back ‘round to the first person again, and keeps going until as a group, you consider the track finished. Each group submits their track, and that becomes the release on Bandcamp. They are mixed and mastered by the organisers.’

What’s changed in your music practice over the last, oh, 30 years?

‘Ha, good question. Well, focus on or interest in particular sounds and genres has shifted over the decades, but always seeking out new and interesting sonic territories. I’ve certainly been able to afford equipment more readily as I’ve gotten older. And in the last (nearly) decade, I’ve been more and more interested in modular synths, and their uses and techniques. 

Within the confines of the Sub Bass Snarl duo Seb and I form, the techniques have been the same, but the hardware I use to realise them has changed. I’m always sampling Seb’s deejaying, looping bits, mangling, chopping, changing, and putting them back in the mix, adding effects, and adding layers of synth. Just focusing on the sampler part of it, I originally used a borrowed Mirage 8-bit sampler from my flatmate at the time, then an Akai S950, also borrowed. I then bought a second-hand Prophet 2002+ rack sampler, then got a Yamaha SU700 in the late 90s. I used that for ages, then tried out an Octatrak but it didn’t really work for me. Now I use various Eurorack modules. A lot has changed over the decades, and of course the gear you use influences how you do what you do, but it is all still improvised.’

What do you think has changed most in live electronic music audiences between the ‘90s and now?

‘Hmm. Well, the number of people over 30, 40, 50 (and even older) in attendance at any gig has certainly increased. And the rise in music festivals has meant local electronic acts can play to much, much larger audiences now than in the 90s.’

Venue lockouts preceded pandemic lockdowns in NSW. How much has government policy helped or hindered the emergence of new musical cultures here over the past couple of decades? 

‘In NSW in particular, we seem to have been on a largely downward trajectory over these decades. Licensing of venues has meant very few could trade through to dawn, which was the norm for many places in the 90s. 

The poorly aimed lock-out laws made things worse, and the pandemic worse still.

There seem to have been very few opportunities or spaces for people to experiment, try new works or forms, test ideas in front of a crowd, cross-pollinate, mingle, challenge each other, share ideas, and so on. I was trying to address this somewhat with Vitalise, as it had no proscribed limits around genre, or how long you performed, or what with.’

Fondest memories from the electronic music scene over the past 30 years or so?

‘Oof. There are many. Very many!

The Cryogenesis daytime chill-out picnics we (the Frigid crew) used to put on, on one of two islands in Sydney Harbour, were pretty lovely.

And the multi-room all-night dance parties, Freaky Loops ( we put on (with a HUGE team of helpers) as benefit gigs for 2SER were extremely memorable.

Can’t forget Frigid. From just the week-to-week, seeing a great crew of punters turn up to socialise and check out the acts, to the big parties like Squarepusher playing live for the 5th birthday, and the Dung NYE series.

Also seeing my talented Elefant Traks friends grow and thrive, and being able to do my small part to help out in the live aspects of some of that, has been really rewarding.’

Luke and Lyddy

Top three artists to listen to right now?

‘I enjoyed the first release from Sydney modular dub techno duo 80T:

After 20+ years of making tunes, Deep Child’s first outing on Mille Plateaux called Fathersong is a must listen:

And the raw energy of Haiku Hands:
I gotta admit – I’m a huge fan of Haiku Hands – absolute powerhouses of awesomeness.
They will go far.’

Catch Luke performing live at Tempo Comodo, Club 77, on Thursday the 29th of September:

Luke Dearnley: A Brief History of Bits (and Bleeps)

An early version of Luke (photo: FB)

Scratch the surface, and it’s clear that Luke’s industrious, even scientific approach to electronic and dance music, is no accident.

Growing up around Bondi and Coogee, Luke attended school in Sydney’s Surry Hills. His interest in electronics began at an early age. His dad worked both authoring and teaching the electrical engineering course at TAFE, so naturally, young Luke grew up helping him repair electrical things around the house, or for family friends. Luke recalls his dad, Dave, getting him to read out the colour bands on resistors so he could tell what value they were. Soon, as computers evolved from being cupboard-sized things used as business machines, to becoming the kind of device most homes would eventually possess, TAFE decided they’d best get their workforce familiar with the new-fangled devices, and Luke’s dad came home with an early ZX80 to brush up on.

Luke and Harry (photo: FB)

At some point Dave loaned Luke a book called ‘Teach Yourself BASIC Computer Programming in Eight Hours’. Luke read it, and at the ripe old age of ten started writing what he refers to a ‘probably very naïve’ computer programs in an exercise book. A few years later, Luke and his brother Ben would receive a Commodore 64 for Christmas, and Luke got stuck into that in a big way, not only coding in BASIC but also at a lower level in machine code, pulling apart games to see how they worked in calling up processor threads, memory, display adapters, and one other crucial piece of hardware attached to the computer’s system board…

Luke and Dave (photo: FB)

Luke remarks that amazing thing about the C-64 was that it had the SID (Sound Interface Device) chip built in, dedicated to doing audio, so all the games had amazing soundtracks. ‘The designers of that chip made it like a mini synth. [It had] 3 oscillators with selectable waveforms, 3 ADSR envelopes, an analogue filter, and so on. The designer went on to co-found Ensoniq.’
At this point, Luke discovered that there was a link between programming computers, and making music. ‘At the same time there were monthly electronic magazines that would come into the house – Electronics Today International I think was one. I remember reading a series of articles in it, that detailed the design of a mixing console.’

Luke’s C64 Mini

Luke did well enough in school to get into the Elec Eng/Comp Sci double degree program at UNSW, and it’s while studying here that Luke would go on to eventually meet Seb and also key founding members of Elefant Traks socially.

Luke recalls ‘I was at uni for a lot of the ‘90s. Seb and I met at uni, but only because we recognised one another from going to the same ‘alternative’ clubs and band gigs. He was in a completely different faculty and degree [and] started a few years later. Eventually we were like “Hey weren’t you at PWEI [Pop Will Eat Itself] last night…?” – I forget which [actual gig] it was.’

During this time, a lot of the crowd would hang out at the now defunct UNSW café know as Esme’s. I even recall a mutual friend remarking at the time, that Luke and co pretty much had the coffee shop annexed on any given day. Luke concurs that once the café made the move from indoor smoking to fresh air and outdoor tables, with a vantage of campus rolling down toward Anzac Parade, ‘sitting at Esme’s and drinking coffee with whichever mates were around between classes was very common.’

By the late stages of his double degree, Luke was working full time at the Uni in IT support and systems administration, and trying to finish uni part time. At the same time, Seb and Luke were DJing several nights per week, and were running the earliest iteration of Frigid, publishing Cyclic Defrost (, putting on the Cryogenesis outdoor island gigs, and running Freaky Loops benefits for 2SER, where they also ran a weekly radio show. In Luke’s words, ‘The uni was quite rightly hassling me for not getting through [the double degree program] fast enough and failing the odd thing here and there.’ It was eventually proposed by UNSW that ‘they would take me out of the double degree program with Elec Eng and Comp Sci, but I was closer to finishing Comp Sci and more interested in that than electronics at this point, so I asked to finish the Comp Sci component!’

Sometime during uni, Luke became involved with Clan Analogue, an ‘Australian record label which started in 1992 as a collective by a number of individuals interested and active in electronic music and with a shared passion for analogue synthesisers and digital culture.’ (

‘I think with Clan Analogue, I met one or both founders [Brendan Palmer and Toby Kazumichi Grime] at a gig, and was given a flyer to a ‘Clan meeting’ and went along. Since Sub Bass Snarl were/are a combination of deejaying and live hardware, I was interested in meeting others using electronic hardware and making music in their studios or live, so I could learn from them. It was also a way to access people making dance music, whether for deejaying on the radio, solo, or with Seb. Until then I was playing almost 100% overseas artists, and so wanted to find and play local stuff.’

Luke, circa early Frigid era (photo: FB)

By the mid 1990s, Frigid was well on its way to becoming an institution within the Australian electronic music scene. In a time prior to most forms of online social media, it not only gave a platform to emerging artists from Australia and overseas, but also served as a hub for the community. Prior to Frigid, however, there was Cryogenesis, existing in two forms. At first as ‘a fortnightly Sunday recovery, in the back room of now demolished pub in The Rocks [Sydney]. It overlooked this incredible rusting industrial crane yard, which went amazing colours at sun set. Probably all gone for apartments and casinos now.’ By 1994 Luke and Seb were playing a lot of “proper chillouts” at raves, rather than in the main room, and purveying ambient and downtempo electronic music.  ‘The idea [for Cyrogenesis] was spawned because people were putting on Sunday gigs and falsely calling them recoveries, when in fact it was up-tempo dance music being played. We were incensed, and decided to put on a PROPER [rave] recovery. We teamed up with specialist chill out crew Punos [designers of chillout spaces in the early Sydney rave scene] and each fortnight would have to drag all the furniture out of the back room of this pub, to be replaced with the famous Punos cushions! We’d set up some decks, a TINY sound system, and charge folks five bucks.’

We asked some people, who to us were really big names at the time, if they wanted to play. People like Phil Smart and Sugar Ray. I never thought they would say yes as we couldn’t offer much pay, but they actually jumped at the chance to play tunes [outside the dancefloor context] for a change.’

‘That was our first regular event. It was a lot of hassle and people were always confused about which Sunday of the fortnight it was on. But it did OK and went for a while.’

Cryogenesis then did several one-off events, renegade-style in parks, which would occasionally attract the attention of rangers, ‘but I don’t remember one actually being stopped. I mean it was a bunch of ppl picnicking in the park, where we played very quiet, very relaxed music, hardly a violation of the concept of ‘park’. ‘

Luke recalls that at one of these events, Dale [Harrison, bass player and later DJ, Elefant Traks co-founder, and member of the Frigid crew] ‘pointed at one of the islands in the harbour and said, ‘you should do one out there’, half as a joke I think. Seb, being the tenacious bugger that he is, contacted National Parks and Wildlife and found out you could rent the islands for functions, but you were not supposed to have amplified sound.’

So wisely or not, the group went on to do a Cryogenesis on the island, and moved on to doing roughly two such events per summer, either on Rodd Island or Shark Island. ‘They were daytime chill-out picnics, where you were trapped on the island all day, and had to bring supplies with you or barter with other attendees. Glorious times! Eventually we had international acts play, and everything.’

What happened next was pivotal in giving genesis to the ‘institution’ that was soon to follow.
Luke recalls that ‘in mid-96 we needed to raise some cash for a deposit on one of these islands and decided to run four weeks of Sunday fundraiser shows in the ground floor [Chapel] bar at Kinselas.’

‘Toward the end of the four-week run, people were telling us the night was great and that they didn’t want it to end. As a result, we ended up running a Sunday night called Frigid for ten years from 1996 until 2006. It ran across five venues around Sydney over the years.’

‘Those four weeks of fundraisers were done in collaboration with another crew, maybe called ‘All Funked Up’ or something like that. Sir Robbo (DJ and subsequent member of Tooth and Astronomy Class) from that crew ended up sticking around, as one of the four of us who ran Frigid;
Seb, myself, Robbo and Dale.’

Through Frigid, the group had the opportunity to offer DJs and musicians live gigs, and went on to host interstate and overseas acts, as well as locals. There were also regular album launches, label nights, film screenings, live visuals, turntablism exhibitions and a lot more besides.

I ask Luke to recount any particularly memorable experiences from the Frigid years. ‘One was when some guy called Kenny Sabir said he had a compilation CD he’d burnt copies of, and wanted to launch it [at Frigid]. Apparently, he was ‘starting a label’ or something. A lot of people were starting their own independent labels in the late ‘90s, as the majors were ignoring interesting and electronic stuff. So we said ‘sure, come back to us with a line-up of acts’ probably expecting 3 or 4 live acts for the night.

He came back with a list of 13 live acts! It went down in history as the biggest Frigid we’d ever had, with around 600 people paying the massive $3 cover charge at the door.’

This was of course the start of the now renowned Elefant Traks ( record label.

Later on, as bands from the label such as The Herd started to tour nationally, Luke was asked to go along as their live sound engineer. ‘I think at the time [early 2000s] I was the only person they knew who did sound. I was quite new to it, and inexperienced back then. But I learned a lot on the job, and have now done sound for a lot of the acts on the roster, and toured all over the place, from the US to NZ, to the UK, and Asia.’

This kept Luke pretty busy.

‘A downside of this was that I sometimes had to turn down DJ gigs with Seb when tours came up, but we were getting less opportunities to play anyway, as new event and club promoters came through and booked their mates.’ Such is the cyclical nature of emerging culture.

Whilst with Elefant Traks, Luke also worked with Urthboy, Astronomy Class, Horrorshow, Hermitude and more.
‘Throughout the 2000s, there were national tours when records came out. Hermitude have probably kept me the busiest. In 2011, they asked me to tour with them as sound person, production manager, and to do their live vision switching, which was a handful. 2012 was crazy busy; I was working full time, and did seven back-to-back national tours that lasted eight months – four [tours] with Hermitude, and in between [one each] with The Herd, Urthboy and Horrorshow. That was wild!’

Also in the mid-to-late 2000s, Seb and Luke were frequently asked to play at a night called VOID (, which showcased a range of new (at the time) UK bass genres, such as Dubstep. ‘This was a pretty vibrant and exciting time, with new sonic adventures and PA systems being pushed to their limits with the sheer amount of deep subsonic frequencies in the tunes!’

‘VOID ran for about 5 years, touring a multitude of international DJs then went into hiatus, until around 2016/2017 when it started up again, at which time they invited myself and Vaughan Healey to co-run it with the others.’

This is where the trail goes a little cold…

You see, what happened next was precipitated by a little outbreak, that eventually became a pandemic, which all but put paid to live music performances for a few years, bringing us neatly to the Vitalise series of shows Luke organised during 2021, touched upon in the interview above.

And the rest, as they say, is history? Here’s to the next chapter.

For more information:

Bogan Via: The Search for Bougainvillea Chin

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Camera Assistance: Suzi Chou | Maps to the Ornamental Vines’ Homes with Maddie and Bret of Bogan Via in LA

No, this is not the tale of a botanically inclined, Powell Peralta inspired remake of a Bones Brigade skate movie from the late 1980’s.

This is the story of two musicians from Phoenix who got together, found they got along pretty well and decided to make their way to LA in pursuit of their creative goals.

It’s also the story of how Bret and Maddie, two Arizonian Americans, having never set foot on the Great Southern Land (of Bogan) came to form an electro-pop band named Bogan Via. It’s a question that’s confounded ardent Australian concertgoers who happen upon our pair while visiting shows in LA (and other BV tour locations) for the last half decade. When Bret and Maddie play a show, they’re often approached by little Aussie battlers mistaking Bogan Via for a vernacular signifier of Terra Australis in the wilds of Southwestern USA (either side of the Sierra Nevada).

In actuality, the Bogan Via name is simply a contraction of Bougainvillea, a thorny angiosperm originating in West Africa and South America, popularised by British and French colonialists during the 18th and 19th century.

Today this floral vine is decoratively cultivated around the world in areas with warm climates (and aqueducts) so unsurprisingly it’s common to both LA and Phoenix.

It’s widely thought that the first European to observe these plants was a lass called Jeanne Baré, an expert in botany who disguised herself as a man because in 1789, she couldn’t join explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s maritime exexpedition as a woman. In masquerading thus, she became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

But I digress.

Why is this article called The Search for Bougainvillea Chin?’ I hear you ask.
‘Are Bogan Via skateboarders?’

The Search for Animal Chin caused a sensation among the Thrasher readership in 1987 because at the time, it was one of the first skate films to have a plot, distinguishing itself from the gonzo skateboard stunt montages set to music that had previously informed the genre.

Skateboarders (Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill) known as the Bones Brigade show off their various talents during the search for their sport’s legendary founder.’

Why does this matter?

We’d planned to shoot photos with a deranged plot: Hollywood has Maps to the Star’s Homes. The Search for Animal Chin had ‘Maps to the Skater’s Homes’, but we weren’t looking for those. Instead we cased the streets and structures of Downtown LA …

… looking for sprigs of Bougainvillea. 

The photo set which accompanies this interview is affectionately titled
The Search for Bougainvillea Chin.


 Squint your eyes just right, and the truck says ‘Bougainvillea’.

On a warm October evening in 2016, I meet with Bogan Via at Zinc (an always hospitable vegan/vegetarian bar and café restaurant on the corner of Mateo and Willow in DTLA). We’d talk about music and the emerging national sentiment in the States (roughly ten days before Trump’s impending election to the presidency) 

The sun sets auriferous over the streets west of Alameda as we shoot. We take time to discuss the band’s musical sensibilities, the contrast between LA and Phoenix as creative centres, and how the West was really won. We reconvene a few months later to recap. 


How and when did you two get together, musically? Is there a Bogan Via ‘origin story?’

M: Bret and I met over 5 years ago. He saw a few of my YouTube videos and reached out to me on Facebook asking if I wanted to collaborate on some music. We didn’t know each other at all but it was crazy timing because I’d just put out an ad, hoping to start an all-girl folk band. This was definitely not that, though when we met up, we clicked instantly.

B: Yeah, we were friends on Facebook but had never met in real life.  She frequently posted videos of herself with an acoustic guitar singing covers and originals and I was entranced by her voice.  I messaged her about meeting up and she seemed excited about it.  I later found out that she’d recently posted on Craigslist trying to start an all-girl band; good timing at its best.  We met up in the practice rooms at Arizona State University and pretty much immediately hit it off.

How long did you wait before calling her back?

B: I think we ended up meeting the next day too, or very soon thereafter.

You came from Phoenix. What prompted you to make the move out to LA?

M: I dragged Bret out to LA so I could pursue acting. I’ve always been an actor, long before I was a musician. I just figured we could be Bogan Via anywhere, but Los Angeles is where I need to be to really push myself as an actor. It’s a tough city though and I miss Phoenix constantly. So, who knows, maybe we’ll move back!

B: Yeah, Maddie said she needed to be in LA to pursue her acting so we made the jump.  I’m always on board with a little adventure.


Artistically, what was it like leaving the familiarity of the Phoenix community and scene for LA?

B: I’m not sure if it’s because we were in the thick of the scene in Phoenix or had grown up there, but I feel like there was a very tangible music scene there.  You knew the hot spots; you knew the up and coming bands. There was definitely a lot of camaraderie between bands.  In LA, I haven’t really discovered a scene.  There’s the music business here and I feel like that almost trumps the scene a bit.  There are so many venues and secret house shows and private showcases that it feels more like a jungle than an incubator for talent. People wanna ‘collaborate’ in LA. In Phoenix we just got together to jam.  There’s just more pressure and expectation on everything.
‘Is this one gonna be a hit?’ If not “don’t waste my time” says LA.

M: There’s amazing stuff in LA too but because there’s so much to dig through, it’s harder to find. We’ve been here over 3 years and met some beautiful people who’ve become great friends; it feels like we’re finally breaking into something, getting comfortable. But honestly, every day is different.

It’s just so saturated out here in LA. There’s a million people everywhere and most of them are artists. It’s chaotic and alienating – It’s easy to feel like you’re not good enough. Phoenix has an amazing community that’s just starting to really sprout. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening in Phoenix and a lot of great music.

Around the time we met, the election was impending and we spoke about Trump. He’s since taken power. How is the sentiment on the ground in LA and around places you’ve travelled?

M: People are scared, people are angry. They feel betrayed and I think a lot of them feel helpless. It’s basically a f*cking nightmare. People are pissed off. They’re protesting, they’re sharing information, they’re talking to each other. I have a lot of problems with the entire political system. I think the whole thing needs to be turned on its head. Trump is obviously a f*cking joke. He is hateful, he is uninformed, he’s an abuser, egotistical and misogynistic. It’s too easy to hate on Trump because he’s such a f*cking idiot. I’ve got little to no faith in the system, but I have some hope in people. It reassures me that people are asking questions, scrutinizing every little thing. I think that’s great. We need to keep doing that, we need to stay angry and suspicious, we need to keep exposing the corruption because it has existed long before Donald f*cking Trump.

B: Life continues it seems.  As involved or heartbroken as people seem to be I don’t know if the disenfranchised will make anything of it.  Obviously, we’ve seen the continual scathing he receives on Facebook as many become aware of how crazy his actions are, but I’m not sure anything’s going to change.  If the media starts talking about something else, people will start feeling something else… Life goes on.  Gotta get that money.


Who are your musical heroes? Are there any artists you’d love to channel?

M: Some of my musical heroes are Ben Folds, Radiohead and First Aid Kit. That music inspired me at an early age. It got me through some rough patches so it’ll always hold a dear place in my heart. Artists that influence my work in Bogan Via would be Austra and Banks, definitely. I would kill to collaborate with Lana Del Rey one day; I just f*cking love everything she does. There’s also a band from Phoenix I adore called ROAR. They put out an album last year that seriously changed my life. I really just love music that makes you feel a little sad.

B: Yeah, I get really inspired by albums.  My favorite artists don’t necessarily make music that I love all the time but at some point, they’ve made an album that changed my life.  I remember listening to Radiohead when I was younger too, and thinking that it was all this jumbled up noise and mess. When I revisited Kid A later, I had something of an epiphany. I could see the story and understand its artistry.  Funeral by Arcade Fire hit me instantly; such powerful emotion and great song writing, and it only gets better the more you listen to it.  These two definitely set the bar in my world and hopefully continue to inspire me to get closer.

Day to day, how different is LA life to Phoenix life?

M: Phoenix is just so easy. Our families are there, most of our oldest friends are there. There’s no traffic in comparison. It’s definitely more comfortable there, but we go back to play shows and visit with family all the time. It’s a quick trip from LA so it’s okay! LA has a lot to offer, that’s why everyone wants to be here. It’s just different. It’s an incredibly expensive city so we live in a small one bedroom in Hollywood. I love our apartment but it’s always loud outside and the streets are dirty. There’s a huge wealth gap in LA. There are homeless people everywhere and there doesn’t seem to be much outreach for them. Seeing the disparity wears on you.

B: I don’t think we’ve swallowed the red pill quite yet. I’d say we still prefer Arizona to Los Angeles.  People are nicer in Phoenix by a huge gap.  LA is a crazy city where everybody’s gunning for something and it turns people a little vicious.  Neither Maddie or I have the cutthroat mentality so it can be pretty depressing here sometimes.


What balances out those negatives about LA – what do you love about it?

B: The trees and the green and the humidity.  Now that we’ve lived here three years we’ve made some friends that we cherish a lot.  Vegan options are on overload which is encouraging.  There are a lot of movers and shakers here who are trying to make the world a better place.   Young people working ridiculously hard to follow their passions and not planning their retirements any time soon.

M: I feel like I’m hating hard on Los Angeles but it’s not that bad. There are lots of creative people here, there’s always something to do. I can be quite shy, so it’s just a lot for me to take in. I get overstimulated easily; if I wasn’t an actor I don’t think I would live here, but most people love it!

Has anything weird taken place since Trump was sworn in?

M: Anything weird? Everything has pretty much been weird. I mean, I haven’t seen anyone light themselves on fire but people are really paying attention now! They’re getting more involved than I’ve seen before. That’s not weird though, it’s great!

B: Hmm.  Lots of rain here in LA.  I joked with Maddie that they f*cked with the weather to keep people from protesting the inauguration and now they just don’t know how to make the rain stop.


Bogan Via become lured by the promise of pink neon. No Bougainvillea here folks.

If anyone’s headed to Phoenix, what are a few musical acts and venues they should check out?

B: The scene in Phoenix is very much growing. More festivals and venues are popping up and it seems like people are starting to really take an interest.  Some of our favourite spots to go are Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar.  Both venues bring more hip, weird music that maybe Phoenix wouldn’t normally have been exposed to in the past.  This has given rise to more local artists pursuing less traditional music and it’s been very exciting to see what’s churning out.  Some of our favourites are MRCH, Emby Alexander, Harrison Fjord, and Snake Snake Snakes.

Emby Alexander at Tribal Cafe, W Temple St, Echo Park

M: There is so much good music coming out of Phoenix. I mentioned before, I’m obsessed with a band called ROAR, their music moves me, I can’t even describe it. There’re a lot of amazing women I admire so much. Luna Aura (now LA based), Sareena Dominguez, Steff Koeppen (& the Articles), Taylor Upsahl. I love their music. The Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix is top notch as far as venues go. The hospitality, the quality, you can’t beat it. They take chances on artists; they let newcomers take the stage. They supported us so much, especially when we first started. Valley Bar and Rebel Lounge, they’re fantastic too! They just take care of you, it’s f*cking wonderful! I feel like there is just so much great art coming up, and downtown PHX is an exploration of that. The bars, the venues and independent shops, they all contribute. They all share this push for local love!


The search intensifies…

Maps to the Star’s Homes… Having grown up outside LA, I feel like sometimes there’s a gulf between the expectation and reality of the place; there’s Tinseltown and the perceived glamour, then there’s something altogether more circumspect and down-to-earth about the city.

How do you feel about the Hollywood cliché versus the reality of LA as an American metropolis?

B: I feel like I didn’t have many preconceived notions of tinsel town, aside from it being a very competitive place to try and make it. I think there’s probably something here for everyone. I remember meeting people who weren’t aspiring to make it early on when I was just getting my grip on the town and I would ask ‘why do you live here then?’
LA is a tough, tough town and I certainly had a hard time understanding why people would choose to live in a dirty, expensive, overpopulated town if it wasn’t where they necessarily needed to be for their career, but obviously there’s a million ways to slice it.

The LA that’s portrayed in movies exists for sure, it’s here.  And that’s the big allure I guess, because when your ship comes in, there’s a lot of fun ways to spend the cash and you truly can live in that fictitious/not fictitious world if you so choose.

M: Well, that’s a hard question. I never really had expectations of LA. I just knew as an actor, I needed to try it out because the opportunity was here. I didn’t think it would be glamorous; I actually expected to be poor and feel rejected, but I didn’t think it would be as hard to connect with people. Some of those clichés are true; the egos, this kinda’ persona people take on. 3 years in, I‘ve made some really extraordinary friends but at first felt like I met some bullshit people and sat through a lot of bullshit conversations. As far as the reality of the city, I’m not sure what that would be. I mean, there’s a lot of money here and there is sparkle but there’s so much poverty too and you see it everywhere. You see it more. It seems so wrong.


As dawn breaks over DTLA, Bogan Via unearth their botanical namesake, Bougainvillea. Hallelujah.

Lastly, what’s next for Bogan Via? What can we expect in 2017?

B: We just recorded a new single set to release in a couple of months. We are heading to Treefort Music fest later this month and then Neon Desert a couple months later. We’re hoping to get a full-length vinyl out this year and tour as much as possible.

M: We’re recording new music all the time.
We’re psyched about our next single that’s being mixed right now. We plan to make another album and press it to Vinyl and then tour! I love touring, it’s my absolute favorite, so I’m hoping we’ll hit the road again soon – I’d love to go on tour for months.
Beyond Bogan Via, I just wanna’ cause change in the world. Bret and I are both huge advocates for animal rights. I volunteer with Mercy for Animals so we foster cats and dogs through an organisation in LA. Some days I want to quit everything and spread veganism across the planet in hope of saving it, you know? Human connection is everything. I really want to help the people and animals that need it. So, hopefully in 2017 we can expect a lot of both!

You definitely won’t find Bogan Via sharing a charred snag at Bunnings on a Sunday morning. You can however watch and listen to their compelling musical works
by visiting the following:

Bret and Maddie expect to release a new full-length album later this year. 

Meanwhile, let’s delve deeply into their back catalogue for a classic BV video:

Bogan Via
Directed by Freddie Paul, 2013

Bonnie Stewart: Another Latitude

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | Hair and Makeup: Kelsey Decker | Props and Wardrobe: Ester Karuso-Thurn | Dublin to Sydney via Byron Bay with Bonniesongs

Someday you’ll be minding your own business, out at a show in the drudge of your hometown. You’ll become ensnared in a sonic moment that whisks you away, to somewhere far from the four walls of the venue you’d walked into. Voices and instruments carrying the echo of another latitude roll into town. An artist might envelope you in the spectre of their world with a song and take you to a place hitherto completely outside your personal mise èn scene.

For a peck of audiences in Australia over the past couple of years, Bonnie Stewart has been one of those subtly transcendent artists. Her lilting vocals float over gentle peaks of acoustic and electronic instruments, layered ethereally into what may be a moderately enchanted loop pedal. Under the spell of thrumming guitar, Stewart renders her arrangements with a fidelity of performance that seems to amplify an almost spectral presence. This is Bonniesongs. She’ll play loudly whilst making you ridiculously aware of silence and then go some way to reminding you how music is at its most basic, mere vibration moving through air, occupying the same molecular space as the incorporeal.

After the show, the wormhole closes over. Bonnie is softly spoken, approachable and personable. The woman who bare moments earlier, exuded something supernal onstage, is supremely down-to-earth.

We talk about what brought her to Sydney, how different this place is from her hometown of Dublin, and attempt to approximate an understanding of what gave rise to her uncommon craft.

How and when did you start Bonniesongs?

Well, for years I sang and wrote songs alone in my room, mostly recording vocal layers into GarageBand, and couldn’t figure out or imagine it live. I guess “Bonniesongs” started once I began performing, which actually started in a treehouse in Byron Bay. That was soon after I moved to Australia.

I was volunteering at an organic farm and self-sufficient community called Jasper Hall. It was a really inspiring place. Luckily, I had a mandolin with me, and just started writing songs in the mango tree I was living in!

A mango tree?

It’d always been a dream of mine to live in a tree. Anyway, I gave the residents a few performances and had a lot of fun. It just continued from there really. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to start playing in Sydney if it wasn’t for some very encouraging friends though. You gotta have your pushy friends!  

You’d just moved from Dublin to Sydney. What lead you to leave Dublin for Australia? 

I’m not totally sure where it began. Maybe it was too much watching Neighbours and Home and Away (she laughs). I just started feeling a pull towards Australia. I became a bit obsessed that the universe was telling me to come here! There were logical reasons, like I love the sun and the lifestyle it brings. There were also more economic opportunities compared to Ireland, and there are some Australian jazz musicians I really enjoy. Ultimately I was looking for a change of scene and an adventure.

I felt in my gut that I needed to come here. I’m a big believer in following instincts.

What are some of the differences between Dublin and Sydney, in terms of music and performance?

I think the main differences really come down to performance opportunities and financial support. There are some really creative musicians and interesting sounds coming out of Dublin, but the lack of venues and backing are the biggest problem. There are less and less spaces to play and usually for little or no money. Conversely, I know musicians in Sydney who can make a living playing music, who somehow always find a space to put on original music even if it’s just a warehouse, tiny bar or house. That’s not to say Sydney is full of venues or support for original music. It can be hard for sure. Sydney musicians have to fight to make it work sometimes, which is maybe why there’s such a strong music community here. I hope that Dublin’s creative musicians will make it work too.

I’ve also noticed a variety of instrumentation here in Australia. All these saxophone and trumpet players, and a sousaphone! I’d never seen a sousaphone until I moved here! I think it comes from having more support for music in schools. Primary school kids are playing in jazz bands and that is awesome. I didn’t have music as an option at all in school! That’s just crazy!

Wait… No music in schools?

Well not in my schools. I know of friends who could. I eventually had to take music outside of school. I guess it’s just another example of how music isn’t always recognised as important. Music should be a required component in every school because it’s just SO beneficial for learning and development, and it’s an integral part of life.

At a grassroots level, Sydney entertainment and nightlife have taken a beating at the hands of the state’s inept lockout laws. You’re from Dublin. What would you say to a state that would see its creative communities hamstrung by over-regulation?

Suck a brick, state. Uh too many emotions, I’m not sure where to begin…

A lot of your songs are like little stories. What do you write about? What inspires you to write? 

All sorts of things inspire me lyrically.


Yeah! I’ve written about spiders, mice, dinosaurs. Falling off cliffs. Swimming, dreaming, video games, ice cream, sand dunes, Nauru… feminism.

Musically, I get a lot of inspiration from watching live music. I take mental note of sounds that I like and what seems to work, though most of my songs have come from noodling around on guitar and drums or even just singing around the house.

Some of your songs seem to be written about your daily life too.

I definitely end up writing about little things that’ve happened to me or what I’ve been thinking about at the time. I recently watched Night of the Living Dead and pretty quickly wrote a spooky song inspired by that [Barbara]. I need to have a clear idea of what I want to say, otherwise I usually never end up finishing the song. I have a lot of unfinished songs! When I’m feeling inspired and focused, I can write the song quickly, which has probably lead to some of my favourite songs.  Oh, another example is the time my gardening enthusiast housemate pulled up my lavender plant and some herbs which he thought were weeds. It led me to write a song, Flowers in the Garden.

A lot of your songs evoke an almost cinematic sound. Do you have a strong visual in mind when you write your music? 

I’m a pretty visual person in general I think, so having an image just helps make things clearer in my mind. My friend Ida Lawrence and I made a stop motion animation video for my song Dinogon, and it’s pretty much exactly what I was visualising as I wrote the song.

I wish I could make animated music videos for all my songs, but it takes me toooo long!

Would you like to see your music on a film or soundtrack? 

Yeah. I’ve had a couple of bits of interest in my music being used in films, but it hasn’t followed through yet, unfortunately. I recently played at Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival. A man told me I sounded spooky and would be a perfect on the soundtrack of a scary movie, so I hope that happens.

Your dad is a luthier.
What kind of stringed instruments does he mostly make?

Are any of your guitars or other instruments made by him?

My dad has made guitars, mandolins, mandolas, and fiddles. He made me a very special classical guitar, which I love so much. I also have a Les Paul style electric made by him, and a mandola. These beautiful instruments are all safely back in Ireland at the moment, though. I’ve only had the opportunity to perform live with them once, last April in Dublin. Other than that they’ve been relatively unplayed for the last few years. My dad has been too worried about flying with instruments, and how they would react to the change of climate. I think I’m gonna sneak that classical guitar over next visit, though.

I get a sense of depth or ‘tradition’ in your music.

Do you feel like there is something ‘in the blood’ about making music for you?

I always love it when people tell me they can hear the ‘Irishness’ of my music. I’m definitely never trying to make it sound that way. I’d like to think that all the music I’ve ever put a lot of listening time into, comes through or inspires me at some point in my own music making. I always had Irish music around the house, then grew up with punk, grunge, indie and rock. I studied jazz, some Indian Carnatic music and a lot of experimental improvised music along the way and, well I think it comes through at different times. So in a sense, I feel like all the music I’ve ever really connected with has stayed ‘in the blood’ for me.


What’s next on the cards for you in terms of tours or releases? Where can we see or hear you play? 

Well I have so many songs that I need to get out there, so one of my next goals is to just record everything I’ve written in the last couple years and put it all out. But I wanna keep my favourite songs for a special album release. The album will be called Cat and Mouse. I hope to get it out this year. That’s all I can tell you! For now, you can listen to some tracks, buy my demo or keep up to date with gigs from my website or

As we went ‘to press’, Bonnie let us know she has a new video to share (just in time for this story)! Thanks to the wonder of YouTube, here it is: 

Live at Cleveland’s
Bonniesongs featuring Freya Schack-Arnott
Sand Dunes

Diana DeMuth: American Music

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | On Location with Diana DeMuth in Hollywood |

It’s a Tuesday night on Cahuenga, half a block south of Hollywood Boulevard.

At Hotel Café, an intimate, dimly lit bar fills with industry types, musicians and punters.

A few interlopers hover around in corners but moreover, this feels like a roomful of insiders; people switched on to what’s about to happen, let in on a well-kept secret. Expectant murmurs. Girls with guitars, drums and keyboards begin to take their places on stage in front of a red velvet drape. A quick sound check ensues. The visages of these women are serious, no-nonsense and ready. Diana DeMuth is front and centre. An air of anticipation falls over the room.

Diana is originally from Concord, Massachusetts. Having recently  made the move to LA, she now shares a house with friends on the Valley side of the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Toluca Lake, Studio City and Burbank.

Here at her home, we talk easily. She strolls around in bare feet. Chunks of fresh cut lime bob around in the gin and tonic she’s casually sipping. She manages to nurse the same glass for most of the afternoon. When Demuth takes the stage, she’s a woman of determined mien. There’s a smouldering urgency to her presence. As she performs, intensity flickers over her face. There’s a gravity to her delivery that places her along a continuum of bluesy storytelling in American music; a veritable road-trip soundtrack to leaving familiar places, people and heartache behind, healing and inevitably moving on.

As I set up lighting gear on the porch, rich contralto notes float from the kitchen, a voice effortlessly changing key and flitting between octaves. As we shoot photos, it begins to rain lightly and the fixings of sunset are masked by an overcast sky. It’s a good time to ask Diana more about her life, love, musical motivation and settling into the City of Angels.

A lot of your songs refer to specific American towns and cities. Sometimes your songs are even named after these places. Would you say there’s a strong sense of ‘American place’ inscribed in your music? 

I love writing about places I’ve lived and spent time in over the years. Being that I grew up in America, a lot of my songs resonate with this country and its cities. However, I’d like to believe people from anywhere can listen and relate to their essence. Many of my songs discuss the discomfort of being in a new place and the comfort of being home. I think those feelings, everyone has experienced at one point. Usually the places I write about, I’ve spent time in but occasionally I’ll write about a place I haven’t been yet to capture a feeling.

When I wrote the song ‘Albuquerque’, I hadn’t actually been there yet. My college roommate was from there and I liked the sound of the word. It embodied a kind of foreign feeling. I wrote the song about leaving and returning to something familiar.

You’ve somewhat recently left somewhere familiar and made the move to LA. What do you love most about this city so far?

I had almost no expectations moving to LA, and I think that’s worked in my favour. Something about this city has been very freeing for me. I love how big LA is and how many cool places I’ve discovered here. It feels like a fresh start.

Cool places, you say? Tell us a few.

Yeah. I really like spending time in Silverlake. Some of my friends live over that way and there are a couple good places to eat there. Also a place called Sunset Beer, which I was introduced to recently. It’s basically packed with refrigerators full of craft beer – I’m no expert but I’m learning (she smiles). I think a lot of people expect LA to be stuck up in a way which hasn’t been my experience at all. You can be whatever you want to be and I think that’s awesome.

What are some things that have gone right for you since moving to LA?

One that comes to mind happened in my first few months of living here. When I moved to LA I only knew three people, one of them being an amazing producer named Jeff Bova. One of my goals coming here was to reconnect with him, try to learn more about the industry and how I could continue growing myself in it. I met Jeff in his studio last fall and after spending a few hours with him, I had a feeling we’d work together. He’s currently producing my newest album. I’d say that day was the starting point for everything that’s happened musically in the past year.

Are there days where you put the music to one side and just, explore something else? 

Totally. I’ll go for a run or go explore a new area. I spend a LOT of time in my car in LA traffic so if I can move around outside on foot, I’ll do it!

What’s the thing or issue in life that inspires dedication to your craft more than anything else? 

I can’t live without writing. It might sound cliché but ever since I began playing music, there’s been a voice in my head telling me this is what I’m meant to do! I don’t question that anymore. I don’t think I can fully process anything without writing a song about it. That’s what keeps me dedicated.

I see that. I feel like there’s an urgency to what you sing. I see it when you perform live. What are the experiences you grapple with most in your songs? 

My writing is mainly fuelled by relationships. Whether it’s a person or a place, I love talking about connection. I’d say recently my songs have taken a more personal turn. There’s one titled ‘Dear Eliza’, which refers to someone I used to love, going home and driving past her house after many years. It’s a nostalgic song. In my latest song ‘I Don’t Believe the Rain’, I wrote about my experience in LA regarding relationships and my inability to give up on situations (and people) even when I should. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster out here emotionally, so I’ve written a lot!

An emotional roller coaster. Romantically?

I think whenever you move to a new place there’s a bit of a roller coaster that goes on. I mean that in many ways, not just romantically. Meeting new people, knowing who to let go of and who to keep around, and all the other things that come with growing up. It’s all just part of the journey.

A lot of song writing is (consciously or unconsciously) about putting a voice to the deepest things we feel as a people. Some people are going to feel like you put a voice to their feelings, too. What would you say to someone who’s struggling in love, or in life? 

In love, I would say know your worth. I think we’re often drawn to people or things that aren’t necessarily the best for us. It’s a lesson I’ve had to relearn a couple of times. Know yourself; value yourself and people will be attracted to that. I’d say the same goes for life in general.

Like, knowing when to walk away?

Know when to walk away, and then do it. No use in hanging around things or people that aren’t helping you. It just slows you down.

That reminds me, there’s a verse in one of your songs that says ‘Lover if you miss me you can find me in the city, lost on an August day. Since your revelation, you’ve been hiding in New England, you cut your hair and changed your name.’ What’s that about? 

I wrote this song when I was eighteen and it’s about knowing when to leave. It discusses my relationship with Boston and my relationship with someone at the time. I wrote this when I felt like I needed to leave where I was and who I was with. It’s about reinvention.


One for the LA neophytes. If you knew someone who had a rental car and one day to spend in LA, which places would you tell them to go and see?

That’s a tough one. When I first moved here I lived in a place called Highland Park and I think it’s a pretty cool area – great taco trucks! Also, it’s a bit of a drive, but Point Dume in Malibu is beautiful.


What can we expect from you release-wise in the next year or so? Where can we find more of your music? 

I have a brand new album that only my family and close friends have heard. It will be released in 2017, and I’m REALLY excited about it!

You can find me on

The video for my brand new single is here on YouTube:



Barrie Rose: Rocky Doesn’t Know

Words and Photos: Reef Gaha | On Location with Barrie Rose in DTLA |

Barrie Rose has been described somewhere as an ingénue.  It’s a pretty, musical word but its definition belies several levels of the skill and sophistication which this LA based musician possesses. Barrie retains the innocence of an ingénue, but adds depth and complexity to that paradigm. In the purest sense of the word, Rose is a chanteuse.

I first became aware of her music during a short residence in LA around 2010. We talked about collaborating on a series of photographs. Time flying over us as it does, I was unable to meet with Barrie until several years later in 2014, when we shot stills of her stretching and frolicking in the undercroft of the (now half demolished) 6th St Bridge in downtown LA.

Perhaps for these reasons, my awareness of Barrie and her music is inextricably linked to Los Angeles as a place. This association is borne out by her long residence in Echo Park, and now Chinatown. When we sit down to talk for this article during September 2016, this sense of the city is one of the first things I mention.

How much a part of your music is your sense of place within LA? Would you say the city is a strong influence?

‘The environment and headspace I’m in when I write a song directly influence it. I write differently when I’m in other places. It’s to do with the energy of the place. The city is a big influence. Usually not over the content of the songs so much, but on how I’m feeling and what phase I’m in.’ Rose mentions one exception to this, her new song Chinatown, an artefact of having recently moved to the downtown neighbourhood.
‘I like fresh spaces and also write a lot when I travel, but I think my best songs still come from Los Angeles. I suppose I‘m trying to be honest about my feelings and situation, so I find the realism of myself according to where I am, literally. I mentioned ‘phases’ earlier. Inspiration comes in phases. That includes the styles I’m drawn to, and who’s close to me at a particular time. That can change every few months. Now I’m really into downtown and the grime and worn out stuff of the city. I feel there is beauty in that.’


Downtown LA is slowly but surely changing. Gentrification and urban renewal is slowly replacing the bricks and grime. What do you think about that?

‘I think as long as it’s done respectfully, being aware and considerate of the environment prior to you coming in (and with regard for the place and its uniqueness and character), and having a deep regard for the people who resided there before you, it’s okay.

That being said, there are so many different aspects of gentrification that deserve consideration within themselves. I can’t really generally say whether it’s good or bad. I mean there are many nuanced facets that I have varying opinions on.

I am also part of it, of course. In Echo Park, I lived in a studio apartment and all the other people in that small building were Mexican families. My rent was super cheap in relation to the norm around the city, and in the last few years it seems like that is harder and harder to find. The fact that Echo Park Lake was recently redone completely and is now a beautiful park as opposed to a smelly, swampy place, is a part of the good side of gentrification. I mean, bringing nice things to a growing community; that part of it I’m in favour of but simultaneously, I am glad to be out of that city just because it doesn’t really inspire me anymore.’

Now that you’ve moved, what are you working on?

‘Different things at the same time. I’m recording new songs. I’m excited about that because I really love the process of recording and just getting to the produced version of a song.

I am also coordinating this really big, fun benefit event at The Smell.’

The Smell is an all-ages, alcohol and drug-free, punk rock/noise/experimental venue in Downtown Los Angeles, recently faced with the threat of closure after being notified that their landlord has plans to demolish the building. Barrie rightly considers this to be an iconic venue.

I ask Barrie more about the benefit.

‘It’s going to have bands of course, but at the same time there’ll be a lot of surprises that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.’ Rose is humble about her involvement. ‘I like the idea that this will be a special, once-in-a-lifetime event that requires a lot of thought and development, but ultimately we’re just creating the experience that can only be had if you’re actually at The Smell. It’s happening on November 5th. ‘

Like the city she inhabits, many of Barrie’s songs are populated by stories. Some are autobiographical while yet more tell the tale of others, seemingly observed through random encounters. I ask Barrie to explain the back story behind a few lines.

Are there any true life stories behind your songs which are particularly strange?

‘I write what I know, so it’s mostly all reflections on experience or people that have really affected me. Sometimes lyrics come up in my songs and I don’t know what I was referring to until much later, when I make the subconscious connections. There’s this new song with a line that goes ‘I saw the robber and the robber had a gun’ which I had no idea about [at the time of writing].  Later I remembered a time when I was 15 (in my really bad-girl years) where I was drunk and sitting in the back of someone’s car, a friend-of-a-friend I think. I found a gun [in the car] and this person had actually just robbed someone. That scared me. A lot of questionable things have happened in my past and some things are really tucked deeply in there, and it’s only sometimes that memories get triggered.’

Can you tell me about the story of Rocky?

‘Rocky is a transgender homeless kid. He/she is trying to find her place in the world. I think it was one of those songs that just came out. I mean I wrote it, but it was one of those songs that just needed to be written that I didn’t think too much about.’

So, she’s a real person that you see around LA?

‘No not exactly. I have met people like that. I mean, I have met Rocky in different forms.’

Like, an embodiment of a few characters?

‘Yeah sure, more of an archetype; an idea and a feeling, or a made up character that might be real.

It might be me. The line ‘Rocky doesn’t know, he wasn’t even born’ sticks with me because it’s also the feeling, ‘what if none of this is real? Why was I born at this time and place?’’

I like the line ‘don’t make a man apologise for everything he lacks’.

‘Yeah, because sometimes you can’t help the person you’ve become. I mean you are a product of your past and what you’ve grown to know. It’s not Rocky’s fault she is the way she is. She was born into a certain body with a certain brain.

One day she just runs away without anything and just leaves home. No purse or any form of ID, because she wants to start fresh.’

Some of your songs are about dream-like states, others are about relationships.  Some are about personal affirmations. There’s even one about money. What do you like to write about? What are you mostly inspired to write about when you sit down to pen a song?

‘Whatever is on my mind.  I suppose I‘m trying to be the best person I can be, and learn to grow from every experience.  A lot of writing in the past, I came from a place of hurt, but these days, I come from a place of love and understanding. Like, I am observing life happening, and flowing with it as it unfolds. I write a lot with ‘source’ in mind, which is this guidance I am receiving.’

Kind of a spiritual sense?

‘It is beyond me and doesn’t really require a label, except to try to name it. Sometimes the songs just write themselves, which is why I need to quiet my mind a lot, for the sake of my own sanity and in order to be in a place where I can receive.’


What are some of the things you do outside music that influence your process?

‘Meditation, I do a lot. I write in my notebook every day. I stretch. Laughing a lot and being with funny people and joking or playing around. Movement; I have a lot of energy that I have to move out in order to be calm. Reading inspiring books or watching movies. Sleeping. Spontaneous adventures, skating or bike riding or walking. Being with people I love really influences me. I think everything influences me, but mostly meditation because I need that to function at this point.’

Your music occupies a few different spaces, from electronic pop with an experimental edge through to folk and/or folktronica. Tell us about your production process. Are you producing alone or with collaborators?

‘I’ve been through a lot of phases with my music. I’ve been in various bands and collaborated a lot. My last EP called ‘The Breakthru pt. 1 Sweetsweet’, I produced. I recorded everything with my own basic setup and had some friends play on it. I played some of the instruments as well. That was a little more raw than the album before it. Drums and bass, guitar and synths.

The full album that I self-released in February, called ‘Dreamz Come True and Love is Real’ was done with an awesome producer named Adam Samuel Goldman. That has a polished electro-pop, dance sound. It took a while to make, but I love that album so much and really want more people to hear it. I feel like it deserves that. I was super into this electro-pop, performance 80’s, 90s futuristic style.

For a while, I had a full live band with amazing dancers who had choreographed dances to every song. That was called ‘Barrie and the Starz’, then the live band kind of came apart. I was a bit burnt out after that. I had to start afresh and figure out what I wanted to do, so I just wrote more and worked with what I had (which was myself). I realised that this is a life-long solo project, and I will always collab with other people, but the thread that connects it all is my voice and my song-writing style. Underneath it all, they are just songs that need to come out [of me]. ‘

Do you feel like you’re part of a particular community or scene within LA?

‘No, not really. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of scenes in L.A., but I never really belonged to any particular one. I like to be friends with a lot of different types of people, and find I can connect with a lot of people from various scenes.’

What’s next on the cards for you in terms of tours or releases? Where can we see or hear you play?

‘Well, I want to tour all over the world. I’m sure there will be more releases, because I’m always working on new music. I’ll always post that stuff on Facebook or Instagram or wherever, because I want people to hear it of course!

The next big show is November 5th at The Smell. I’ll play last because I want everyone I booked to get the best spots. Hopefully people will stay around ‘til late to watch me play too. I love playing shows.’

Stay out late to see Barrie play at The Smell on November 5th, 247 S Main St. Los Angeles. #savethesmell

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