An interview with the artist who is constructing a new kind of Trans-Pacific Partnership — this time for the underground.
On a crisp Friday night, JVLES sips on a beer and flicks through his phone to play one of his new beats. As he’s doing so, numerous notifications come through — direct messages, comment replies on Twitter, and more. He’s in a bar crowded and bustling with young people, just outside of Sydney, Australia. Dim lighting casts long shadows throughout the large room, and multiple TVs are blasting radio hits from the ’80s.
Showing a strong sense of pride for his craft, the experienced producer, vocalist, and engineer points out the drums on the beat, the instrument he’s best known for utilizing in his productions. He’s wearing his own hat, emblazoned with his name ‘JVLES’ on the front. The 20-year-old musician is versatile, seemingly wary of sticking to one path.
Here in Australia, the music scene is still emerging, trying to create an identity for itself independent from outside influences. Sydney was once a prospering city for music lovers to go to live venues to listen to bands and musicians until the early hours of the morning. On February 14, 2014, the New South Wales government put in place a law that forces venues to stop people from entering their premises after 1:30AM — and stopping drinks from being served after 3AM in Sydney’s CBD. 176 venues have down since the law has been authorized, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. This lockout law has made it harder for musicians to earn an income from their craft, or even find venues to perform at. It’s caused an overabundance of creatives with not enough venues that can cater to the needs of the growing population.
They found each other in the UNSW undergraduate music program, now quintet Anoesis is taking on the world.
It’s been a short, giddy climb for Anoesis, the five-member student jazz ensemble formed just two years ago and this week playing in one of the world’s great jazz competitions.
The breakout quintet has been shortlisted for the semi-finals of the 2019 Bucharest International Jazz Competition, ranked the third best in the world.
The five UNSW undergraduates describe themselves as “composer-improvisors”, combining nuance in their musical expression with a carefree writing style and ethos.
“What we play isn’t a protest,” says Anoesis guitarist Eitan Muir, “but we experiment with different [types] of interpersonal relations.”
“We’re not writing with a specific genre in mind or a really distinct set of qualities about what’s good or bad, or what’s right and wrong, what fits and doesn’t fit with what we’re doing,” Muir says. “So there’s a lot of freedom in the compositions, the way that we play.”
The five members of the ensemble comprise Muir on guitar, Greg Stopic on alto saxophone, Alistair Johnson on tenor saxophone, Tomas McKeever Ford on upright and electric bass and Patrick Rogers on drums. For the competition, the band pulled in local drummer Cy Donkin as an overseas cover for Rogers who faces a clashing UK tour with pop act Ruby Fields.
19-year-old Newcastle producer Aquinas has been rising in prominence within the music underground, with their beats accompanying the vocals of artists like Boy Scout Gatsby.
The producer, however, has also been growing a global audience outside of his usual bracket. With the release of his new song, ‘Bonsai,’ in which the producer unleashes his vocals on his own beat, Aquinas showcases that he is versatile with his art – and pushing boundaries.
The producer, who shares his producer title with his real name, originally started making music with a passion for music, a bootleg copy of FL Studio, and a desire to learn.
Aquinas previously lived in Tasmania for 3 years, and it was there that he met his friend, Hugh, who would later help the aspiring producer on his musical path at age 16.
Hugh had a talent for producing EDM styled music, and aided Aquinas with using FL Studio. They recorded over a Bones styled beat using a phone, and a mosquito net for a pop filter. Aquinas enjoyed the process, and began to learn how to produce on FL Studio using YouTube, independently.
“When I was 18, I think is when I was getting tired of using Youtube beats. I wanted to do the whole thing myself. So I just learnt how to make beats,” says Aquinas.
The producer also would like it to be known that they now own a legitimate copy of FL Studio.
“Invest in your craft,” says Aquinas.
If you have been keeping up with the Newcastle-based producer, you may have noticed his social media tag, ‘AquinasWC.’
This tag comes from the title ‘Wrong Crowd‘, a group that Aquinas is affiliated with from Chattanooga.
The producer has also endured hardships along his journey.
Finishing high school in 2017, Aquinas studied building design. However, this path wasn’t for him, and he dropped out fairly quickly.
Dealing with the process of creative dry periods is also something that Aquinas has faced, frequently. The producer comments that at periods he can lack a creative drive, and feel self-doubt with his craft.
“You just gotta let yourself rest in that time [lack of creativity]. Shift your focus, don’t expect yourself to be A1 always,” says Aquinas.
The producer deals with these moments through his hobbies, such as skating, and visiting art museums.
The Newcastle producer also lived in New York City, for a period, when he was younger.
“I got to experience so much. Coming from Australian schools to a school just on the edge of Harlem was so different. I met a lot of great people there. Sadly, I lost contact with them though,” says Aquinas.
Aquinas also speaks on his inspirations.
Originally the producer only listened to mainly ‘old-school west coast hip-hop’ such as Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre.
Later on, Aquinas also adopted the tastes of individuals like Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, Frank Ocean, Kanye, Tame Impala, and Young Thug, into his inspirations list.
The producer also speaks on one of his greatest achievements. At Wavyland, an underground music event run every month or so in Sydney, Aquinas watched as his production was performed live.
Boy Scout Gatsby, a Wollongong artist covered on the blog before, and podcast, performed his songs live at Wavyland.
“Boy Scout Gatsby is one of the best Australian artists I know, and I went down to Sydney and got to see him perform the songs he’s got with me in front of an audience. That was crazy,” says Aquinas.
Boy Scout Gatsby recently released a remix to Aquinas’ new track, Bonsai.
The producer is also very thankful for the audience they’ve developed over the past year, or so.
Aquinas also gives advice to those in the music scene.
If you’re uploading your beats on YouTube, ensure that your thumbnail is enticing, and pleasing to the eye.
The producer also comments that keeping your [hash] tags on Instagram to a minimum is key, as doing otherwise can clutter, and look unappealing.
As the producer continues to create new music, he has also commented that he would love to have more of a role as an artist.