After BLOND:ISH delivered one of the standout sets at Return to Rio, we caught up with Vivie-Ann to discuss spirituality, their ABRACADABRA brand and sustainable raving...
RR: Vivie-Ann, great to chat. Let’s start with Return to Rio. How was your experience of the festival and what was it like performing there?
Vivie-Ann: Loved this boutique festival and felt the intimate family vibes even on the main stage. I especially loved the homemade costumes and one guy’s giant house of cards top hat! I think the best part of playing at Return to Rio was the number of smiles exchanged with everyone on the dance floor - I felt instantly connected.
RR: Yeah it was pretty unforgettable. You’re also a speaker at the EMC Conference in Sydney tonight. In broad terms, what will you be discussing?
Vivie-Ann: On these panels it can always go in a few directions, but I am very passionate about reducing single-use plastics in our scene. I would love to go in depth on the master plan I’ve been building for this, through the Bye Bye Plastic initiative for DJs, venues and promoters. Basically what I noticed from many conversations with DJs and colleagues in our scene is that we all want change, but nobody has time to do it. So I decided to take the baton and go deep on it.
In a nutshell, I’ve put a little team together and have been doing the research starting in territories like UK, Spain, USA and Mexico and finding solutions to single-use plastics - namely straws, water bottles and cups. During the booking process of a DJ, they or the agent can open up a conversation along the lines of, "before we confirm, we just wanted to talk about something that's really important to us at the moment and that’s reducing single-use plastics. What are your thoughts?" There will be an info sheet and if the promoter would like to work on solutions then they can call the Bye Bye Plastic Hotline where a team of people will help them come up with a unique solution for their venue. Because there is no "one size fits all" for moving to sustainable practices. It’s another rabbit hole, but super exciting, because everyone is super eager for change!
RR: We’ve heard your sound described as ‘shamanic house’ (and perhaps jokingly by Anstascia, as ‘vegan techno’ haha). Spirituality does seem to be an integral part of your world view. What does it mean to you and what relationship does it have to your music?
Vivie-Ann: Ha. This spiritual world is such an infinite topic, but sometimes used in a really sarcastic or somewhat judgmental way by people who haven’t opened up to the concept yet. The fact is we are all spiritual beings... we are all just a bundle of energy, but we lost that connection somehow through evolution and technology. Through the wellness revolution, it’s coming back in some way shape or form.
When I got in touch with my inner self and started exploring breath work and different meditations, tantra, yoga, kundalini and working with some plant medicines like peyote, ayahuasca and mushrooms, I started having a deeper connection with nature and the earth. Through this exploration I’ve discovered sound meditations and the power of gongs, and different instruments from the East that have many more keys than the typical 12 note scale we know. Certain frequencies that tap into different moods, feelings and emotions can even can be called healing frequencies. All that stuff has peeled layers off the infinite depth of the concept of sound frequencies and music. So to integrate some of these concepts into the productions is taking me down an interesting path. Sometimes it’s so low that it's subliminal, but it’s all about the feeling.
RR: Congratulations on the development of the ABRACADABRA event brand into an imprint. How has the new venture been going? Any challenges so far?
Vivie-Ann: The new venture has been such an incredible learning process and like a playground, because we have been able to incorporate all the different interests and ideas that we’ve been gathering over the years. So, how can we go deeper with music and also connect on a deeper level with our community while being constantly curious like kids in a candy store?
Being able to incorporate all that goodness at our ABRA parties and then see what comes of it is the greatest feeling. In terms of challenges, many venues and promoters want to treat ABRA as a branded party... but it’s much more than that and far more tailored than bringing some signage, decor and DJs. There’s a lot more going on in the details that is super subtle, but it’s what you remember when you leave after the party. So we have to explain this to a lot of promoters and basically tell them it’s not for clubs - it’s really for unique venues where we can create a curated playground for our community.
RR: The inaugural release, ‘Circus’ has been well received. What was the inspiration behind the track? Talk us through its development.
Vivie-Ann: We really just wanted to make a track that was fun and to make you feel like you were at the circus in the summer. We had these "let’s get in the circus" vibes last year... and that’s what happened. We found a folky Serbian track and sampled it a bunch of different ways and out came the circus!
RR: Ha we definitely feel the circus vibes. Now we know you had your own stage at Tomorrowland this year. How was that given that the music on offer is predominantly EDM?
Vivie-Ann: Of course we also asked ourselves these question before confirming! We have a good friend who is close to the Tomorrowland team, he frequents Tulum and is a green warrior — so we had lots of conversations about it and we all decided the timing might be right to plant some seeds with the masses!
We still have a lot of work to do but the experience was incredible and the production there is just WOW. I think we have a lot to learn from each other... one thing I can say though is that Tomorrowland, being the biggest and one of the most influential festivals in the world, could take more initiative with sustainability! If you’re reading this Tomorrowland or any other festival, venue, promoter or artist and you have questions on how to start, get in touch with me - we all have to take steps together.
RR: We recently held a campaign and event to raise money for mental health charities, which is an important cause for us. Apart from fundraising activities, how do you think music can be a force for positive change in the world?
Vivie-Ann: DJs can use their voice to bring together their community on topics close to their hearts. As BLOND:ISH we implement the Bye Bye Plastic project in to almost every gig and with these little step-by-step changes, we can change the single-use plastic hurdle. Paying more attention to this will change our behaviours as consumers, so our consumption can be minimized over time - it’s a domino effect. I also put special frequencies in our music without telling people to give a positive vibe! Whether it’s creativity, love or compassion.
RR: Finally what’s up next for Blond:ish? And looking to the future, what would you most like to achieve in your careers?
Vivie-Ann: We’re excited for our first show of 2019, which is ABRACADABRA in Tulum, Mexico - on the beach, of course! As clichéd as it sounds I wanna take this DJ and music community to the next level and change the world! The layers that sound has are endless. It’s even outside the scope of our understanding because of our limited senses... it’s everywhere!
RR: Great stuff. Thanks for the chat and all the best for tonight's talk.
Catch Blond:ish on the rest of their Fall Tour here.
Photo: Valya Karchevskaya Phantomography