A background in blues has given the electronica project of Annika Schmarsel – AKA Alice Ivy – the kind of dreamy soul you can’t fake. Lively, engrossing, and full of emphatic beats, put your hands together one time for I’m Dreaming.
Apparently your new years resolution is to pat more dogs this year. What was your fave dog-patting experience of ’17?
That’s the best question I’ve ever received in my life. The best dog that I patted in 2017, is this famous dog in Melbourne called Tofu. Tofu is a shiba. I think it lives in Abbotsford but it’s always just hanging around. Its owner takes it for a walk down Brunswick Street and around Collingwood. It’s the fluffiest dog ever and when you pat the dog the owner gives you a sticker and it says, “I patted Tofu.” The sticker is now on my phone and every time I look at my phone I think of Tofu. That’s next level dog-patting game, isn’t it?
The first single from the album is Touch, featuring Georgia Van Etten, and it’s full of ideas – from the Alice In Wonderland samples to the half-time, thick beat shift near the end. Do you make these decisions by feel or try to very consciously plan a track out?
Totally feel. I honestly never go with a plan into anything that I write – only when I’m writing for other people. When I write my own music and when I remix I don’t really go with an aim of trying to create something. I honestly just stick with a blank canvas and start painting. I just feel as I go.
That must take true faith in your own ability – to trust that your feel will lead the way and get you to your destination.
The good thing with producing and Ableton, the software I use, is that you have the ability to easily chop and change things all the time. I get excited when something good happens when I write. When I’m onto something, when I write a lead line or I find a patch that I really like, or I play something and I understand that that’s what it needs to be, I get really excited. My gut thing with everything that I do with writing… [is] listen to it over and over and over again. You might get sick of it for a little bit but you keep listening to it. I just feel like when you write something that you’re really happy with, you should not be able to get sick of it.
That’s a good indicator.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but that’s how I’ve always worked. Some of the stuff took me months to put me together but then other stuff took me hours. Sometimes it happens within months, and sometimes it happens within hours. If you can keep listening to it without getting sick of it, and it constantly gives you that exciting feeling, I think that I’m on the right path.
I’m interested in why one producer wants to be left alone and another wants to collaborate. Do you think that your experience in soul bands, and the way a soul band is assembled, with circular improvisations and what have you, inspired your leanings towards collaboration?
Totally. One hundred percent. I love playing in bands. I love collaborating with other people. I haven’t even been producing for that long – I’ve been producing for two years, and I’d been playing in a band before for ten years. I feel like playing in bands was awesome, I had a bit of a lead in the songwriting of all of that, but what I loved so much about learning how to produce my own music is the fact that you don’t have to wait for everyone else to commit. Playing in bands can be a really rewarding thing but it can also be really hard. You’re looking at organising rehearsals, and you’re fighting over who gets what percentage of the writing. It doesn’t always happen as easily as it could. I guess the really great thing about my project [is that] when it comes to whether I like something or not, if I don’t like it, that’s cool. That’s my decision. It’s not like I have to fight for it. I can just make the decision. I’m still getting used to it. I have the freedom to be able to work with whoever I want.
I’m Dreaming (another collab with Van Etten) is a stand-out; its horns are just gorgeous. Have you thought about bringing a live brass section into your live show?
That is the dream to be honest. The Bonobo style, full horn section, full bands, strings. Especially at Splendour, [Bonobo] was so sick. He played the tent stage and he had a whole string section and he had a full rhythm section. There was a vocalist doing those top lines. He had dope visuals and everything was theatrical. It was beautiful. That is my ultimate live goal for sure. It’s just a cost factor. Touring is a really expensive thing to do and I’m not exactly making a lot of money, and I feel like we’ve done it pretty well so far. I’ve recorded this whole album at home in my home studio in Brunswick. I produced the whole thing myself. I tracked the whole thing myself. We tour according to whether we can afford to take the band or not. The dream would be to have a full brass section at a stadium show.
You’ve two interludes on the album – both with really fantastic, chilled breakbeats – and they’re both named St. Germain. Do you have a personal admiration for the French producer of the same name?
Totally. I have memories of my parents blasting that album, Tourist, outside. It’s an amazing record. That kind of music is a total inspiration. I really like the idea of interludes as well on a record. I just wanted to choose sounds and samples that I have a history with, and I guess that’s what it’s all about. It’s a giant collaboration. I don’t know if I answered your question.
You absolutely did! Lastly, Charlie has a very distinctive feel to it: the smiley ‘50s housewife idea matched with the super cute horns is perfect. What part of the track’s assemblage sparked the idea?
It started with the sample. I was really into that 1950s. This was an old song of mine. This is the first song I ever produced so I was really into that 1950s after the Cold War, post-World War II vibe where the American dream was like a reality. Radioactivity stuff. The thought of nuclear disaster but then also the growth of stupid stuff like whitegoods and when Barbie came out and all that sort of stuff. I really wanted to create a really bitter sweet rendition of that time. I just thought it was really interesting, especially in that sample.
I’m Dreaming is out February 16 via Dew Process.
Read our review of the album.