Alice Ivy On Releasing Her Festival Album, ‘Don’t Sleep,’ While In Lockdown

Alice Ivy is an up and coming Australian artist-producer who should be mentioned in the same breath as Tones and I or G Flip. Think: 20-something female music producers making euphoric, dreamy and electrifying dance beats for a live audience. Her new album, Don’t Sleep, is no different: 13 tracks featuring 14 different featured artists, it’s like the recorded product of an IRL festival. But, what do you do when you release an album fit for the festival season, when, thanks to a global pandemic, we have no idea when we’ll next get to actually have one? 

To celebrate Alice Ivy’s upcoming gig as one of the judges on W Melbourne’s W Insider talent hunt—it’s “a very cool job,” she says—the artist-producer sat down with Syrup to chat all things lockdown and her new packed electro-dream-dance album, Don’t Sleep

As all other artists have experienced this year, Alice Ivy’s second LP comes at a weird time. In 2020, the 2016 Triple J Unearthed Listen Out winner is currently at home in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne. Contrary to Don’t Sleep’s perfect festival vibe, she can’t go out performing her 13-feature-stacked-tracks live to a giant, roaring and pumping festival crowd or feel the sweat roll down her face as she takes a sip between sets. Stuck with nothing but her partner and the four walls around them, you’d assume Alice Ivy is doing what many other Victorians have been doing: trying to keep calm and wait it all out. But, as she told us, “it hasn’t really slowed down for me.” 

“I’ve been really busy with my new album campaign and working on new music, which has been great,” she said, also recently making her performance debut in Minecraft. “I’ve also started cooking more (previously my partner did ALL of the cooking) and landscaping my garden. Grown up things! But I’ve also been getting into Killing Eve lately.”

“Whenever I write music I always try to picture what it would be like performing it live so not being able to tour my new album right now is super anticlimactic for me in that sense,” Ivy continued. “But honestly putting this record out has been surreal. The feedback has been amazing, I get messages almost everyday from people saying how much it’s resonated with them especially during this year. That kind of stuff is special.”

Alice Ivy’s Don’t Sleep debuted on the 17th of July. A month later, the album’s single, “In My Mind” was used in an official iPhone ad, days before it hit number one on the U.S. Shazam Discovery Chart. For a lil Aussie muso stuck at home in Victoria, it was a pretty impressive achievement, only surpassed ofc by the album itself.

Photo credit: Michelle G Hunder

When I say that Don’t Sleep is stacked, I mean it. Within its 13 tracks, Ivy’s new album features 14 different artists including Montaigne, Thelma Plum, Ecca Vandal and Benjamin Joseph of SAFIA. 

Don’t Sleep isn’t just one story so much as it’s a collection of them,” she explained. “A celebration of a diverse range of voices and narratives from all corners of the globe and cultural landscape.”

“On Don’t Sleep, I wanted to use my platform as a producer and curator to highlight some of the most important (and sometimes sadly lesser heard) voices in music. I want people to listen to it from start to finish. I hope it moves them like it moves me.”

“Before I started working on my new album I sat down and wrote a wishlist of all the artists I wanted to collaborate with and my team and I started reaching out to them. Fortunately, a whole bunch of them said yes! I was also really fortunate to attend some really killer writing camps, especially an all female and non-binary one called Ricochet here in Australia, where some of my favourite moments on the album were written.”

Don’t Sleep takes the dreamscape vibe Ivy took as her own in her debut album, I’m Dreaming, and pumps it up with high-kick-drum dance beats, swagger rap feats and staccato brass bits. It really is a shame we can’t dance to this live because it was made for—and from her experience within—the live music scene. 

Don’t Sleep is a counterpoint to my debut album I’m Dreaming,” she explained. “Whereas the latter documented an era at the beginning of my career when I was still learning and doing everything for the first time, Don’t Sleep documents the past two years of non-stop touring, festivals, worldwide travel and becoming who I am as an artist. I think that’s evident in the complexity and confidence of Don’t Sleep, I swapped out a lot of the dreamscapes for bangers!”

“I probably wrote 40 songs in the process of making this album and whittling that number down was not an easy task. Some of the artists featured on Don’t Sleep, like Thelma Plum or Ecca Vandal, are among my favourite artists, who I was hanging out to work with for ages. Some like Cadence Weapon, whom I met at South By Southwest, I connected with on tour. Others, such as Dijah SB I discovered online and cold-called them, meeting for the first time when we set foot in the studio! I’m very lucky to call them all pals now.”

Looking to the future, Alice Ivy is next set to take part on the judging panel of W Melbourne’s W Insider. “As a Melbourne local who’s no stranger to the city’s nightlife, rich musical tapestry (and café culture!), I’ll be keeping the applicants on their toes, ensuring whomever succeeds in the role’s got the 411 on all things Melbourne!”

Years after emerging into the scene through Triple J’s own talent search, Ivy admits it kinda feels like a full circle moment for her. 

“It’s not been all that long since I was discovered in that sense but I think I’m ready to pass the torch so to speak,” she says. “[W Insider is] all about being in the know and having the right hook-ups when it comes to curating and facilitating money can’t buy experiences in Melbourne for the W Melbourne’s guests.”

And, outside of her career, Ivy says “now that Spring has turned up and the sun’s shining, all I’m thinking about is what summer has in store. Fingers crossed the lockdown will soon be a thing of the past and I’ll be able to road trip down to the beach!”

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.