With her debut EP, 'Hard/Soft', out now on Andy Garvey's Pure Space, we chat to Jennifer Loveless about community, growing up and the power of the club.
Jennifer Loveless is a name in dance music you’re probably aware of. She’s done it all. An extremely well loved community member and a stand out talent behind the decks in amongst the local dance scene in Australia, she was a part of Discwoman’s Showcase Boiler Room, has featured on Rinse FM, Noods Radio, supported the likes of DJ Sprinkles, Steffi, Wata Igarashi and has her own radio show, Weatherall on Skylab radio. Now, she's ready to unleash her powers into a new dimension with the release of her debut EP Hard/Soft via Pure Space.
The EP, while brief, maps a long musical trajectory through the vast underground dance scene of Australia and her original home Toronto. It’s in her city of upbringing that she became enlightened by the world of dance music.
“I got into dance culture early on through parties in elementary and highschool that were predominantly soca, dancehall, r&b and hip hop. Dancing was an important form of expression. In terms of electronic dance music I entered via dubstep and dnb. It was around the time I moved into the metro part of Toronto squeezed into a one-bedroom apartment that was worth it for the access. I got access to new social groups and started going out and discovered these holes in the wall pocket raves."
“It wasn’t too dissimilar to Sydney in the way that the scene happens underground, where there aren’t a whole lot of official venues due to financial viability and licensing laws.
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“My taste progressed from dubstep to deep house. From there was a trajectory into the world I’m associated with now.”
Speaking to Jennifer Loveless, it’s easy to see why success has walked her way. She’s a go getter, she doesn’t miss an opportunity and above all she’s extremely passionate about the spaces, communities and environments she works in. It’s this attitude that first found her behind the decks.
“I think it’s a part of my personality that triggered the spark in wanting to be involved in dance music and culture. I always want to do whatever I’m really into, I just want to try things. As an example, I was obsessed with Bon Iver and I insisted to learn guitar off the back of that. It was a similar attitude with DJing. I wanted to know what it was about, I really loved what it does for me emotionally.
Jennifer Loveless talks about the ‘club’ environment as one that is formative for her ideas and performance. It’s a learning curve so universally felt by so many in the dance community. She sees the club space as an eye opening yet reflective space, one that is deeply personal and spiritual yet at the same time community driven and supportive.
“I loved going out by myself as a way to clear my head. I wouldn’t need to talk to anyone. I’d be the last one at the party dancing. I learnt a lot about myself at that time. It’s interesting how much you can learn on a dancefloor. I was this geeky, science kid who had questionable personal skills. I was post-high school trying to figure out where I fit, trying to overcome certain insecurities and learning how to conduct myself in certain spaces. The skills I learnt on a dancefloor are so important to real life [for] how you engage and how you perform trust.
“It’s like going to church. There’s a euphoria and ecstasy in a great club environment. It’s special when you get to the state of enlightenment. It’s so beautiful. When people say they don’t get clubbing, they just haven't had that experience.”
As she vocalised these ideas with extreme passion, I asked why dance music was so important in creating communal change and inviting welcoming spaces for people. I suggested dance music was so important as it was community binding because of its experimental qualities. With boundary pushing elements, you bring people together.
She expanded on this point, confidently.
“Dance music is a world that you have to govern yourself and the community has to govern itself. In the dance world, you don’t have the general institutions that you have in real life. A lot of the time in these communities, its marginalised people that the system doesn't work for so it’s this new place where you have no rules which you have to create. That’s why its effective — because you’re creating a world of your own.”
It’s on this point that we consistently came back to as a way to reflect on the current state of Sydney’s dance music scene, which has transformed from one of structural destruction into one of togetherness, of hope and of imminent future growth.
“In these spaces, and in DIY spaces especially you don’t have someone to fall back on. We have to all mind each other which is so important. When that responsibility isn’t on some external individual paid to care but on the community, selfish attitudes disappear. It’s a lot less individualistic. With that, it gives a responsibility on every single person to conduct themselves appropriately”
“The scene here in Sydney is so together. It’s a product of having to operate against the system more so than Melbourne does. When you’re spoiled for choice, the conflict turns inwards. Here however, everyone in the community supports each other as the fight is outwards.”
It’s from this extremely strong ideas base that the Jennifer Loveless project comes to life. Not ever described by genre, a niche or sub culture, Jennifer has always managed to stay brutally true to her consciousness. Whether that’s creating emotionally effective dance music through manipulating the fundamentals of dance, or appealing to an audience often stranded by the structures of broader society, she’s always acted without compromise.
As she reflects on maintaining an emotional presence in her music, its clear to see honesty is a key part of her creative process.
“I’ve always been conscious of maintaining the emotional side of myself with a scene that’s very in your face, partying and hype. For a long time, I struggled because I didn’t know if I could just travel at one speed. I’ve never really been able to DJ at one speed or one general level. I learnt to make it work for me from an honest place so I can express emotions through a broader experience.”
“There has been a lot of negotiation through my time of DJing because I’ve been doing it for a really long time. Trying to figure out where I am and where I fit. Trying to figure out what feels good, what feels genuine and what doesn’t. I’ve tried a lot of things in my eight years of DJing and I think I only maybe sort of figured it out in the last two and a half years. I'm sure in time I will have to face these same questions again.”
With this experience and this identity that Jennifer has been able to present her debut work, Hard/Soft on Andy Garvey’s Pure Space.
“So much of this industry is about personal connection. I’ve known Andy for years. There was a Vibe Positive party we both played, with Nite Fleit and Valerie Yum. That was when I first met Andy and my first experience of Sydney warehouse. The crew was so sick and we all had similar values and that's where that initial connection with Andy comes from. So, when she asked me if I had anything going I said absolutely!”
Pure Space is a platform that prides itself on delving into the deeper and darker sides of the electronic world. A platform not defined by genre but by a sense of feeling or emotionally triggering electronic music. I was interested to find out if Jennifer ‘believed’ in genres, or how she navigates through the vast and tight world of electronic music genres.
“I do and I don’t think about genres. When I write, I don't think, "Oh I'm going to make a house track," but I’m obviously very well aware of my influences and trying to make them as me as possible.”
She reflects this back onto writing this EP.
“I was worried about this release being categorised as ambient. I can see how it would be categorised like that. This was important for me as a first release. I think it was important for me in my first release to encapsulate my life outside of dance music with my life inside dance music. To try and find a space that is less crowded and find music from an honest place. Then from this, I’m happy to delve into other places and not be seen as one sort of artist.”
Hard/Soft opens with 'Flowers'. The track opens whimsically with beautiful large ambient chords that wash over the listener like a high tide. As tension builds, percussion teases through the sonic board of the track. Rather than a large explosion of tension through the creation of prolific movement, the rhythm is welcoming in its nature.
“'Flowers' tries to negotiate a sense of malleability, it's about softness. I think the way it sounds sonically feels cathartic. The build-up is just things compounding on top of each other and then the release.”
Following is Tinnitus. The harsher of tracks, its high frequency drums combine with a melancholic synth line with significant emotional bearing.
“'Tinnitus' is the most aggressive track on the EP but even then, its tinged with nostalgia and sadness. That song also has a lot of high frequencies in it and I was thinking a lot about the generational tinnitus that we all have.”
Sonically, the EP is vast and grandiose. It’s like nature in its purest form: humbling, yet welcoming and calm in its presence. It’s no surprise Jennifer quotes nature as one of her main influences.
“I’m influenced a lot by nature. I go scuba diving, snorkelling a couple times a year. I love learning about marine animals. One of my favourite facts is that pilot whales and dolphins meet up off the south coast of New Zealand every year at the same time and the pilot whales will speak dolphin and they’ll have a festival and all remember each other. We act like we are the superior animal but they are just as nuanced and complicated as we are.”
With Hard/Soft, Jennifer Loveless adds another achievement to her ever-growing list of accolades, and in doing so provides a deeper glimpse into her world than ever before. By managing to meld the influences of her journey up until now, as well as her ability to maintain a forward-thinking approach to emotional club music, she has created a body of work that stays with you long after its finished. It's honest and real, just like Jennifer herself, thanks to the tangible emotion injected into each track, and is a credit to not just her as an artist but Pure Space and the communities they represent both separately and together. With the Australian dance scene continually evolving and rapidly expanding, it's increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and deliver something with authenticity and its exactly this that Jennifer Loveless has achieved with Hard/Soft. It really is only up from here for her.
Words by Parry Tritsiniotis
Image by Kayzar