Interview with Soda Lite (June 2019)
1. What are some recent inspirations?
The ooloi of Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, the music and technological wizardry of the Middle Ages, Debussy
, ambient music worldwide, the Little Wattlebird & the Common Myna, agroecology, Liffey (my dog companion), clay, Çatalhöyük, kale, the soil biology in my backyard.
2. Your earliest release as Soda Lite was in 2015. When did you start recording music and how long have you been releasing it (under any moniker)?
I started recording music when I was a teenager in 2005. I used a headset mic, Windows Sound Recorder and Audacity. Music like Beaches and Canyons
(Black Dice) inspired me to experiment, and I made all sorts of noisy, organic alien sounds under all kinds of names for years…
3. What were your initial aspirations when starting the Soda Lite project?
I realised my listening habits were changing, drifting into New Age realms and brighter, slower sounds. I wanted to reflect this in my own compositions. I was also becoming more and more entranced by plants, animals and my local environment, and thinking more about the role of music in shaping time and space. Since wild places are rare and distant for people living in cities, I wanted to create sounds that would allow them to experience (within the safety of their home or headphones) the slow, sweet temporal flux of that vibrant world beyond the cement highways, machinery, automation, cars and other alienating intensities of petro-capitalism.
4. There is a definite shift in mood and palette on your album In Eco from 2017 that has carried forward into your work over the last couple years. What is behind that artistic shift for you?
Any shift of mood or palette is mostly incidental, arising from shifts in my own life rhythms, in the places I’m visiting or living in, or what I’m listening to or thinking about. When I sit down to make music I don’t actively try to wander away from the work I have done previously. A timbre or a melody captures me, not the other way around. The conditions of light, of air temperature, of nearby plants, clouds of pollen and a thousand other micro-sensual elements all lead me to a sense of what gels within a song.
5. What are the factors you consider when choosing field recordings for one of your pieces?
Sometimes it’s about the mood evoked, and sometimes it’s about really wanting to respond to a place that I’ve bonded with. The field recording is almost always where I start. They was especially important for some of the pieces on ‘Reveries in terra lerpa
,’ where I really wanted the instruments to sound as if they were woven into the acoustic ecology of the recorded environment. For Vale & Stone, the recordings act more like topsoil, a fertile ground from which to grow the different tones and harmonies which make up the album. These are some of the places you can hear on the new album: on ‘Nyth’ it’s Firth’s Campground in Lerderderg State Park (Victoria) On ‘Moonah,’ it’s the backyard in my new home on the first day we arrived. In ‘Lyra’s Horizon’ it’s a seagull colony on an abandoned human-built island called South Channel Fort, in Port Philip Bay (Naarm/Melbourne)
6. Do you feel like music is your main artistic medium?
Not anymore. It definitely used to be.
7. What do you investigate and express in other mediums that you feel like you can’t with music and vice versa?
Through my art practise, I’m able to engage more pragmatically with various social and ecological subjects. For example, looking at the shape of avian intelligence and individuality, or working directly with audiences to determine our shared environmental responsibilities. The music I make is more affective, more emotional. In both, I’m trying to give imaginative shape to new worlds of possibility and ways of life. They crossover a lot.
8. You moved to Lutruwita (Tasmania) recently. How has that shift been for you? It seems like it’s affording you more opportunities to work with the land.
It’s been amazing. Melbourne was a very big city and wracked with a hectic intensity which carried deep into peoples lives. The pace is much different here, and the natural world less ravaged. I was also doing full-time youth work in Melbourne and now I’m just part-time over here, which is much more sustainable. And yeah, I now have more physical and mental space to make experiments in food production, soil, animal care, etc. Food and energy sovereignty are extremely important to me, but it’s an immense project that will take decades to unravel. I’m pretty sure I will grow old and die here in lutruwita.
9. How do you use and engage with music in your daily life?
It’s woven into the fabric of everything I do. It’s rare that music isn’t playing in the background, or on my headphones. I’m listening to a lot of country music at the moment - from the Louvin Brothers
to Loretta Lynn
. Sounds of the Dawn
is always a presence. 12th Isle
. Alice Coltrane
. And a lot of medieval music…
10. Words of wisdom you like to recall in times of need?
‘Stay with the trouble’ – Donna Haraway
'Everything changes and nothing stands still’ - Heraclitus
Soda Lite has a new album, Vale & Stone
, which is now available via Inner Islands on cassette and digital formats.