Ninoosh is the soubriquet for the unearthly electronica from Melbourne born, Swedish based artist Anya Trybala. The most recently released ‘Palms’ is a murky fog leaden with baritone synths and weary transient horns, lifted by vocals that both rasp and pierce. It creates a landscape of its own, something electronically produced music has always excelled in. The track is also the first release from Trybala’s own emerging record label Synth Babe Records, a project started with the aim to shine a spotlight on the gender inequality within the electronic music industry by promoting female artists within the field.
Ninoosh is very dark, atmospheric music, was that a deliberate direction you took or was it more that you were naturally drawn to the style of sound?
I’m always drawn to the more emotive, dark sounds. My favourite album is Fever Ray – which is murky, yet hopeful at the same time. I read somewhere that Karin Dreijer Andersson (Fever Ray and also 1/2 of The Knife) wrote and produced this album after having her first child, so perhaps it was a reflection of that time in her life – those extremities. Portishead, Lamb and Björk were also major influences in my earlier years – but I also LOVE Daft Punk and intelligent dance and techno music full of feelings.
Your upcoming EP Town of Two Hundred is a collection of songs from across 10 years, how do you even collate and create from such a huge time period?
Well, I think some songs just take a really long time to manifest and come to life. The song ‘People in Speakers’ is the oldest one on there. I wrote it while in my old band The Eventual Contenders back in about 2007 but it never really came to anything, but it was always there, as the opening lyrics “When I was a small child of three years, I thought that there were people living in my speakers” just stuck somehow.
It resurfaced when I was working on the EP last year with Paul Lambert from Sound Machine Studios and it all finally came to life. The vocal layering work he did on the track is incredible – I think 60 or so tracks were used – both mine and my back-up singer, the divine Eddie Fitzpatrick, to create a lush soundscape. Then the song ‘Fears of Life’ was written at the end of last year with Paul, a reflection of my darkest moments when battling my Bipolar 2 Disorder. The EP actually goes up and down in mood – so not all darkness and gloom. There is hope in there as well, and nostalgia – and also the political track ‘Football’! All that Pink Floyd I listened to in my youth got into my veins.
I hope to promote female artists for who they are, not what ‘sells’
What is the story and inspiration behind ‘Palms’ and why have you chosen this as the first release for Synth Babe?
I wrote ‘Palms’ after my grandmother passed away – so it’s an exploration of loss. I was there in Poland when it was happening, so it had a big impact on me – she had about 300 people at her funeral!
It was the first song Paul and I recorded together. I gave him all the raw synth stems and bits and pieces and he mixed them beautifully and we added our respective horn parts (he played trombone I played the trumpet), drums from Patrick Nicholas and backing vocals from Manny Sharrad (Infusion). The final mix also includes beautiful cello from Jess Keeffe from Glasfrosch.
I used to suffer from serious perfectionism and struggled to finish projects (hello Bipolar 2!) so decided to have a deadline for the song, which was entering it into Tropscore. Giving yourself a deadline can really work wonders sometimes. So I finished it! It just felt right to be the first one. The film clip for it was created by Third Ray Productions – Lucy McCallum, which we did online while she was in LA and I was in Perth – we also made a creative exchange – I made her jewellery and she made the clip at a discount. Creative exchange – can be much more fun than money sometimes.
You’re also releasing a remix of ‘Palms’ by Ok Sure, what is it like to hand your own work over to someone else for them to fiddle with and was the finished product anything like what you thought it would be?
I love it. You get so insular when working on a song that it can be really refreshing to hear someone else’s interpretation of it. I’ve even started remixing my own songs when I play live. Ok Sure has created some amazing work in the last year, including the winning remix for the Hermitude Triple J Unearthed remix competition, which had about 700 or so entries.
We played a few shows together in 2015 around Melbourne and I just love her dark aesthetic. She came to my last gig at the Brunswick Street Gallery in January and heard Palms and was like ‘Can I remix that track?” and I was like ‘yes please!’
What prompted you to start Synth Babe Records, was it due to an event particular to yourself or was it a reaction to the industry as a whole?
A few little breadcrumbs helped get the idea out in the open. The idea for the collective was swimming in my head since I saw the crew from Milk! Records play a show at the Northcote Social Club. It was great seeing the concept of a music collective come to life. Amazing to see what they’re doing now – plus Jen Cloher gave me some good tips at the start. I then saw the keynote speech from Jessica Hopper from Bigsound on YouTube who spoke about her experience with opening the floodgates to women’s experiences in the music business with her single tweet and she was just so frigin’ great! I tweeted her to say “Hey, I’m thinking of launching a record label – Synth Babe Records – focus on women in electronica…what are your thoughts?” and she said ‘Beautiful idea’ – sometimes it just takes a nudge. The final bit was getting sponsored to attend the Electronic Music Conference (EMC) through Xelon Entertainment who were supporting five female music makers and shakers in the electronic music scene, so I thought this was the moment to just go for it. I just think the whole collective idea is so powerful, and I hope to promote female artists for who they are, not what ‘sells’.
It’s still really disappointing to see such male-dominated festival line-ups, but maybe that’ll change if we just keep fighting for it. I mean, do we really need to see Kings of Leon headlining yet another festival? Boring.
The push against gender inequality within the music industry seem to be more prevalent in recent times (whether through musical expression, coming up in interviews or similar to yourself creating organisations or events that promote non-male artists), why do you think that’s the case?
I just think more women are speaking up and just doing stuff. Young women who are hoping to get into the industry have more positive role models doing their own thing, like FKA Twigs and Grimes, access to heaps of information and tutorials, are generally more empowered and maybe the media are doing their share to create an equilibrium and reporting on sexism. Sexism and harassment is being called out more frequently (think the Jessica Hoppers and the Keshas of this world) so perhaps it is swaying public perception? Feminist writers like Clementine Ford, who have so much moxie and call it out when they see inequality, have given me more fire in my belly. It’s still really disappointing to see such male-dominated festival line-ups, but maybe that’ll change if we just keep fighting for it. I mean, do we really need to see Kings of Leon headlining yet another festival? Boring.
A lot of the aforementioned promotion of women in the industry is coming from women themselves. Do you think men have a role to play in the change in music’s gender dynamic?
Yep, definitely. Rather than be afraid of feminism and remain stubborn on issues that they might not fully understand, men should stand in solidarity. Men have the most power to make changes and for this to be solely a ‘women’s issue’ is an archaic perspective – like when Grimes is questioned about sexism in the music industry. Why aren’t the Kanyes, Drakes and Justin Biebers asked about it? We’re all in it together and it’ll be a far more interesting landscape with more girls to the front – who are not so damn exploited! Maybe quotas should be introduced for all the major festivals. I’m not a big fan on the concept of quotas, but maybe it’s a necessary step?
You’re currently based in Sweden but you’re working on an upcoming compilation, ‘Babes of Melbourne.’ Why choose to focus on your hometown instead of where you’re living now?
SBR is working in collaboration with Node, a weekly TRNSMT show dedicated to showcasing local Melbourne talent, run by SFBM (Andre Jones) Sundelin (Sandra Sundelin) Devant (Robin Gee Cutting) and Alter-Mind (Aydan Hussein). Andre has been my point of contact and it was his idea to put together a compilation. I think it’s got huge potential on a global scale – but we need to start somewhere.
Melbourne formed me as an artist in so many ways – from both brilliant to truly crap experiences – I have a love/hate relationship with the city (so glad to not have to face Punt Road right now!) so I’m glad to be focusing on it.
Artists to feature so far include Ok Sure, Sundelin, Sophia Sin, KT Spit and Rebekah Davis, but I’m still taking submissions until the 30 June – so get cracking ladies and send to email@example.com.
Have you got anything else planned for Synth Babes?
I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, so I’m trying to pace myself – but more compilations. The goal is to keep releasing music from all over the world to show that hey, there are some kick-ass women out there making great music.
I want to put on a Synth Babe Records traveling show featuring Australian and European female artists next European summer – bit ambitious, but it’s an idea – getting all the funding applications out now. A good tip from Jen Cloher – don’t go into debt! And maybe if we can see more female artists on festival bills next year, that would be a great outcome.
Ninoosh’s EP ‘Town of Two Hundred’ is set for release on June 19th.