Photo: Press (Jennifer Loveless)
Jennifer Loveless is bored by what she calls “the suffering artist schtick” but that doesn’t mean that her multi-faceted work as a DJ, live performer, producer and poet is entirely positive. Rather, the Melbourne-based Canadian picks up upon complicated themes – whether it’s the climate crisis, tinnitus or the pandemic that Australia is currently trying to bring under control. Still, there’s very little doom or gloom to be heard in Loveless’s music, as also her recent debut EP for Pure Space Recordings made clear: it’s a cunning reflection on the dualities and subtleties that shape our lives in many different ways. In short, Loveless makes complex art that reflect the complex times we’re living in. And while her mix for our Groove podcast includes a stone-cold classic like CJ Bolland’s “Camargue,” it is not an entirely straightforward affair – but rather a wild ride through different moods and states of mind.
First off, how are you doing and what have you been up to lately?
We’re currently undergoing a Stage 4 lockdown, our most severe lock down yet here in Naarm/Melbourne. It’s getting harder to stay motivated and up, but I can’t complain. I’m well in health, sleeping good, and have a few projects to focus on.
You have been performing live for a while before releasing your debut solo EP Hard/Soft this February through Pure Space. How did the release come together? In an interview with Stamp The Wax you’ve revealed that the material is only one half of a tape release you had planned before abandoning the idea.
The release wouldn’t have come together in the way that it did without the live shows I played leading up to the release. I’ve found that writing for live shows is an effective way for me to develop tracks. I perform a live meandering piece with different “movements” that are sketches of songs, and while preparing for the show, I record the rehearsals. From there I pick the best take or combine a few, rearrange, add instruments and FX, tweak, and mix until it stands on its own as a song. The track “Flowers” and all of the interludes are from the live sets I was performing back in 2018 to 2019, one of which was for a yoga studio session. And the rest of the material on the EP goes back further. “DCS” was written in 2016 and the bulk of “Tinnitus” was written some time between 2016 and 2019. When I was initially approached by Andy Garvey to do the release, it was meant to be a tape which was a catalyst for the title and theme, Hard/Soft. The unreleased B-side is a lot chuggier, dub-ish meditative techno, which on its face would maybe seem “hard,” but the released A-side touches on a lot of emotional experiences and feelings to which i would also deem “hard”. The duality was fun to play with. I was even quite taken with the name “Hard Feelings/Soft Tinnitus’ for a time. I was obsessed with the irony in the phrase “no hard feelings,” because it’s usually said when there are in fact hard feelings. It was a little heart-breaking when we scrapped the tape idea, but I think the concept works all the same within the one side. And at any rate, the unreleased B-side is available in full in my Stamp the Wax Self: Portrait mix – it starts 9:11 min.
One of the segments of the 20-minute long track picks up on what you call “a generational tinnitus.” What do you mean by that, and how did you try to incorporate this idea in your compositional process?
This idea kind of came about when someone told me that birds in the city have learnt to communicate at a different frequency to their rural cousins to compensate for city noise. The idea solidified around the time when most of my music and club peers were growing concerned about the health of our hearing. Heaps of people I knew already had some degree of tinnitus, including a friend who has one that is a perfectly pitched C note. Mine comes in and out as of late, but I wonder if I’ve had it for much longer than that. I grew up banging music in my room, in cars, in school, and I went on to do the same in clubs, warehouses. I imagine this must be a similar experience for most people at, above, and below me in age. You can get tinnitus in a number of ways of course, but I feel there is a large cohort that got it like I did, the result of trying to hear more. I find something to pause on in that line of thought. Then I parallel this to the astronomical amount of information that is out there for us to consume. My generation was at the fore of the internet age and I think we hear and consume information differently to generations before us and after us. I wonder what is lost and what is gained. There are a lot of high tones in the song “Tinnitus,” which I’d like to think the listener finds either bothersome or enjoyable based on their degree of tinnitus. I personally find it emotive and comforting, and at times a bit uncomfortable – but in a nice way.
Hard/Soft also features a passage in which you read poetry. You said you have started writing at a very young age. What role does literature play in your daily life and especially your work as a producer?
I’ll start by saying I’ve been really bad at reading and writing lately, but have been obsessed from time. We weren’t allowed much television growing up until our teens, and home was nice but unstable. Reading and writing helped me process the rather mature concepts I was exposed to at a young age while also being a form of escape. And so, I’ve always turned to writing when I am in a hard place. It makes me feel better to go deeper into the source of discomfort or pain, to interrogate. It’s also a safe and solo place to lament without tiring anyone else. For years, bad experiences and feelings were a source of creativity. In more recent times, I have made an effort not to rely so much on negativity as a source of creation. The suffering artist schtick is a bit boring to me now.
You are also an avid scuba diver and have also composed music that soundtracked a discussion on the climate crisis. How do nature and music relate for you?
Just quickly referencing back to an earlier question, that soundtrack for the discussion on climate change is actually the sketch work for my upcoming album. I wrote that entire piece based on a fact I learnt from David Attenborough in Blue Planet 2 – that once a year, false killer whales meet up with dolphins around the waters of New Zealand and hang out – a.k.a. party – for a few days, which sounds like a festival to me. The two groups also change the way they speak to communicate with each other… they can speak different languages! That fact is so beautiful to me, because it is just proof that all animals have intricate lives. I’m tired of this very human-centric idea of a hierarchy of beings with humans at the top, when there is proof everywhere that mammals, insects, fish and more have their own culture, rules, methods, and festivals even. In a long-winded way, nature is a huge source of inspiration for me when producing.
What was the idea behind your contribution to the Groove podcast?
Ironically, my online mixes are getting more energetic and “clubbier” as we progress further into lockdown. I guess when i was playing out most weekends, I felt a need to balance my ears through online mixes that were a bit more of a blend of nuance and introspection. With no outlets these days for partying, I just want to bang it out. This mix bangs it out in few genre realms, with a number of unreleased tracks as well; it starts off rather conservative and gets progressively more flamboyant.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Working on a few projects at the moment, some of it addresses COVID-19 and some of it waits on COVID-19 to ease back.
Stream: Jennifer Loveless – Groove Podcast 266
01. Toni Yotzi and Michael Ozone – Wobbly Gina (forthcoming)
02. Sleep D – Marchine (forthcoming on Merriware)
03. Maurice Fulton – Outside
04. Anunaku and DJ Plead – Haze
05. Underspreche – Jefe
06. Pillow Queen – Resurection (forthcoming on Delicate Records)
07. ??? – ??? (forthcoming)
08. DJ Fett Burger – N.Y. Venus a Mix
09. Karizma – The Damn Dub
10. Millia Rage – Stepover
11. DJ Fett Burger – Edge of Galaxy
12. Jun Kamoda – Screamer’s Delight
13. Dave Aju – Glendale Blvd Boogie
14. Yuri Wesseling and Bjorn Wendelen – Wet Water
15. Gnork – Mythos
16. Crue-L Grand Orchestra – ???
17. 栄免建設株式会社 – Itoshima No Nagaya
18. Nídia – Capacidades
19. Dolo Percussion – Dolo 17
20. Mani Festo – Cheatin
21. CJ Bolland – Carmargue
22. 栄免建設株式会社 – Kasai Rinkai House