Fighting the good fight: a chat with the organisers of Bad Vibrations Fest

Since 2010 Dave Couri has been running a festival with a few ideals in mind; inclusivity, accessibility, transparency, and at the core of it all – incredible live music. What started as Sydney Psych Fest now goes by the name Bad Vibrations, and as the event approaches its 2019 edition things are as exciting as ever.

As we wait for this year’s lineup to be unveiled, we caught up with Dave and festival co-director Jaimee Taylor-Neilsen for the current lay of the land.

bad vibrations fest australia
Photos: Bad Vibrations Fest Australia on Facebook

Sydney Psych Fest is back as Bad Vibrations, one of Sydney (and recently Melbourne’s) most well-rounded festivals. Find out what’s happening at this year’s event series.

HAPPY: Hey Dave, hey Jaimee, how are things? What are you up to at the moment?

JAIMEE: Hey hey, things are low-key chaotic and real fun, just the way I like them! Working with Dave on Bad Vibes, running a local music collective, Coven, with another two fab mates, booking and promoting shows with gender diverse lineups, playing in my band Hedy Lamarr, and this year I got to start hosting Thursdays on my favourite radio show, The Bridge on FBi!

DAVE: Low-key chaotic is probably the most apt description I have of our lives – we should put that on our crest! I live and work up in Newcastle which is a town with a great vibe. Things keep a fairly hectic pace getting from there to putting on shows all around the place, but it’s always nice to come back to the beach.

HAPPY: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your histories with Psych Fest/Bad Vibrations?

JAIMEE: Bad Vibrations and Psych Fest are Dave’s babies!! We met in 2017 when I was doing some work for Girls Rock! Camp Sydney – Dave was donating a bunch of gear to the camp and our lovely mate Trisch (from Mere Women/Cat Heaven) introduced us knowing we think the same way about music and community. Next thing I knew Dave had me on board as a co-director of Psych Fest! It’s a real bloody treat working with him, he’s a certified Nice & Good Man.

DAVE: The idea for this things first came about in 2010 in Austin, Texas. A bunch of bands always seemed to be playing over there at Austin Psych Fest (think The Laurels, King Gizz, Dreamtime, Ride Into The Sun, The Black Ryder) so the idea would always get tossed around of creating our own showcase back home. We still get to ATX every year, but in 2013 we decided to start putting on our own events – it’s really grown from there. While we’re a small team, Jaimo and I don’t do this alone. Some very talented folks have given a lot to this movement over the years and their contributions are not to be understated.

HAPPY: For those who are unaware, what are the core values of Bad Vibrations?

DAVE & JAIMEE: At Bad Vibrations we believe music is for everybody – nobody should feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or unsafe at a Bad Vibes gig. We’re constantly doing our best to make our gigs more accessible, diverse, transparent and inclusive. Ultimately our aim is to showcase the incredible independent and emerging talent coming out of Australia (and beyond) and create a loving, diverse community in the process.

HAPPY: The community you’ve built around these ideas and the shows is pretty amazing. Are you hoping it will rub off on a larger scale one day?

DAVE & JAIMEE: Definitely! If we can put together events with gender diverse lineups, attention to accessibility, safer spaces and inclusion with our limited budget and access to resources, larger scale music events definitely can. We have great relationships with bands and the people who work with us because we’re transparent about who we are and why we’re doing this from the get go – we’re creatives ourselves, we definitely aren’t in it for the money (“everyone gets paid, nobody gets rich” is a phrase we use a lot) and we think our community respects that. We’re not trying to make a buck off the back of hard working local artists, we’re not booking gender diverse lineups because we’re scared of getting in trouble if we don’t, we’ve always tried to keep our ticket prices accessible, and yeah, if others in our wider music community took inspiration we’d be really happy.

HAPPY: Do you think inclusivity is more important than ever in the current music climate? How so?

DAVE & JAIMEE: We’re aware that currently in NSW the music industry and arts community as a whole are up against a lot. The recent election just showed us that our work and that of our artists is not exactly viewed as valuable, or worth protecting, by some of our leaders. The music industry (and some genres in particular) undoubtedly have a problem when it comes to diversity and inclusion. There’s SO much work to be done – we ourselves have a lot to learn – and without real efforts towards inclusivity how can we fight for our industry as a united front?

HAPPY: Can I ask about the new name? Why the change up?

DAVE & JAIMEE: After five years of SPF we wanted to expand the idea of what our events are about. We aren’t exclusively a psych music event – our lineups are more varied every year and Dave already runs his own record label called Bad Vibrations, so we thought it’d be a good time to rebrand and expand! It’s also a nod back to our pals in Texas who gave us the shove we needed to start putting these shows on in the first place.

HAPPY: A new name surely means new things. How are you planning to change up the game for Bad Vibrations 1.0?

DAVE & JAIMEE: Our programming will be expanded this year, meaning more sounds, more textures and more variations to soak in. Our All Ages show will get a boost with some awesome collaborative pieces (can’t say too much yet), and our three shows will for part of Vivid Sydney this year – so keep your eyes peeled on those visuals babies! Melbourne will get a serve of Bad Vibes too, last year was a real blast for our debut show there – looking for those good times to continue!

HAPPY: Thanks for the chat! Anything else you’d like to add?

DAVE & JAIMEE: Come to the gigs! We’re running three events across the Vivid program (including one All Ages) and we’d love to meet you. Buying tickets to gigs is probably the most active way we can support our creative communities at the moment and we’ve got a reeeally exciting lineup to share. Keep your eyes peeled for the announce!


Bad Vibrations Fest 2019

Sat 1 June – The Lansdowne, Sydney
Sat 8 June – The Tote, Melbourne
Sat 14 June – Freda’s, Sydney
Sat 15 June – 107 Projects, Sydney – All Ages