Music

Chatting with Thandi Phoenix as she teeters on the brink of something huge

Music for Thandi Phoenix is akin to a love affair – one that’s spanned and shaped the course of her life. Stretching way back, before memories became truly concrete, it was there, omnipresent, to be enjoyed, celebrated and encouraged. And it’s music’s multiplicity of avenues – listening, learning, writing and performing – that have pulled her, inevitably, into it.

thandi phoenix

With a couple of incredible singles under her belt, plus performances at Splendour, Bluesfest and Soulfest behind her, Thandi Phoenix is on the brink of something huge.

Inspired by ‘”honesty, strength and a dirty beat” producing a sound she describes as “multifaceted”, the Sydney musician first cut her teeth on Australia’s electronic music scene back in 2014. She’s barely stopped since, opening for Jhené Aiko and Tinashe, plus the little matter of playing Bluesfest, Splendour and Soulfest. She’s also racked up a formidable string of collaborations, lending her impressive set of pipes to the likes of Coin Banks, Ta-ku and B-Wise.

For the fiercely ambitious Phoenix, these collaborations are a means of learning and of challenging herself. During her time with Deutsch Duke, she remembers: “We were tracking vocals, and he’s an incredible singer and multi-instrumentalist, so that made me kinda nervous, but it was his direction and attention to detail when it came to the intention and delivery of every word that really inspired me.”

Although we’re yet to get the official release date of a debut EP, there are at least some singles till then, the latest of which is Unravelling. It’s a sultry, seductive track that commands attention and, more importantly, demands movement, with delicious, velvety vocals, layered over a heart-thumping bass and addictive instrumentals wrapped up so airtight you could tightrope over them.

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Produced by Arona Mane, it’s the first the pair have worked on together. “We were just vibing in the studio and he was playing me some beats,” she recounts, “I heard this one and started writing to it straight away. Musically, it was something different to anything I’d done before, but the bounce of the track just got me, so the lyrics reflect that.”

Because of this, Unravelling is self-perpetuating – referring to the moment the music captures you by doing just that. The unravelling in question refers to “losing any inhibitions you may have, losing yourself in the music and just feeling it, whichever way your body decides to move, however you may look. In that moment, you can do nothing else and frankly don’t give a damn.”

Hot on Unravelling’s heels will be another single, “It’s a dynamic track,” she teases of the successor. “[It] starts out pretty raw and minimal: just vocals and pianos. Then it takes an unexpected turn.” Exactly where this turn will take us, she’s keeping a lid on for now, but if it’s anything like her previous offerings, we’re pretty excited to fall down that rabbit hole.

Until then, she’s in a whirlwind of more shows, more travel – including supporting Rudimental on the Australia leg of their tour – and more sessions, but she’s always on the lookout for these moments in-between moments, “Sometimes, the things we least expect are the most rewarding,” she says, “so I look forward to whatever exciting experiences life throws at me.”