Interviews

CLYPSO on breaking comfort zones and working with The Avalanches

clypso

Tropical beats that taste like Pina Colada and drop like confetti. CLYPSO is a treat like no other.

CLYPSO’s music ripples through you like a seductive icy pole on a hot day. Yet, in a year where everything and nothing changed, her beats managed to cut deeper, groove harder, and become even more refreshing.

We sat down with the producer and multi-instrumentalist to catch up on her year, projects, and electro dreamscape-in-the-making.

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HAPPY: Last year was huge for you, hey?

CLYPSO: Yeah, I was really happy with all the releases. It’s never really a huge year for me, but I kind of like that. I am pretty lowkey and as long as the music is what I really love, working with people that I really love.

HAPPY: Yeah totally. Could you give us a bit of a run-through of some of the projects that you jumped on?

CLYPSO: So, last year I released my song Sidestep, which was the first one, and then Storm was another one that I released. I released Down to the Wire as well, so three singles. I jumped on Kwame’s track Tommy’s in Trouble with Phil Fresh, and then The Avalanches track Wherever You Go, that one is with Jamie XX and Neneh Cherry as well

HAPPY: Insane!

CLYPSO: That was definitely a highlight collaboration. I go on about it whenever anyone asked me about The Avalanches, but honestly, they are just the salt of the earth people. I can’t even explain it. There is just this energy that they give off and they keep you in the loop with everything, so it really feels collaborative even though you are the smallest artist that they are working with. They are just so inclusive, which I know is something people talk about all the time, but I feel like actions and the way people make you feel is what you remember them for. They are amazing and that record is just unbelievable, so that was definitely the highlight.

HAPPY: How did The Avalanches track come about?

CLYPSO: They just DM’d, which I think is amazing.

HAPPY: Love that.

CLYPSO: They DM’d like a year and a half ago, just saying that they were across my music, they really loved what I was doing, and would I be interested to jump on a track. Then they sent me the very first version of what things were, this is before everyone else was on it. Yeah, and then I sent them through the top line and they loved both of them. It sort of evolved from there and became this big dub monster track with Jamie XX on it as well.

HAPPY: Yeah, crazy! When you do collaborations, are you really going in with an idea of what you want the song to be or are more into an open-ended, give-and-take process? 

CLYPSO: I think I usually get a gut feeling when I get sent something. I mean, with The Avalanches track, it was not only just because it was them, but the minute that drone came in at the beginning, I was like… it just felt familiar, there was something about it that just felt so right. It’s usually a gut feeling, it’s when I get excited. It’s also more about, do I feel that I can contribute something good for the track? Because I don’t want to just give them something that’s subpar. It needs to feel right that I can contribute to the track and make it something that’s worth being excited about. I don’t go in with a preconceived sort of thing, but I do like to give options because whatever jumps up. Because people always love options.

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HAPPY: Yeah, it never hurts to have a few. What do you reckon was one of the most challenging projects that you did last year? One that really pushed you out of your comfort zone.

CLYPSO: It’s always my own songs that push me out of my comfort zone because you live in it, you know? When it’s someone else’s, you have a bit of detachment from it. But because I am producing it myself and writing it at the same time and kind of living the song, then leaving it and working on another thing and coming back to it. By the time it gets to the mastering process, you have been in it the whole time. That’s always for me the most challenging thing. And finishing stuff! For me, that initial bit when everything suddenly clicks, just at that very raw demo form, that’s my favourite part. Then when I have to go in and really produce things and edit things… Yeah, it’s definitely the initial part that is really exciting, but then the challenges always come after, I have noticed.

HAPPY: Absolutely. I’d love to jump over to your latest track Storm, and you just smashed that out for us at Live at Enmore.

CLYPSO: Yes, I did. That was fun, yeah. It’s always good to sing in a more raw fashion.

HAPPY: I just love Storm because it’s so quintessentially you.

CLYPSO: It is a quintessential CLYPSO track. Very tropical as well.

HAPPY: Very tropical. Could you tell us a bit about how that track came to be?

CLYPSO: So, with me it always does tend to start with a vibe. And then the vibe informs the bassline, and then the drums. Those are my foundations. When I listen to a song, it’s usually bassline and drums that immediately hooks me onto it. Then I get that dance vibe going. There were just lots of people around me going through a lot of tough moments in their life and stuff.

And this is like pre-COVID, so it felt kind of relevant releasing it during the whole COVID situation. Lyrically, it was about being there for… because I have got lots of friends who live overseas as well, and you don’t get to see them very often, but they’re there for me. I think with this whole situation with COVID, we have kind of realised there are some people you see so often and then you just didn’t see them. Then, suddenly, the ones that actually have stuck around and been there for you, those are the real deal ones. Then we just went crazy with all the instrumentation. But definitely, the drums and the bass were the core of that. And then of course I just recorded it all.

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s crazy how all these songs that were written before COVID just seem to fit perfectly with everything that’s happening.

CLYPSO: I think it’s because we go through all that, this has just exacerbated things. It has just magnified the issues.

HAPPY: It’s crazy. I can imagine having to layer all these beautiful sounds would take a hot second to do. Is there a piece of equipment or software that’s super useful to you to really smooth out that process?

CLYPSO: I use a lot of Logic Pro. That’s my main DAW, my main digital workstation. Because I am a keyboard player, that’s my go-to instrument. Even for making drums, I use my keys foundation to make it, because I am most comfortable with that. Let me think. I think it’s just my Kurzweil synth workstation and Logic that are my go-to things. Sometimes I write ballads on piano, but then I don’t release a lot of ballads. For chord progressions, yeah, but I still do that on my MIDI.

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HAPPY: Are those the main ones that you have with you in your studio?

CLYPSO: Yes. I have got a little sampler which I don’t use a lot, I just use it more for live. But yeah, it’s just computer stuff. I work on a lot of MIDI and just chopping things up.

HAPPY: Classics. Let’s dive into the visuals for the track because they were so beautiful. And you collabed with Imogen Grist on that one?

CLYPSO: Imogen, she is amazing. I think she is a muso as well, and a photographer. So, it was a very chilled set. It was the first time, I suppose… because I have never worked with a green screen before, it was the first time not being able to touch, feel, or know what I am supposed to be doing. It was a leap of faith for sure. But I realised that’s what I need to do, especially when it comes to the visual and all that sort of thing. I do love the collaborative aspect of it, but I think having people who know what they are doing, who are confident and have an eye for it, is the best kind of people you can have on your team.

Especially when you have zero clue working with green screens. And she brought Jack Saltmiras, who was the DOP. He was amazing, he had all this crazy tech, this weird camera. They went all out! They did the miniature modelling with these guys from NIDA. I was like “man, I am being spoilt here!” They just created this amazing world, because we couldn’t have any extras and stuff. It was during COVID, so we had to keep the team really small and really COVID friendly. I think it just added that dreamy kind of feel to the whole song as well.

HAPPY: Did you fully hand over the reins to Imogen for that process?

CLYPSO: I mean, we had a few back and forth zoom calls and things, because she was also going to do my artwork, so we wanted things to tie together. We sent references back and forth but that idea, I think came up with at the very end. We had all these other briefs and all these other storyboard things and suddenly, there is this thing with no storyboard at all. It was just a concept. Everyone was a bit like, “oh, there’s no storyboard.” But yeah, it worked.

HAPPY: Yeah, it came together so well.

CLYPSO: Just got to trust the universe.

HAPPY: Trust the process and it will get there. Well, what are your plans for the rest of the year? What’s on the cards for you?

CLYPSO: The rest of the year… I’ve been writing a lot, so I’m in writing mode at the moment, which is stressful but kind of nice. Yeah, just working and nutting out everything. I’m hoping to release a body of work soon. But other than that, I have got a couple of singles coming out and I have just released one with this Belgium house producer, The Magician, which is cool, it’s great. I feel sometimes like I’m not really tied to a place very much, so it’s nice to work with people from a different country and continent. He’s just released a video with this principle dancer from Paris.

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HAPPY: Wow!

CLYPSO: Yeah, so she is dancing to this house track. So, it’s like Belgium, Paris, Sydney in lockdown. I like that. That’s been the first thing off the bat in 2021. And then, I will keep writing away and trying to finish stuff. The trying to finish stuff bit [laughs]! Yeah, and hopefully when things kind of start-up again, play some shows, fingers crossed. I think that’s it.

HAPPY: Thanks so much for the chat!

CLYPSO: You are really welcome.

Photos by Charlie Hardy