indi is making huge waves over in New Zealand as one of the country’s most refreshing alt-vocal electronic acts. Her visuals are unparalleled and her vision is so much bigger than where she stands right now.
With her debut album Precipice fresh off the press, we caught up with our favourite Kiwi to talk through the record, music videos and Björk’s influence on her music.
A transformative force within New Zealand’s music scene, indi’s debut album Precipice is no less than an astounding piece of art.
In the lead up to the album, indi dropped two amazing singles and one of the best film clips of the year, so to say she is busy would be an understatement. On top of this, she revealed that there is a second project she has a hand in; “I have also been working on the most beautiful short film soundtrack, which I’m so lucky to be involved in.”
indi has been nominated for (and won) a number of awards, including our very own Needle in the Hay. In speaking on the process and impact these awards have had, indi was stoked but realistic.
“It’s so nice to be recognised by the Happy Mag team. I like to keep expectations realistic, but you always hope that people will really feel something when they hear it, that’s the ideal response. I recently saw a Darren Aronofsky interview where he was saying how he always hopes people either hate or love his films, he never wants them to feel neutral about them.”
“I agree, I want to provoke strong thoughts and feelings in the listeners. I hope this album becomes something of an underground grower… like maybe in a few years people are just finding it for the first time and it has its own little cult micro-niche – that would be cool.”
When you listen to Precipice, you’ll almost instantly hear that this was not a bedroom project. In fact, Precipice required big teams and a big vision. Nonetheless indi was buzzing from the experience.
“It was a huge project, in terms of scale and the amount of people I had to recruit to play on it. The songs are so elaborate and every detail has been thought about, so naturally the mixing process took the longest. It was the most challenging thing I have done, probably in my life, especially because there was just no budget, so I put every cent and spare moment of time I had into it.”
“The orchestral instruments also were so tricky because my conductor and main string ensemble was in Auckland, so I was flying between the two islands a bit. I also flew up to do the video with Candlelit Pictures, which I thankfully had funding for from NZ on Air.”
There aren’t many young artists committing this intensely to their music, and the record reflects her immense passion and dedication in every way.
indi’s music is personal, emotive and unique, qualities which don’t come from handing the reins over to someone else. When we asked about the team she worked with, she explained she had built special relationships with her engineer and the musicians alongside her.
“I knew I wanted to be the producer of this project, so I had full creative control over every aspect of it. I don’t think I would’ve trusted anyone but Matt Gunn to be the mixing engineer on this because he knows me so well: we’ve lived together for four years now, were in Doprah together and share a music studio. I often could just say three words to him and he would understand.”
But the project was even more complex than we can imagine. If you listen carefully to the record, there are the most beautiful subtle intricacies that bring indi’s sound together, from strings to horns, each tiny fragment has been a labour of love. In addition to Gunn, indi enlisted the help of friends and artists in their own right for their stain on the record, people indi referred to with warmth and sincerity.
“The other core member of the team was Alex Eichelbaum, who was incredible and also worked on it for little to no budget. I went to school with him and he was always winning awards and scholarships for his conducting, and I knew to do orchestral right I would need someone like him. Alex deconstructed all the MIDI I sent him and transcribed it into notations for saxophones and trombones and cellos and violins.”
“My friend and co-writer in New Dawn, Anita Clark (a.k.a. Motte) has also just been a complete muse to me in the way she plays her violin and that is really what started me exploring the world of string arrangement more. Her work is all over this album, but especially on the song Precipice, where she played a good 90 percent of the strings in so many layers.”
But this record is so much more than just exquisite musicianship. indi has tapped into some vulnerable and intimate moments in her life, her femininity and empowerment being one of them.
Single Woman speaks to this on so many levels, and apart from being an astounding piece of music, the song articulates the confusion of youth perfectly. Speaking of the track, indi was open and frank.
“For a large part of my adolescence I rejected everything feminine about myself and I know a lot of other women who felt this way. In my experience, not many girls fit into the very small space popular culture has made for them so instead they shrink back and reject the notion of womanhood altogether.”
“Of course when you come into yourself more, you begin to reclaim your body and mind and your uterus, which is hard due to all of those often being sources of pain. My dream was strange and doesn’t make sense literally, but it did give me residual feelings of womb-love haha… whether or not that power of creating life is utilised, it still exists inside of us as an incredible thing and I think it scares people.”
indi might not be touring Australia soon, but she is taking her act around New Zealand and to Europe next year, and the videos she is preparing sound out of this world.
“We are shooting the video for Airportal as a single-shot video in a cave. It’s going to be magic especially because I will be terrified of meeting wetas and because it is filmed with award-winning director Julian Vares.”
“The Woman music video is a dance one, choreographed by the immensely talented Natalie Marie with whom I have worked with before in the Doprah video for Stranger People. Georgette Brown, who designs sets and costumes for Orchestra of Spheres and is in the band Womb (amazing band you should check them out), has been designing me the most incredible costume for all of my touring too which I am so excited about. It’s all earthy colours and has handmade felt and pearls.”
An album such as this doesn’t come together without some influences. Drawing upon years of accumulating sounds from other artists, indi was excited to share the music that draws out her creativity. Having said this, indi made it very clear that Precipice speaks not of other people’s work but of her interpretation of the music she loves imbedded in her own stories.
“I wouldn’t say the album was inspired by certain tracks or someone else’s music. I don’t think that is a good enough reason to make an album, it has to come from inside of you. I do have a few artists/albums I really love at the moment though and I could share those?”
“Syro by Aphex Twin, Junun by Jonny Greenwood, Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express. I also love Jonny Greenwood’s Master OST which is so beautiful. I also just discovered this new compilation of string/woodwind group of musicians called Balance Problems, with modern orchestral compositions by people like Sufjan Stevens, Marcos Balter and Nico Muhly and it’s insane. Joanna Newsom’s Ys is eternally perfect, especially Van Dyke Park’s swooping string arrangements on it. Mica Levi’s soundtrack for Under the Skin is gorgeous and I am also loving Björk’s new The Gate single, all those woodwinds!”
indi is a rising force in new Zealand music, and her sound is set to gravitate towards those who are seeking intellectual and intricately produced sounds. Precipice is an enormous step forward and the tour is likely to propel her into a new sphere of influence when it comes to original sound.
Check out the other winners of our Needle in the Hay Competition here.