The Sydney scene, Volumes 2016 and a brand new aftermovie: we chat to the players who made this year’s festival happen

Right around the middle of the year, Sydney saw it’s iconic Oxford St. come alive with art, love and music. Volumes 2016 was a festival that wasn’t limited by a single stage, a guard fence or a police barricade, a beautiful, temporary bubble of perfected nightlife. Above all, it felt so completely unrestricted.

Today, we take a look back on these two amazings nights of stunning art, music and culture with an exclusive video shot entirely on Super 8 film by Josh White and Rick Snowden over at Third Eye Stimuli Records. Featuring Jaala, Nick Allbrook, Mossy and more, it will eat away at your brain’s need for nostalgia – both because of the quality of these nights and the video’s lo-fi feel.

Now a few months on from the festival, we’ve had a chat to a few of the key players who made Volumes happen, and who will be making it happen again in 2017; festival organiser James Spink as well as Charlie Ellison from Rice Is Nice and Josh and Rick from Third Eye.

volumes 2016
Photo by Four Minutes to Midnight.

After running for only two years, Volumes festival has quickly become one of the most desirable live music tickets in Sydney. With it’s 2017 incarnation in the works, we have a chat to some key players.

HAPPY: Do you think Sydney and Australia will warm up to the street festival?

JAMES: 100%! I think they already are warming to the idea, people are looking for new and different ways to enjoy music and art these days, continual innovation is essential for the discerning and perceptive audience of today. I think it’s only onward and upward for the street festival concept.

CHARLIE: I hope so! Imagine the possibilities!

JOSH: It feels like the scene evolves so quickly in Sydney, what’s hip one year can be off-trend the next. People’s tastes are always changing and that can fracture the community pretty easily. If the right people stay aware of what’s happening out there and can keep everyone united somehow – and keep a consistent enjoyable experience happening – then sure, the street festival can thrive. There has always been plenty of super creative acts in Sydney, they’ve just gotta be brought together in the right way! We think Volumes is a great example of that.

CHARLIE: I’m all for the 10/10 community vibes that come with street festivals. There’s no better way to showcase local artists and musicians.

HAPPY: Why a street festival, and not a standard, enclosed festival like the sleuth we already get?

JAMES: It provides the opportunity for the audience to take their own journey and affords us the opportunity to cohesively showcase an amazing variety of music and art. We encourage attendees to take full advantage of the ability to come and go through the day and venture out to enjoy other venues, businesses and areas of the local community. Utilising existing amazing venues is also a lot more low impact and can work to introduce a whole new crowd to stages that have incredible live music on all year round.

volumes 2016
Photo by Four Minutes to Midnight.

HAPPY: With a lot of people bashing the Sydney scene at the moment, what are your thoughts on the climate?

RICK: Well there’s definitely a movement emerging within the indie label scene around Australia and that’s rad. We dig Moontown, Rice is Nice, Dinosaur Records, Tenth Court, No Patience, Anti Fade and Dinosaur City – to name a few. They get the modern day music culture. Just collaborate as much as possible and dig on everyone’s angles whether they’re a band, label, artist, promoter, photographer, poet, go-go dancer – whatever. Support each other! People need to keep open minds and not get tunnel visioned by what’s trending. Everyone just needs to work together, it’s all there for the taking.

JAMES: In light of all the struggles and difficulties, Sydney’s music scene is still shining, there are so many amazing new bands and artists emerging all the time, it’s a testament to the amazing creative community working tirelessly to make something special. That said, the restrictions have clearly made things very difficult for venue owners and operators to continue supporting live music like they use to, if the revenue isn’t there it trickles down and that affects everyone from the musicians, bar staff, lighting and sound engineers to the other areas that rely on nightlife like restaurants, taxis and convenience stores in these central nightlife districts.

CHARLIE: I think the Sydney music scene is thriving despite the obstacles. Sure, we’ve lost some great venues and we might find ourselves in bed a little earlier than previous but no one here has given up! People are still making music and incredible music at that.

HAPPY: Despite having to do a bit of work, did you guys have a great time at the festival? The Happy team definitely did.

JOSH: For sure. There were a few acts in particular that surprised us both. The rooms all looked killer and the streets had a rad buzz – a lot of good people and smiles getting around. Really unique community feel happening.

CHARLIE: We had a blast! It’s rare that so many of our artists are in the same place at the same time so we definitely made the most of it. Thank god for Sundays, Netflix and Deliveroo.

volumes 2016
Photo by Liam Cameron.

These opinions don’t have to be proved – Volumes has been evidence of Sydney’s thriving scene two years running. Indie labels are killing it right now, Rice Is Nice even teaming up with Bedroom Suck Records on the duty of completely programming one Volumes venue, the Brighton Up Bar, with their own artists on the festival’s second night.

But it wasn’t just the music that made this event special. Superb art direction shone bright from every angle as you walked through Oxford St, each venue being decorated as well as housing installations of art, dance and other performance. Even to the most disconnected punter walking down that famous Sydney drag, something special was happening.

This connection with art and culture is something Spink and Volumes have kept at with a new dedication, considering the festival’s success.

volumes 2016
Photo by Four Minutes to Midnight.

JAMES: Moving forward we are really aiming to continue to develop this area, the vision is to make Volumes as much a visual, electronic art and digital media experience as it is a music festival. We want to create a completely imaginative and immersive environment that extenuates and complements the live music performance and viewer experience.

HAPPY: What kind of extra stuff is Volumes doing at the moment?

JAMES: We really want to expand the concept beyond just the festival, so this year we worked on a few new ideas including a clothing collaboration with Rolla’s Jeans and a number of the artists on the lineup to design & create a limited edition collection of merch. We created and curated a remix series involving a number of the Volumes artists remixing & collaborating on each other’s work, and the short film premiered here with Third Eye Stimuli was something we were really excited about, allowing people we admire to take the reins and put their spin on Volumes.

HAPPY: Was it always the plan to jump on these other ideas?

JAMES: Definitely! It’s all an evolution, working out what things work and what don’t, and how we can create the most amazing experience.

HAPPY: Like Volumes, Third Eye dabblesin a bunch of different creative areas. Should every label and band be trying to act so broadly?

JOSH: Yeah we like keeping things pretty broad. We’ve always enjoyed having a dig at whatever feels right and in this case, we really like what James is doing with Volumes and his support for local indie labels, so it was a no brainer for us to collaborate in some way. We’re still very fresh as a record label with our first two physical releases going out just this year (The Jim Mitchells and The Grease Arrestor) and our involvement with those releases has also been pretty collaborative creatively which is unlike most labels.

HAPPY: Can you talk about what went into the video, from prep to what we see now?

RICK: Once we got our hands on some film – which is kinda hard to come by, and expensive, we just went in and tried to capture the event from our own perspective. From our own personal journey, as opposed to running around trying to shoot the entire lineup and it becoming super diluted or forced. We started with the daylight film earlier, then as the night rolled on, switching to the low light formula to capture the evening mood and darker rooms better. After the event we had the film sent off to be processed before giving it a loose edit to keep the vibe real and consistent.

HAPPY: Tell us about why you chose to shoot on Super 8. It looks so good.

JOSH: We’ve always been drawn to the 8mm flavour – in the past we dabbled in shooting our own home videos like on surf trips and overseas travels, then recorded our own soundtracks to accompany them. You know, something that complimented the mood somehow. It’s just fun capturing moments as they happen without over thinking the outcome, letting the film do its thing organically.

volumes festival
Photo by Four Minutes to Midnight.

From it’s inception, Volumes has called itself a ‘Portal of Sound and Vision’ – and there still hasn’t been a better description for this event. Being a street festival, there was no gate or platoon of police vans marking any entrance to Volumes, it honestly felt like somewhere along your way to Oxford St you’d stumbled through an imperceptible wormhole into a vibrant world of lights, music and subculture.

The curation and freedom of the event made it unlike any other in Australia. You weren’t ever stuck in a showground or paying festival rates for shitty mid-strength Carltons, the vibe was unrivalled and the experience was incredible.

If watching this sick video from Third Eye Stimuli only gets you pumped for next year, then the best news is still to come. Volumes will be returning in 2017, and there’s a shitload more to get excited about going forward.

HAPPY: Would Rice Is Nice and Bedroom Suck run the Brighton takeover once again?

CHARLIE: Absolutely! Can we? We’ve been wanting to do a label party together or tour for years but y’know, life. So a big thanks to Volumes for actually making it happen!

HAPPY: What’s the status on Volumes 2017, James?

JAMES: We are currently working on Volumes 2017 and working to implement the plans to expand interstate and as a touring series. We have a couple of residencies kicking off across Sydney towards the end of Summer, with a regular monthly event set to start.

On a bigger scale we are working away, slowly but surely, on a game changing immersive audio/visual experience, it might be a little way off, but it really represents the complete concept of the ‘Portal of Sound and Vision’.

While you’re here, check out our feature on how to promote your band, featuring some sage advice from some of Australia’s best publicists.