What started as a guy, with a love for the grassroots music scene in Sydney, filming bands in motion has quickly grown into a blog, events company and record label for Nick Hollins, the founder of Skydreams. And with the release of the second free Skydreams compilation, Nick has yet again proved his aptitude and rare talent for discovering bands that, to the eye of the most, would remain hidden. Whatever Gets You Through, like its predecessor This One’s For My Friends, brings together twenty of Australia’s relatively unknown quantities ranging in style from Dream-Pop to Footwork and from Shoegaze to calypso infused electronica. Whatever Gets You Through sees Hollins marry some of those acts already featured on Skydreams, such as Phonographics, Limetipe and B Deep, with new additions like the dreamy Devotional, psychedelia infused Wheat Fields and Backyard Opera favourite Major Napier, to produce yet another intriguing and extremely listenable compilation. Luckily for us at Backyard Opera, Nick kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions about how it all started, what he looks for when trawling for new music and what lies ahead for Skydreams.
Skydreams is a bit over 3 years old now. How’d it all kick off?
I started filming bands to document what was happening. Video seemed a better medium for live music than photos. The very first show was The Laurels at the Sandringham Hotel in Newtown on July 15, 2010. I’ve been hanging around the “music scene” in Sydney since 2005, so it took five years to get started. The website emerged in 2011 from late night online conversations trading links and tracks with Louis Roach (B Deep). Like most people who start a website or blog, we wanted to create something to represent what we’re into. To have the freedom to do whatever we like.
What’s the significance of the name Skydreams? Is there a particular meaning?
There’s no major significance, it’s just a name that sounds positive and optimistic. I’m big on lucid dreaming as well, so it’s cool to have that in there.
You started off just writing about acts you liked and now you’re putting on events and even releasing some of their music. That’s something that would be any well-meaning music writer’s dream. How’s it feel to have reached a point like that?
It feels surprising and good. Staging events had always been an interesting idea but I didn't assume it would actually happen. The Skydreams label is exciting looking ahead to this year. We're releasing more records, unveiling a roster of bands and producers, and continuing the free quarterly compilation series.
Did you always want to expand to include live events and the record label?
At the beginning I saw my role as just recording and filming music, but the project has evolved naturally into these other areas. The record label is the coolest aspect for me at the moment. I'm a big fan of labels like Etch_music, Bedroom Suck, Octopus Pi, R.I.P. Society, Feral Media, Rice Is Nice, Dream Damage, Big Village, The Finer Things, Vacant Valley, Yes Please, Free The Beats, Anti-Fade, // This Thing //, New Weird Australia, Wood and Wire and others. What could be better than joining in with everyone to do our own thing? It will be interesting to see what we’re up to by this time in 2015.
Whatever Gets You Through has quite a few artists that also featured on your first compilation This One’s For My Friends. How has it been to watch these artists develop?
Well let's see, the acts who’ve returned are Phonographics, Buzz Kull, Broken Chip, Super Galaxies, Limetipe and B Deep. These are all good friends of mine and most will be putting out records on the label this year. Phonographics is the new project of Luke O’Farrell from The Laurels, and his new tracks have Jasper Fenton from Dead China Doll and Broadcasting Transmitter playing drums and co-producing. Buzz Kull is one of my favourite bands. His music and live show is great and he’s going to run the label with me. Broken Chip is based in the Blue Mountains and was my neighbour while living out there in 2013. He’s been making beats and ambient sounds for a long time. He also produces under Option Command and did the remix of Super Galaxies, which is my band. Limetipe is Joshua Isaac, former drummer from Nhomea. He’s a properly trained musician who makes electronic kind of stuff, but has been developing a new project to shift his tracks into a live band format. Finally B Deep is my age old friend Louis and he’s developing really quickly all the time. He’s released four or so albums in the last couple years and plays in about half a dozen bands in Melbourne. You should check out his recent remix of Morgan Delt: https://soundcloud.com/bdeep/barbariankings.
Of course there’s a few newbies on Whatever Gets You Through as well, Major Napier being one we particularly love here at Backyard Opera, what really struck you about him?
He’s incredible, really. An unbelievable singer who writes honest songs and has a good soul. I’ve heard secret rumours of certain collaborations from him that will blow minds when they come out. We were fortunate to have him at the Skydreams 3rd Birthday show at Goodgod to launch his Please Stay EP. You can watch his set here: https://vimeo.com/72586268 He’s involved with people like Oscar Key Sung, Collarbones, Guerre, Black Vanilla … acts responsible for a lot of the best pop music in Australia at the moment.
Both compilations so far have been really balanced style wise. A few bits of electronica, some dream pop, hip hop, more rock oriented acts and noise. How do you go about trying to make sure your compilations are nice and balanced?
I enjoy all different kinds of music so will always feature diverse sounds on the compilations. I don’t have to think about it that much, finding a balance is reasonably easy. I just contact bands and producers that I’m into, ideally people who have new music and it just comes together that way. It gets trickier in the sequencing.
If you could be any one of the artists featured on Whatever Gets You Through which one would you be and why?
Super Galaxies is my band so I would be that. But if I could be any of the other artists … I’d be keen to do stuff with Phonographics. They’re the exact kind of sound I’m into, a bit like Boredoms and Death In Vegas.
We first discovered Major Napier (yes, he’s a big office favourite) at your third birthday party where he played alongside one of Sydney’s most exciting live acts, Black Vanilla, and you also did the Skydreams Festival in 2012 at Hermann’s Bar. Are you aiming to do some more regular live events in future?
I like trying to put on events that are a bit different somehow, mixing artists that wouldn’t usually be on the same bill and bringing something new to people. As things get going with the label we’ll start putting on more events but we’ll just take it as it comes.
Your new music discovery skills are legendary. What do you look for when uncovering new artists? Is there any rhyme or reason to what you’re drawn to? And how much research do you do before deciding they’re someone you want to feature on the Skydreams blog or on a compilation?
I’m looking for something that catches my ear. It can be almost any genre, but I’m mostly into pop and shoegaze, psych, rock, the good kind of punk, hip hop, beats, electronica and experimental stuff. I’d struggle to define any kind of method. Soundcloud is a major source. People start posting stuff before they’ve even started playing shows so it’s ideal for finding new bands. For the compilations it’s a bit more considered. It’s limited to 20 tracks so I try to make them a mix of brand new acts and more established bands that people should know about. I’m also keen to feature music that friends have hidden away on hard drives, demos and works in progress that might not ever emerge into a live performance. As for what to feature on the website, I make those decisions in the moment. Whatever feels right.
Finally, Can you give us any inside info on a few of the Sydney and Melbourne acts you’re digging but yet to feature on Skydreams?
Cool Drinks from Melbourne have just put out a new EP. Oscar Key Sung is great and his track All I Could Do was one of my favourites from last year. Blank Realm have a new LP coming out January 16, they’re from Brisbane but one of the best bands in the country so worth a mention. Ausmuteants are awesome, ditto The Living Eyes and The Frowning Clouds, all three coming from the Anti Fade label. Guerre has a new album coming out that will surely be amazing. I’m also into Flash Forest, Nimble Animal, The Ancients and Warmth Crashes In. R.I.P. Society has records on the way from Model Citizen, M.O.B. and Destiny 3000. Keep an eye out for those.
Nick Hollins is the Founder of Skydreams and Producer of Telepath, 8pm Mondays on FBi Radio.
By Josh Manning
Ed. Skydreams is hosting a party this Sunday on the sultry greens of Petersham Bowls. It’s a superstar line-up featuring the likes of the holy Reckless Vagina, “dark wave duo” Buzz Kill, bliss perpetuator Spoonty, Super Galaxies and Trent Marden. We highly recommend you check it out if you want anything to do with high quality tunes and amazing local talent.