It’s a bit weird to think that the What So Not project started nearly a decade ago. A sizzling collab between Sydney duo Flume and Emoh Instead has blossomed into an iconic solo project for the latter in recent years. And I’m personally so here for it.
And after playing a ridiculous amount of gigs globally, as well as feeling the effects of some local tragedies, What So Not will be taking a bit of break in 2020. But with the Australian dance music scene bursting with talent, I was able to chat with him before his Electric Gardens appearance this weekend.
Wrapping Up Things For A Bit
His closing set this weekend at Electric Gardens will be his last big gig for a while (final tickets available here), and his last major festival for now. And boy is it going to be a big finish.
“I’m so amped to be home, especially in my home city for the festival – I’ve got the whole band from America down with me too, plus a few guests,” he says.
It’s bound to be a fab finish, and Emoh credits a lot of the initial What So Not success to festival crowds and the Aussie live music scene.
“This project was literally launched here in Australia, and it’s taken us around the world since. That means so much.”
We’re also getting a large run of club dates, where the Sydney local will hit up some iconic venues around the country to drop some deep and dirty sesh-gremlin sets, along with Choomba, Montell2099, Ninajirachi and Tise Jones. But why go back to the vodka-lime-soda-soaked dance floors of clubs around Oz?
“One honestly I’m back home, I need to have some fun and throw some parties!”
“It’s a totally different energy too at the clubs, and you have a lot more freedom. You can drop whatever track you want, no set design or moving parts. It’s just what feels right.”
And he’s really freaking passionate about supporting the up and comers, as you can see by that strong support bill. But he also mentioned how it was up to him and the bigger names to help pull these young acts up.
“My advice is to my peers, we need to help them. Our generation needs to bring up younger generations – Van She helped me a lot, Skrillex helped me basically take What So Not to the States,”
“It’s more about older acts giving them the leg up. Australia can feel small at times, but we need to support everyone.”
An Emotional Track With The Bushfires In Mind
— WHAT SO NOT (@WhatSoNot) February 6, 2020
It’s been a pretty damn hard time for our country over the past few months. The tragic bushfires destroyed so much (with Celeste Barber’s fundraiser funds still yet to be used), and it was followed by a burst of floods which made it so hard for so many. It had a pretty rough effect on the What So Not man.
“You know I was totally fine mentally, until those fires started,”
“I’m not here (in Australia) much, so you’re a bit removed from it. You’re away, and then you see your friends, your colleagues, your team’s family being evacuated and losing so much – it starts to get you.”
From that experience, he also mentioned how he had collab’d with another Aussie act to produce a track about the recent tough times.
“The new track is actually with Dan Sultan – I sent some poems and chords to him after some of the New Years festivals got cancelled,”
“Almost in sorts to pay my respects, it is an honest representation of how I think Australia has been feeling.”
And he said the rallies in the streets around climate change, lockout laws and various political topics need to continue.
“Change is within our ability if we unite together. People ask why musicians make political statements, but we have too,”
And as the reversal of Sydney’s lockout laws came into effect this year, Emoh mentioned how political influence was so frustrating at times.
“They (politicians) put our industry through so much shit, blatant media hype and peddling for behind the scenes arrangements,”
“What I was told in my industry wasn’t right, and obviously that happens across many industries and topics. But the damage is done, we need to pump up our industry now.”
One thing that has been copping a lot of attention is the Splendour In The Grass Lineup. Headline by the likes of Flume, Tyler The Creator and The Strokes, there’s been a fair bit of chat on how diverse festival lineups should be.
But it’s damn tough running a festival in Australia, so it’s quite a balancing act – according to the producer.
“It’s a bit of a tricky run for festivals at the moment, because legacy acts sell tickets, and new artists sell tickets. So it’s tough to try and keep things even,”
“Festival teams are under pressure, and looking at everything including numbers, social expectations, promotion – it’s very complicated and dictated on ticket history.”
So it’s not as perhaps black and white as we think. And the Sydney producer made a good point that if we have a vision on how we want things to be (ie diverse festival lineups), we need to make changes now, so that reality can be shifted over time.
But if you caught his Splendour 2019 set (or his impromptu camp-site banger-athon), you’ll know he loves everything about the festival.
The splendour lineup isn’t too terrible in terms of gender diversity, but it would be nice to see more women at the top of the lineup 🙃🙃🙃
— Marie B (@THISISNOTMARIE) February 19, 2020
“Honestly, that set was one of the greatest sets of my life. We got Daniel Johns up, and Dylan Alcott was out there at the camp set,”
“It was just a fun weekend, from watching friends and new acts play, right through to just spending good time with mates.”
And with so many young Aussie acts on the Splendour 2020 bill, what’s his advice for young up and comers in the music scene? Well, it’s pretty simple actually.
“Be unique, be different, be yourself. Find interesting components of a sound, put it together in a unique way that feels honest and interesting.”
Honestly, I’ll miss What So Not not just because of his unique style of music – but because of his raw honesty and openness. And that’s a rare combo.
What So Not will be closing the UKF Stage at Electric Gardens Festival this Saturday in Sydney. Make sure you grab a ticket to see his final big festival gig for a while, and peep the rest of the monster lineup here.