Already an accomplished singer songwriter and guitarist, Carolyn Oats is now making waves in the electronic music scene under the guise of Alpha Loopy. We talk live set-ups, creative processes, getting gigs, as well as how to use limitations to focus your creativity.
What’s it like having two very different musical projects?
It’s a bit crazy sometimes, wearing different hats. Sometimes I do think, am I doing myself a disservice by having two many identities to maintain. But I guess I also enjoy the creative freedom of having different outlets. It does make the business aspect of the music a bit more tricky because you have to spend energy on each of the different projects.
What made you transition into electronic music?
That was a fun little transition that happened by accident. I had actually been looking at how I might incorporate some different looping options, with the singer / songwriter thing. But I wasn’t interested in pursuing the, I guess, stereotypical option, of get a loop pedal and make drumming kind of sounds on the acoustic guitar. I wanted to explore what options were available via recording / performance software. So I started exploring some different options there and came across Ableton Live. So I started just fiddling with that. Then by accident, in the space of 3 or 4 months I ended up writing all of these instrumental pieces.
At the time it was actually a really good creative release for me. I didn’t have a lot to say as a songwriter at the time. I would get home from work, and three hours would go by, and I would be having fun listening to drum beats, working out parts, synth parts. Starting to delve into what was provided in the Ableton software and just seeing where that lead. I ended up with all these pieces of instrumental music, and then I just thought “I should see if I can do this live.” Then I had to try and work out how I was actually going to perform any of this stuff, so that was a journey in itself too.
Advice for new producers?
After years of experience, not just doing the electronic stuff, but the singer songwriter thing, just trying to keep things basic to start with. I think it always helped me feel like I wasn’t going to be overwhelmed with the creative process.
I definitely think with electronic music it can be really easy to just get 100% distracted, by finding a drum loop, or finding a sound, or buying new libraries of sounds and new libraries of drum loops. You might go “yay, I’m going to spend two hours tonight listening to all these drum loops,” but you could have actually spent two hours composing.
I should add to that, I didn’t upgrade from Ableton Free, to Ableton Live until probably a year. So I’d already composed six or seven pieces and done live gigs, all with Ableton Free.
Advice on getting gigs?
Someone said to me once around all of the business aspects, and I classify getting gigs as part of that business aspect, is:
I can appreciate that can be really hard for a lot of arty people who aren’t used to doing the self-promotion thing. You’re the one who’s gonna be instigating that stuff at the start, the bios, the facebook page, the web pages, all of that kind of stuff.
Some suggestions might be to look at other artists that are a coupe of steps ahead of you and see what kind of venues they’re playing. Then look up those venues and see if there is anyway you can contact them directly, and go “hey this is me, here’s my music,” so you’ll need to have some music online.
Other things that were really good for me early on with the electronic stuff was discovering a few collaborative organisations in Melbourne, and then joining them and seeing when they were advertising their own shows and going “hey, I’d love to be involved in one”
Can you list some of those?
Beat Collective was one. Slice Records do some stuff around town as well. So they’ve both been really good.
And some venues, if you go to them with a proposed gig, so not just yourself but a couple of other people, then they might be more interested in taking you on.
The Ableton Users Group is another great group to get involved in, to start to meet other people who are out their gigging. Maybe you’ll be able to do a gig with them, or they are looking for someone else to fill a bill.