With the benefit of hindsight, Alice Ivy was in wonderland when she cut Don’t Sleep.
The new LP captures a glorious time not so long ago, filled with mates and late nights in faraway places. That was, before the pandemic ruined everything.
Speaking with Billboard from her home in Melbourne, which has just entered a second lockdown, Don’t Sleep is the followup to 2018’s critically-lauded I’m Dreaming.
Spanning 13 tracks, Don’t Sleep was written across a dizzying stretch of timezones, and features a diverse lineup with numerous female, non-binary, LGBTQI+, and BIPOC artists and voices. “I’m a very collaborative person,” she explains. “I would have struggled to get a lot of things over the line (stuck) in a room by myself.”
In the mixing process, she enlisted the help of Grammy-winning producer Andrew Dawson (Kanye West, Childish Gambino).
Ivy produced the entire record, the fruits of a year of legwork and legging it around the globe. It was “squeezed between tours” during stops in Melbourne, Sydney, London, Toronto, Detroit, and Los Angeles, Ivy tells Billboard. “I’m the type of person who, whenever I do go on tour or go on writing trips, I try and do everything I can. I don’t go home from the party (early). I need to live every thing. I don’t want to miss anything.”
Its source of power is all in the title. Don’t believe for a moment that Ivy wasted time with shut-eye.
“The lack of sleep and the exciting feeling of discovering new places and meeting new people did make this an uplifting, party kind of record, for sure,” she recounts.
Ivy (real name Annika Schmarsel) has had the travel bug ever since she could read. Born to German parents, she emigrated to Australia in her youth. “German was my first language,” she explains. “In kindie I was the German girl who couldn’t speak a word of English, so I had to learn.”
In her teens, Ivy’s musical tastes were shaped by soul and Motown (“that’s the kind of feeling I try to make whenever I go into the studio,” Ivy says), and she played guitar in bands.
As a producer, she discovered, there are no limitations.
With the freedom to move and with many of Australia’s brightest young artists in her orbit, Ivy set about creating an album that traverses electronic pop, hip-hop, soul, and dance.
If I’m Dreaming was a young artist with her “head in the clouds,” on this sophomore effort “I matured as a producer,” Ivy explains. “I feel like this record focuses on songwriting and there’s a lot more lyric content. I feel like I’ve definitely matured.”
Its lineup of guests include Thelma Plum, Ecca Vandal, Montaigne, Ngaiire, Benjamin Joseph of Safia, Odette, Bertie Blackman, Imbi and Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon.
It’s a “body of work that features an abundance of voices that need to be heard and are generally not heard from enough,” Ivy comments in a statement accompanying the new LP, released via Dew Process in Australia and Last Gang Records in North America.
Some of those voices “belong to women, some are non-binary, some are people of colour and some identify as First Nations people, some are members of the LGBTQI+ community and all of them have important stories to tell.”
The set has enjoyed positive reviews from NME and Clash Magazine, and should enjoy make its presence felt after landing “album of the week” status on the national youth broadcaster triple j.
As a prominent advocate for female electronica producers, Ivy is fully aware of the trolls who lurk in the shadows. Aware, and ready.
“I try to stick to the rule of, try not to read the comments,” she explains.”Everyone can be ripped apart on the Internet. You just have to prepare yourself that if you are putting out a record and you are putting out a statement, that there are going to be people who pour shit on it.”
Ivy is pumped to perform Don’t Sleep in a live setting. But like so many other artists, she’s playing a waiting game. A packed 2020 calendar, which included a slot at the Splendour in the Grass festival among 50-something bookings, is on hold.
There are bright times ahead. Ivy takes her place on the lineup for the Yours & Owls 2021 festival, scheduled to take place Jan. 23 and 24 in New South Wales. More shows will be announced in the months ahead.
For most artists, releasing music to the world is scary enough. Doing so during a pandemic, that’s something else.
“It’s weird to be putting out a record and not be able to announce tour dates,” she says. “I was flying so much last year, going to so many different places, meeting so many different artists. And now it’s all back to Brunswick. Fingers crossed everything goes ok next year.”
Stream Don’t Sleep below.