With a focus on celebrating and supporting emerging DJs and producers of marginalised genders, Echo Collective is an upcoming Naarm/Melb-based DJ residency formed by artists and DJ’s Phoebe Kinrade, Jasmine Nolan-James and Kiera Varrese. The group met at The Push’s Electronic Music Accelerator Program and began their residency at Small Time Group in December. Their upcoming second event takes place on this Saturday the 5th of March, featuring a cocktail of beats mixed by Naarm’s hidden DJ gems including NAK, Anna B, ŽIVA and more, as well as an array of visuals by local artists.
FROCKUP was stoked to meet the group and discuss what inspired the collective, their ethos and their aspirations for the future.
1. Hi Echo Collective Team, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. How’ve you all been over the last year with everything going on?
K: It’s been such a wild year for everyone, and the music industry has definitely been hit hard. Just trying to make the most of the times where shows can go ahead, or I can work on projects with people in person!
J: As we’re all fully aware, the past year has brought many mixed emotions for people. Personally, whilst the effects of lockdown on many were overwhelmingly awful, I was privileged enough to see it as an opportunity to further my involvement in Melbourne/Naarm’s music scene and more specifically my mixing skill. Throughout the lockdowns, myself, Kiera and Phoebe teamed up for bimonthly zoom meetings and somehow, out of the chaos emerged Echo Collective Night #1. It took place on the first weekend of summer and, as a roaring sell-out success, was certainly one of my prouder moments in the music scene last year.
2. We'd love to hear more about your origin story, how did Echo Collective form and what is the core ethos that brought you all together?
J: Me, Kiera and Phoebe met through The Push, which is a Melbourne/Naarm organisation that provides music programs for young people. After being welcomed into a beautiful group of women and GNC producers through the program, we decided to grab ahold of that warm acceptance and incredible musical creativity to form Echo Collective. I think most notably it is those traits that have stayed with us through the process of creating this project, and more so our drive to authentically showcase a total variety of talent in a scene typically suffocated by cis men and privilege.
3. What was your experience like in The Push’s Electronic Music Accelerator Program?
J: Walking into the first class with near to no musical knowledge, and then walking away from the last with a booster of confidence, creativity and a yearn to get into DJing left me feeling so empowered and accepted in a competitive industry. Our awesome mentor Beatrice Lewis completely opened my eyes to the otherwise-alien world of digital music production and kept all her classes fun, engaging and relaxed in a way that allowed me to form really great friendships, too. So thankful for the opportunity!
4. You're continuing your residency at Small Time Group in March, creating a platform and safe space for emerging DJ’s and producers of marginalised genders. From your perspective, what do you think are the most important ingredients that go into creating dance music events that allow for free creative expression, while also being safe and comfortable spaces for attendees?
P: This is me, Jas and Kiera’s first time really running music events, so to some degree we are going in unsure of what to expect. As an emerging collective we are still very much finding our feet in terms of seeing where we can go from here, finding the best way we can create a welcoming, safe and accessible community for emerging DJs and producers to allow for free creative expression.
For me on a personal level as someone who is Autistic, I can often find big, loud, crowded events overwhelming at times so I think drawing from personal experience has allowed me to think logistically about what might work. It’s still very trial and error though. I remember the day of the first December event I was going through Autistic burnout and was worried about how the environment might be for me. Jas and Kiera are both super supportive in this so sometimes I’d just be like ‘Hey I’m feeling a bit of sensory overload, I might just head out the back (of Small Time) so I can sit down, take in some fresh air but still be able to enjoy the music from a quieter speaker outside.’
A lot of thought has gone into how we can make this event feel welcoming. Since the December event I have also been able to see what we could improve on. Some of this includes adjusting lighting and sound, making sure the event is affordable as well as setting tickets aside for people struggling financially, carers and aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s. Going forward I think I’d like to be able to create some sort of chill out/sensory room for people to just step away for a bit from the environment of dance-floor or beer garden if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
I think both Kiera and Jas can agree with me in saying we want Echo Collective to be a place for people to connect. Everyone can get involved in the electronic music scene, Night #1 We asked people we know to play but we’re starting to reach out to people to get involved. So if anyone reading this would like to be involved themselves - please feel free to reach out. I personally have never really DJ’d - I have started teaching myself this year and hoping for my first gig to be an Echo gig - that’s what it’s all about, a space for people to feel comfortable whether they’re starting out and are wanting a space to play a gig or more established. It is extremely important to us to be paying everyone for the time they put into this, and while we are still starting out we’d love to be able to pay artists properly.
5. What made you choose Small Time Group as a venue? Are there any other spaces you'd love to utilize for your future events?
P: Beatrice Lewis (Haiku Hands) who facilitated the EMA program at The Push was able to arrange our placement with Small Time Group and we’re so happy they did because Liz and the rest of the team at Small Time are so kind and encouraging.
In future, it would be exciting to host some events in larger spaces to allow for greater capacity and a longer run time. I’d for sure love to do some all ages events because I remember being younger and so eager to go to gigs. All the (all ages ) events I’ve been to have been such a good time. As we have established from a program run for young people I think that is important to us, allowing people of all ages to get involved.
6. Do you have any favorite memories from your first event at Small Time Group back in December?
K: Being our first-ever event, it was definitely exciting to see groups of people walking in! I think we were all holding our breaths a little, so it was such a relief seeing people actually pull up.
Seeing people dancing and hyping up the DJ’s was so memorable, I definitely felt a strong sense of community.
7. Are there any parties or crews, here or elsewhere, that have inspired what you are doing with Echo Collective?
K: Some amazing Naarm/ Melb event organizers we’d love to shout out are Open Seen, Neustro Planeta and Transenergy! They’re all doing amazing things for the local scene, bringing some much-needed diversity to the forefront.
9. Thanks so much for your time. Are there any other projects or things on the horizon for Echo Collective?
Kiera: Come along to Night 2 on March 5! Stay tuned for future Echo Collective Nights, follow our Soundcloud for mixes, and catch Jas (Karmacoma) and I (Chaotiic Good) playing at Moomba festival March 12 xx
Be sure to pull up to Small Town Group, Brunswick from 8pm on Saturday the 5th for one hell of a night. This line up is sure to make you blush;
8pm - ŽIVA
8:30 - Anna B
9:30 - Lieselotte
10:30 - Chaotiic Good
11:30 - NAK
Tickets can be found at: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/echo-collective-night-2-tickets-239783828887?aff=erelexpmlt