Black Vanilla: “People are very cruel on the internet”

What do Scissor LockCollarbones and Black Vanilla have in common? Marcus Whale of course! We recently spoke with the man himself ahead of Black Vanilla‘s OutsideIn set later this month. After a hyped up Splendour In The Grass performance, a spot on Boiler Room and enough intensely visceral performances to really make a name for themselves, Black Vanilla are stepping things up. Comprised of Whale and friends Lavurn Lee (Cassius SelectGuerre) and Jarred Beeler (DJ Plead), what was meant to be a live only project slowly but surely changed to become one of the most promising electronic outfits in the country. Although this now means Marcus Whale occasionally finds himself supporting himself, with Black Vanilla supporting Collarbones recently as well as both acts playing at OutsideIn, the 24 year old shows no signs of slowing down!

First of all, how the hell do you manage to be in so many things? 

Well it helps that they’re all a bit on-and-off to some extent. It doesn’t mean we won’t do a Black Vanilla show for a year, but it does mean we might not work on anything for a couple of months, but then we’ll do a bunch of stuff and come back to it.

Apart from when you’re supporting yourself at gigs? 

*laughs* Yeah, it seemed like a good idea in theory, but it was actually quite tiring. I don’t know why I didn’t realise it wouldn’t be tiring!

Yeah, I would imagine so! I’ve read about how intense and physical Black Vanilla shows are, but I imagine Collarbones would also be pretty exhausting too! 

Yeah! Not necessarily on a cardio-vascular level, but I didn’t realise I’d almost lose my voice every night because I’d be singing for almost two hours. But you know, other people do that every night like Beyonce or Mariah Carey. They do crazy things like not speaking until midday or like, Celine Dion humidifies her nose with saline, you know?

So you’re up there with the big divas?

Well I’m not! That’s the thing! You need to really prepare properly and it took me until after the first weekend to be serious about it!

How do you think you’ll go at OutsideIn playing the two sets? 

I think it’ll be okay. Hopefully there will be a few hours in between the sets, which would give me a bit of time to rest.

You’ll just have to sit in silence in between!

Yeah, just no yelling ideally!

Let’s talk about OutsideIn – what are your thoughts on festivals like that one? 

Well, I’ve never really been interested in the massive festivals and especially not the electronic ones. They feel a bit dehumanising – epic and spectular, but ultimately being around a bunch of people that probably aren’t the kind of people I’d hang out with, which is fine, but usually they’re munted and that’s not very nice. OutsideIn has a really nice vibe, I think that the curation is really consistently great and quite diverse. It’s good, I think, for music and it’s best for music that there are more smaller events like that rather than massive things that will only have international acts and a couple of extremely popular local acts.

I think it’s really refreshing as well. It’s just a change of pace, and not $200 for one day!

Yeah that’s the other thing. OutsideIn is incredibly good value for money, and that’s something I’ve always been astounded with ASTRAL PEOPLE and Yes Please being able to do: the lineups are really great and really well thought out and also just quite a good experience. What is it this year, like $70 or $80? You’d be paying that to see most international acts on their own!

How did Black Vanilla come about? You were all friends prior to it, weren’t you? 

That’s right! We met about four years ago, at a Collarbones show actually! We’ve been friends ever since then, but it wasn’t that long after that that we started making music together. Our first gig was over three years ago actually, in August 2011. It just sort of made sense; Jarred and Lavurn have been working together for a bit just kind of for fun, and I wanted to be involved too. That’s essentially what it was – me wanting to get in on Jarred and Lavurn’s friend time… *laughs*

Because it was initially meant to be a live-only project, right? Was it never meant to be super serious, and now it’s just got a bit of traction? 

Yeah, that’s the reason it took two years for us to put anything out. I’m really glad we didn’t put any of our early stuff out because it’s terrible! We all have our recording projects, so we wanted to be able to make music just for performance and think about performance in a more intensive way. I think it’s really important and in many ways is more important to experience music this way than to listen to something on the computer. It’s an immersive experience, it’s in the moment. We were excited about doing something that wasn’t about, “This is that cool track by Black Vanilla,” but instead, “That was that cool performance by Black Vanilla at that venue in that place and that time.”

You’re quite prevalent in the “other” electronic sound in Australia, so I’m curious as to what your thoughts are about the Australian music industry with the electronic “Australian Sound”?

I think it’s good people are embracing technology because we’re all embracing technology no matter who you are, in whatever field. I think it’s inevitable that people would be making music with computers in a really normal, regular way, rather than an experimental or exploratory way. I think it’s something that was always… We also have to remember that people have been making electronic music for decades, and it’s a kind of generational thing with current popular electronic music. It’s usually made by people even younger than me, and I’m 2. People who were teenagers when Ableton Live became really popular to use. It’s kind of like the new “acoustic guitar”.

Totally! I didn’t even think about that way. So, Black Vanilla playing the Boiler Room set – can you tell me a bit about that? I was a big fan of it. How did it even come about?

I don’t exactly know! I’m not sure booked it in Australia…

You need to buy whoever did a beer!

*laughs* Or send them hate-mail… It was kind of traumatic actually, because people are very cruel on the Internet. I’ve never seen so much hate directed towards me in my life.

What?!

Yeah, check the comments on YouTube! Times that by 5 and that was what the online chat was like.

Well I liked it!

Well, thanks! I should have known, I know Boiler Room is notoriously brutal. At the same time, we’re wearing it as a badge of honour that we are in some way divisive because I think it’s easy to make stuff people like, and it’s a more difficult task to be able to divide people. I think that our attitude is that we want to not pander to anyone. It’s important to us that we’re not compromising. That was kind of like a pivotal moment for us I think; we didn’t need to make everyone like us. A million people in the world can say “no” to you, but it’s about cultivating and working with the “yes” people, and the people who really believe in what you do.

So it was almost motivational, to keep doing what you’re doing instead of compromising and changing? 

Yeah! It meant that we had to say to ourselves, “Look, okay, hundreds of people don’t like us. But, what about all the people we perform to every month that are really getting into it? We need to do it for them!”

Right on! Does your creative process differ much between projects? Is it hard to adjust sometimes? 

I think of them in very different parts of my brain I think. It’s different for everyone. It’s kind of like going to school where you have different subjects?

Most of your projects are electronic based, so obviously that’s an interest of yours. Have you always wanted to play it though?

I’ve used a computer to make music through most of my life… In some ways; it could be just writing notes down on a computer, or literally using audio on the computer, so it’s pretty native to me the way it’s native to a lot of people my age.

So, what’s still to come? 

Well for Black Vanilla, we have an EP coming out in November called Cloaks on Club Mod. We’ll probably play some shows around that. We’re probably most excited about a mixtape we’re putting together, that should come out next year!

You can catch Black Vanilla at OutsideIn Festival on Saturday November 29 at Manning Bar, Sydney University. Get one of the few remaining tickets HERE.