We get the scoop on Vivid Music: an interview with music curator Stephen Ferris

The rain poured over Sydney as Stephen Ferris answered my call, but it was clear that no sort of shower could rain over his parade. Hours after announcing the immense list of musical guests playing at Vivid Sydney, Stephen, curator of Vivid Music, is evidently over the moon. “I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out,” he excitedly says – you can honestly feel that excitement through the phone. “We broke down the festival into specific venues, each with its own specific curator. Basically Ben Marshall is in charge of the Opera House, it’s all his vision and ideas.” Stephen on the other hand, curates the broader music program beyond the Vivid LIVE at the Opera House. The more he discusses the organisation process of Vivid, the more complex it becomes.

Modular Records found father and legend Steve Pavlovic (2011 Vivid organiser) is involved in Modulations at Carriageworks, creating what is set to be one of the quirkiest, most enjoyable aspects of the 18 night long festival. Speaking specifically about the Hoodoo Gurus, who will be playing at The Powerhouse Museum, Stephen explained how unique the Vivid Music shows will be. “The Powerhouse Museum are pulling out all these posters and relics from the Gurus’ past. It was initially for an exhibition, but now they’re playing.” These shows may very well be among the last for the legendary band, with the performance showcasing their life, including each lineup throughout their 30+ year history.

VIVID SYDNEY 2015 – MUSIC from Destination NSW on Vimeo.

It’s no easy feat building a lineup this amazing – particularly when you look at the international acts; conflicting tours in Europe have plagued Vivid since its inception in 2009. “It’s always hard booking the internationals, if they’re on a Northern Hemisphere tour, we have to pay for them to break away from that. If not, it’s always going to be costly getting them over here for a small tour.” This costliness isn’t entirely a bad thing for punters though, as it often results in a nationwide tour in order to make the festival economically viable (although there is a pretty stellar lineup of Sydney-only shows this year including Squarepusher, Sufjan Stevens, Morrisey and Bill Callahan.)

Vivid are hardly slowing down either, with a huge stack of parties and acts yet to be announced. Ferris alluded to the addition of Itch-E & Scratch-E member Paul Mac to the lineup, an event which will coincide with the upcoming release of his third studio album Holiday From Me.

When asked what he was most looking forward to, it was the modest answer of “The Yellow Magic Orchestra cover band. We’ve been thinking for a while that we might be able to get Yellow Magic Orchestra back together for an event like Vivid, but this year we have a cover band which is fantastic, I’m very excited to see how they pull this off.” In addition to the cover band, it was the likes of Soul of Sydney, the hip-hop/jazz collective who, according to Ferris, “Challenge the likes of New Orleans.” Made up of musicians, artists, designers and dancers, Soul of Sydney is one of the most exciting things about Vivid’s expansion outside of the Opera House and Circular Quay, and is one of many parties and events that are set to take Sydney by storm.

When Morrisey became the topic of conversation, it was hard to ignore the small chuckles between sentences. “Apparently he has asked that no meat be served anywhere at the Opera House as he performs – not at the bar, not anywhere, which should make for an interesting situation”. Yet aside from his demands, Morrisey is on par with The Cure as far as mammoth headliners go. The ballot for his shows has already closed, with an unprecedented number of entries. The former Smiths frontman last toured Australia in 2012 where he also played the Opera House, in addition to larger venues across the country.

As the conversation came to an end, one thing became strikingly obvious. Stephen Ferris may not be Michael Eavis, but it’s clear that he has the same love and care for Vivid as Eavis has for Glastonbury. The pure excitement and joy with which Ferris spoke only allowed me to come to one logical conclusion – Vivid is a festival made for the love of light, music and ideas, and with Ferris at the helm, we’re in for a damn fine festival.

Vivid takes place over 18 nights, turning the city into the worlds biggest, brightest art gallery. From 22nd May – 8th June, it will transform the nightlife of Sydney into a neon wonderland, combined with incredible speakers and beautiful music.