PLAYING MELBOURNE: Alice Ivy Takes Collabs to New Heights on Sophomore LP Don’t Sleep

Photo Credit: Michelle G Hunder

Producer Alice Ivy (otherwise known as Annika Schmarsel)​ has become a name to know in the Melbourne music scene; her blend of ’90s house beats, lush layers of synths and raw instruments along with a voice sweetly attuned to pop sensibilities made her 2018 debut I’m Dreaming an instant cult classic. Whether fans hear her doing cover versions on radio, such as the 2018 Like A Version session she did for Australian radio station Triple J (in which she covered “American Boy” by Estelle), or whether fans come to her via a collaboration she’s done with a popular artist like Bertie Blackman (“Chasing Stars“), she’s built a solid base of support for her exciting pop-dance productions. It is Ivy’s skill for partnering with complementary collaborators that makes her sophomore album Don’t Sleep such a revelatory follow-up.

Ivy’s influences include Kaytranada, the xx, The Avalanches, J Dilla, and in a similar vein, she channels the vibe of fellow Australians Pnau, who build looped beats, keys, glitchy samples and live vocals in studio and live performances. “When I was in my early twenties, and beginning to dabble in electronic production after half a lifetime of playing the guitar, I discovered J Dilla’s monumental album Donuts. It was a major turning point for me. Once I was introduced to the world of sampling I was totally hooked,” Ivy recently told Acclaim.

Her current influences are a far cry from the clarinet and guitar lessons she was given as a child from well-meaning uncles and aunts. Ivy’s family immigrated to Australia from Germany when she was very young – she was the only child in her kindergarten group (preschool) who didn’t speak fluent English. This ability to traverse languages has echoes in her love for sounds and the ability for seemingly incongruous vocal samples, radio, TV and movies to make sense when partnered with looping keyboards, horns and drums.

At only 27, Ivy has lived long enough to have explored musical genres such as house, Motown, hip hop and acoustic to borrow what she likes and to confidently twist the sounds using the digital tools that younger, DIY artists are so enthusiastic for. Ivy has used multi-faceted software Ableton to mash up her loops, samples, collages of vocals and instrumentals. “I usually build a song around a sample,” she told Linda Mariani, Triple J radio host in 2018. “I started looping stuff, I put delays on keys and started pitching the keys… then I [add] samples to it.”

Ivy played guitar in a 25-piece, all-girl Motown and soul band during high school, The Sweethearts. Her proclivity for using horns as an atmospheric texture reappears across Don’t Sleep, as it did on her first album, proving that not all of us forget everything we learned in high school upon graduation. She would later study for a music industry degree, which is where she was introduced to Ableton.

In 2017, she performed and spoke as part of the global series of TEDx Talks, TEDxYouth@Sydney. Her lively performance covered singles “Charlie” and “Touch,” impressively allowing the young producer to dance about on stage while also manipulating a keyboard, laptop and electric guitar. Her pure focus on the music and clear joy in getting lost in it is palpable.

The eclectic, celebratory nature of what is ultimately a great party album is so much richer for the inclusivity it invites, both from collaborators and listeners. Whether by choice or pure coincidence, Ivy gravitates toward collaborations with BIPOC, LGBTQI, non-binary and female artists. Indigenous Australian singer-songwriter Thelma Plum makes a cameo on “Ticket To Heaven,” which was co-written over five hours in an Air BnB set up as a studio. On “Sweetest Love” she collaborates with operatically-skilled Melbourne singer Montaigne, who is openly bisexual. Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon brings his rapid-fire skills to “Sunrise,” asking – or challenging – “Can you keep up?”  “All In For You” is a killer collaboration between Ivy and Papua New Guinea-born, Sydney-based artist Ngaiire, a much respected and celebrated singer-songwriter in her own right. And South African-born, Tamil, Sri Lankan artist Ecca Vandal features on “In My Mind,” one of the album’s standout tracks.

Videos for the album’s singles have promoted the album’s joyous oddball streak. Exuberant solo choreography (courtesy dancer Alex Dyson) lends a visual expression to the vocal dexterity of SAFIA’s Ben Woolner on “Better Man,” a fun and fluent collaboration between two skilled instrumentalists. The video for tropical-edged, reggaeton-infused title track “Don’t Sleep” shows Alice Ivy, imbi the girl, and BOI alternate between synchronized dance moves and roaring around on motorbikes. “If you’re losing the vibe, how do you feel alive in your body and soul?” goes the chorus.

As for the funny, clever promo photos of Ivy with her collaborators, she told Acclaim it was a joint decision by the artist and her photographer. “When it came time to shoot the promo photos for the album, I’d planned this big meet-up in Sydney with most of the collaborators and we were going to pose together for a group photo. My photographer Michelle G Hunder and I were referencing Solange Knowles’ wedding photos for inspiration. But when the pandemic turned up that idea went out the window so I switched it out for me on my lonesome in a warehouse with a bunch of lifesize cardboard cut-outs.”

The imagery might be a humorous, but there’s nothing flippant or two-dimensional about the eclectic, constantly dynamic sophomore LP Don’t Sleep, out now on Dew Process.

Follow Alice Ivy on Facebook for ongoing updates.

AF 2018 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums and Singles of the Year

Here we are again! As the new year approaches, it’s time to look back and take stock of the albums and singles that defined this moment in music history. 2018 was an eclectic year, to say the least, and there are a lot of new names on the list: Tirzah, Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy, Noname, King Princess, and Kali Uchis all had phenomenal debuts this year, not to mention the inimitable Cardi B, who made good on the promise of last year’s smash hit “Bodak Yellow” with Invasion of Privacy in April. There were established artists who still managed to surprise us, whether in the form of unearthed Prince demos, The Arctic Monkeys’ loungey sci-fi concept album, Tim Hecker introducing us to ancient Japanese court music, Dev Hynes making his most personal Blood Orange record yet, or Lil Wayne finally dropping Tha Carter V. And then there are those artists who fall somewhere in between, their ascendant careers a thrill to watch as 2018 saw them finally hit their stride. US Girls. Yves Tumor. serpentwithfeet. And perhaps most spectacularly, Mitski and Janelle Monáe.

As each of our writers (and editors, too) created their own mini-lists, those were two names that kept cropping up, and there’s no doubt you’ve seen them on just about every year-end list on the interwebs. If there’s any chance you haven’t heard Be The Cowboy or Dirty Computer, by all means, fire up that Spotify Premium post haste. But the recommendations here are as diverse as our writers themselves, so we hope you’ll take time to explore some of the lesser-known, hardly hyped artists we’ve highlighted, too – and keep your eyes peeled for more year-end coverage as we cruise in to 2019.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)

    Top 10 Albums:
    1) boygenuis – boygenius
    2) Soccer Mommy – Clean
    3) Nenah Cherry – Broken Politics
    4) Mitski – Be the Cowboy
    5) serpentwithfeet – soil
    6) CupcakKE – Ephorize
    7) Blood Orange – Negro Swan
    8) Autechre – NTS Sessions 1-4
    9) Snail Mail – Lush
    10) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    Top 5 Singles:
    1) Let’s Eat Grandma – “Hot Pink”
    2) Jon Hopkins – “Emerald Rush”
    3) The Internet – “Look What You Started”
    4) Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J Balvin – “I Like It”
    5) boygenius – “Bite The Hand”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)

    Top 10 Albums:
    1) Low – Double Negative
    2) US Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
    3) Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes 
    4) Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands of Love
    5) DJ Koze – Knock Knock
    6) Caroline Rose – Loner
    7) Tim Hecker – Konoyo
    8) Virginia Wing – Ecstatic Arrow
    9) Frigs – Basic Behaviour
    10) bedbug – i’ll count to heaven in years without seasons
    Top 10 Singles:
    1) Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel”
    2) Loma – “Black Willow”
    3) The Breeders – “All Nerve”
    4) SOPHIE – “Is It Cold In The Water?”
    5) Jonathan Wilson – “Loving You”
    6) Empath – “The Eye”
    7) Sibile Attar – “Paloma”
    8) Jono Ma & Dreems – “Can’t Stop My Dreaming (Of You)”
    9) Shopping – “Discover”
    10) Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – “Dunce”

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Social Media)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Miserable – Lover Boy/Dog Days
    2) Snail Mail – Lush
    3) Mitski – Be The Cowboy
    4) Teyana Taylor – K.T.S.E.
    5) Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Nothing – “Blue Line Baby”
    2) Hinds – “The Club”
    3) Mitski – “Nobody”

  • Lauren Zambri (Events)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Amen Dunes – Freedom
    2) US Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
    3) Beach House – 7
    4) Iceage – Beyondless
    5) Tirzah – Devotion
    Top 5 Singles:
    1) Jenny Hval – “Spells”
    2) US Girls – “Velvet 4 Sale”
    3) Yves Tumor – “Licking An Orchid”
    4) Amen Dunes – “Believe”
    5) Low – “Always Trying to Work it Out”


  • Ashley Prillaman (Premieres, AudioMama)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Alice Ivy – I’m Dreaming
    2) Sudan Archives – Sink
    3) Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love
    4) Earth Girl Helen Brown – Venus
    5) Rüfüs Du Sol – Solace
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Rhye – “Taste”
    2) Alice Ivy – “Chasing Stars”
    3) Sudan Archives – “Nont For Sale”

  • Tarra Thiessen (Check the Spreadsheet)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) DRINKS – Hippo Lite
    2) Shannon & the Clams – Onion
    3) Lost Boy ? – Paranoid Fiction
    4) Prince – Piano & a Microphone 1983 
    5) Sloppy Jane – Willow
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Public Practice – “Fate/Glory”
    2) The Nude Party – “Chevrolet Van”
    3) Big Bliss – “Surface”

  • Natalie Kirch (Pet Politics)

    Top 10 Releases Out of the Brooklyn DIY Scene (in Chronological Order):
    1) THICK — Would You Rather? (Self-Released)
    2) BODEGA — Endless Scroll (What’s Your Rupture?)
    3) Baked — II (Exploding In Sound)
    4) Pecas — After Dark (Broken Circles)
    5) Big Bliss – At Middle Distance (Exit Stencil Recordings)
    6) Kevin Hairs — Freak In The Streets (GP Stripes)
    7) PILL – Soft Hell (Mexican Summer)
    8) Stove – ‘s Favorite Friend (Exploding In Sound)
    9) Lost Boy ? – Paranoid Fiction (Little Dickman Records/ Rich Moms)
    10) Janet LaBelle – I Only See You (Loantaka Records)

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Kali Uchis – Isolation
    2) Blood Orange – Negro Swan
    3) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    4) Mitski – Be the Cowboy
    5) Noname – Room 25
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Ama Lou – “Tried Up”
    2) Britney Stoney – “OD”
    3) Janelle Monáe – “PYNK”

  • Luci Turner (Playing Atlanta)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) The Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
    2) The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
    3) Charles Bradley – Black Velvet
    4) Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You
    5) Jack White – Boarding House Reach
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) The Raconteurs – “Now That You’re Gone”
    2) Mac Miller – “2009”
    3) Dead Naked Hippies – “Rare”

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    2) Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V
    3) J. Cole – KOD
    4) Preme – Light of Day
    5) Jazz Cartier – Fleurever
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Lil Wayne feat. Reginae Carter – “Famous”
    2) Cardi B – “Thru Your Phone”
    3) J. Cole – “Brackets”

  • Desdemona Dallas

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Noname – Room 25
    2) Flatbush Zombies – Vacation In Hell
    3) Mountain Man – Magic Ship
    4) Lucy Dacus – Historian
    5) Nao – Saturn
    Top 3 Singles:
    1)  Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel”
    2) Twin Shadow – “Saturdays”
    3) Sudan Archives – “Nont For Sale”

  • Erin Rose O’Brien

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Mitski — Be The Cowboy
    2) Antarctigo Vespucci — Love in the Time of E-mail
    3) Car Seat Headrest — Twin Fantasy
    4) Soccer Mommy — Clean
    5) Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Bad Moves — “Cool Generator”
    2) The Beths — “Future Me Hates Me”
    3) Miya Folick — “Stop Talking”

  • Ysabella Monton

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Mitski – Be The Cowboy
    2) Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
    3) Brockhampton – Iridescence
    4) Soccer Mommy – Clean
    5) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) King Princess – “1950”
    2) Childish Gambino – “This is America”
    3) Pusha T – “If You Know You Know”

INTERVIEW: Alice Ivy Talks Dreamy Debut Ahead of SXSW

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Photo by Dominik Schmarsel

Much of the country is still in the midst of winter, but over in Australia, Alice Ivy is spinning summer all year round. Her debut record I’m Dreaming is a surreal pool party, hazy with liquor and puffs of the finer stuff – its collaged snippets could easily invite remixes by the DoLab at Coachella or blare over the soundsystem on a rooftop at some fabulous (and oh-so-elite) LA party.

“I suppose I’ll be taking orders from Dinah next!” A soundbite from Alice in Wonderland leads us into the laid-back dance club that is I’m Dreaming. One of the album’s introductory singles, “Chasing Stars,” is a gorgeous example of how delicately Ivy works with others; it’s catchy, clean, and absolutely on point for today’s pop EDM landscape. “Get Me A Drink” stands out as another potential hit, with tight lyrics and an easy swagger: “My ex just walked up through the front door/I really don’t wanna care anymore/WTF did he bring that girl for/I really don’t wanna care anymore.” They’re the kind of tracks that make you wonder what else the country of Australia’s been holding back (don’t worry, Alice has some Aussie producer recommendations). SXSW has a lot to look forward to when Alice Ivy hits the stage this week.

We sat down with the 24-year-old Alice Ivy, née Annika Schmarsel, to talk about what life’s like as a female producer and how she manages to pare down her work to just the right mix.

AF: You were raised in Geelong, Australia. From a quick Google I got: seaside city, famous for its Wool Museum. Give us a glimpse into what life is like there.

AI: Hahaha, wool museum. I haven’t even been there to be honest! I had a really good upbringing down here. Geelong is super close to the best surf beaches in Australia, so whenever I was on school holidays I would kick it at the beach all the time. It’s a very quiet town, but living so close to the beach was awesome. Geelong itself had a really good punk/rock scene a few years ago so when I was young I used to sneak out of the house at midnight and go see punk shows all the time

AF: What were some of your favorite punk bands from back then?

AI: When I say punk I mean punk and rock. This massive band called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard came from Geelong and used to play at this place called the National Hotel all the time; I went to most shows. They are now selling out massive tours around the world. I grew up listening to a lot of Motown and Soul Music though.

AF: Love King Gizzard! You sound pretty cool for a high schooler (a lot cooler than a certain Minnesotan who only listened to oldies).

AI: So cool! They literally played in the tiniest rooms in Geelong when I was growing up, it’s insane how well they are doing now.

AF: Tell us about your high school band, Sweethearts. I’m very intrigued by this all-girl group that got to tour Europe at age 12.

AI: So I auditioned to play in this all-girl school band (twenty-five 12-18 year olds). We would cover old soul Motown classics by Marvin Gaye, Etta James, etc. We would also play originals. Playing in this band was super cool because it gave me proper touring experience at such a young age. I toured Europe a couple of times playing the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the Poretta Soul Festival. Also understanding how shows work, writing with other people and getting used to performing at such a young age has had a massive influence on where I am at now in my music career.

AF: You’ve said you’re a fan of “sitting down and listening to whole records”. I’m Dreaming really does have consistent tone and pacing throughout. It’s an album that infuses a room with mood, a mezcal cocktail of a record. Did you end up leaving a lot on the cutting room floor in order to give it this particular feel?

AI: Sitting down and listening to a whole record is the best thing in the world. I feel like today everyone just listens to singles through play-listing and of course radio, so I wanted to create something that would make real sense if you sit down for 35 minutes and listen to the whole thing. So I chose my big songs on the record, and once I established those I wrote [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][new songs] or decided on the [existing] songs to fit in between. Songs such as “Bella” I revisited and re-worked a little bit so it would fit nicer. I wanted to keep the album super dynamic, so it flows up and down, and feels as if you are being taken on a journey. Choosing the songs was the hardest thing in the world.

AF: I absolutely love all the sound clips from films you interspersed throughout. Was that a concept you had or did it just sort of happen organically starting with a particular song?

AI: Thank you! Honestly it happened organically with the songs! Sometimes I even start a song with a radio sample and work my way around that. A good example is “Charlie.” The radio samples on there are old commercials from the 1950s, soon after the second world war, talking about makeup. I loved this period of time because it was like we won the war! Everything is perfect! Technology was evolving! Yet the Cold War and nuclear disaster was a very big thing. “Charlie” has that feel to it; the horns are so perfect they are almost fake. The feel of the song is like you are on top of the world, nothing can stop you. Not sure if this makes sense in words.

AF: Was the Alice in Wonderland intro a last minute add then? It seems like such a perfect way to encompass the overall feel.

AI: On ‘Touch” I actually also started with a little vocal sample and then mucked around with chords and a drum beat. Then I worked with Georgia Van Etten in the studio to work on little top lines. I really loved the idea of creating something that would take the listener down the rabbit hole.

AF: In 2017, you listed your Korg Minilogue as your favorite new piece of equipment. Not gonna lie: my husband and I just got one. We’re definitely in the beginning stages of figuring it out. Do you normally just jump in writing songs on a new piece of equipment or do you find there’s a lengthy experimentation phase you go through?

AI: I always need a bit of time getting used to a new bit of gear. It’s cool though; working with new gear also influences the kind of direction you are taking your music in. I bought the Korg Minilogue and then I wrote heavy synth driven songs such as “Get Me A Drink” & “I’m Dreaming,” stepping away from more of the ‘soul’ kinda stuff. You are gonna have so much fun with the Minilogue! It’s actually the best thing ever. You can do so much with it.

AF: What artists are you listening to right now?

AI: I’m listening to a bit of Australian stuff. Nai Palm just released an amazing record, Flight Facilities are great. But I’ve also been thrashing that new Mr Jukes record – the features on it are mind blowing. And I can never really walk away from SZA, Frank Ocean and Flying Lotus.

AF: I’ve heard rumor you’re coming to the U.S. for SXSW. Are there any other U.S. tour dates we can expect on that trip?

AI: Yeah, I’m hitting up SXSW! I’m super sad though because I have two Australian festivals either side of SXSW so I don’t have time to play any more shows. Will be back later during the year though!

AF: You currently run an all-female production class at Melbourne’s Arts Centre. Why is heading up this class important to you?

AI: Melbourne has been so good to me. There are heaps of youth organizations that help young producers start off their careers, there are amazing government funding bodies. About a year ago I realized that I may be a bit of a role model to young producers, especially females. I think that it’s super important to put back into the community and so whenever I have the time, I try to do as much as I can. The Arts Centre classes are a safe open space for young females to express their art. Music, especially electronic music, is so male dominated – the only way to change this is to put your time back rather than just talk about how hard it is being a ‘female producer’ making electronic music.

Get Me a Drink – Alice Ivy live at the Northcote Social Club from ash koek on Vimeo.

AF: What female producers are you seeing out in the scene that are really rockin’ it right now?

AI: I’ll list some Aussies who are smashing it right now. Ninajirachi, Nyxen, SaatsumaEilish Gilligan. Especially Ninajirachi; she’s 18 years old and doing massive festival circuits around Australia… so cool.

AF: What advice would you give a high-school age girl looking to become a producer? What are some of the first steps she should take?

AI: I’ll send a list of dot points!

  • Take your time with everything. Don’t feel like you ever have to rush art.
  • Collaborating with other people is the best way to get better at your own craft. Give it a go!
  • If they are in reach, reach out to the people that inspire you. They will generally make the time for you and you can learn so much.
  • Be patient. Every artist needs to do the hard yards first. Good things will always come if you put in the good work.

Alice Ivy’s new album I’m Dreaming is out now on Spotify and iTunes. If you’re headed to SXSW this week, be sure to catch her LIVE[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]