Sarah Mary Chadwick Makes Friends with Ennui

Photo Credit: Simon J Karis

Multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and intrepidly candid singer-songwriter Sarah Mary Chadwick will release her seventh full length studio album, Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby, on Friday, February 5th, via Ba Da Bing Records/Rice is Nice. Known both for her solo work and for a decade spent as frontperson of Batrider – which formed while Chadwick and her bandmates were still in high school in New Zealand – Chadwick has explored some dark places and difficult terrain. Going solo certainly sent her on a new trajectory – one that has kept listeners compelled to discover what she’s just done and what she’s doing next. Her latest album justifies plenty of curiosity and attention, not only for its exploration of intense emotions – she is, as ever, starkly honest, articulate and unfiltered – but also for the approach to recording it.

Ennui is almost entirely singing and piano, all recorded live in one day with Chadwick’s friend, bass player Geoffrey O’Connor. Chadwick and O’Connor recorded on a Yamaha upright piano in her friend’s studio. The upright added to the “bar-roomy feel of the record, which wasn’t intentional but definitely came through when we were recording,” Chadwick says.

It immediately follows 2020’s Please, Daddy – a painful, introspective work that, according to Chadwick, was more ambitious in terms of instrumentation. Though it seemed a logical trajectory to do something more complicated after its release, the stripped-down nature of Ennui is a result of Chadwick’s conscious desire to free herself of expectation. “The last record had Geoff engineering, a drum and four other musicians. This was just me and Geoff sitting in a small, intimate room for a whole day,” she says.

“In terms of doing it in one day, my thinking has always been that there’s only so good I can play and sing a song,” explains Chadwick. “It doesn’t get better if I do it 50 times. I think you lose a lot of energy if you iron things out. I wanted to capture a lot of energy in this record. I usually only record in one or two days, with only two or three takes of a song.”

It’s all part of Chadwick’s effort to retain some of that “demo energy” when recording songs for her albums. “My process is the same for music and visual art. Working fast, you’re not afforded the space to second-guess decisions, so you get into the habit of making decisions quickly; you just make choices to realise what you think is important,” she says. “For me, that energy is so important. If you’re doing it right, you’re making good decisions that enable you to realise what is important about art.”

Even while making choices that seem intuitive rather than heavily and lengthily considered, Chadwick is deliberate. One of those choices is the cover art for the album, revealing her parted legs in shorts that don’t cover everything. It’s quite brave, confronting even. “I wanted to free myself up from having to put my own artwork on the cover every time,” she says. “It’s a candid photo that my partner took. I like the colours of it. It works well as a cover and as an image. The album itself is quite earnest in parts, so it’s a nice counterpoint to have something a bit garish, a big vulgar, as cover art.”

Chadwick is very much in the practice of constant creation, always engaged with visual art and music. When putting together a record, she books the studio three months prior and works each week on new songs, which typically take half an hour to an hour. “When I was quite young, I was concerned with stagnant periods and writing block but now I don’t encounter that ever,” she admits. “Doing lots of work subsequently makes me feel not guilty for when I don’t want to work or can’t be bothered. It makes my downtime guilt-free. I have always been in the habit of having something ticking over.”

Having the deadline ensures she has selected songs which are in the process and refines them in preparation. She’s already working on the next album and is considering doing demos to prepare, in contrast to the off-the-cuff nature of Ennui. “I’m always writing,” she says. “Because we’re just about to put this one out, I don’t feel pressure to rush the next one, which means the next one will come pretty easily.”

Perhaps, for Chadwick, there is a security in constant creation and self-analysis, working hand-in-glove to keep her on an even keel. Readers, beware: the following discussion may be triggering or difficult; those struggling with mental health issues may want to take a breather here.

Both Ennui and Daddy are the continuation of a trilogy of albums, beginning with The Queen Who Stole the Sky, that focus on Chadwick’s attempt to take her own life in 2019, following the death of her father and a close friend, as well as the intense breakup of a long-term relationship. They openly explore the event itself as well as the trauma that precipitated it, and continue the healing process Chadwick has undergone in its aftermath, particularly her views on psychoanalytic therapy.

“I’ve always had, since a child, depression and anxiety, but it’s gotten a lot better in the past six years. I’ve always seen psychologists on and off since I was a teenager but never found it particularly useful and was disappointed by it no matter how much work I put into it,” admits Chadwick. “It became clear that it wasn’t my fault. I started psychoanalysis and that was far more rewarding. The more I put into it, the more it gave back.”

Rather than process first and write later, Chadwick made the writing of these albums part of her journey toward healing. “Did I want to explore it? Definitely, I did,” she says. “I was in treatment five times a week afterwards, and the experience only informed my creative process. I draw unconsciously and very naturally on day-to-day things.”

Chadwick has released her latest batch of records through Rice Is Nice, run by Julia Wilson and Lulu Rae. Chadwick met Jules through an ex-girlfriend. “Jules is a really, really dear friend and a great person,” Chadwick says. “We’ve worked together since 2015 and done over four records together. Jules works super hard on things for me and she’s not doing it for finance, since I’m a relatively small artist, so I’m really grateful for the fact she does so much because she loves me and she loves my work.”

Chadwick is scheduled to do a series of launch events, in which she’ll play music from the trilogy of albums for small crowds in Melbourne. The events will be live-streamed so international audiences can tune in.

Despite the emotional weight of Ennui, there’s something triumphant in its self-deprecating tone. Perhaps Chadwick’s Bandcamp describes it best: “On Ennui, Chadwick is free, there is nowhere for her or us to run from the need to very presently and repeatedly articulate her trauma until it is simply, ‘articulated out.'” Another brave choice from an artist who, decades into her career, still stuns with her bravery.

Follow Sarah Mary Chadwick on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Julia Wilson Discusses Melbourne Roots and Founding Record Label Rice Is Nice

Julia Wilson is a Melbourne success story in the music industry. From an early age, she was immersed in the scene, working in record stores as a teen and shooting for now defunct Melbourne street rag Inpress straight out of her photography studies – her first live shoot, as she recalls, was likely No Doubt. Working in street press often means long hours, demanding publicists and advertisers, and little, if any, pay; it’s something one does for the love of music and arts, and fortunately, Wilson has no shortage of that. She wanted to use her experience to champion artists who had something unique about them – the basis for longevity – rather than artists who were deemed popular by the mass market, so she founded record label Rice Is Nice in 2008. Now in its 12th year, the label is home to acts that represent rock, electronica, psychedelia, acoustic folk and garage punk, has succeeded in showcasing its artists at Melbourne Music Week, and gotten media coverage for artists who don’t easily fit into typical genres, all without compromising their integrity. Black Flag legend Henry Rollins even gave her record label a shout-out on his KCRW radio show. There’s no hard sell with Julia, just genuine passion – despite her busy schedule, she seemed to have nothing but time when it came to talking arts and music with Audiofemme.

Wilson was born and raised in Frankston, on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. It’s a well renowned suburb to the south-east of Melbourne, commonly and sometimes derisively referred to as “Franga.” Working in little record store that mostly sold metal records, Wilson says, “It was a seminal time for me and I used my time there to discover all I could about that genre of music. The store was full of Burzum, NOFX, Cradle Of Filth and Kerrang Magazine. I’m not sure how I got outta there alive!”

As an events photographer, Wilson became intimately familiar with Melbourne’s best-known music venues and events: The Corner, Festival Hall (“Where I saw my first concert Faith No More”), The Tote, The Evelyn, The Prince Of Wales, Big Day Out and others. “I did not love some of the competitive asshole photographers in the pit,” Wilson admits. “I was lucky to meet a few legends though, who gave me film when I had forgotten mine.” As digital photography became more prevalent, Wilson took the opportunity to move in a new direction.

Her first stop was Greville Records, located in the inner-eastern Melbourne suburb of Prahran. “That place is my spiritual home. The people and records in there paved a strong path for me,” Wilson says, giving a special shout-out to owner Warwick Brown. “You Am I played a free gig in the car park, and there were loads of in-stores signings, launches and performances at the time. I used to go to local live venue, the Duke Of Windsor all the time. I remember watching Legends Of Motorsport (I loved that band), Ground Components and Rocket Science.”

Wilson moved from Melbourne to Sydney about eight years ago to take a role with Mushroom Records, but ended up quitting and joining Popfrenzy Records, founded by Chris Wu, as a label manager and publicist. “Working with Chris proved to me that one person could do huge things. Leaving Melbourne helped me establish something that was my own,” Wilson explains. “I was generally very intimidated by Australian bands. It was a very big, cool scene and it was very overwhelming for me… Moving to a city less obsessed with music than my home city of Melbourne gave me the confidence and space to start something new. I felt that I could make mistakes without as much judgement as I’d have received in Melbourne. I just had sheer support from artists and music lovers because the scene needed so much of it.”

Missing Melbourne, Wilson recently moved back to the city. “The volume of venues and support that Melbourne has for the arts is second to none,” she points out. “The city itself has supported me through grants, throwing parties for Melbourne Music week and also celebrating my label, Rice Is Nice’s 10th birthday at Melbourne Music Week’s HUB. The people who run these venues are champions. I mean, Rich from The Tote is a hero. He also runs Aarght Records (that represents Eddy Current Suppression Ring, NUN and many others). He’s a proactive, real deal music champion. They are rare to find, I guess.”

She continues, “I think my intimidation and fear of the ‘clique’ was just because I was a kid; you have to get your confidence somewhere. “I would reluctantly go to the Tote to see bands but it always made me feel like a loser. I mean, it still does! Someone gave me shit about wearing a ‘warm jacket at the Tote’ last time I went there. Like, fuckin’ hell mate, I just had a baby, fuck off.” Though she was once “shit-scared” of grunge band Batrider, two of its members – arty indie-rock singer-songwriter Sarah Mary Chadwick and Steph Crase (harmonic, grunge-style fuzzy guitars behind Summer Flake) – now release music via Rice Is Nice (Wilson also manages Chadwick). Check out some of the label’s music below.


Stephanie Crase describes the music she makes under the moniker Summer Flake as “sun-drunk guitar pop.” She’s a hippie-hearted harmony addict influenced by the dreaminess of Sonic Youth and the surfer pop of Best Coast. She’s releases three albums – You Can Have It All (2013), Hello Friends (2016) and Seasons Change (2019) – as well as a handful of EPs that “consider ideas of self-identity, movement, and the indiscriminate yet deeply personal sense of yearning for growth.”


With cheeky albums like Taste The Radness, SPOD has taken squelchy, Gary Numan-at-Bondi Beach vibes to craft deliciously riotous electro tunes that combine smart aleck lyrics with bouncy basslines. It’s essentially the one-man project of Brent Griffin, who’s been throwing party like-sets with confetti, streamers, glitter, backup dancers since 1995. Last year’s Adult Fantasy LP was released in conjunction with a live full-length performance, shot and edited direct to tape by SPOD and Alex Smith. The Adult Fantasy TV Special was made available on VHS, and ends with a 46-minute closing track, featuring solos from Rollins, Ariel Pink and Jason Lytle from Grandaddy, among some 35 others.


Five-piece Geelong band The Frowning Clouds combine ’60s psychedelia with fuzzy guitar pop, pummeling percussion, catchy melodies, and a healthy dose of punk rock attitude. “[Their] randomness extends beyond their raucous sounds to their bizarre stage costumes,” Wilson warns. Their 2014 LP Legalize Everything was their first for Rice Is Nice, and their 2013 debut Whereabouts, reissued earlier this year by Anti Fade, is available via Bandcamp.


Wilson describes Darts as “indie rockers who have clearly been influenced by ’90s grunge-rock pioneers like Dinosaur Jr.” Having released a few singles via the label, They’ve been been playing in local clubs for over six years now and have released their debut Below Empty & Westward Bound via Rice is Nice in 2015.


The rhythmic, swirling guitars and spaciousness in the sounds of quartet Lowtide found full expression not only on 2018 sophomore effort Southern Mind, but also on a remixed version of the album released later that year, with Ulrich Schnauss, Vive La Void (Sanae Yamada/Moon Duo), Josefin Ohrn and The Liberation, Lost Horizons (Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins + Richie Thomas formerly of Jesus and Mary Chain) and Black Cab taking the controls.