Off the Grid Artist Series: Sui Zhen
Words: James Waldersee
Photos: Marlee Pasinetti
Next for the Off the Grid Artist Series is Sui Zhen. I had already been listening to her ornamental, escapist songs following the weekend, so prior to even meeting her she had me in a good place. We met in the city. Becky, aka Sui Zhen, had just come from shooting a short film, she introduced herself and let us know of the pink satin outfit in her bag, also pointing out the false freckles painted upon her cheek. The city was steamy, blanketed under a thick cloud while the wind would forcefully gust through the streets and ignore the buildings. We made a move and headed to the gardens.
In a greenhouse we started to talk. She looked so comfortable surrounded by endless decorative flowers, hanging plants and trees, just like the grecian statues who live there. Her mindfully energetic and positive energy came through straight away. We explored the gardens taking photographs and talking about everything from the man on a mission in a suit, riding his scooter, to her day spent replacing the alternator in her car.
Her “dream dream” is to have a residency in Japan, to integrate the artesian, decorative nature of the place into her music. She also loves the idea of Off the Grid. Here is some of the conversation we had as we sat peacefully by a small pond of lilies and goldfish:
J: Do you think a party can transform a city?
SZ: Yes, If it’s a good party. With good people it can help build community and give people a shared experience. Which is important to building a culture. And I think a lot of Melbourne’s music culture has stayed healthy and alive from people considering what it takes to put on a good party. It can bring people together, and for a good cause.
J: So what do you think of Off the Grid?
SZ: When I first heard of it I thought it was great, because it’s very idealistic and ambitious. And I’m really happy to hear it all coming together. It’s awesome to be involved now when it’s all realised and everyones working on it. It’s really nice to see a music festival that’s come about to spread another message, to use that community, the community you can bring together through music. I’m happy to see people not just doing festivals geared towards this empty casing, unattainable thing, euphoria or whatever people get from going to festivals. I think for people playing it’s very easy to get behind this kind of thing.
J: Is there anything you do in your day-to-day that you think contributes to this transition to a self-sufficient Australia?
SZ: I try to not consume irresponsibly, and be very mindful. I think that one of the main things people can do on a daily basis is reduce, reduce their consumption, and think about the resources that go into your experiences. Prepare food at home a bit more or just consume more wisely. And you’ll get more enjoyment out of it, because it gives your routine meaning. It’s more rewarding.
J: If today was sunny, and you had no plans, what would you be doing?
SZ: Probably not dissimilar to what we just did: running around, finding cool places and taking photos, filming and making little video sequences. If I’m not in the public eye or if I have nothing to do then I really like standing back and observing things.
J: I guess you can observe on any kind of day?
SZ: That’s right, but if I lived in Sydney still, my first reaction would have been to go for a swim in the ocean. I’m from Sydney so I love the ocean. I used to have this mentality that on any sunny day, with not much wind, was a wasted beach opportunity. I’ve kind of let that go since being in Melbourne, being a bit farther away, there are other things to enjoy here – I’ve been into filming scenes and making visuals for DJ sets, or my own performances.
J: Your songs are electronic no doubt?
SZ: Yeah, but they should be able to exist without any kind of electronics. More lately though, I’ve been producing with a drum machine or things like that. I kind of write songs that can stand up with just a voice or melodic element. So that’s kind of my aim.
J: So you always want to incorporate a feeling of the natural in there?
SZ: Yeah, and not relying on anything else to create music but yourself. I think that if your a songwriter, If you can break the song down and shed everything away and it still sounds like the song when it’s just coming from one instrument, be it a voice or a guitar, then that might be a good song.
J: Are you looking forward to seeing anyone at OtG?
SZ: I pretty much know most of the people playing so yeah! I’m looking forward to most of the people because I’m kind of friends with most of them, and the people involved. So it’s going to be really fun. I love playing shows where you’re friends with the people, and it’s a nice opportunity to see everyone’s acts.