Sui Zhen - The Zhen Of Becky
Thursday, 4 October 2007
In a style that is loosely folk, the self-titled EP combines elements of acoustic and electronic that dances between playful and cutesy charm to darker, more brooding emotions.
“I’m not planning on getting proper distribution for this one yet,” she says, although she has been making herself known to the main players around town. “I’m going overseas [next year], so I don’t know when I’ll be around to promote it.”
So is Freeman heading abroad as some kind of cultural cringe involving the sort of disdain for the local market a lot of artists have-
“It’s always been a part of the plan, seeing family and travelling, trying to do gigs, and also some gigs with Jamie Lloyd. I want to experience heaps of different musical adventures and come back with perspective. I have been in Sydney for a while and I want to see what’s happening everywhere, maybe find some cool instruments to use. I want to take it all in.”
Hinting at further collaborations with the Future Classic wunderkind, Freeman says, “We’re going to try and do an EP over summer.” However the trip overseas is not to develop their own co-writes, they’ll just happen to be together.
“I want to write my album overseas and come home and properly record it here.”
Recorded and produced by Steve Body at Limestone Studios and mastered by Ben Feggans at Sonomax, the collaborative effort in the new EP is obvious.
“I met Steve through Ben Feggans (who masters a lot of Future Classic stuff), who we met through Jamie. Knowing Ben’s taste in music, he said “This guy will love your stuff” and for the first time I was thinking about putting some money in to music, so I was like, “Yeah”. So I met Steve, got to hang out and [we] got to know each other quickly, and got totally on the same wave length.”
Saving up some coin, Freeman worked with Body for three months in a process that involved peeling back the layers in a manner similar to collage.
“The songs developed really naturally and we wanted to keep an acoustic organic vibe – well, at least, I did,” she says. “We put everything in to it and then took everything out of it then would go ‘What did we miss-’ and picked out sounds we both liked. We’d then have samples of bass lines, or vibraphones to add in or take out – a bit like a picture.”
Forming somewhat of a musical kinship, Body and Freeman both describe sounds similarly and he seemed to immediately have a handle on the Sui Zhen style and what was going to be achieved on this first effort.
“We both describe sounds the same way like ‘We need a big sound here –
something spacey and dubby’,” she exclaims excitedly. “The first thing Body said was ‘Yeah that’s cute’, but I prefer cute but edgy. I like a lot of Icelandic music and a lot of ambient electronica. I like a lot of folk music. I like to combine the cute and dark element.”
And that’s exactly what they did. With a musical background that involves some ‘proper’ training on trumpet, Freeman’s style is influenced by the classic songwriting of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell or Carol King through to contemporary influences Sigur Rós, Radiohead and Sugarcubes.
Suggesting “melody is my thing,” Freeman knows where her strengths lie, something which is not so much in the beats or soundscapes. She also doesn’t mind a little help from her friends when it comes to being exposed to new music.
“I’m really out of the loop with everything, I like it that way. I rely on people in the loop to share the good new stuff with me.”
And is her stage name a fancy persona- An alter ego-
“It’s my middle name,” she reveals. “It’s become a persona, people start calling me Sui, but it’s just my middle name.”
However, when one meets the charismatic and chirpy Freeman, you’ll know that who she is in conversation is quite a bit more bubbly than the EP’s darker moments.
The future is looking good with a string of exciting gigs coming up that will test her wits as a performer.
“I’m playing at Adelaide Fringe Festival in October, doing a solo thing with a performance aspect involving wearing a paper dress like on the EP cover and later playing at the Factory theatre with many guests and all of the production.”
With the exciting Jamie Lloyd collaborations not seeing the light of day ’til early to mid next year, catch Sui Zhen doing her own thing around the traps for the rest of the year. Her playful nature as a songwriter, combined with her masterful sonic collaborators will make her a force to be reckoned with in a fruitful scene that will see her join her local peers like Architecture in Helsinki in the years to come.
WHO: Sui Zhen
WHAT: Self-titled EP out on CD Baby / headlines the Factory Theatre
WHEN: Out now / Saturday 13 October