Fellowship Term: September 2021 – March 2022
In every breath of her commanding and powerful voice, Indira strips herself bare. She crumbles the walls between artist and audience with playful intimacy. Carefully sculpting songs and guiding her band, she is at once philosopher and muse, imbuing deep poetic sentiment into her work.
Australian born, of Lebanese, Filipino, Spanish and Portuguese heritage, Indira embodies a uniquely modern collision of ancient knowings and traditions. She fuses genre and sound in much the same way, drawing inspiration from myriad places with tender care. Cinematic soundscapes, painted in folk-noir, create a haunting and ethereal collection of songs that speak the language of mythology and fables. Utterly devoted to the details in her composition, arrangement, production and recording, Indira carves her songs with precision.
On Beginning the Fellowship
September – October
I can’t believe a month has already sped by! Moving into the studio has been so exciting, I had only planned to be in four days a week, and it’s been closer to six. I set up some mood lighting and put up my posters — the vibes are absolutely happening. Having somewhere to come and work has helped me to focus and given me so much drive. I’m feeling energised, excited and ready for ALL OF IT!
Getting the vibe right!!
Photo courtesy of Indira Elias
Mood lighting in the studio.
Photo courtesy of Indira Elias
Dancing around the studio feeling excited <3
Photo courtesy of Indira Elias
This first month has been about settling, planning and clearing the decks for the next five months of creativity. I’ve been working on the release of my debut album “Songs from a Moon//Songs by the Sun”, which will be out in a week, on October 22. The admin side of an independent release is a huge undertaking. It includes: design, website building, social media maintenance, writing press releases and sending many, MANY emails. Don’t get me started on the ten years it took to write and then build the skills to produce and engineer the body of work. It will be great to finally release her out into the wild.
“Songs for a Moon// Songs by the Sun” Album Art
Photography by Isoldé Elias, Design Indira Elias
Album Press Picture, by Isoldé Elias
My first meeting with Astral People was great. I’m pretty sure I accurately conveyed how excited I was? I had a million questions and Tom and Vic were very generous with their knowledge.
We discussed breaking my (big) dreams down into smaller steps, the necessity of TikTok (uh-oh, you can find me @indiraelias.mp3 but I still don’t understand it), and got an idea of what we would be working on for the next few months. Overall it feels like guidance in refining my strategy by solidifying the foundations.
October – November
It’s been quite the month here in the (affectionately named) dorian dungeon– my croon cocoon. After a ten year journey, I put out my debut album, “Songs from a Moon//Songs by the Sun” (listen to it here). Which meant lots of writing emails, and not much writing music. It’s release brought all the joy I was hoping for, just as it felt like we needed it. My community celebrated with a beautiful listening party in Centennial Park, like a silent disco where everyone had to BYO headphones and a listening device. After an hour of sitting in silence, listening and watching the sunset, our small crowd broke out in applause! Onlooking cyclists and weekend cricketers were very confused at the commotion, especially after what seemed like a group meditation. It was fantastic. After this evening of joy, I unexpectedly retracted inward– away from communication, social media and any sort of music business. I felt an overwhelming desire for privacy and solitude in a way that I haven’t before, and so I just let myself have it. I started to reconnect with my creative needs, slowly writing and playing for myself. With some dear friends I began reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and following its exercises — if you’re waiting for a sign to read it, let this be it! Morning pages have been changing my life. I feel so close to the girl who wrote the album — reading, writing and breathing again, she lives! The release has certainly triggered a “clearing of the decks” that’s crept into every part of my life, preparing for all the new work that I can feel brewing.
With the easing of restrictions, my band has been able to come into the studio and rehearse, which has been a huge relief. The space has suited us perfectly, and we are so happy to make music joyfully, aimlessly and together. We’re trying new ways of jamming and challenging each other — swapping instruments and roles. PLAY is always the key to everything, how could I forget?
At the listening party in Centennial Park.
Beautiful friends sharing a moment.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Always a little chaos after a jam.
With Astral People we’ve been discussing the next steps for my career — focusing around building a team and how to reach out to people that I would like to work with. After my album release, Tom and Vic gave me some great tips about timelines for booking and announcing shows, about playlists, and how to better engage the industry. We’ve started to discuss my next release and what that might look like. Good stuff!
Unsurprisingly, 2021 ended much like its beginning and middle — chaotically. Days somehow busy with so many things, and yet I don’t remember much at all. There were many meetings –and by extension, MANY emails — some with collaborators, some planning for 2022, and even some exciting ~industry~ meetings that, at their bare minimum, felt affirming. It’s hard to be at the beginning of the road in tumultuous times, I feel very lucky to be able to come into the studio everyday and just work. In album news, “Songs from a Moon//Songs by the Sun” was nominated for FBi Radio’s Record of the Year SMAC award — I am thrilled! We also cracked over 100k digital streams, which was another huge milestone. For an independent covid-era release, I am VERY happy with how we’re tracking.
The highlight of the month was my visit to see some of the Powerhouse’s instrument collection. A little carved man on a donkey, sitting atop the Yugoslavian Gusle, reminded me that every instrument has a story to tell — about the hands that played it and the hands that made it. Between shelves that house medieval armour, Australia’s first 3D printer, and some very old units of measurement, we inspected intricate hurdy-gurdies, carved with the faces of sirens, an Italian dulcimer from the 1700s, painted with views of the seaside, and some beautiful, old guitars. This, alongside a tour of the Electric Keys exhibition, has me incredibly inspired and excited for songs to come — texture and timbre are the things that feel electric to me.
Little wooden man and donkey atop the Yugoslavian Gusle.
The details! Pearl inlay on a handmade guitar.
To further my journey of sonic exploration, I got myself a zoom handy recorder and began collecting field recordings, as well as some Koma devices, to explore my electroacoustic inclinations. Life feels exciting again and the air of possibility has returned! Hurrah! Dedicating myself to morning pages and the Artist’s Way has been a sort of creative rehabilitation, and I feel myself preparing the garden beds of my psyche for all my creative life to come — though I might be shovelling manure and turning the earth for a while yet.
New tools to play with sound, by Koma Elektronik.
This month’s meeting with Astral outlined a few important things I have to do to get moving and start reaching out to people! Getting my achievements together into a one sheet, refine my website, organise a launch show and start sending emails! We talked about the specifics of these actions and how to proceed.
Hello there new year! A short break and we’re back. Somehow the world has spun out again, and the only option left feels like focusing further inward. Don’t mind if I do. Letting myself have a real break meant I got to be a bookworm again. I’ve always considered myself a writer before all else (an uncomfortable admission mid-blogpost), so books replenish my spirit and wonder more than anything. “The Annotated Arabian Nights” translated by Yasmine Seale has brought me back to my true soul food — folklore and fables, Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” smacked me in the face with an awe and understanding I didn’t realise I’d been missing, and Carl Jung’s “The Undiscovered Self” has been peeling me away from, and perhaps bringing me to, my Self — I’m an absolute mess and loving it! Special mention for Deborah Levy’s “Real Estate”, reminding me of my dream to take the Leonard Cohen pilgrimage — this July’s goals are to find a small home in Hydra and spend weeks writing, swimming and sunning.
Back to writing, late at night.
DRAMA in the studio.
Beautiful sunset, keeping me in time with the rhythm of the day.
February – March
These two months passed by, much like writing this last post — learning how to begin an end, to close a chapter. It’s a funny comparison between the tone of my first post and these last few — tangible evidence of the way my art practice has changed deeply, and of the confidence, I have found in my voice. February’s biggest focus was completing the score for RUSH by Ciella Williams — a moving play about young women, birth, motherhood and healing. The process was so enriching, and the team was so wonderfully talented and supportive, that it is one of my favourite projects to have worked on. Late nights and long hours really get everything flowing in a fantastic delirium for me — even if I needed to sleep for a week after, ha!
Last day in the powerhouse studio!
I participated in an online songwriting course with the Fleetfoxes’ Robin Pecknold earlier in the month. He is one of my all-time favourite songwriters, and the insight into his process was revelatory. Centring yourself in your own practice, however that looks, is the lesson that resounded with me most. Spirituality and the “holiness” of my practice is something I realised I felt embarrassed of, even tried to disown, but is so integral to the way I express myself. Intense solitude and self-reflection are the biggest catalysts for my work, and I had been depriving myself of the circumstances necessary for them because I didn’t feel like they were valid requirements. Hearing about how Robin recreated the moments most potent for his work, like going into the studio between midnight – 5 am, enclosing himself in small spaces and staying in crummy apartments, encouraged me to inspect my own needs and habits, without judgment. While I have had the past few months to try incorporating more collaboration, co-writing and creating in new ways into my work, I am looking forward to a future of bringing my older, intuitive practice to the new and challenging.
Late nights in the theatre getting cheeky.
As Sydney continues to reopen and re-invigorate post-pandemic, so much incredible art and culture is blossoming throughout the city. I saw Orange Thrower by Kirsty Marillier at the theatre — it was brilliant. I went to the AGNSW and saw some wonderful works. In the cinemas, Worst Person in the World by Joachim Trier absolutely RUINED me. I keep finding myself staring into space contemplating the feeling (ennui?) it left me with. Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers perplexed me with the way he makes films so specifically for and about Spain. The local music scene is creeping back, with my folk-adjacent community playing small shows together and sharing songs. Art is the elixir of life! I was equally inspired this month by the opportunity to play beautiful old guitars from the Powerhouse’s collection — a Louis Panormo parlour guitar from 1822, and an archtop guitar made entirely of plastic from the 1950s. Each inspired a small song that I recorded, as well as some samples of each guitar. I am looking forward to including these in my next body of work!
Night at the… Gallery!
In the release and industry world of things, I began working on releasing remixes of songs from my album, by some incredible Sydney musicians, which will hopefully be out sometime in May. Tom and Vic from Astral shared some significant documents outlining best release practices for these, and we discussed how to proceed. I also began planning an album launch! Finally! This April 23 we will celebrate the album in all its glory, with my beautiful community and an eight-piece band. (Get your ticket here!) The past six months have given me the space to delve deeper into my practice, understand who I am as an artist, and have the confidence to make connections with people and meet my needs. I have grown in my art and as a person. I am so grateful to have had this fellowship as a cocoon, to nurture my creative spirit and kickstart my career — it will remain a precious time in my life, I’m sure.
Beautiful Louis Panormo guitar from 1822. How many songs has she sung?
This beauty from the 50s, made entirely of plastic! Sounds amazing…