Words by Keane Fletcher
If you were growing up in Australia in the early 2010's, chances are EDM was probably getting a bad rap. Relegated to more of sub-genre before gaining traction in the late nineties club scene, EDM has been through somewhat of a glow up of late thanks in part to acts like Avicii, Daft Punk and Calvin Harris, who have helped the genre cross over into the mainstream. And now you can add Australian producer Netanya to that list, who, despite growing up in an EDM-adverse early noughties Adelaide, could see from the start that it was a genre worth pursuing.
I collected Ministry of Sound CDs, including the Sessions and Clubbers' Guide compilation albums, and I would listen to a lot of the four-to-the-floor club EDM. ...this was when everyone thought [it] was weird and hated it in pretty much the same way everyone hates hyperpop today. In primary school, people use to look at me funny and tease me for liking EDM.
Well, who's laughing now? With over six years of singles under his belt -- 2020's 'Learning To Be Me' even cracked number #41 on the iTunes Electronic charts with this year's 'King Of My Castle' peaking at #6 on the AMRAP Metro Chart -- Netanya has more than earned his stripes as one of the country's most exciting young producers. And now, he's looking ahead to the release of his second album, With You (out February 14th), which he describes as his most ambitious and cohesive work yet ('like Lady Gaga's original concept of the Artpop album') and which will feature singles 'King Of My Castle', 'Black Money' and 'More Heartbeats', as well as previously unreleased track 'Princess Die' with Grammy winning singer Olivia Braga on vocals. Look out Adelaide, it seems as though the Netanya quest for world domination is well and truly under way!
To celebrate the upcoming release of 'With You', we sat down with Netanya to talk all things music, inspo, and what collaborating with Grammy winners means to him. Check it out below!
1- How’s it going down there in Adelaide?
Not bad. Hardly any pandemic dramas happening here, so everything's just been fine, I guess. Life hasn't really changed. Really hyped for this year to be a big year but I'm still one of those starving artists at Uni, living with mum and siblings.
2- First things first, how did you get started in music? Who are your musical influences? Have they changed much over the years?
I collected Ministry of Sound CDs, including the Sessions and Clubbers' Guide compilation albums, and I would listen to a lot of the four-to-the-floor club EDM. While some of the songs and instrumentals sounded creepy and nightmarish, Calvin Harris' mid to late 2000s music, PNAU’s third album, Eric Prydz' music, that Push Up song by Freestylers and Deadmau5's remix of 'I'm Not Alone' by Calvin Harris as well as the original 'Ghosts N Stuff' really drew me in. This was when everyone thought EDM was weird and hated it in pretty much the same way everyone hates hyperpop today. In primary school, people use to look at me funny and tease me for liking EDM. I liked it so much I wanted to create some of my own stuff and seeing someone win a spot on the Guinness World Record book - at Marcelina’s down the road from my place - for youngest DJ in the world kind of gave me the drive to try and be one of the youngest producers and DJs in Australia and thinking that would be good PR so I would become big someday.
I started posting crude electro house beats on the defunct Beat100 and then Soundcloud in 2013 when I was in Year 8, after hearing that a lot of people were starting to use the websites. Two bootleg remixes I did of JohnnyOsings and Ross Lynch's songs gained some traction, and by 2015, I think had about 16k streams on Soundcloud from playlisting. As I continued to evolve while watching YouTube tutorials, I ended up signing a one single deal with Smash Up Records in January 2015 and released my first single 'Lights in Motion' under alias Sam Vuuren, which is a progressive house...clubby house kind of beat to little fanfare. I would tag everyone from my high school to check it out and they would get mad at me for tagging them and tease me. Of course, these things happened because I have autism, so I slowly developed marketing skills since out of nothing. Then in Year 12, I would post a few dubstep/trap demos onto Spinnin Talent Pool, where they charted between #63 to #75 in the general chart, and one of them topped the dubstep top 20 after votes. Two of them, 'Crush' and 'Helplessly' which has been remade into 'Me Gusta' are on my debut album 'Crave You', which is available for streaming and purchase on over 40 digital download and streaming sites including iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music. After a hiatus, I decided to go all the way into future house in mid-2019 with singles including 'Lemme Go', and then re-released the song a year later as the lead single from my first album. This year, I've been increasingly getting into the hyperpop music scene and made some songs which have been released and there are others that will be released next year.
3- How does the production process usually work for you? Do you have a routine when it comes to writing and recording or does inspiration usually take you by surprise?
This year and last year, I've been writing lyrics as well as producing, so the scratch vocal would happen as soon as I have a melody prepared. This would take place after I have a concept song that is not quite finished yet. Sometimes I'd sing my own songs, and other times I'd have other singers perform. Exchanges are always done via email with artists from other countries including the US and UK as I don't have a network in Adelaide. When it comes to lyrics, I don't like to get personal or have too much social commentary because I think its pretentious, but I do feel inspired by other people's stories and sometimes my own experiences and I like to combine them together to create some connection here and to inspire something. It's safe to say you won't be hearing songs about my exes, enemies, and rivals because I don't like to give airtime to bad people. I like to write songs about things that make me happy, and I like to feel good when listening to it not sad or annoyed, so I'll have it on repeat and listen to them every day and hope everyone will do the same too especially on Apple Music. It's an escape. I've always produced house music like that too since I was young, and I've sort of adopted that practice into song writing as well. You don't have to take everything personally. Just enjoy it. A lot of songs I make often don’t make it into the album so I always choose the best songs to put on my album. My first album was basically an effort to try and get as many good songs out of the 90 demos I made since 2015 into a 15-song-album with about half of them consisting of instrumentals because I already spent so much time on it.
4- You’ve been teasing us with a few singles over the last couple of months, ‘King Of My Castle’, ‘Black Money’, ‘More Heartbeats’. When does the album drop? Can you tell us a bit about it and what we can expect?
The album will come out next year on February 14th and will have fifteen tropical house and hyperpop tracks. There will also be two more singles, with 'Princess Die' coming on December 10th this year, and 'Spotlight' and 'The Ivory Tower' next year on January 21st and March 4th respectively. A continuation of the exploration into various themes of love, With You is going to be my second album, and a sequel to my first album where production values have significantly improved from the last. Unlike the first album, With You is going to be a more cohesive body of work, with half of the songs being commercial in sound, like 'King of My Castle' and the other half being artistic in sound like 'Black Money' - like Lady Gaga's original concept of the Artpop album - which is where you will hear hyperpop influences.
5- I believe it even features a Grammy winning, former X-Factor Israel contestant? How did that collaboration come about?
'King of My Castle' features uncredited vocals from Liel Bar-Z from X-Factor Israel, and 'Princess Die' will feature credited vocals by Olivia Braga under the alias Liv Ross, who is a Grammy-winning backing vocalist. 'The Ivory Tower' will contain uncredited vocals by Seb Mont, who had releases on major labels including Spinnin Records (Warner) and SONY. There will also be a hyperpop remix of a song I previously recorded two years ago with a platinum-selling singer-songwriter Adam Moss called 'Nothin Like U'. These are studio singers, so I reached out to them online to ask them to do vocals on my songs between early 2019 to this year. Natalie Horler (Cascada) was originally going to perform vocals for 'King of My Castle' - which would've been a reach anyways - but after she gave me her manager's email, he gave me the cold shoulder so I ended up giving it to Liel, whom I previously worked with on another song in my first album. Since then, it’s become my biggest song this year, and I'm anticipating 'Princess Die' to be another hit like 'KoMC', since its closer to the old tropical house sound with the piano as opposed to the more tribal sound present in 'KoMC'.
6- How important have streaming services and the internet been to your career so far? In your opinion, are platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud making things easier or harder for artists?
Very important. Many years ago, you either had a lot of fans or you didn't have any. Nowadays everyone must know how many fans they have so they can put out merchandise and be all kinds of paranoid about flopping. I don't have merch because it’s not on demand now, and I'm not playing at any gigs regularly because I don't have a manager and any shows or headlining opportunities are literally non-existent in Adelaide. It’s not Sydney, Chicago, or New York so my income is exclusively streaming royalties.
7- Obviously we’re coming out of a very tricky period for Australian artists. In what ways has your music been impacted by the pandemic?
I think there’s a lot more to things being difficult than just the pandemic in Adelaide anyway unless you're some teenage alt-punk band, dressing up as that Where's Waldo guy. Also, I think people are listening to a lot of different kinds of artists and as a result, people can get sick of what they're already listening to and move onto another artist or band and then another after a few months. There's always this pressure to leave a mark, but I feel like you can't just create another song that’s going to be just like the last. The less people listen, the less streaming numbers you get and the less money you'll end up making.
8- And lastly, I believe you have a few exciting gigs coming up! Can you tell us a bit about them?
I will be at Scott Theatre (University of Adelaide North Terrace) with over 40 students from First, Second and Third-Year Sonic Arts in Practice, called Kraftwerk in Context, where there will be twelve groups of us performing our synth-wave interpretations of the themes of data, robots, love, and cars. The two-and-a-half-hour event will happen at 6pm on November 4th, 2021. It is open to the public, and if you're in Adelaide during that day or week, you should come. I look forward to being able to perform my music in the future, whether it’s on Zoom or in a local venue.
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!