After a year devoid of live music, Simona Castricum is bringing it harder than ever

After a year devoid of live music, Simona Castricum is bringing it harder than ever

Photo by Alex Dubois
Words by August Billy

In what sounds like the synopsis for a neon-branded sci-fi flick, she’ll appear alongside hordes of synthesisers at Sidney Myer Music Bowl this month.

The rapturing event is all thanks to the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio – better known as MESS – who’ve curated a dazzling lineup of homegrown electronic music goodness. 

In addition to Mat Watson and the 16-piece MESS Synthesiser Orchestra, the event will feature performances from Wiradjuri woman and interdisciplinary artist Naretha Williams, percussion explorer R. Rebeiro (of My Disco), and the fizzy electronic collaging of B(if)tek’s Nicole Skeltys.

Simona Castricum will close the show with a set of synth-pop and new rave belters taken from her three solo albums which, over the past decade, have placed her firmly at the vanguard of Melbourne’s electronic underground. 

“It’s a 30 minute set, so we’re really just going to hit the stage and play the hits,” says Simona.

“The Music Bowl experience is really about celebrating, it’s about community, it’s about being outside the house. We haven’t had festivals and those opportunities so I really want to bring that big festival, stadium-pop vibe to the Bowl for everybody.”

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Simona and her onstage companions – vocalist m8triarchy and guitarist Em Gayfer – have form in this regard. Their last pre-pandemic show was a Saturday afternoon set in the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre for Golden Plains 2020.

They also took part in a number of virtual events during the second half of 2020, including the Leaps and Bounds and ISOL-AID festivals, and a one-song dash at the Recital Centre for the Music Victoria Awards.

In June 2020, Simona put out her third LP, Panic/Desire. 

“I feel like 2020 was still pretty active considering we were in lockdown,” she says. “It was unfortunate to release an album into an abyss, but I feel like it took on its own life online and it took on its own life as a listener.”

“I was always thinking to myself, ‘Well, if I couldn’t launch that record until February, that was okay’. In the meantime I had these amazing opportunities to perform virtually, which were really challenging but also, I grew up in the ‘80s with Countdown and MTV, so the idea of me performing on set or through a live broadcast, they were also really big dreams for me as well.”

Four years elapsed between Simona’s second LP, #TriggerWarning40, and Panic/Desire. TriggerWarning was a much darker release that centred on new rave and techno sounds.

Thematically, Panic/Desire is informed by Simona’s move into academia, which allowed her to bring a deeper philosophical context to her songwriting. Musically, the record is loaded with synth-pop epics and gay and trans club music, a la Depeche Mode or Man Parrish.

“By the time I got into a recording studio and for production, [the songs] had been fleshed out in a live sense,” Simona says. “But I think the main thing that changes for me after I’ve released something is that I just get used to singing things in more familiar ways – the muscle memory gets better between playing the drums and using the mouth to sing.”

Simona spends the majority of her live sets with drum sticks in hand bestride a percussion stand, while simultaneously singing into a headset microphone. But as anyone present at Golden Plains would attest, Simona’s limited mobility isn’t a drawback. A lot of this is down to the contributions of m8triarchy and Gayfer. 

“The connections that they bring and the energy that they bring to the stage, that’s why Golden Plains just went so well,” says Simona. “That’s why I’m so excited about the show at the Bowl, because I think people just see it in a completely different context and it’ll just energise what I do to such a different level.”


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Simona Castricum is performing at MESS at the Bowl on Saturday March 27. Find out more here.