Beats by Beat: Poetry-ravers Jobfit provide dance music from across the spectrum

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Beats by Beat: Poetry-ravers Jobfit provide dance music from across the spectrum

Words by Jacob Nazroo

Poetry and “fucked up club music” don’t usually go together, but that’s exactly how poet Holly describes much of what she makes with music producer Max as part of their Jobfit project.

It’s 10/10 good to have Jobfit contribute to the series, not just because Holly and Max add something unique and high quality to Australia’s electronic music scene, but because their contribution marks a small milestone for us: born, and operating primarily, in Sydney, Jobfit’s is the first contribution by a non-Melbourne artist or group. 

We caught up with the two to get the story on how they came to make the sounds they do, what their creative process is like and what they’ve got planned for next year. 

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

“I was making music prior to meeting Holly and Holly was writing poetry,” Max said. “Holly had been wanting to put poetry to music for a little bit before she met me. We tried it out and in so far as we release things and still do it, it’s been successful.”

Max was being a tad modest, though. It would probably be wrong to say Jobfit is widely known in Australia, but the project’s quality is starkly apparent to those who’ve caught wind, like Triple J’s Andy Garvey, one of Australia’s most lauded club DJs. Andy was sufficiently impressed by the output of Holly and Max to release two of their records via her Pure Space label. “We owe her a lot,” Max said, talking warmly of her support. 

So how does Jobfit sound? Well, the poetry is usually front and centre. On Jobfit’s two Pure Space releases to date, Holly recites clearly and her voice is almost always left unprocessed with no added effects. “That’s quite intentional,” she said, explaining that she has so far not wanted her voice to “sound like an instrument.”

When it comes to Jobfit’s harder, dance-focused productions, Holly’s lyrics are often semantically unambiguous. “Fucked up club narratives,” she calls them. She invites listeners into stories of “dark and dingy” illegal raves, often thick with drug use and drum and bass and occasional police intervention. “The poems aren’t lying or unreal stories, although [sometimes] they are composites of many moments,” Holly said. But it’s not all debauchery and disabled smoke alarms at 6am. “Some of the ambient pieces are much softer, more introspective types of stories,” she said. 

The music follows suit. When dance is the motive, Max skilfully produces high-tempo, broken beat rhythms engulfed in swirling pads and reverbs, with glitchy, bouncy percussion scattered at the peripheries. To match Holly’s introspective stories, though, he makes what he called more “intelligent” music: ambient drones; slowly evolving soundscapes.

Making the sounds they make together is a bit more challenging for Holly and Max now, though. Max recently moved to Melbourne, indefinitely postponing what they agreed was the funnest component of their project: hanging out in the studio, drinking beers and experimenting with new music and words. Though Max is enjoying Melbourne, he lamented losing much of the creative fluidity and spontaneity that comes with ‘accidentally’ finding oneself in a studio session with mates like Holly after hanging out the pub, say.

Credit: Craig Stubbs-Race

Fortunately, however, they’ve scored a prestigious two-week studio residency, set to kick off some time next year, in Bundanoon in the the New South Wales Southern Highlands. That might be the beginning of their debut album, Holly said. Until then, they’re working on another EP.

Holly said she was keen to explore more conceptual poetry, like that in their Corner Sure EP, in which the words and other vocal sounds are meant to evoke thoughts and images of water. There Holly repeats the letter D – to evoke a dripping sound – around which Max layered ‘water-like’ sounds and samples. Max said they’re only really interested in making sounds that feel new, which no doubt largely explains why they came to synergise their ostensibly rather different trades in the first place.

Asked how much other art like theirs was out there, Holly said: “I’ve definitely noticed an uptick of poetic integrations into electronic music.”

“Over the last five years, as poetry has become a larger part of what I do, I was intentionally looking for stuff like this … [although] our point of difference [to most of what’s out there] is probably two things: the intensity of some of the club music that we write and the intention to not make my voice sound like an instrument.”

But the latter element may change, because also on Holly’s to-do list is ‘sound poetry,’ which she said is much more about the pure sonic qualities of the vocals, rather than semantic meaning. “It often doesn’t use words, or if it does use words, it uses words more like instruments,” she said. The prospect of processing her voice with effects, as well as experimenting with just using the breathe in a piece of music, appeals to her.

Live performance, however, isn’t really on the cards for the duo in the foreseeable future. “We have to this date said “no” to every live gig that we’ve been offered.” Max, the self-professed perfectionist, hasn’t yet found the time to prepare a set he could perform live with genuine pride and Holly said the thought of preparing 45 minutes or more of poetry was daunting. Holly has, however, performed a hybrid set: DJing while reciting poetry over the top.

The two DJed together in Sydney, though, and said they very much enjoy playing back to back. They’ve put out some killer mixes so far, the most recent of which was for Ibiza’a Open Lab radio. Of course, we’re biased, but their Beats By Beat mix could well be the best so far. Expect a broad array of sounds. Dusty-sounding dubstep, noisey, distorted textures and some techno to boot.

Stream the full set and check out all 31 Beats by Beat mixes here.