If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it's to cherish the moments we get to spend with our community. As part of Melbourne Music Week, Australian independent record label Coalesce Records put on their inaugural showcase, featuring their trio of signees - Eora/Sydney's Hearteyes, Kaurna/Adelaide's Lonelyspeck and Naarm/Melbourne's Cookii. The trio were joined on the night by emo-pop rising star daine, as well as DJ/producers Ninajirachi and Perto. The night was split roughly 50/50 between live acts and DJs, with the bill rounded out by DJ sets from harvest, miniskirt, Fresh Hex, Banoffee and Foura - all of whom took listeners on a journey, playing out forward-thinking pop music from the past, present and future.
While the pandemic may have halted live music, it also accelerated the growth of various Internet subcultures, and their associated music scenes. Many of the artists that performed as part of the Coalesce showcase can be classed as hyperpop, or at least hyperpop-adjacent. Not hard, given it's a genre with pretty flexible limitations. Artists like 100 gecs, SOPHIE and Charli XCX come to mind when talking about hyperpop, artists that draw from any and all genres, as well as elements of 2000s music like AutoTune, compression and distortion to create larger-than-life soundscapes that whisk the listener off to another world. Listening to hyperpop can be a challenge at first, but as the attendance at the Coalesce showcase demonstrated, once you're hooked, you go all in.
The Coalesce showcase was the first chance that fans of Cookii, daine and hearteyes have had to see them perform live, as they're all artists that have released the bulk of their music during the pandemic. daine's debut show has been a long-time coming, and couple of headline shows scheduled for mid-2021 were cancelled due t0 COVID. It was the first time she had the chance to perform tracks like boys wanna txt, IDC and SALT in front of a crowd, and the energy in the room as the chorus of SALT hit felt like a release of the stress accumulated over the last two years.
Hyperpop, as both an idea and a sound, may not have originated in Australia, but thanks to the power of the Internet, Australian artists working in the space are able to connect with creatives globally to push it forward. In the past, Australian music trends have evolved parallel to their overseas counterparts, with the relative isolation from the rest of the world meaning that while artists could be inspired by music from around the world, they weren't always getting an insight into the creatives behind the releases.
Jump forward to 2021, however, and the Internet means that an Australian musician just starting out has access to the collective wisdom and knowledge of the global music community. If you're a fan of hyperpop, you can find online communities on places like Discord, Reddit and various social media sites that allow you to trade ideas with people from any country in the world. Log on to an Internet-connected device, and your physical location no longer matters. Australian artists now have the power to lead the rest of the world when it comes to forward-thinking pop music, and daine's gained fans worldwide, including aforementioned artists like Dylan Brady of 100 gecs (who worked on boys wanna txt) and Charli XCX.
Hearteyes is no stranger to the power that the Internet provides, sourcing production from all over the world. His recent project, #CRAZYSUMMER, features production from artists in the US, France, Russia and more - and as he says, technological advances inevitably push other aspects of life further. "As isolated as we are from the rest of the world, I think Gen Z are global citizens, more so than millennials were. Because of this, artists here are working with other artists online from all over the world. I think it’s a natural progression, as technology progresses, so does culture."
Hearteyes' set on the night consisted mainly of tracks from #CRAZYSUMMER, performing over beats by MIKEDONTPLAY, chrxme, kayako808 and more, bringing Internet collaborations to life for a moshpit that was enthralled by every bar. In times gone by, you'd have to be in the know to connect with producers for a project - fast-forward to today, and BeatStars can turn you into a global superstar with just a few clicks (notably, Lil Nas X bought the beat from Old Town Road off BeatStars).
The assumption made about these primarily Internet-based subcultures is that they won't translate into the real-world, which can affect how often we see artists that have emerged from online spaces feature on festival line-ups. However, the Coalesce showcase was an important reminder that while Internet sub-cultures exist, they can translate into the real world en masse. Speaking about the event, daine remarks, "My biggest takeaway was that all of this isn’t just an online thing. There are real people outside of the internet that listen to this kind of music. It was so mind-blowing and meaningful to finally meet and connect with fans in person."
There's a phenomenon that often exists within subcultures that might not always receive extended support from the wider music community. These communities bond over a sense of being ignored by the trends they see represented elsewhere, so they push themselves to create spaces for their favourite artists to flourish. It's recognisable within the heavy music scene - both daine and Hearteyes grew up listening to hardcore/metal and attending shows ran by the community - with that focus on lifting up those around you now omnipresent within the countless micro-genres that exist thanks to the power of the Internet. It's an energy that Hearteyes recognised at the Coalesce showcase, noting that it "[reminded] me of hardcore shows growing up where you’re enthralled by the entire vibe of the night as opposed to a specific artist".
The term 'hyperpop' might be replaced by a more apt description - as daine points out, it's a term that may not always quite capture the essence of what music the artists that are grouped under the term are actually making. "Hyperpop is a very loose genre description that doesn’t make too much sense to anyone, so it’s definitely solely a subculture word to me," she explains. "I think this is a community full of queer/trans people, POC & neurodivergent people… Diverse sounds attract diverse people." For Australian music fans that haven't always felt represented by the music that is celebrated at a societal level, hyperpop is a community where they can find music lovers with shared experiences.
Hearteyes echoes daine's sentiments, suggesting that like all musical innovations, things move onto the next eventually - for the better. "Everything ends inevitably," he says. "I think it will transform into something else. It’s already a genre that is basically a pastiche of everything aughts, so maybe the sentiments of its production will stay, but the influences it pulls from will evolve."
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More than ever, Australian artists are in lockstep with the rest of the world, and in cases like the world of hyperpop, they're at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of what's possible.