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FMF: So Sivz, you started out as a nightclub promoter before becoming one of Vancouver’s most badass DJs known for her House selections. You didn’t stop there, and now you’re producing your own music too. What challenges did you face transitioning from DJing to producing?
Anyone that makes music will tell you that producing is one hell of an uphill grind before it gets remotely easy, and even then you’re never done learning. You’d think that having a DJing background helps, but even though it’s so closely related, the two art forms are completely different ball games. Learning a subject takes full commitment, so one challenge I had was taking the time to learn how to produce outside of working a full-time job and playing my gigs every weekend. I knew I needed to make it a bigger priority and cut down gigs in favour of more studio time, but making that sacrifice was really hard for me. It was also tough finding enjoyment in writing tracks when I had zero knowledge and would spend those hours in the studio only to feel like everything still sounded like garbage. As a person with incredibly high standards, not getting quick results was really frustrating. I had to alter my mindset for a marathon rather than a sprint. Another thing I struggled with was knowing where to start or who to learn from when there are so many different techniques for doing the same thing. I got very confused trying to learn techniques online or in-person sitting down with other local producers. They would always be working way too fast for me to process and it was really daunting realizing how behind I was.
As someone who kept grindin’ through it, what words of advice would you offer to others making the DJ to Producer transition?
It only gets easier by doing. You just have to write track after track to learn where you went wrong and make a conscious effort to gather specific knowledge on how to correct those mistakes on the next. The producing community in Vancouver is very kind to one another and always willing to help, whether it’s giving you a few lessons, trading and sharing sample packs and VSTs or giving you some feedback. You really need to make the most out of our great community and not be too shy to ask for help and support. In terms of narrowing down resources to learn from, I personally found it easier when I chose one program and stuck to it. Enrolling in Cosmic Academy’s 5-week Boot Camp was one of the best things I did for myself. It helped break down the entire producing process into smaller, digestible chunks, helped me improve my workflow, and made me finish tracks in a much shorter time. I highly recommend the course to anyone who needs the same kind of push.
2019 was an especially big year for you. You played festivals like Fvded, Contact, Future Forest, and even had a track released on Westwood X. I got to catch you in action sharing the stage with Claude VonStroke (a DJ I absolutely fangirl over) at Bass Coast. How was the experience of hyping the crowd up before the legend himself played at the festival last year?
I’ve been the go-to support DJ for all the Dirtybird artists that roll through town for a few years, but Claude was the one big name that I hadn’t opened for just yet. I was thrilled when I got the schedule and saw my name sandwiched between Mat The Alien and Claude at Slay Bay. It’s one thing playing to a big crowd in a club environment, and a whole other thing playing to a full dance floor under the sunshine at a festival like Bass Coast where the crowd is just SO on point and you can actually see their smiling faces! It was such a good opportunity for me to play a truly Sivz set, blending a bunch of Tech House sub-genres before handing it off to Claude. The response was great and fans from all over Canada still give me compliments for that set.
I know I was absolutely mesmerized by your set and had a blast. How can we relive that epic afternoon?
2019 was also the year that you quit your job to fully pursue music. When did you know it was time?
It wasn’t exactly the happiest series of events that lead to the decision, but now I’m ever grateful things went the way that they did. 2018 was one of the worst years of my life where I found myself battling severe depression and burnout. I was working a 9-5 Monday-Friday office job, DJing every weekend, booking DJs and promoting at MIA, and also running my own projects/nights Beatginnings and Sylections. I basically went from work to work, every day and every weekend. Any vacation time I had from the day job I used towards DJing at music festivals too. I was building one hell of a reputation and getting massive bookings for all the work I was doing so it was worth it to me, but it was coming at the cost of my health. I was sick all the time and started having various health issues. I wasn’t sleeping well at night, and getting up for work every day was an absolute war. I developed a form of social anxiety, fearing texts, phone calls, and simple conversation because I felt like every interaction drained my energy and I had none left to give. There were multiple times where I was at a music festival and didn’t even want to leave my tent to socialize or enjoy the music. I lived like that for a very long time before recognizing that my symptoms were all part of the same problem.
Eventually, I gave myself a 10-day timeout and took a solo trip to a Mexico all-inclusive. It gave me time to reflect on my lifestyle and my happiness. I came home and stepped back from all my roles other than DJing. But even after removing all that extra work I had created for myself, I hadn’t quite recovered from burning out and life felt very much the same. I was constantly fatigued from the opposite schedules of a day job and DJing. Eventually, I still hit my rock bottom in July of 2019. I had a long talk with my sister who encouraged me to take the leap and give music my all while I had all this momentum going. Having my family’s support was definitely what gave me the push.
It became an “If I don’t do this now, when will I?” moment, so I went into work and resigned and never looked back. I’ll be picking up some freelance and part-time work in the future while I keep working on my music, but at least now I know that a full-time office job is no longer an option that works for me.
So, taking conflicts and other pressures off your plate helped massively, but I imagine that’s only one piece of the puzzle. What other things did you find helpful in helping you recover from your depression?
I gained a lot when I learned how to be a little bit selfish and start saying no to things, both to keep stuff off my plate and also to give myself more downtime. It took time to learn how to say “Thanks, but I need some to myself this weekend,” especially when people were used to me being the life of the party all the time. Having that “me time” away from clubs, loud music, and late nights really helped me rest my mind. I also found it helpful to take long, extended breaks off of drinking to let my body rebalance itself as well. Going to therapy regularly was a game-changer because it helped me identify and acknowledge what specific problems I was having and got me working on solving them. I was also very transparent with my friends, colleagues and my bosses about how I was feeling which was a really good move. Rather than bottling up and hiding it, I let it be out in the open that I wasn’t doing my best and as a result, I felt like I was getting a lot of great support.
Give us an update since you left full-time work. How are you finding the new lifestyle of focusing entirely on music?
Well, I obviously feel like I can finally breathe. It was great to be able to accept gigs guilt-free without worrying about being too tired for work the next week. But I’m barely sitting here twiddling my thumbs! In the first few months of this new lifestyle, I kept asking myself how I ever did all that I’m doing with a full-time job on top. Being a self-managed artist is basically the same as running your own business. From getting yourself gigs and press to preparing invoices and contracts to working on your content marketing, digging for music, prepping your sets, networking, and being in the studio is a full-time job in itself. I really am enjoying myself though and am starting to see the results now that I have full focus. Last year I only released two tracks the whole year, and this year I’m just about done with four and it’s only January. I’m excited to see how many I can wrap up at the end of the year with this kind of drive.
What exciting things can we expect from you this year?
I’ve been working pretty quietly, but a bunch of new music is on the way. I’ll have a remix out on Late Night Munchies mid-February, and another two on Tilted and Sheppard Records soon after. I’ve also just signed an original to a UK-based label that’s a very exciting release for me, though I can’t share the deets just yet. Other than that, I expect to have a steady flow of releases throughout the year. My goal is to focus on finishing up as many tunes as I can before festival season hits in June and I get really busy! I’ll be making many festival returns and a few exciting debuts across Canada. You can also expect a bit of a different sound in my sets seeing that I seem to be going a lot deeper and darker with my productions.
What has inspired you to transition your music to the deeper side of House? (Deep House/Melodic Techno/Dark Tech)
Part of artistry is being open to constantly evolving. Years ago I was a die-hard G House DJ. The genre took a turn towards Bass House which I really didn’t like at all, so I found myself splitting off into the Tech House genre. It was around the same time I started my residencies at MIA and Gorg-O-Mish who catered to that sound. I learned a lot from more senior residents on the team who had been playing those styles for a long time. I also attend a stupid amount of shows and festivals around the world year-round, so when I’m on these trips I’m constantly discovering new artists and their styles. I got heavily influenced by the Melodic Techno genre through artists like ARTBAT and Adriatique, and my latest productions definitely reflect that style. Having a residency at Gorg-O-Mish Afterhours was another thing that drove this also drove my evolution. Playing 3-hour sets gives me tons of time to experiment with different styles and energy levels. When I’m digging for tunes for these sets, I always find something new that interests me. I feel like my sound probably also changes in sync with where my life is at… maybe I enjoy making the slower-paced, moodier stuff now that I’m not out every weekend listening to bangers!
Where can we catch you next?
Few shows coming up — I’ll be kicking off February at my monthly residency at 1181 on February 1st, 2020. Then I’ll be opening for Dirtybird’s J Phlip at Open Studios on February 22nd, 2020. I’ll end the month strong at Gorg-O-Mish on the 28th. The following month I’ll be supporting Odd Mob at The Waldorf of March 20th. Feel free to check the events tab on my Facebook page for all my upcoming shows.
*Featured Image Via Hayden Gullins*