Joyride: reflecting on a debut album

Joyride - aka Rowan Dix, gets to the heart of the matter in his interview with Thomas Tobler at Oxford Art Factory. (Photo: Thomas Tobler)

Joyride gives an honest and open reflection on the process of creating his debut album Sunrise Chaser.


Joyride, real name Rowan Dix, is an entertainer.

It is easy to see why – the combination of his intelligence and sense of humour cast their spell on you before you even learn of his expansive music skills. He has accumulated a wealth of experience throughout his 10-plus-year involvement in the Australian music scene, steering his way naturally through a musical career.

”It was monetising something that made me happy. As opposed to trying to find happiness in something where money existed. Career-wise it just kind of ended up forming around me like a shitty, horribly paid bubble.”

Joyride at the Oxford Art Factory (Photo: Thomas Tobler)

Joyride has just released his debut solo album Sunrise Chaser – 15 tracks that, on the surface, are about the weekend. As Joyride describes it, “…specifically the weekends of 20-something sick fuck in the inner-west of Sydney and how they may choose to navigate its unique set of challenges. It’s also about dancing, walking three blocks to the servo, tripping out staring at street lights and the irreparable hopelessness of modern existence”.

It’s the age old ‘write what you know’ sentiment that lead Joyride to author an album about the weekend. ”You get told that and it’s like ‘Alright, well, that’s what I know, so I’ll try and dissect it and look at it under a different light,’ and that’s basically it. The crazy thing about that is now looking back I’m kind of relieved that that is done.”

Others have characterised some of his songs, like On the Level and Kings and Queens as ‘activist’ in nature, but Joyride maintains that that’s not all there is to these tracks. He admits to concern about his music being misinterpreted. “I worry that [those songs] come from too much of a point of privilege when they’re basically saying, ‘The boomers are holding all the wealth,’ and ‘Why can’t we just go out and party the way we want?’ and ‘Cops are fucked’. It’s all punching up and talking about classism but from a very privileged perspective.”

Moving ahead, Joyride wants to broaden the subject matter of his songs further than the challenges you might face when you’re partying on the weekend.

“I’ve got a lot more to say about how 71% of the carbon emissions in the world are made by a hundred companies – and why aren’t we publicly executing their CEO’s… Maybe even that can be a party anthem.”

Collaboration also plays a big part in the way Joyride creates music. He has collaborated with a huge array of artists throughout his career – from Sydney based gothic-folk band Winterpeople to creating a Christmas album with Freddy Crabs from Sticky Fingers. Mostly, though, his collaboration has come as a member of the ONE DAY collective and one half of The Meeting Tree – with fellow One Day member Raphael Dixon. Collaboration played a key role in the creation of Sunrise Chaser. 

”No man is an island, especially in the music industry. It requires people and the energy of everyone. As much as I don’t want to speak for anyone else, I think this would be true for a lot of people – creating relies on the energy of other people.”

Joyride worked with over 14 different artists on this album, from Nina Las Vegas to HANDSOME, Mitch Kenny to Hermitude. Despite the fact that he’s never worked with so many people before, it is still a solo album with his name on it.

”Collaboration is at the core of creation. The message may be mine but it requires many people’s ideas to be able to convey it the best way we can and I think that’s true for anyone who’s trying to create the best possible vessel for the stories they’re trying to tell.’’

After a decade-long career in the music scene and a solid five years between solo releases, Joyride needed to dedicate his focus to the creation of Sunrise Chaser. ”There was a conscious decision to focus on this, much to my detriment. I was working passively on music for this for a couple of years and actively from 2016 post The Meeting Tree, which realistically stopped on the advice that I had to give space to my solo project. Which in retrospect I shouldn’t have listened to.

”The best things that have come out of this solo album aren’t the fact that I made 15 songs that I’m incredibly proud of, it’s the lessons I learned, because of all the things that were not handled the best way they could’ve been in the creation and execution of it.”

”You think about the album being the duck, and the creation of it being the duck’s legs. For One Day and The Meeting Tree the duck soared along while the legs drifted behind it and the Sunrise Chaser duck is pushing upstream while it’s legs are kicking furiously, hoping that people will like it.”

In the public image, Rowan Dix is Joyride, but is there a difference between the man and the moniker?

”The lines blur for sure, man. I think there’s part of us that creates different characters to make it easier to package different messages. The whole Joyride thing was a shortening of Two on a Joyride – which was a group I was in before – which was just cause I needed a DJ name. You just stick with what people are familiar with but it’s an extension of how I feel really. It’s just me but with a polished sheen. So you can imagine what me without a polished sheen would be like if that’s what is polished – it’s disgusting,” he laughs.

Joyride at the Oxford Art Factory (Photo: Thomas Tobler)

Sitting on a bar stool in a deserted Oxford Art Factory, Joyride earnestly admits that he puts a lot of pressure on himself.

”It plays out in a million different ways. I surround myself with people who are great at things and it forces me to try and meet their level. I’m constantly feeling embarrassed and insecure that I’m not at that point – which is why the validation that comes from putting things out into the world feels nice, because there are metrics where you can compare yourself to the people around you that you’re certain you’re not as good as.”

Joyride, in partnership with fellow ONEDAY member Raph Dixon, became the godfathers of Australian dance music (ADM) in their project The Meeting Tree.

After a short two year lifespan that included an ARIA nomination for Best Urban Release in 2015, they disbanded in July the next year – but their addition to the NYE In The Park lineup gives hints that a resurrection may be on the horizon.

”Raph is one of my greatest sources of inspiration and I hope that I’m one of his. We have an energy together that when we’re in full flight, we attract all the energy in whatever room we’re in. People are equal parts intimidated and enthralled by us and it’s fucking sick.

One of the features of The Meeting Tree that Joyride says works, is its political awareness.

“It calls itself dance music when sometime’s it is but it isn’t really. Not only is it dance music but we were the godfathers of it and everyone in Australian dance music agreed and accepted that. That’s fucking crazy. Rufus Du Sol, who are one of the best Australian dance music bands were calling us the ‘Godfathers of ADM. It’s the kind of brashness that only comes with being white and male and towards the straight end of the sexuality spectrum. It’s a hell of a tool to wield and I look forward to wielding it again.”

Joyride already has ideas for where he wants to explore musically, and there are already examples of that on his album. Track number six, ‘A House We’ll All Forget’, is his favourite song from Sunrise Chaser.

.

”I think that that song has examples of what stylistically I want to drift towards. Weird slowish techno for no real reason apart from trying to depict the fact that the whole story of that song happened at the 30th hour into a pretty heavy trip-based bender and that is what it felt like. A song in two parts, and interesting harmonies, and more of a focus on musicality and letting the story be a part of it rather than sitting on top of it.”

The uniqueness of the sound is no accident: ”Always aim to be different. Aim to be progressive. Aim to be subversive. No one needs more of the same shit. It’s crazy to think that the standard thought process is that if I make something like something that already exists – that’s the safest bet to getting cash. Who cares? Why the fuck are you doing this? If you want money, get a job.”

Joyride at the Oxford Art Factory (Photo: Thomas Tobler)

Joyride is looking to the future and is ready for it. He will be touring with Thundamentals for their ‘I Love Songs’ tour, touring his album early next year, DJing with The Meeting Tree on New Years Eve and has ideas for podcasts that stem from cricket to the Good Weekend quiz.

”I wanna make 3 albums next year, that’s the goal. I wanna make more videos, I want to do more multimedia. I’ve been intending on restarting a podcast with my brother about sport called ‘The 11th Wicket Partnership’ which is pretty funny.

“I wanna maybe start a podcast based around one star reviews left for restaurants on Google and break down what the person who left the review might be like in real life, that could be interesting. Maybe a podcast where Raph and I do the Good Weekend quiz every Saturday and you can just listen to us talking about these 25 different questions.

If that sounds like a lot to commit to, it’s Joyride’s way of responding to the experience of making Sunrise Chaser.

”That’s all based around one of the main takeaways of this album, which was [that] shutting down everything else to focus on my solo album was the worst decision I’ve ever made in my entire adult life. It made me deeply depressed and I don’t think I’ve bounced back from it.

”I look at my output now and I’m not happy with it, talking about Instagram and Twitter. It’s like these platforms are given to us to be anything so my ideology on that was as an entertainer, use these platforms to entertain, and I don’t think I’ve been meeting a standard that I once was – partly because I’m not happy.

“Maybe that’s to do with the album, maybe it’s because the world is hurtling towards a very painful end, maybe both.

“Maybe one is causing me to look more sadly at the other.”

About Thomas Tobler 12 Articles
Northern Beaches of Sydney local, with interests in music, movies, pop-culture, current events and everything in between.