For the past five years, Sydney has been a difficult city for dance music DJs. Until the end of 2019, it had been impossible to legally throw a proper club night, thanks to the city government’s passage of “lockout laws” in 2014. The laws introduced new curfews, forbidding bar and nightclub patrons from entering or reentering their haunts between the hours of 1:30am and 3:00am, the mandated closing hour. City management brought uniformed police into venues throughout Sydney, and forced owners to shut their doors at the very start of raving’s witching hour, when dancers are finally severed completely from their daily lives, suspended in a time warp on the floor. As Sydney club organisers explained in a recent documentary on the state of the scene, it’s exceedingly difficult to have a good evening of hallucinatory beats if the magic is cut short at this peak hour. And yet, DJ, producer, and organiser Andy Garvey has built a thriving career in these dire straits.
Having moved from Australia’s capital city Canberra in 2012, roughly a year after she first began to experiment with DJing and making tracks, Garvey established herself as a tireless advocate for Sydney’s dance music scene, working across radio, booking, throwing parties, and running a label, in addition to her own creative practice. Though she only properly entered the global club circuit last year, with a well-received debut single on the influential Lobster Theremin label, her first appearance on Boiler Room, and bookings at Berlin’s about://blank and London’s Corsica Studios, Garvey has spent years working behind the scenes.
Part of a cadre of organisers keeping the scene alight amid hundreds of venue closures and stringent police surveillance, Garvey has contributed her skills to countless unlicensed warehouse raves, remaining also an advocating voice for the scene on radio airwaves, with shows on triple j and FBi Radio. Her label, Pure Space, has released two compilation records thus far, each featuring hard-hitting electro and techno from rising Australian stars like Reptant, PMA, and Point Guard. Garvey also helps run Nectar, a booking agency and party series focused on establishing women-identifying artists. Through Nectar, Garvey supervises Dance Class, an intensive workshop to help aspiring femme DJs hone their skills. Nectar’s next event brings Objekt to Sydney club Universal in March; it’s a night which, thanks to the November repeal of the “lockout laws”, will safely stretch into the early morning hours.
How did you first develop a passion for raving, DJing, and making tracks?
“I have always been into music of all kinds. Through my late teens I was drawn toward the French scene, electroclash — Ed Banger Records and all that. It led me to house and then further interest in darker forms of dance music when the Sydney warehouse scene started flourishing. I started making music very basically in 2011, just for DJ edits and finessing mixes. I really gave it more interest in 2016. I still feel more like a DJ than a producer, but I am also very aware that I have infinite possibilities to explore in each musical output.
What challenges does your scene face?
“The ‘lockout laws’ would seem to be the main and most obvious one. In the five years since they’ve come into play, over 200 venues and bars have shut. It’s harder to find a viable place to hold a legal event and therefore the music scene (in all forms; punk, DIY, electronic, dance) has had to be more creative.
“In saying that though, when you’re pushed to find a new space it ends up allowing you a huge amount of freedom to dictate what you want to create for your show. Not just sonically but also visually, also through the layout of the space and the entry policies. It has made for some really exciting events and party concepts.”
If someone is visiting Sydney, where do you recommend they go?
“Firstdraft, which is an artist-run gallery space. Where’s Nick, the friendliest wine bar in Sydney. Centennial Park, my favourite park to picnic in. (I once saw three turtles sunbathing on the same log!) P.A.M Store, [my] favourite clothes shop. Redfern Continental, cosy dining, European style. I am obsessed with their sausages!
“Network Connections Records is my fave record spot, Josh and the team are so very friendly especially for people only starting to get into records. Eat at Manmaru, a family run Japanese fusion. Go with 4 – 6 people and just order one of everything on the menu. Drink at Gordon’s Bay. It’s a hipster beach spot BUT there is no sand!!! I love a sand-less beach and this has to be my favourite!”
Any other DJs/promoters/performers from the scene you’d like to shout out?
“Promoters and people visiting Sydney should check Vibe Positive, Heavenly, The House Of Mince, tactic [and] Third Space. In Melbourne there is Cool Room, Neurotic Erotic, Lucid, Butter Sessions and Dooj.
“DJs and artists: My pure space side-kick Mija Healey, upcoming Pure Space artists Jennifer Loveless, Iota, Rings Around Saturn, NECTAR family DJ Scorpion, Natalia, IV Drip, Fabrics, Reptant. And other people who are doing sick stuff — Gallery B, Anuraag, C.Frim, Dameeeela.
“My fave Aussie radio stations (all are also digital so you can also stream online!): FBi Radio, Skylab, and Nomad.”
Any dream guests at future Nectar parties?
“Arca has been on the top of our list since we started… Some more realistic ideas might be Amnesia Scanner, Beatrice Dillon, Object Blue, Teki Latex, or Metrist.”
If you could play a set anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“This question has kind of stumped me. I really value playing the shows I have played in small towns that I usually haven’t heard of before. Maybe it’s partly due to the fact that I grew up in a small city and really valued the DJs who came through the clubs each weekend. So maybe I can’t say the place but I love a small room, ground floor DJ booth and a crowd that’s down for it!”