Having grown up in an industrial part of Melbourne during the late-90s/early-2000s rave scene, Memphis LK developed a unique insight into electronic music from an early age. “I remember being really young and I could hear this pulsing four-to-the-floor kick drum every night, and I could never sleep,” the producer, vocalist, songwriter and DJ says. As Memphis got older, she understood and appreciated the cultural relevance of her experience: “It must have been such an interesting era of dance music… and I just had no idea that it was going on right next door!” This early exposure to club sounds helped to shape the artist that Memphis would go on to become. “Maybe, on some weird level, that’s infiltrated into my psyche and made me love dance music,” she says.
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After abandoning her childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist, she started focusing on making her own music. Inspired by the likes of Four Tet, Burial, Overmono and Bicep, she started making loops on GarageBand and singing over them.
“I had all of these sounds in my head that I wanted to be able to make, but I didn’t know how,” she says. Although she’d performed in indie bands as a teenager, Memphis adds: “[indie] music was fun, but it was never the music that I really wanted to make.” However, everything changed when a friend got her onto Ableton Live. “I got a crack of it and was like ‘whoa, this is crazy’.”
Watching tutorial videos and teaching herself the basics six years ago was a big turning point for Memphis. “I was like ‘this is it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ I realised that I could literally make any sound on my computer, and I didn’t have to rely on other people. That was a really exciting moment for me, and I started taking music really seriously.”
Three years later, when COVID-19 lockdowns hit, Memphis had another realisation. “I was pretty good at production and getting my songs to a point where I was happy, but not quite satisfied with them because I was always handing them off to another producer,” she says.
“I guess I just had this idea in my head that ‘I’m a girl, so I can’t finish my songs’, which sounds so ridiculous when I say it out loud.” Memphis says this thought process was “holding me back, and I think it’s something that holds back a lot of people. But I thought to myself ‘there’s no reason that I can’t be as good as the people that I admire; I have all the time right now to do it, and the only thing that’s holding me back from doing that is myself’.”
Memphis then committed her whole time to “honing in on producing and getting really strong in my sound” rather than putting any music out. Her new EP, Too Much Fun is the result of such dedication and development. “I feel like I came out the other side,” she says. Too Much Fun is the first body of work that Memphis has fully produced and written herself – aside from the title track, which is a collaboration with Internet Money members Pharaoh Vice and Vendr. “[The EP is] the fruition of this realisation that I can actually be totally self-sufficient in doing this.”
Before producing the EP, she says her artistic process was quite formulaic. “I would always start with the drums, then I would add the bass, then some chords, and then add the vocals at the end.” Now, it’s starkly really different. “I like to make sure that there’s actually a good idea that is worth following through with. For example, if I have a melody that I think is really cool or a chord progression that makes me feel something, then that’s my indication to keep going with a song.” Her advice to aspiring artists? “Just follow your intuition, because then you’ll get something good out of it.”
Memphis LK recalls making songs with her sister and performing them for their parents when they were children. “We used to write songs together and then sing and do harmonies, perform them for our family and force them to sit down and watch us.”
She’s come a long way since then. Fast forward to 2023 and she has landed on a vogue sound that bridges dance and pop and is lyrically inspired by Gwen Stefani and the hushed tones of Lana Del Rey. Several of her tracks have made Spotify’s Planet Rave playlist, too, sitting her alongside UK artists like PinkPantheress and Piri.
“It’s exciting that genres from the 90s rave era are having a resurgence and people are reimagining them in new ways. And I think it’s cool that, although TikTok can be kind of annoying, it can be a way for people to discover music they might never have heard before.”
Memphis is also part of the Australian rave scene’s new generation, which also includes producers and DJs JamesJamesJames and Pretty Girl. “The dance and electronic scene right now in Australia is just going crazy,” Memphis says. “There’s a real vibe; so many artists are doing really cool things and it feels like people really want that kind of music right now. I’m not sure why, but everyone wants to be at the club and have fun.”
This appetite for energetic sounds resulted in Memphis performing for her biggest audience yet at Beyond The Valley festival in Melbourne. “I was really nervous, but it was the most fun show I’ve ever done,” she says, adding that her live set is a hybrid of DJing, singing live and sometimes playing the saxophone (“a fun novelty moment”).
Forming a live set as a DJ set is an interesting process, she adds, “because I’m trying to set up my set so that my songs are a moment. It often feels like I’m my own hype person, because I’ll just be playing fun music – a bit of everything (but all bangers) to get the party started, then play my own songs in there. I try to make that all flow.” More than anything, though, her main intention when DJing is simple: “for people to dance and have fun”.
Memphis hasn’t only been playing for festival crowds, though; she opened for Tove Lo on her sold-out tour earlier this year. “It was different to what I had been used to,” she says. “Because she’s a pop star, the audience were there to enjoy and experience the music. I’m usually used to DJing at clubs or festivals, but everyone was silent and so attentive and supportive.” She has similarly fond memories of supporting Rina Sawayama: “it was sold-out, they were a top crowd and really cool. And Rina was lovely, I met her after one of the shows.”
And, with plans to move to the UK later this year, Memphis is sure to grow her own dedicated fanbase even further. It could also help her tick some names (Mura Masa, fred again.. and Four Tet, for example) off of her dream collaborator list. For now, though, she’s content with how her career is going. “As long as I’m making music that makes people feel good, happy and uplifted. At the end of the day, I always try to remind myself it’s not that deep.”
Memphis LK’s new EP Too Much Fun is out now.
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