A chat with Isaac Cavallaro at Red Deer Festival
Isaac Cavallaro has a finger in every musical pie. Although you can spot him playing for The Kite String Tangle and Torfason, the Brisbane drummer/producer has decided to give himself some solo space. His newest venture is all about silky smooth electro-pop, brimming with lyricism, experimental textures, and a good dose of danceability. I caught up with Isaac at Brisbane’s Red Deer Festival to chat about songwriting, storytelling, and going solo.
Anna: One thing I notice is how amazingly cinematic your tracks are; they’ve got a real storytelling aspect to them, particularly with the samples you use. Is that something you aimed for in production?
Isaac: Yeah, definitely. I’m really inspired by creating a landscape with cinematic sound, so I’m trying to blend that but not have it be so instrumentally driven, more storytelling lyrically and with the music as well. So it’s very intentional, and it’s good that it’s translating.
Anna: How do you approach production and songwriting?
Isaac: It’s pretty spontaneous. It’s hard to quantify – it can take a long time or not, but the sampling is usually me just having fun, trying to experiment, and seeing what will come out of nothing. Then it leads to something or it doesn’t.
I think of it as collaging, when you’ve got a track and think “well, what if I put this bit here and that bit there.” It sounds really self-explanatory, but it can lead you to a totally different outcome.
Anna: What’s your favourite part of the musical process?
Isaac: Definitely making it. I’ve come from being mostly a performer and now doing more of the production side, I’m loving it. As for my favourite part within that, I think of it as collaging, when you’ve got a track and think “well, what if I put this bit here and that bit there.” It sounds really self-explanatory, but it can lead you to a totally different outcome. In the past, I’ve been in ensembles and it’s like, “ok lets try this,” but the process can take potentially weeks to hear the difference because of people learning new parts, whereas this is all on a laptop. You just click a button and it changes, and that’s really exciting.
Anna: Does working solo give you a greater sense of creativity in that way?
Isaac: Definitely, yeah. But you can go mad, being on your own, as with any endeavour. There’s that little voice in your head that starts questioning everything, so it’s good because all my mates are doing music, so if they hear something they might just say “hey maybe turn that down, mate” and it’s like “yeah, cool, I’ve been going insane over it”.
Anna: And why electronica particularly?
Isaac: I’ve always really liked it. I think the freedom to be independent is a huge thing, in terms of actually making [music]. Being a drummer, you’re always relying on other people, whereas in electronic music you can produce in your room or on the train and you can do it on your own. It’s really immediate. And I think rhythmically, electronic music can be really inspiring, and sonically too, because you can get sounds at frequencies that are so uncommon. That to me is really exciting.
I think rhythmically, electronic music can be really inspiring, and sonically too, because you can get sounds at frequencies that are so uncommon.
Anna: The Brisbane music scene is pretty varied, but I see more indie pop or rock emerging than electro. How have you found breaking into the scene?
Isaac: I haven’t done many live shows, so I’m still kind of the new guy. But in terms of online, it’s been great. I’m feeling like there’s a nice support there, so that’s good.
Anna: What’s on the cards for the future?
Isaac: My goal at the moment is producing and songwriting – I’ve got some things in the works. I really just want to focus on writing some good things and build a community. I feel like I’ve got a lot of room to grow in that way and that will inspire me to make a bigger live show as well. I haven’t invested as much time into creating a big show because it’s a small act at the moment, so as the community grows I’ll expand as well. So that’s kind of exciting.
Anna: Who would be your dream collab?
Isaac: I’m sure a lot of people have said this but probably Brian Eno. I think he would kick my ass, and we’d discover some weird things. I don’t know how it would turn out or whether people would like it or not, but I would love it.
Anna: What’s the best thing about Red Deer festival?
Isaac: It’s just chilled – it feels like a family. It’s a good vibe. I’m really supportive of Red Deer.