Tigerlily is Dara Hayes, a young DJ and producer who specialises in trance, electro house, and keeping the old PLUR dream alive. Her kandi-floss mixes, each individually titled and soaked in bushdoof fantasy imagery, have garnered her a massive she jokingly calls “Team Unicorn” and have put her at #12 on In The Mix’s Australian DJ charts. Hayes chats to ZOE KILBOURN ahead of Stereosonic and submitting her final uni assessments.
In the last few months, Dara Hayes has finally had the opportunity to release her own productions after a tireless career of intense trance mixes. She’s also finishing her final semester of a marketing and sociology degree. “I would’ve loved to have done some stuff on like, philosophy and gender studies, but it’s been pretty good,” she notes. “I’m just so excited to be done, hey.”
After a tentative initial foray into DJing, the priorities have finally switched from uni to dance music. It hasn’t been easy juggling study and touring as a main room DJ, and Hayes’ degree hasn’t always easily bled into her real career. Given her work’s vivid Neverending Story vibe – the blue hair, mixes named Tree Of Life and Universal Snowcone Adventure and Zombies Like Candy Too – you’d think that her marketing degree might’ve helped her establish her brand.
“People are always like, ‘Oh my God, you must have so many great marketing tips from your degree,’ she says. “No. Not really. You’d think there’d be more crossover, but there’s not.
“I think that authenticity’s more of what it comes down to rather than knowing marketing strategies and stuff like that. It comes down to getting good vibes going. People really appreciate and vibe to things that are organic. If you’re where you are through an organic process rather than Australian Idol, people respond to that much, much better, which is awesome.”
Hayes made her name as a DJ via the Your Shot competition after taking up the craft in her second year. Now, she’s beginning to release singles, like Daylight (a collab with The Only).
“I’ve been working on my production, spending so many hours on Ableton, which is just the best computer program ever,” she says. “It’s so much more rewarding for me, and it’s potentially easier for me than it is for most people, coming from a music background. For my HSC, I wrote a trombone quintet, a big four-minute piece for five trombones. Like, I think it makes it so much easier to produce from a music perspective – you can hear what’s right, you can hear what’s wrong, you understand where melodies and chords should go, where songs should go. It feels great to integrate that into my career, and it’s going to be happening more and more and more as time progresses and hopefully I get better. ”
Hayes studied three units of music for her HSC, majored in trombone, and made the unusual decision of submitting an original composition for her exam rather than playing it safe with performance.
“It was difficult, I’m not gonna lie. I listen back to it now and I think it sounds quite, um, primitive, I suppose, but look, it was really fun, it was a challenge, and I ended up getting really good marks for it. I think it was very different to what everyone does for their HSC. I think a lot of people find comfort in pop songs or playing a Mozart piece on piano, but I decided to go really left field and do something people hadn’t really done before.”
Given her trombone background, how does Hayes feel about resurgence of that brassy Dutch sound, exemplified by Timmy Trumpet’s mega-hit Freaks?
“I love what Timmy’s done with his whole brand and his image, he absolutely rocks it, and he actually comes from an amazingly talented musical background,” she says. “He studied trumpet at the Conservatorium. I absolutely love his work and the musicality of his tracks. Other people, when they use the trumpet preset or the trombone preset, or to be honest any traditionally classical instrument preset in a music program to create a sound for a dance track, it can become quite cringeworthy sometimes. I tend to stick away from those kinds of sounds. Last weekend, I was in the studio and I finished a track, actually, and it’s got a string quartet piece included in the breakdown, and stuff like that really fits well into dance music, whereas some of the other brass doesn’t fit very well into what you’re writing.”
Given Australia’s been flooded with trap, future house and Melbourne bounce of late, Hayes has found an unusual sound – the four-to-the-floor, elaborately synthy, heart-on-sleeve trance that’s experienced a bit of a lull of late.
“I’m not sure where it comes from,” she says. “I guess I’m into all different kinds of music and all different kinds of sound designs. The only music I really don’t like is hard rock and heavy metal stuff. I’ve always been a fan of that ravey, almost trance sound, I suppose. For me, that represents an amazing movement in the dance scene, and those trance melodies and breakdowns are so beautiful. Many of them are so well written, and I think because they’re so well written, they relate back to that classical music background and I can see the similarities between those different kinds of music, I suppose – not necessarily in the sound design, but in the way they’re written musically.
“It’s so funny – I used to listen to the weirdest shit. I used to go clubbing on Wednesday nights to a club in Sydney called Hot Damn, and they played heaps of pop music and indie rock, so the DJs were almost mixing in a more mash up style – house, RnB, indie, dance rock, that kind of stuff. And then, when I first started DJing, I was playing lots of commercial stuff but also lots of fidgety, minimal bass kind of stuff. I used to play heaps of the old-school Crookers that had that really hollow sound – I don’t know how to describe it. I was looking back over my playlist and just laughing. Green Velvet, all that kind of stuff. It’s completely different to what I play now. It’s been a really nice progression and development. I started there, and then I went into a really heavy phase where I was playing everything dirty I could find.
“Now I’ve grown out of that, and I think that’s because I’ve been to more festivals and influenced by more artists. Influenced by the rooms I’ve played in Australia, too – Pasha, Sydney, where I have a residency. The DJs there are just incredible. I think I’ve finally found my sound in the last six months. I’m much more at home with what I’m playing. It’s been a nice journey, but I think I’ve finally found for now what I want to be doing, which is awesome.”
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29 @ CLAREMONT SHOWGROUNDS