Making the leap from Australia, a small player on the global music scene to dropping yourself in the middle of the European music industry overnight is a road of self doubt, sacrifice and determination. It is a journey I made myself quite a few years ago, but as I spoke to Caitlin Valentine aka Lola Heart during the recent Amsterdam Dance Event over a meal and copious amounts of wine, I was struck by her passion for electronic music and an interesting journey that lead her to our meeting.
With us both recently returning to Australia on holidays, we had a chance to sit down once again, look back on 2016 and drop us an exclusive Lola Heart mix.
Hi Caitlin, thanks for speaking to us today, Welcome back to Australia. So let’s start at the beginning. Tell us about those first years when dance music inspired you, who were your musical heroes and what was it about the music that hooked you in?
I am very very lucky for the upbringing I had. Some of the first CD’s I owned at 15 were Felix Da Housecat, Derrick Carter, Carl Cox and soon after that I started getting obsessed with Crosstown Rebels and Drop Music. When I was 16, my father snuck me into a local club to see Ajax play. Ajax soon became not only my idol, but one of my dearest and most valued friends. Not only was he such a star in the house music scene, an icon, a hero to everyone, but he made everyone feel like his best friend. He remembered little things you told him in a noisy club 2 years ago. He was so excited for me when I first started playing in pubs and backrooms of clubs. He played such a huge role in my life, my music and the kind of person I wanted to be.
You’re now based in Barcelona. Has being surrounded by fellow creatives been helpful to building your career overseas and is there a pressure on you now to succeed?
This all depends on how you define ‘success’ I am nowhere near where I want to be and I put A LOT of pressure on myself. But that is when I take a big step back and comprehend how far I have come not just musically but also mentally. I am playing music that I love and believe in plus living a comfortable life that is in line with my values. My job is taking me around the world and I am surrounded by people who love and support me for exactly who I am and just a few short months ago, that is all I ever dreamed of.
I used to be stuck in this fake world, playing fake music, surrounded by fake people. There is only so many times you can stand in someone’s kitchen on a Sunday morning talking about ‘spirituality’ and oh ‘how you’re going to change the world together.’ I was absolutely miserable and had to make a drastic change. I said FUCK this, sold everything I owned and jumped on a plane to Barcelona because I knew in my heart this is where I belonged and this is where things were going to happen for me. Energy is contagious. Misery loves company. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
As an Australian, do you find it more difficult to open doors into the industry in Europe or is it just one big challenge you take on?
I think it doesn’t matter where in the world you are. If you have a bright personality, well-produced music and the talent to back it all up, doors are always going to open for you. If you have an ego, don’t take chances, and are too afraid/proud to ask for anything, then you will forever be stuck exactly where you are sitting right now.
I’m not afraid to send my stuff to someone after meeting them in a club or stalking the internet until I find the emails of club bookers, I never expect things to just come to me, and I am definitely not afraid of rejection!
In saying that, if you can talk the talk but not walk the walk in Europe you will be eaten alive.
You cannot become an overnight sensation by dying your hair, getting some promiscuous press shots and someone else to produce you a record. They do not give a shit what you look like, facebook ‘pre-announcements’ about ‘big things coming’. People just put their head down and make well produced, soul shaking music, and that is why they are so ‘successful’. You will be called out if you can’t practice what you preach. Wow, end rant. Haha.
There is quite a large community of Australian expats trying to crack the music industry overseas, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of making the move?
Just do it. Don’t think or you will freak yourself out. Fate rewards the fearless and I kept this in mind every time my bank account was hitting zero and I was chowing through yet another can of beans. I woke up one morning and gave up everything I owned to be in Europe. Some nights I wanted to jump on the next plane home to my mother’s door step and scream ‘I f*cked up.’ One day you’re on cloud 9, the next you’re ripping your hair out wondering where the fuck your next euro is coming from.
But I kept my blinders on and continued to write music, attending the clubs I wanted to play at, and believing that I was exactly where I needed to be. Everytime I walked outside and saw Sagrada Familia, or someone smiled at me on the street I remembered why I came here. It’s better to have a shit day in Spain than anywhere else in the world.
Because I took that leap I have had the opportunity to play Sankeys (Ibiza and Manchester), Paris, Germany, Barcelona and the U.K, a year ago I never would have dreamed of this. I am so excited for what next year brings.
Returning home, how healthy do you think the Australian music scene is now? What changes have you witnessed over the last few years good or bad and have these made the scene stronger or weaker in your opinion?
I am absolutely blown away. My news feed is flourishing with parties in Melbourne and now Circo Loco in Sydney bringing in solid international artists I wouldn’t have dreamed of seeing play here after the death of 2 of our massive festivals. There are good people doing amazing things for our industry, putting their blood sweat and tears into keeping our music scene alive.
Our music culture is stronger than ever, but unfortunately with the lockout laws the opportunity is slowly starting to be snuffed out, I started in the backroom of clubs, afterhours sets and doing various sets throughout Sydney in one night. Every single venue I started playing in is now closed and with the over saturation of people wanting to become DJ’s overnight I wonder about the future. I really hope these boutique festivals and one off parties put some substance into our next generation of DJ’s.
As an artist, has the integration of things like Social Media and Digital Marketing been something you loath or do you find it part and parcel of being an artist these days? What was your learning curve like?
Social Media is a blessing and a curse. Without it, I may not have been able to interact and get my music played by some of my favourite artists, I also love being able to communicate with my followers and share my journey with them. It allows you to express yourself, but unfortunately people find pleasure in bringing others down. Critique is not a bad thing, however when it is done with bad intentions and attacking my weight and looks (which, have absolutely nothing to do with my music) it can have a negative effect on my mental health.
I believe you should use your social platform to promote your work, share your experiences and raise awareness for something you believe in (I am extremely passionate about the elderly and have gotten many of my followers to sign up for volunteering).
Okay, so lets talk producing! You have recently been slowly releasing away as Lola Heart across various labels Do you have any favourite toys, or tools you couldn’t work without in the studio?
I had so much luggage moving over to Europe that I had to shove my Novation Midi Keyboard, Roland Aira VT-3 Voice Transformer (which I use for all my vocals) and my ableton push in a backpack and then wear 3 jumpers over the top and pretend I had a hunchback to hide it, I even threw in a little limp for good measure. I managed to successfully smuggle them over with me, they are my children and most valued possessions (next to my limited edition storm trooper helmet) and I cannot live without them.
I also cannot live without Diva, SubBoomBass and Razor. I love sinking a bottle of wine and playing around with sounds and DIVA is my absolute favourite for this! Synplant is another goldmine I can spend hours on after a big night out, it never ceases to amaze me. I think it is really important to have your own sound, and spend hours experimenting, some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made have become
How do you approach a new track? Be it an original or remix, do you have a set workflow?
I am all over the fucking place. Hahaha. My phone is full of recordings of me humming like a walrus in toilets of nightclubs when an idea strikes me. I always start with a groove and then jump on my Roland and add some tweaked out vocal and build my baseline around that. Then it is just all trial and error, a lot of fucking around and arranging, some of the best sounds I have made have all been by mistake.
I have just come from a very long studio session putting the finishing touches on my EP and I am absolutely BUZZING. This is something I am extremely proud to put out into the world next year. I also love collaborating. I have only been producing for 3 years so I am forever learning, I love seeing how others start their projects, what little tricks and workflow they have set. I have learnt so much from my collaboration EP with Moodmachine. One pet hate I have is clean kicks. I always dirty them up with distortion or saturation for a more thumping tone.
You’ve put together a great mix for us. What’s the story behind it?
I believe all mixes tell a story, my mixes to me are like a diary, I can go back and listen to one from a year ago and know exactly where I was at in life and how I was feeling. This mix tells a story of the past 7 months around Europe, I have progressed so much inside my mind, I have shut down that part of my brain that says ‘I can’t’ ‘It’s impossible’. I have been at my lowest of low and genuinely feel I have become the person I always wanted to be and my music has benefited significantly because of that.
We’re really impressed by the selections you’ve made. How do you source your records? Do you still have an opportunity to crate dig?
Once a week I will go on a deep dark soundcloud bender in my pyjamas that sees no end. Clicking from one artist to another and spending hours digging for new music. When I played in London I stayed in a warehouse with shitloads of vinyl and was very lucky when the guys I stayed with stocked me up with some incredible Parisian techno vinyl rips and a lot of new artists to explore. I feel through this I have really found my sound and gained a lot of inspiration moving forward.
I got to visit a lot of new cities this year and finally start my vinyl collection. I hope to move to Berlin next year and settle in one city so I can continue collecting.
Thank you for taking time out and are not too jet lagged answering the questions. Can you tell us about your gig schedule whilst back in Australia? Anywhere you’re particularly excited about?
I’ve been home for 5 days and already done 6 gigs and 2 studio sessions now on my way to do a show on KISS FM I am a walking zombie. !
Catch Lola Heart playing at
17/12 Taylors, Sydney
30/12 Home of House, Sydney
31/12 Pacha @ Ivy, Sydney
1/1 Salt House, Cairns
12/1 OnesixOne, Melbourne
14/1 Uno Danceclub, Geelong