Katie Campbell's breezy takes on electro, house and breaks have turned heads well beyond her home country of Australia. Annabel Ross hears her story so far.
2018 was a watershed year for Campbell. She released six EPs on labels including Butter Sessions and Kalahari Oyster Cult, started a residency on Rinse FM, launched her own show Designer Loops on Melbourne's Skylab Radio and toured internationally for the first time. In 2019 she's building on that momentum, having already played Nitsa, Concrete, and Berghain's Säule. She's booked to play Primavera, Dekmantel festival, Lente Kabinet and Brunch In The City in Barcelona in June alongside Midland, Call Super and Motor City Drum Ensemble. She'll release an EP on Dekmantel on April 8th. Just over two months in, this is shaping up to be Campbell's biggest year yet.
Between 2012 and 2016, before she took up the name Roza Terenzi, Campbell made candy-hued, off-kilter electro pop as Catlips, often featuring her own vocals. Her first ever alias, though, was KayTee, and you can listen to her debut production as a nine-year-old, "Clap To The Crap Rap," on Bandcamp.
"It's so funny, I sound so little in it," said Campbell. "I guess I was."
Campbell recorded the single in Perth, where she lived until moving to Melbourne in 2017, with the help of her father, a percussionist in an electronic dub act called Beatworld. (He made a trance remix of the track, also on Bandcamp as the "Beatworld Dance Remix.") Listening to Roza Terenzi productions—kinetic, breaksy, drum-based concoctions with extraterrestrial textures—you can imagine how the electronic music played by her father, who used to collect percussion instruments from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, might have left a lasting impression on her as a child. Breaks might be having a moment in dance music right now, but they've been swirling in Campbell's orbit for years.
The first time we met, in January, I spoke with Campbell in the backyard of the house she shares with Nick Amezdroz, director of Pelvis Records, and Wallace, a handsome British shorthair cat, in Melbourne. The grass was more yellow than green and the heat was dry and pervasive, even under the shade of an umbrella. Campbell was low-key and friendly, occasionally flashing the same dry sense of humour she exhibits on Twitter. In the living room was the record collection she shares with Amezdroz and an assortment of hardware, including vintage Korg Electribes, a microKORG, a Yamaha CS1x and an Akai MPC. Campbell is constantly rotating equipment in and out of the modest room. She and Amezdroz were in the process of building a soundproof studio in the backyard, somewhere Campbell will be able to work on new music between tours.
"I definitely feel like I need to have more of a separate space and a bit more room, otherwise I feel a bit like I'm just chilling at home," she said. "This is a time to knuckle down on it a bit more."
Neither of Campbell's parents actively pushed her towards music, but it was hard for her not to be curious about her father's home studio, or the many instruments sitting around at home. She played piano, drums and guitar as a teenager, at one point landing a gig at Montreux Jazz Festival with her school jazz band. Her father showed her how to perform basic tasks in the studio.
"Throughout high school my parents were really supportive of me doing music. I was like, 'Do I go and study at WAAPA [Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts] and do music or do I go and do law?' Dad is a lawyer, too, and he said, 'Go to WAAPA, don't do law.'" She laughed. "They've always been good."
Campbell's parents went to see her play live in Perth last December. "They hadn't watched me perform since I graduated from uni or something. Dad gets it because he listens to electronic music. Mum does like some of it, but she was kind of like, 'Aw, I wish you would still sing.' When I was 15 I was playing jazz guitar and writing acoustic music and stuff, but I did it because I liked the process of songwriting and I liked making music, but I never really felt super connected to that music. When I started making electronic music, that's when it really made sense to me."