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Label Spotlight: Pure Space

Label head Andy Garvey reflects on the label's roots & aspirations.

  • Jack Colquhoun
  • 26 June 2024

Growing up in Eora/Sydney and considering myself a ‘music lover’ from a young age, I like many others have found it impossible not to feel the impact of Andy Garvey (she/her). Her presence at FBi Radio, the city’s most beloved music-focused community radio station, has been near unmatchable, hosting, curating, interviewing and organising for over a decade. Though growing up in Ngunnawal/Ngambri/Canberra, Garvey has cemented herself among Eora’s many dance music communities as a figure that has never left, and hopefully never will.

Her label Pure Space, much like Garvey, has in its almost decade-long run as a radio show, and six years experience as a label, demonstrated that it too will likely never leave.

I caught Andy right as she was, somewhat ironically in the context of that introduction, arriving for an extended stay in Berlin. A regular home away from home for her and many Australian artists looking to continue the excitement of summer, to continue being booked, and to have opportunities at some of the world’s most exciting events.

While Berlin offers a place of convenience for Andy and so many others, Pure Space has set down roots there, hosting a variety of label showcases in recent years, and one upcoming at Säule, a club space in arguably the most prestigious club in the world, Berghain. Andy tells me that she’s been told this is the first of its kind for an Australian label.

“It makes me want to cry,” she said.

But Berghain is not the be all and end all, though it may seem that way in the eyes of many budding label heads and DJs. For Andy, whether in her DJing or in her curatorial work for Pure Space, the name of the game of consistency.

“It is consistency. I think that now that we've got this one [Säule/Berghain show], I'm like, "Why don't we do another one next year? Let's just do it again… That's fun.”

Garvey has had this consistency at the core of Pure Space since the very beginning, when it was solely a radio show on FBi, and giving the likes of Reptant (then Lou Karsh) and others their first radio plays. “one of the best things about FBi Radio is the fact that the programming is split, with 50% Australian artists and 50% local artists from Sydney. So it was very easy for me to progress from a radio host to a label manager.”

While many labels are genre-mainstays for their audiences, Pure Space has become known for flexibility among fans both locally and internationally. EPs and compilations featuring the likes of Jennifer Loveless, Zara, Command D, Eastern Distributor aka Jörmungandr, Moktar, Air Max ‘97, OK EG, Reptant, IN2STELLAR, dj pgz and so many more cross sections of Australia’s blossoming underground dance community.

While texture, grit, space and “vibe” are all words that come to mind, Garvey told me that she often finds it very difficult to describe what actually qualifies a Pure Space release.

“The music that I sign to Pure Space, it's really trying to catalogue what I think is interesting and unique in contemporary music at the moment. That's why with every release, it feels like I'm pushing into a new lane. I don't think there's an overarching, palliative sound, but I like each release to feel like its own lane and I think that will continue to morph as the interests of our local scenes do.

Among an upcoming EP by Eora producer Command D and a neo-classical project released by Naarm/Melbourne’s Tangerine, Andy spoke about the flexibility of what makes Pure Space’s sound. The label’s upcoming release with Eora artist Mara is the prime example of this idea. The label’s first album, Garvey spoke at length about her expected reception of an ambient record by Australia’s broader dance community.

“Club music is functional, if that’s the intention for the music, but the Mara album is extremely conceptual. For a lot of ambient music it can feel a little formulaic, or a place to just zone out, but this is a real lean in headphone album. I’m essentially a music marketer, as a label, and it’s going to be a really interesting challenge for me to present that.”

In our conversation, Andy seemed to put the success and reception to Pure Space not only down to the artists that feature, but the open mindedness of its listenership, saying that Australia’s “music community and the punters are very knowledgeable, and everyone is deeply into everything that everyone else is doing. It's quite rare, I think, that you find an Australian artist who is like, ‘I only play one genre’. Everyone's kind of always morphing and turning.”

This desire for something new, fresh and often challenging is something she also puts down to our location. “I think there's always going to be an echo chamber because we're so geographically far away from everyone”, she said with a sense of pride in her voice. This distance and development of Australia’s sound is something we spoke on at great length, particularly in regard to where Australia currently sits among the broader dance communities overseas.

The success of labels like Pure Space and Animalia among many major artists and festivals overseas is tough to ignore. Andy and her longtime friend and collaborator DJ Scorpion just last year played Solstice Festival and what she called “the big Instagram moment”."> stroke="none" stroke-width="1" fill="none" fill-rule="evenodd">
A post shared by Solstice 2024 (@solstice.festival)

Andy was quick to admit that this phenomenon isn’t something she feels is only happening to Australia. This geographical distance is, in her opinion “why there is this Aussie sound, and it's the same with Canadians and Scandinavians. I think that happens all around the world, because we’re so geographically far away it's a little more intense.”

Less initiated Australian listeners, particularly those not often finding themselves seeing music in remote bush locations, might wonder where Pure Space actually lives. The visual identity of the brand, a mixture of NASA-like star maps mixed with earthy, dark and often cyber-organic creatures, shapes and elements, is part of a broader movement among more underground sounds aligned with Australian “doof” culture.

Eastern Distributor, who released ‘An Xileel’ on Pure Space last year under the moniker Jörmungandr, is a mainstay of Australia’s modern doof culture. ‘Root Mender’, one of his release’s most widely ID’d tracks that has in many a large festival moment at home and abroad, seethed with the space and textures that you would come to find at the doof.

Garvey herself was proud to share where she imagines Pure Space’s home is. “All I envision is Inner Varnika and Outsider. Safe and comfortable spaces with curated day programming and all of the community in one place,” she said.

But the doof, as we know it at least, is a largely Australian concept. Where does ‘Root Mender’ live when it’s not in the Australian bush?

It, like so many other sounds synonymous with Australia, has naturally found a home in some of the world’s most idolised clubs.

“Spekki [Webu] and Woody [92], [were] playing it… in the basement of De School, and then you see Raär playing it in a big warehouse in France, and it still works so well with the interests of all of these other artists.”

As we dug further into this idea of homes for specific sounds, Garvey remarked that ultimately nothing needs to actually live anywhere. She reflected on a gig last summer at a redacted Sydney spot where she and DJ Scorpion chose to play a bunch of psytrance. Many members of her audience approached her and Scorpion after the set, exclaiming that they’d never expect to hear psy indoors.

How times have changed.

Towards the close of our conversation I asked Andy if she felt a sense of responsibility to her community. As such a public figure, it was my feeling that it’s only understandable that someone may start to feel a pressure to act on behalf of others before themselves.

Garvey was quick to put that idea down, and in a way that I expected given her clear passion for what she does.

“I think responsibility is an interesting word. This is just so inherently me. I just love it. It's just all I think about and all I do.”

She went on to reflect on how she views Pure Space when compared with other iconic labels, including Future Classic, where she worked for a number of years. “One of the similarities that I think of, like what I'm doing and what FC (Future Classic) has done over the last twenty years, is being an exporter of Australian music. Like, when I'm over here (Berlin), I want it to be purposeful, and to be championing the artists from back home over here if I have the opportunity to do so.”

For Garvey however, as much as Pure Space and her own DJ career may have never been in higher demand overseas, at no point in our conversation was there ever any doubt about where she called home.

“Where I come from, I'm so a part of the Sydney scene, and that is such a part of my identity that just leaving that and running away overseas just doesn’t feel right.”

This love for her community and the greater culture of her country is something she’s stayed true to, having consistently only featured Australian artists and designers. “Even when I started commissioning visual artists that were outside of Australia, I was like, I'm not sure this feels right,” she reflected.

Garvey put this love for Sydney and Australia more broadly down to, again, how receptive the population is, and how resilient it’s been. “The community as it stands at the moment is so collaborative. Someone's starting a new thing, everyone's like, "fuck yeah, let's go,", and in the post-COVID era, there's so many new young promoters, and every time, like, I'm just like “go, kids, I'm tired,” she laughed.

Andy’s joke said two things to me.

1. The first was that she held an incredible trust in the younger generation of promoters, artists and labels that had come after her. All of them undoubtedly with a place on their USBs dedicated to Pure Space tracks, and a memory not only of a specific release, but of Andy herself.

Earlier Andy had put this trust in the newer generation down to a distrust in the way young people are portrayed. “I think it would be an oversight to think that people who are discovering music on TikTok aren't then adding those tracks to their collections and digging further than that,” she said. “I just, I, I can't imagine, but maybe that's just me, and I've always had the drive to go further than, but I just think kids are smarter than we give them credit for.”

2. The other was that, very clearly, Andy had no intention of stopping.

In talking about “the end”, as so many conversations do, we ended up reflecting on other iconic Australian names that have left a legacy behind.

From Spunk Records to Adelaide’s thriving scene in the 90s, and Sydney event Mad Racket, Andy has a clear set of idols whose reputation she respects and admires. “The thing I love about Mad Racket is that the whole crew has been doing parties for 20 years now. I’m sure they did so many more in that heyday, but now there's like 2 or 3 a year, and all of the people who went back in the day are joined by all these new people, and that is so sweet of a thing.”

“I hope that Pure Space has that reputation in forty years' time. Like, that's the goal, to be like, "Fuck yeah, all these kids are discovering this label,” she said with pride.

“Maybe we'll do a Community Chest in 20 years? Who knows. I can't imagine the end point, which is such a weird thing.”

In a culture regularly defined by the desires, goals and passions of youth, my conversation with Andy felt like one so easily had decades from now. Her approach to her community, to the curation of her label and commitment to pushing the boundaries of how Australia is perceived on the international stage, are what sets her apart now, and what will continue to set her apart for years to come.

While Pure Space’s sound is very much rooted in now, the cyclical nature of how we discover, play and dance to music will no doubt see the label regularly having heydays for as long as people dance as we do.

For Andy, that future isn’t certain, but is by no means bleak or unfulfilling.

We end our interview considering what may become of us in that future. “We’re all gonna be in these insane old people’s homes still DJing for each other in our rockers perhaps. Who knows,” she jokes.

One thing is for certain: I’ve no doubt that until that time, Andy and Pure Space won’t stop being a proud representation of what makes Australia’s dance culture what it is.


View Pure Space on Bandcamp / SoundCloud / Instagram now to support Andy and local artists.

Jack Colquhoun is the Managing Editor for Mixmag Australia, follow him on Instagram.


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