For much of 2020, the pandemic did a number on the DJ and music industries. With no live gigs after March, most DJ/producers hit the studio in earnest and many began live-streaming thru a variety of platforms. But Vivie-Ann Bakos (aka BLOND:ISH) had bigger visions.
Yes, the Canadian DJ/producer got busy making music and sustaining her brand via socials. She’s created lots of tunes, including her latest single, electro-pop-leaning “Waves,” which features Grace Tither, on Spinnin’ Deep. And she’s been offering loads of content on her label-branded ABRACADABRA TV channel on Twitch. But that content hasn’t just been all about her latest tracks; it’s taken on a larger purpose – to help ecological sustainability within the music industry and beyond. We recently caught up with the Miami-based electronic talent/eco-activist.
DJ Times: How have you fared through the pandemic?
BLOND:ISH: My partner in business and life, Liana Hillison, and I were fortunate enough to be in this incredible house in Miami with its own club for us to create and produce from. We were locked down from March to June in 2020, but since then, we’ve had more freedom. I spent most of my time being a curious kid again, getting creative on how to work with my passion for music in different ways and asking myself the question, “How do we bring value to our community in these times?” I went really deep into that.
DJ Times: What have you learned?
BLOND:ISH: Most of my income was tied to touring, which ended up being a huge lesson. I have taken the time to find new ways to diversify my income around my passion. It was such a fun exploration because there are so many worlds for your music to live in. We have the physical reality, streaming world, gaming world, sustainability world, app world, NFT world – it’s endless!
DJ Times: How have you pivoted?
BLOND:ISH: ABRACADABRA, our female-powered collective, focused on bridging the worlds of music and art with wellness and eco-activism, has been producing unique single-use, plastic-free events IRL, in places like Tulum, Mykonos, and at Tomorrowland, since 2017. But last March, as music venues and festivals were forced to shut down due to COVID-19, we quickly adapted by launching ABRACADABRA TV on Twitch. The channel is for the music-obsessed, the self-love-seeking, and those who believe the future of entertainment is educational, eco-friendly, and ever-evolving. We serve up over 60-plus hours of music and self-love programming live every week. The channel has brought in over 55,000 followers and 40 million views in less than a year.
DJ Times: Sounds like you’ve been plenty busy.
BLOND:ISH: Another major thing for me was doubling down on all things Bye Bye Plastic, my organization that aims to remove single-use plastic from the music industry by 2025. We’re working on a new program that prepares artists to lead with more purpose and many are already signing our Eco-Rider pledge.
DJ Times: How ’bout the music you’ve made during this time?
BLOND:ISH: My record label has released two new compilations, Human Nature by Day and Human Nature by Night, sharing all the unreleased material that I’ve gathered from incredible artists like Ameme and Hyenah. Additionally, we’re evolving to hopefully one day only playing plastic-free parties – check the #PlasticFreeParty pledge online – and we have started accepting payments in crypto.
DJ Times: In the studio, what’s your set-up?
BLOND:ISH: UAD Apollo Quad combined with Nord Lead and [Moog] Sub 37, TB-303, Dave Smith Prophet – you can never have too many synths – and [Spectrasonics] Omnisphere. I would love to make and play with some plant synthesizers this spring, too. UAD’s EMT 250 Reverb, the Korg SDD-3000 [digital delay] and the UAD K-Stereo also get used a lot along with the Millennia EQ. Currently, my favorite plug-ins include the Smoothe2 by Oeksound… and literally all the iZotope plugs are dope, especially the Neutron, Ozone, and Nectar – also the RX8 is a game changer.
DJ Times: What’s your creation process in the studio?
BLOND:ISH: It’s pretty simple: I’m incredibly inspired by my travels, so I’m constantly recording voice notes of any sounds I hear along the way that could be translated into music, like the sound of birds and the white foam of the ocean. The world is my greatest source of inspiration.
DJ Times: What’s your typical DJ set-up?
BLOND:ISH: When performing live, I like to use four Pioneer DJ CDJ-3000s and the Pioneer DJ DJM-V10 mixer. It allows me to play loops and music, and adds a lot of knobs and effect options to play around with, routing on the V10 – so much more fun that way.
DJ Times: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this pandemic period?
BLOND:ISH: That we, as a human species, need to rethink the new normal! There’s no way we can just go back to our old ways, or we have failed as a species. All of our systems are changing, so that’s why I’m doing everything in my power to bring this awareness to the music industry and set things up now for a brighter future. With the Bye Bye Plastic team, we are rethinking how and what actions are needed to kick sustainable music culture into high gear! With Liana and ABRACADABRA, we are re-thinking music festivals and how we can make self-love and mental health part of them. I’ve also been re-thinking how I want to show up as an artist. I want to share my energy and tap into that space of constant growth. When I’m performing, I would like to invite everyone in attendance to also explore that space, and become masters of their own reality – let’s evolve together!
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