Not many electronic musicians rhapsodise about Beethoven one minute and Kanye West the next. But Brisbane's Andy Ward, the mysterious newcomer behind the avant-ballad 'Let Me Down', admires mavericks past and present.
Andy himself has been a classical prodigy, a rock muso, and a busker. Now he's a countercultural pop singer/songwriter, producer and multimedia artist – with an academic sideline.
Andy's musical adventures began on his viewing a certain kitsch '80s movie about (a caricatured) Mozart. "The myth, as far as my folks are concerned, is that they took me to go see the movie Amadeus when I was two or something," Andy recalls. "Apparently, I walked out of that and said, 'I wanna be that guy.' So they started me on violin the next week – a tiny little kid running around annoying everyone with a horrible-sounding string instrument, playing 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'. I've played ever since."
Andy advanced sufficiently to join the Queensland Youth Orchestras fold. He subsequently studied at the Queensland Conservatorium Of Music. Still, Andy enjoyed rock – playing violin, and singing, in mates' bands. Leaving home early, Andy busked to pay the bills – regularly fiddling in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall. Alas, teachers at the Conservatorium disapproved of his street performance – and, indeed, improvisation. In turn, Andy progressively rebelled against institutional elitism.
Setting aside his violin, Andy embraced technology – making "bedroom music". "That's when I bought my first computer – and going from playing an instrument that had its heyday 200 years ago to being able to have a computer play any kind of texture or sound or timbre that I could dream up was just a gamechanger. It's like having a full symphony orchestra at your fingertips." He composed songs on piano, then translated them digitally – shedding all acoustic elements, bar samples. However, in exploring the human psyche, Andy's glitchy minimalism would be as much influenced by his favourite Romantic virtuoso, Beethoven, as the future soulster James Blake. In a twist, Andy is currently lecturing on songwriting and production while pursuing a PhD.
In late 2016 Andy shared 'Drinks&Money' – a melancholy Auto-Tune beat-ballad. "At the time, when I started this project, I'd just been through the end of a pretty toxic relationship that was really centred around substance abuse. I think, during that period of time, I'd been chronically reliant on a number of substances to keep me going – self-medicating depression. And, getting out of that, the songs were basically therapy. I didn't realise it at the time, but they were a self-enforced form of dealing with it." The striking film-clip, featuring retro low poly figures that disintegrate in an abandoned industrial complex, premiered on Music Feeds.
The buzz surrounding Andy led to his signing to Sony Music Australia. His first major single, 'Let Me Down', a ghostly machine opera, has already been championed by triple j. The song comes from when Andy was "clean and clear" of his previous destructive circumstances. Yet, falling into a new romance, he despairs that his partner will deem him too damaged – and need to leave. "It's dealing with that hopelessness of surrendering to a relationship and not being in control and being along for the ride." The black and white video, with its multiple morphing visages, underscores the universality of the lyrics.
Andy has developed cutting-edge visuals to accompany his music. He's even presenting an art installation with every single. Then there's his inventive audio-visual live show. Andy's full spectacular entails a three-piece band, plus VJ. The songs all have reactive animations – used in lieu of traditional stage lighting. And, as the latest electronic auteur to toy with the music's supposed anonymity, Andy is crafting a 3D printed electronic mask to obscure his face. Nonetheless, he stresses that any visuals exist only to augment his cerebral pop. "The idea is it's all about the music at the centre of it," Andy explains. "We're trying to create an innovative space. You don't go to dance clubs and hear my style of electronic music, but you also don't go to rock venues and hear my style of music. So it's about answering that problem – trying to create these immersive environments that people can get lost in visually, as well as enhancing the experience of the song… We're trying to make the live experience as cool and surreal and otherworldly as we can."