Culture / Music

Future faces: 4 musicians to know from BIGSOUND

Want a glimpse into the future of Australian music? BIGSOUND in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley is the place to be. Built to allow emerging artists the opportunity to perform before industry heavyweights, BIGSOUND has grown to encompass live music, industry talks, parties and masterclasses. This year, the festival took place September 5-8, showcasing over 140 emerging artists and bands across 18 live music venues. Anyone will tell you how those four days and three nights pass in a blur. What sticks to your brain like hot gravel on the sole of your shoe? The voices and faces of those who played. For me that was Ashli and STUMPS, Riiki Reid and Kavi. Below, RUSSH speaks to these new faces. One thing's for sure, great things are coming their way.



Ashli tells RUSSH her earliest memories of music are listening to strong vocalists like Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones and Caroline King with her mum. "My mum was a music fanatic – she still is. I grew up in a house that really valued music especially songwriting." However, when Ashli was 11 years old, her family uprooted from New Jersey to Western Sydney and it would take her until year 12 to take the leap from music enthusiast to performer.

That moment came when her high school participated in School Spectacular. The 23-year-old recalls a teacher referring to the variety show as a "once in a lifetime opportunity", distinctly wishing that it wouldn't be the case for her. "I remember the day after I finished School Spectacular, I just had this desperation. I didn't want to let that dream go." She sent off dozens of emails to any contacts she could find, thanking them and asking about any potential openings. Safe to say, it paid off.

This year alone, Ashli, with her honeyed vocals and enigmatic stage presence, has performed at Vivid Sydney, SXSW Austin and – when October rolls around, she'll take the stage at the inaugural SXSW Sydney. In 2020, during the middle of lockdown, Ashli was also mentored by Gretta Ray. "That was great", she notes, "to be mentored by someone who's a lot further along in their journey, but also someone who knows how to navigate the Australian music industry as a female."

Keep an eye out for Ashli's latest single, which is expected to drop on October 6.




It's a good time to be an indie rock band, better if you're part of STUMPS. "We love the 2000s revival thing that's happening" says Merrick Powell, bassist and PhD candidate. "Bloc Party, The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs – that's our bread and butter." The band has been touring non-stop since June and after their two appearances at BIGSOUND, the trio will support Boy & Bear, perform at Yours & Owls festival, before hitting the road with The Temper Trap.

Together for six years, Kyle Fisher, Merrick Powell and Johnny Dolan united out of friendship and a string of fortuitous events. Powell is best friend's with Fisher's brother – the latter credits himself with teaching Powell how to play guitar. When the classically trained Fisher sustained an injury to his finger from bar work, two weeks before a pivotal internship in the US, he was forced to cancel, and later, bedridden, began to sing in lieu of playing piano or guitar. Around the same time, the hardcore band Powell and Dolan were both in decided to go on hiatus. Given the pair had played together since they were 16, Fisher felt he had somehow landed "the best rhythm section in Australia".

I catch their second set at BIGSOUND; the trio are fired up and hitting their stride. Kyle is a vision of all the floppy-haired, sweaty and bespectacled lead singers of indie past. I know this because either side of me, people are swooning. "He's hot" another journalist I'm with whispers. The band tell me as far as dynamics go, "Johnny's the comic, Kyle cops it and Merrick is the mediator".

STUMPS have a new album, Arcadia, scheduled to drop on January 19. "It's the most concise thing we've ever made," says Fisher. "For the first record we genre-hopped a lot. But for this record we made a conscious decision to really convey was the STUMPS sound is."


Riiki Reid


The first thing you should know about Riiki Reid is that she's a self-proclaimed chatterbox. Born to Latvian and Māori parents, the 24-year-old grew up on indie rock bands like The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys yet confesses that her all time hero is Beyoncé. "She just does everything," says Reid.

This makes sense when you learn how Reid cut her teeth as a performer. Not only does Reid have a background in dance – she began classes aged five – as kids Reid and her brother would enter talent quests at the local plaza while everyone was shopping. She was hooked on the feeling of performing to a crowd almost immediately. From there Reid studied music in high school and later, university, before starting what she refers to as her "project" at 18 years old. "I call it a project because I just want to include all these different things like fashion, dancing, singing. It's not just the music to me."

Her music is dynamic and ever-evolving, spanning genres like indie pop and dance. More recently, Reid was approached by the organisers of Waiata Anthems to translate her songs High Heights and The City into te reo Māori. Not long after, Reid teamed up with Muroki for an original composition Kārewa. "The whole thing is about trying to put the culture and the language back on the map," says Reid. "I think because I am part Māori it made it feel even more special to reconnect with my culture. It was so hard but also the most humbling experience." The artist cites Rosalía as an example of a musician singing in their native tongue and still sitting high on the Billboard charts.

Last year Riiki Reid rebranded her project to encapsulate her current persona. In 2023, she's reaping the rewards of that shift, signing with Warner Music, performing at BIGSOUND and with a spot on the lineup for SXSW Sydney. Want more? Keep your eyes peeled for her upcoming single with New Zealand duo Balu Brigada.



Kavi grew up a Hare Krishna, which meant a lot of his worship revolved around devotional music and singing. As a child he would end up leading those worship sessions. "At first I thought I was such a good Hare Krishna kid, then I realised I just liked performing," he admits. Those years proved to be formative for the musician as he single-handedly attempts to revive 2010s pop. They ingrained in Kavi a natural understanding of beats and rhythms – all essential in making music for the club.

But like so many creative pursuits, Kavi – the music project – only really grew legs during lockdown in 2020. At the time, he was finishing up his last year of uni and living at his parents place. It was one of those make or break decisions: he would either "give this music thing a shot" or walk away. After all, if nothing else, he had time. So he got to work, humming melodies into his iPhone and writing in the park behind his parent's house during those hours before Melbourne's 8pm curfew. "That's my Kavi origin story," he jokes.

The first project was KRUSHED!, an EP filled with yearning and sad boy energy. "Then", Kavi says, "I reached that stage of your 20s where your brain actually, like, develops a little bit and realised it wasn't the end of the world as I knew it to be". Kavi's latest single, SCANDALOUS, is a celebration of his confidence, sexuality, queerness and the people in his orbit. Inspired by pure pop and the tracks of Usher, Britney Spears, The Black Eyed Peas, along with paparazzi shots of celebrities leaving the club, the musician's newest "era" is dedicated to the pop charts of the 2010s.

With a business degree up his sleeve and a background in music PR, Kavi has the know-how to become the #popstar his hand-printed Jil Sander tee pronounces. Kavi Nation, activate!


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