Born of a serendipitous energy exchange on a dance floor, Sydney duo Heart People are following the stars and forging a body of work rooted in the rhythm of self-expression. After an auspicious evening spent losing herself in the sound just over three years go, model and artist Rachel Rutt received a cold call from producer, half of Canyons and DJ Ryan Grieve, with the proposition that they get together and collaborate on some new music. Following a hunch she agreed to meet and throw herself into the art form in which she was very much an amateur. Her instincts proved pivotal and, ever since, Heart People has been an evolving, rewarding, multi-platform project for the two of them, culminating in their recently-released debut EP, Homecoming.
Heart People’s sound is a fusion of Grieve’s esoteric, highly visceral and largely electronic productions with Rutt’s ethereal and often sublime vocals, forming a balanced marriage of mechanical sound and very human feeling. In Rutt, Grieve found a foil for the swirling, metronomic machine funk he was concocting in the studio, and in Grieve, Rutt found a vehicle to articulate that which she hadn’t yet had the means to.
Born in Hong Kong to a Singaporean mother and an English father, Rutt’s childhood was somewhat nomadic and decidedly religious. She moved around Asia, living primarily in Japan, before migrating with her mother to Australia at 15. Not long after she found herself in a women’s refuge in Western Sydney, and starting formal schooling for the first time in her life.
“[At 16] I started high school for the first time, which was intense. I had really long hair and I shaved it all off, then I started at a girls’ school, and that was quite intimidating.” The fact she’d led a sheltered existence up until that point didn’t exactly help her assimilate, with her introduction to popular culture and music coming only with her arrival in Australia. “Where I grew up we didn’t listen to music, music of the world, any music that you know. So no popular music, nothing … My most important association with music was because it was religious music it was involved in praise, essentially positivity and thankfulness.”
On graduating from high school, Rutt was accepted into a fine arts course, but declined the offer. Instead, she opted to follow her own path and pursue a modelling career. The large amounts of idle time that came with the territory led Rutt to explore textiles, first sewing and eventually weaving, skills that were openly taught within the community she grew up in.
“As I started doing it people on these jobs started getting really interested in it and it was really positive … It’s funny how these handcrafts really touch people in a different way that you don’t really expect.”
The genuine responses to her handmade tactile works encouraged Rutt to go deeper, and before long the quirky pieces she was creating became a legitimate endeavour. Today Rutt is spinning her weaves into costume pieces for Heart People and finds the practice leading her in the direction of a visual art, with a series of multi-coloured, multi-layered, self-spun silk wall pieces in the works. “When you say ‘it’s the gift that keeps on giving’, it’s like that,” she says. “And I guess music is like that too.”
It was the fortuitous encounter with Grieve that enabled Rutt to add another avenue of expression to her repertoire, as Heart People began to accrue the clutch of open-hearted positive affirmations that form Homecoming.
“If you can find a way to translate [what’s inside your heart] into a way that makes people happy, and it also shares something from inside of yourself, that’s something special. I think that’s probably why Heart People is so important to me, and probably what gave me the courage to pursue it.”