How Aurelia is using martial arts to make better music
Aurelia played her first ever live show last night as a part of Brisbane’s BIGSOUND festival.
Her voice was breathy and bursting with character. Her songs felt deeply personal but also otherworldly. While for much of the set her unique voice called to mind an idiosyncratic artist like Kate Bush, we also heard hints of the women who ruled radio rock in the ‘90s.
It might have been her first show, but Aurelia is no newcomer.
Over the past few years the Brisbane artist has spent a considerable amount of time as a songwriter. She decamped to LA with collaborator Thrones to write for acclaimed blues artist Janiva Magness, a collaboration which earned her a Grammy nomination, while closer to home she’s recently written with triple j favourite Asta.
It was my energy that created the beats and my voice that created the bed. The tonality of it has a purity to it. There's something raw about it.Aurelia
As she begins the transition from songwriter to performer, she’s not interested in making a big deal about her past achievements. She has enough confidence that the music she is making will stand up on its own.
“I could have done it different ways sooner, but not in the way where the tone was how I wanted it,” she says of the long process of bringing Aurelia to life.
“I really wanted a really proper foundation and I didn't mind starting small. Doing it right is everything. Feeling so natural, and what I feel like can grow from that, is the kind of career that I want. It was worth waiting for.”
One thing that she isn’t shying away from is her life outside of music. Aurelia practices martial arts at the highest international level.
It’s a lifelong pursuit that cannot be separated from her musical ambitions, so she doesn't try to keep them apart.
“It's a really serious part of my life,” she says of martial arts. “I'm at a stage in my training where I've come to a senior level where it's become a very deep pursuit. I train full time. I spend a lot of time in Hong Kong.”
Both music and martial arts, when practiced at the level Aurelia is presently at, are completely enveloping artforms. Both require enormous amounts of time and energy. Aurelia acknowledges the need to juggle both disciplines, but is confident they’ll coalesce as time goes on.
“My focus has shifted back and forth, but it’s still predominantly the martial art,” she says of her recent priorities.
“I'm at a stage now where I can train a lot by myself, so I don't feel as bound to being on the ground, in the school. I can continue at the stage I'm training at myself to keep discovering and moving that forward.
“But I think my focus will go quite dominantly into music for the next while. And then I feel like there'll be a time where it will balance out really well.”
It's that balance that is the most interesting thing about Aurelia’s approach to creating.
In her only released song to date, the equally calming and haunting ‘Are We Losing’, she pulls in the learnings from her martial arts practice in both a psychological and physical sense.
“The concept was, we'd try to get as much as we could from one source, in terms of seeking purity,” she explains. “It was my energy that created the beats and my voice that created the bed. The tonality of it has a purity to it. I can hear what happens when something is created like that. There's something raw about it.”
I feel like soon the expression of that art and music will be one thing for me.Aurelia
That means no instrumentation whatsoever. There are no synths and no electronic beats. Just Aurelia’s unique voice and the sound of her practicing her martial art.
“I found different materials and experimented with hitting them with different power and different delivery,” she explains. “Everything has a different resonance and, at its core, everything is energy.
“It was such an interesting thing to be able to experiment with what I had discovered in terms of consciously articulating the use of energy and turning that into something that would communicate.
“For me, involving the martial arts, it being living and having this rugged beauty to it, was super important.”
Ultimately, Aurelia wants her musical and martial arts practice to be completely intertwined.
“If I was really honest, even from when I was little I probably always knew it was leading to this,” she says. “Soon, I don't think there will be a separation.
“It sounds so cliché, you read quotes about martial arts and it's all about one's true self and all this oneness.
"All you're ever looking to do, once you study long enough in the kung fu, you're just trying to let go at a deeper and deeper and deeper level. That's where most of the ability starts to come out. A power that's very substantially different to what we're used to experiencing comes when you let go. I feel like soon the expression of that art and music will be one thing for me.”