Sydney’s infamous lockout laws have forced many businesses to close their doors over the past few years and many musicians have suffered with limited support. Less venues to perform at has meant an increasing number of musicians searching for their next gig—and nowhere to perform.
With a drought affecting Sydney’s music scene, local musicians have been looking for their next break; an event to reignite the once bustling city. This is where 28-year-old South-Sudanese born rapper, Gabreal Marial, comes in with WavyLand—his solution to fixing the live music drought.
Marial has taken the reins of Sydney’s music underground and his focus is to hero emerging talent not being given a chance by the mainstream music industry. His vision has brought him increasing success: from booking Xavier Wulf to tour at The Lansdowne in April, to throwing monthly parties at the Lord Gladstone, Marial wants his peers to succeed and flourish.
Off the back of efforts of urban culture heroes like Marial, the winds may well be changing for Sydney's music scene. The NSW Government has ordered that the lockout laws be reviewed, and perhaps relaxed. The NSW joint select committee will report to Parliament at the end of September—meaning that Sydney’s underground is holding their collective breath.
We caught up with Marial over the phone and asked him a few questions on WavyLand’s origins, Sydney’s musical underbelly and his thoughts on the upcoming lockout law review.
Starting a business that aims to support emerging underground musicians isn’t easy, why did you decide to launch WavyLand?
I created WavyLand to give a chance to upcoming DJ’s, producers, and rappers who didn’t really know anyone in the music scene or industry. When I started making music myself no one was really giving me a chance to perform anywhere. I would go to venues and they would say to me, "sorry we don’t know you, you need to have a booking agent or have someone in the industry set up shows for you".
My goal was to start a party and get musicians to perform who won’t get played anywhere else because they don’t know anyone in the industry.
How did you find your first venue to host WavyLand?
I knew the guy who ran the venue because I had previously played a show there but had never booked one. My friend had booked shows there before, so that’s how I got the idea to throw a show at the venue. I had booked the first WavyLand party in early 2017 at Valve Bar, but the venue didn’t really suit the atmosphere I wanted for WavyLand.
I wanted a daytime party and they were a nightclub, so it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.
The Lord Gladstone has almost become the home of WavyLand. What made the pub work so well for you?
I’m a daytime party type of person, I don’t like staying up late so when I had the idea to create WavyLand, I wanted to throw cool parties in the daytime. There are not many venues in Sydney that allow you to throw parties like I'd envisioned for WavyLand during the day. Many have regulations like how loud you can play music, or even what type of music you can play. The Lord Gladstone was a great venue to host the type of party I wanted to throw—they really let us do what we wanted with WavyLand. The Lord Gladstone is where we really started building our audience.
Growing an audience is always a difficult task. How did you start bringing in regulars and newcomers to WavyLand?
Essentially it is all done through social media. Every time we throw a party, we get posters designed and we start advertising heavily on Instagram through our story, or posts. At each WavyLand party we also hire photographers to come through and take photos and videographers to take videos so we can post on social media and show everyone what our parties are really like [laughs]. Once people start seeing our posts, they come along to the next party and start hearing music that they won’t hear anywhere else—new wave stuff.
What was your first party like at the Gladstone?
Originally the numbers were small, but we built them up from there. WavyLand threw a party every month at the Lord Gladstone for a whole year and each month, more numbers turned up than the previous month. I think what drew more people in each month was that we always have free entry for the regular parties—we don’t charge—and I think that’s a big selling point for new audiences. People get to come for free and watch the newest big rapper from Sydney.
So how do you get big names like Xavier Wulf out to perform for the first time in Sydney?
Xavier Wulf is one of my favourite underground emcees and I’ve always been a fan of him. I told myself years ago that if I ever wanted to book an artist to perform in Australia, it’d be Xavier Wulf. He is one of the underground kings so bringing him to Australia, I knew he’d inspire lots of the emerging musicians here.
At this point, we only want people to tour who are from the underground—acts that no other promoter would get.
Finding the money to bring these artists to Australia must be difficult. How did you raise enough money for their tours?
It’s all my own money. I’m always saving up money so that I can make these parties happen. I have no financial backing from the music industry, which makes it hard. For the Xavier Wulf tour, it took me about a year to save up for it.
With talks of Sydney’s lockout laws to be relaxed, what do you think the impact will be on WavyLand, and Sydney as a whole?
A lot of venues have closed since the lockout laws were put in place and people don’t want to come out because they don’t know if the venues will be shut down early. Throwing the Xavier Wulf show in Melbourne showed me how hard they party over there with no lockout laws – I want my own city to do better than that. If the lockout laws are relaxed, I can see Sydney’s underground scene partying hard with lots of new talent coming out on top, more support, and overall, a better music scene.
So who will be next on the WavyLand tour circuit?
I can’t [reveal] too much, but we have a pop-up store happening in July to launch our new merchandise. We’ll have new artists and DJ’s performing at the event too. Also, in August we’ll be having another big international underground artist performing in Australia which we will announce soon.
Keep up with WavyLand and their epic Sydney parties, right here.
Image credit: Xavier Wulf, via Getty.