Band Or Bust: Pixie Whip chats the experiences that shaped her musical consciousness ahead of Round 2 at The House Of Machines

Pixie Whip is an artist and producer from Johannesburg, now based in Cape Town, whose sonic landscapes defy convention and beckon listeners into realms of pure imagination, and we caught up with her ahead of the final round this Friday at THOM.

Texx: Give us a bit of background into you/your band – who are you and where are you from?

Pixie Whip: I go by the alias Pixie Whip. I have been playing instruments, writing and singing from age 11.  I am originally from Joburg and when I matriculated, I moved around a bit. I first studied at Vega for one and a half years, but dropped out because I was 17 and was struggling to cope. I moved to Frranschoek with a friend and decided to waitress for a bit to find my feet and get some perspective, shortly after I took a proper gap year teaching English in Thailand. When I came home I decided I wanted to study Sound Engineering – my parents were practical about the realities of music, so sound engineering felt like a way I could do it but still rely on potential jobs. I had learnt a bit of recording and production on Ableton already and was very keen to learn everything about making music.

During all my travels, I had my guitar with me and was always writing. I applied for a scholarship in Melbourne, at the SAE and they were really excited to have a female from South Africa interested in the course. I studied full time and worked part-time. I didn’t have much of a social life when I was there, I buried myself in the studio sometimes until midnight. I found it quite a lonely experience, if I’m totally honest. However the culture, vibrance and musicality of Melbourne kept me there and eventually I found a circle of people I would call family to this day. In my third year, Covid hit and Australia was a pretty intense place to be. I was trying to finish my Capstone in lockdown, when what I was studying really required studios, so that was a huge challenge. I hadn’t seen my family in almost two years at this point and it was extremely hectic on my mental health. The three years I spent there really moulded me as a musician, songwriter and producer. From everything I was learning at Uni to the places I was able to play, I really just learnt so much about music.

Eventually, I started busking. I got myself a battery and inverter, and was able to play in the city. That was a really beautiful experience, being able to take my trolley of gear anywhere (I had to get a permit prior) and connect with people in their busy everyday lives. One night I sang my whole set to a man who was having dinner alone on a Sunday evening. I moved back to Cape Town after graduating, my whole family is here now. I worked in the film industry for about three and a half years – I was a foley editor for two years and a dubbing engineer for about six months. I was really missing being involved in music, and whilst I was always producing and writing, I wanted to work in studios that didn’t focus on film but focused on music as that’s where I felt I really belonged. I landed an internship with a great Studio in Woodstock called Sound Foundry run by the amazing Greg Abrahams. They really made me feel like I belonged, and it was the most amazing experience to be around such passionate, caring, hard working people.I ran their social media, and was an assistant Engineer to Greg. He was a massive mentor for me and inspired a huge part of what Pixie Whip is now. I now run my own home studio called VA Audio where I offer a variety of services based on the experience I have gained. I’m also the director of a small business called HearBud, we provide accessible, high quality hearing protection mostly aimed at festivals but suit a variety of different situations. I saw a gap in the events scene for affordable, trendy earplugs with an educational aspect that really helps people understand how sound behaves in their ears. It seems the world is opening up more to the importance of hearing protection. I had knowledge of what sound was doing to people who stood in front of a speaker for 3 days at a festival and felt I could do something that really made people want to wear them, because I felt it was important perhaps people just weren’t educated on it and furthermore the ones available were either terrible quality or severely overpriced. 

Texx: In your own words, what kind of music do you make?

PW: We are in such a crazy time for music, and I really have explored so many genres because I guess I listen to so many genres. I would say my sound is the mix of heavy and light, using the female voice to balance out heavier sounds that are usually dance/electronic. I want to make people feel good but I also like to make people think. I love music that can make you move but also really say something. I was heavily influenced by Neo-Soul and Jazz in Melbourne, it’s massive there. My singing became a lot more R&B styled, which was very stimulating to do as a vocalist because It’s interesting and challenging. I’ve always had a deep love for dance music and eventually the way I wanted to perform live really influenced my music greatly. I had played a lot of intimate music, which was part of the process, and I managed to write some really sad songs. I started feeling unsatisfied with making people cry, I wanted to make people smile and dance, or cry out of euphoria instead of sadness. I just sort of switched in my writing, because I think in my life it was also happening that way. I was starting to really appreciate life and come into my own as an artist and a woman, which had no choice but to come through in my music. It took me a really long time to figure out what my sound was, a lot of people asked me and I couldn’t give a straight answer. I guess I like to make music that moves people physically, spiritually or emotionally but usually the genre is somewhere along electronic/dance pop with R&B influences.  

Texx: Sum up your live show in one short sentence?

PW: A live show from me offers a deep sense of connection and energy that allow you to let go and embrace dualities of emotion.

Texx: What’s been the highlight of your musical journey so far?

PW: Playing Kirstenbosch with Neon Dreams, it’s by far the most beautiful venue I’ve ever played at and the most people I’ve ever performed in front of. 

Texx: What do you think you bring to the Final 6 that makes you stand out?

PW: I would say experience. Layers of time spent in love with music and sound that have allowed me to weave it into my life in a way that helps me translate a story the way I really want to. 

Texx: Which act out of the Final 6 do you rate highly and why?

PW: Dali! His latest project Shades of Blue is giving if Frank Ocean, Dominic Fike and Jungle had a baby. His music is super unique, interesting and feels like profound storytelling surrounded by grooviness which always has a place in my life!

Texx: If you could pick any of the judges to drink with who would you pick and why – and what would you be drinking?

PW: Majozi. I think we have a lot in common and we’d probably laugh until we cry.

Pixie Whip takes on Dali at The House Of Machines this Friday 21 June at 9pm.