If you’re at a party and you see a familiar face, you usually feel more comfortable about being there. It’s human nature. If that same face is always up for a handshake, a grin and a chat, it’s even better.
Everybody feels like they are mates with Rowan Dix, aka ‘The King Of This City’, aka Joyride. A true man of the people and always recognisable in a crowd, he traverses Sydney and the country with his cheeky grin, curly mop of hair, trademark specs and baritone voice, plus a height that takes him above the rest. Thanks to his collective of high school mates known as One Day (including Horrorshow, Spit Syndicate and Jackie Onassis), he has become a regular on the party circuit around the country along with frequent vocalist spots on his friend’s albums.
But after all the collaborations, sporadic team-ups and parties, Joyride is really excited to pursue his solo act. Despite the fact you can find him behind the decks on most weekends, or backing up his buddies at gigs, when he takes the reins and creates his own music, we see a whole new side of the man. The juxtaposition of hearing his singing voice as he dwarfs a keyboard on a small stage is something to behold.
With the release of Kings & Queens, we see Joyride taking a bold new step in his solo career which has been bubbling along for the best part of a decade. It’s a track that is close to his heart and not least because it features his nieces in very cute video clip.
“Life and more fun things got in the way. I’m like a phoenix from the ashes!” he admits, describing his solo career. “Kings & Queens is the first single off an album that I’m putting out early next year [Sunrise Chaser]. I’ve been working on it passively for the past four years and actively for the past one and a bit. This is the start of me actually being a selfish prick.”
Dix is anything but selfish, lending his skills to many tracks over the years, but his solo stuff has always been forced into the background. Is it harder to focus on himself? “It’s fucked!” he laughs. “I’m quite extroverted and in terms of my energy, but my go-forward comes from the people around me. I’m at my best when I feel inspired by the amazing people I surround myself with. Doing this record, as much as there’s been amazing people working with me, it’s weird to be the one who has to make the final decisions…” he pauses “… or the first decisions of what I want this album to be!”
Not only is he surrounded by his all-star crew (and anyone down at the pub), Joyride is managed by who he considers, “the best songwriter in the country,” Tim Levinson (aka Urthboy). He also chats regularly to Mitch Kenny, a prolific producer and audio engineer who’s worked with Beyoncé, Elton John, Snoop Dog, Horrorshow and Hermitude. “I’ve got these amazing people around me but at the end of the day a lot of my time is spent by myself in my studio saying, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’”
It’s these solo moments, when Dix’s self-doubt crawls in and just like many creatives, he wonders if he’s going in the right direction. “I’ll be sitting in the studio working on a song thinking ‘I fucking love this’, and then show it to someone when I feel like it’s close to done and they’re like, ‘Oh nah, change this, that or the other.’ Those changes that they’d implement are a lot easier to put in place when they’re in the studio making it with you. With that said, it’s been such an incredibly rewarding process doing this album and just seeing what I can achieve by myself. The only thing is, those moments of self-doubt are given more of a chance to creep in.”
Kings & Queens, a fairly laid-back tune with some quite pointed lyrics:
“You had your fun and games
Just let us have the same
There’s room enough for all of us
to come and stake our claim.”
Is the album going to become a mix of party bangers and political lyricism? “Yeah, kinda. The intention of that song is to give context for the rest of the songs. It’s about saying; this is the world that the rest of the record lives in. A world where youth culture isn’t supported, cultivated and nurtured. It’s something that has to exist and through its existence is naturally pushing back against the ideas that the people that govern have about what youth culture should be.
“You look at what young people in Sydney tend to be doing now; doing stuff that isn’t in licensed venues, spending time in the their mates backyards getting fucked up until 10am the next morning.” This extends to a drug culture that is being pushed underground as local laws clamp down and cause a less safe environment. He continues, “Every living thing likes to explore the extent of their mind and how they can augment it and feel amazing. Why don’t we accept that and make it safer? If government isn’t going to accept the fact that this is the stuff that happens, then we’ll just keep doing it ourselves and try and figure out how to make it safe ourselves.
“Experimentation isn’t the safest thing in the world, but there are a lot of songs on the album that talk about drugs and stuff like that. I feel like the more people speak openly, frankly and normally about drugs, the quicker that conversation turns into – ‘Well, this is a thing that happens and how do we treat it safely, with respect and in a way that it can help us?’” Dix is passionate about the topic and hopes his music can pave the way for more discussion of youth culture and drugs.
This is a path that conversations with Joyride can often take, but it’s refreshing to talk with someone that doesn’t hold back his feelings and is willing to share them with whoever will listen – and it is definitely worth listening. Joyride seems to understand where culture is at in this country and why it is there. “It comes back to the loudest voices, which comes back to the most money. Imagine how evil you’d have to be to feel like you need to spend your money on forcing your own set of values onto someone else that you’ll never come into contact with.” Word.
Having diverged from the topic of music, we get back on track and discuss Joyride’s appearance at BIGSOUND, the huge music conference in Brisbane this September 5-8. What can we expect? “I’ve got a band! Caitlin Park will be doing keys and backing vocals that she’s much better at doing than I am. Tash Adams is playing drums. Tash used to play in SHE REX along with a couple of the Player Haters Balls that we did at Goodgod. Amazing drummer, amazing all-rounder and then me letting the team down out front!” We chuckle at his self-deprecation. The future looks bright for Dix and one gets the feeling that as long as he’s on our side, the future is bright for all of us.
As we wait for Joyride’s live show to hit BIGSOUND and a few selected dates on the east coast, be sure to catch up on his Twilight Driving Series involving Australian covers on Soundcloud and the fictional adventures of Kick-on Cameron on his website.
To round out our chat, I mention to Joyride that he really has the ability to create a fictional character that people can relate to. He cheekily replies, “Well, that’s what I do with Joyride! I feel like every fictional character that we create is a magnification of part of ourselves. In terms of narrative writing and creativity, every idea we have is based on our own context.” So, is Joyride is fictional character? That’s a question for another day.
5 – 8 September, BIGSOUND, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane