Recent Composition & Production graduate DJ Zak Roams of Melbourne has teamed up with Sydney-based Contemporary Performance student & singer/songwriter Birdee to create their brooding new brainchild “Dark Cloud”. We caught up with Zak to explore how studying at AIM made their interstate creative collaboration possible.
“Dark Cloud” is a journey. It begins with Birdee’s eerie vocals, evolving into moody synth sounds as a strong dance beat creeps in. Birdee’s sweet earthy tones and Zak’s deep house production are a perfect contrast – a music match made in Heaven (well, at AIM)! We can’t wait to see what comes next for these two uber-talented independent artists as they apply the skills and concepts they’ve learnt during their studies out there in the big bad music world!
ALEXANDRA CLARK: Tell us about the meaning behind the song?
Zak: “The song is actually about climate change. The “Dark Cloud” represents the climate emergency and the “storm” represents climate change’s impact and potential doom. The protagonist of the song is anxious about how severe this catastrophe can be, yet she is determined to not let this get out of our control, she still wants to live in the “sunshine” – referring to the Earths health before we started warming the planet.”
Birdee and Zak have been working away on “Dark Cloud” since August 2020. Tjhey first got in contact via AIM’s online Open Day – Birdee was performing, and Zak was giving a presentation on his new track at the time “Freaks”. “I loved her voice and she loved my production, so I sent her through some demos I had been working on,” Zak says. “She sent me back a voice recording of some ideas for melodies and I took those ideas and applied them across the track, writing the lyrics at the same time.”
WHO IS BIRDEE?
Birdee is an up and coming Sydney artist. Her influences range from Jorja Smith to Lana Del Rey; and yes, that is in fact her real name. Her dreamy tones and vulnerable songwriting cannot be categorised within a genre or style, although can be recognised from a mile away. With her multicultural background and vast taste in music, her universal perceptions, experiences and emotions are poured into her songs and collaborations.
WHO IS ZAK ROAMS?
Zak has spent the last five years travelling the world. He’s recorded music and collected audio samples from countries such as Vietnam, India and Thailand. Upon returning to Australia, Zak moved to Melbourne to finish his studies, completing his Bachelor of Composition & Music Production at AIM during the lockdown of 2020. Since graduating, Zak has opened up his own music studio, producing songs for other Aussie artists and teaching music production and theory. He also featured as a guest DJ on Kiss FM for Welshy’s Morning Tea, with his guest mix streamed across Australia.
After the Melbourne move, Zak quickly started playing in Melbourne venues like Pawn&Co, Onesixone, Good Things & The Third Day. This followed shows at the Annandale Hotel and World Bar back in his hometown of Sydney. In just over a year of releasing music, Zak has quickly garnished attention from popular blog Blanc as well as collaborating with International singer/songwriter Ellika Dattilo.
A storyteller and music producer, Zak Roams is constantly weaving ideas and concepts into his vocal-driven and melodic electronic dance music. From themes such as “Cycles” and the “Appearances” we emulate, Zak Roams is always thinking deeper about his music and video productions. Since completing his studies, he has been equipped with a much deeper understanding of music, which he uses to mentor at his Studio, Open Eye Studios.
ALEXANDRA CLARK: Did the song go through a lot of different stages? How did it evolve during the writing process?
Zak: “The song actually went through many changes. Originally it had piano and guitar and was a lot more chilled, with the original length about five minutes long. However, once Birdee sent me the first vocal demos, I realised I needed to revamp the track and focus on her vocals. I changed the key to a minor key (originally it was major) and almost replaced all the instruments and completely changed the arrangement. It was almost like I was hit with how the entire song should be once I had heard those vocals!
I then sent her the demo and she would add more vocals and we would continue this process for months. She was busy with uni and I was busy running my business so we took our time to make sure we had everything we needed. Considering we have never met and she is in Sydney, we had to keep our communication clear. It wasn’t as easy as simply having a recording session and nutting it all out. However I think we both did a great job, Birdee did an amazing job on the vocals and I am really happy with the result.”
ALEXANDRA CLARK: How did studying at AIM assist you with networking opportunities and collaborations?
Zak: “Due to the ensemble classes at AIM, I gained valuable experience when collaborating with multiple artists. I learnt quickly to stay honest and voice my creative opinion while staying open-minded and hearing others’ opinions. I also have access to so many students with various skills. On past projects I’ve collaborated with keys players, saxophonists and guitarists. To do that I simply asked reception for the instrument player I needed and they happily sent me in the right direction.”
ALEXANDRA CLARK: How does studying a Bachelor of Composition and Music Production compare to learning music production from Youtube & online short courses?
Zack: “Studying a Bachelor degree [in music] exposes you to a wide range of skills that you can’t find on YouTube. When studying online, you usually search for a specific skill you want to learn. This can pigeonhole you as an artist and limit your possibilities. Studying a Bachelor degree allowed me to experiment with many different styles and projects.”
“Dark Cloud’ is available now on all Streaming platforms along with Zack Roams catalogue of energetic, moody house tracks. Birdee also released her first single last year entitled “Like that”, also available on Spotify.
Main image credit: @skip.tan on Instagram.