I begin my Zoom call with Eloise and Tertia and am immediately filled with holiday envy; Eloise sits on board a houseboat in Amsterdam where she is currently working and living, whilst Tertia lounges, notably sunkissed, on a sofa in France. Once initial conversation subsides, I introduce them to the Artists in Conversation series, a new venture at Trinity News for which they have been chosen as guinea-pigs. What proceeds is a fascinating discussion on, among other things, the subjectivity of terms such as “artist” and “creation”, the music industry’s flailing lucrativeness, and the importance of the exchange between performer and audience. They introduce themselves as so…
Tertia: I am at Trinity, going into my final year. I do philosophy, which is great, and I also do music, which is why I am here. I am a solo artist and turning into, hopefully, well, I’m a producer as well, but I’m learning; I’m a budding producer and singer songwriter! What about you?
ELOISE: I am in Trinity as well, I study English and am going into third year. We kind of know each other vaguely through the music scene, which is really nice because I feel like you connect with people even if it’s not in person.
I guess I would call myself a DJ but I find that a pretty vague term for myself because it was just kind of the bouncing block for me. Then I started feeling more creative in other aspects of my life, like I always knew that I was interested in and passionate about music when I was younger, but yeah doing it as a DJ is just something I do for fun so that I can put on an event that my friends can come to and have a great time. That’s the main reason that I do it.
Tertia: So, when did you initially get your decks and start actually doing it?
ELOISE: I started when I was probably around fifteen or sixteen; I used to come up to Dublin on the train and go to All City, I don’t know if you know it, it’s the record store in Temple Bar. I used to go with a friend of mine and the more we went the more the guys who worked there started to recognise us and eventually they just said, “Hey, do you wanna start learning how to mix these together?”
Tertia: Did you learn on vinyl then? That is so cool! I feel like no one learns on vinyl anymore.
ELOISE: Yeah I mean, I wouldn’t even call myself particularly good at vinyl, it takes a lot more time and diligence but I didn’t realise that at the time. And then when I was put in front of a pair of CDJs I realised, “Oh, this makes my life so much easier!”. But working with vinyl is fun, every time is different.
“There was kind of a gap in the market at that time for a good student night that was more dancey and fun.”
But also, there’s The Midnight Disco, which is something I got involved in the year before finishing secondary school. A group of my friends who were already at Trinity wanted to start a student club night and put on events with and for their friends. There was kind of a gap in the market at that time for a good student night that was more dancey and fun. So I started more on the business side of things and then when I started at college I had my first DJ gig and that was it really.
Tertia: [Midnight Disco] is how I first heard of you actually, I genuinely thought you were an influencer when I first met you because everyone was so like, “Eloise! Eloise!”
ELOISE: Speaking of what we do, do you think there’s pressure on you now, as an artist producing music, to be uber creative?
Tertia: I feel like so many artists now — and I’m especially thinking about Arlo Parks because she’s a poet — she loves books and is always talking about her creative inspirations, and I think it is really important to go and find your inspiration in more things than music. I sort of resign myself to not knowing a lot about art, yet still telling myself that I can enjoy it; and that’s the same with music.
ELOISE: Yeah, when I started DJ-ing I didn’t know anything about the music I was playing which was kind of a little ignorant of me, but I knew what I liked and what jumped out at me, and that gave me a more organic route to the kind of music I wanted to play.
Tertia: I was listening to some of your Soundcloud mixes and, even though I think genre-pigeonholing doesn’t really mean anything, I was trying to work out what genre you’d say your music is.
ELOISE: I have always kind of said Disco or Disco House, but while I’ve been [in Amsterdam] I’ve been listening to so much Soul and reading so much into the history of Soul music in the States, and even in Holland. So probably Disco Soul, but with a heavier bass undertone.
“It’s such a minefield, genre-labelling, but in a way it’s important if you wanna promote your own music and work out where you are in the demographic of artists and try and do something with that.”
Tertia: Yeah, still dance music! That’s probably my least favourite question to be asked, mainly because I’m like “Well right now I’m indie-pop, leaning on the indie side, but maybe in three weeks I’m gonna be pop or pure indie!” It’s such a minefield, genre-labelling, but in a way it’s important if you wanna promote your own music and work out where you are in the demographic of artists and try and do something with that.
ELOISE: I don’t know if this is offensive, but I really love when your music it’s like instrumental, when it’s, um, what’s the word?
ELOISE: Yeah acoustic! When it’s just you and the keyboard.
Tertia: That’s really nice, thank you! Interesting question for you, do you consider yourself to be an artist?
ELOISE: For me? Um, probably not. There’s so many people doing such amazing things and so I think I put myself down a little bit. But then, when things do open up again I am going to be able to put on gigs, and I have a lot of experience with doing that. So, I guess I would need to consider myself an artist because I put on gigs, I mean that’s what artists do! [Laughing] So, yeah I guess I would consider myself an artist. My mum is an artist, she’s a paper maker, so that’s what I grew up with, but I need to consider DJ-ing as a skill too.
Tertia: Yeah I think, especially for you, DJ-ing and mixing involves so much creativity, but as you say it’s an unconventional definition of —
ELOISE: — yeah, maybe I consider myself more of a ‘selector’ than an artist.
Tertia: But as you do it more, the creative element of your work will shine through more. It is a more reactive thing because, as you say, you have more of a relationship with an audience. When I perform live I sometimes feel that it is quite a binary thing of me and my music versus everyone else; it’s more passive, whereas for you everyone is working together. They’re gassing you up and you’re gassing them up!
ELOISE: True! When you’re writing on your own would it be a sort of chronological process, do you start with words and then build in the music or do you start with, like, a riff?
Tertia: That’s a difficult question, it really depends. I’d say, as cringe as it sounds, that it starts with a feeling. I used to write lyrical ideas and then try to come up with something from that, but more often than not I sit down at my keyboard and just see what happens. Usually the keys come first, the melody second, and then the lyrics third.
ELOISE: Do you think that there will continue to be more small-scale producers or do you reckon that the big production companies in music will always hold the power?
Tertia: The way that the music streaming world is, it has to change eventually because it’s just not sustainable. Musicians can’t afford to do anything, I mean even musicians like Ed Sheeran and Billie Eilish have commented that it’s a lot less of a lucrative industry than it once was. This is wishful thinking maybe, but hopefully we’re nearing some kind of music revolution where streaming services will have to start giving artists more money, so that musicians can actually make a living using their art. There have been a few collectives starting in Dublin which are really cool. And I was actually talking with my sister today about how I’d really love to start a record label because it’s really nice for other artists to not be doing everything on their own, but that shouldn’t come at the price of their autonomy or ability to own their music. Anyways, I don’t really see you promoting your music too much on social media; that’s not really a question, more of a statement, but do you find it hard work promoting your events on it?
ELOISE: I think that a lot of people find it kind of cringey, but in the past year I’ve noticed friends of mine starting small businesses like fashion brands and, because it is such a small city, Dublin is always so welcoming of that. I’m so proud of the city that it’s turning into, it is so supportive of any kind of art, whereas often there is a “cringe-culture” that has been carried through people’s teenage years growing up in rural Ireland.
Tertia: Yeah, and you have a very good social media presence, you seem to be a natural at it, I don’t think I am. As you said though, being in Dublin there is such a nice feeling of mutual support. Everyone knows everyone but it goes beyond that; there is an element of solidarity which is so nice and I don’t really feel that in London, probably because it’s such a huge place and so saturated with musicians and artists and people trying to make it.
ELOISE: Do you think it’s Dublin or is it Trinity in particular?
Tertia: I think it’s Dublin, not gonna lie. I mean Trinity is really good because I can meet people like you and, who else? People like Oscar Blue, Tadgh Williams, and Matthew Harris. But I guess mainly what I’m thinking about is an attitude which I’ve noticed in Dublin.
ELOISE: The people that I’ve met through music, or through that community, are some of my closest friends.
Tertia: And that’s what is so nice about being a student and an artist; you can have two different things going on, and they’re interchangeable as well because of the way that Trinity hosts a community of musicians and small artists.
ELOISE: I know, I always have to pinch myself after a set, especially when we played the Halloween before lockdown. It was over 2000 people and I remember coming off and being like “Do I get paid to basically play my Spotify playlist to my friends?” [Laughing] But that’s obviously not what it is!
Tertia: Was that the District 8 night?
Tertia: Woah, I did not know you were DJ-ing at that, that’s sick!
And what do you foresee this year with club nights potentially coming back? What do you hope will happen?
ELOISE: If they can regulate it, I’m all for it.
Tertia: And do you have any nights lined up?
ELOISE: Yeah! We have a couple of gigs, like Halloween kind of time, but yeah I’m hoping for stuff before Christmas. Fingers crossed!
Tertia: And if worse comes to worse, you can always do something in London!
ELOISE: Yes, maybe! I’ve been contacted by some friends in Bristol and we wanna do a Midnight Disco takeover there which we’ve done in Manchester before. So who knows…
And your gig in Whelan’s has been postponed again has it?
Tertia: Yeah so it has been postponed for about a year and a half now, [laughing] which is great! Hopefully it’ll happen next term.
ELOISE: And would you go ahead with it if it was sit-down?
Tertia: I don’t know, maybe … hmm … I don’t know.
ELOISE: [Laughing] It’s a question for another day!
Tertia: Yep! Maybe is my answer! The thing is, part of me thinks I should just wait until it can be a big thing, but the problem is that I’ve been waiting for that moment for so long now; I’m getting impatient.
But I have two new songs which will be coming out in the near-ish future, so I’d quite like to do some kind of live thing to celebrate those and get a bit of hype. And also, because it’s my last year at Trinity, it would be so nice to make the most of Dublin, and Whelan’s is such an incredible venue it’d be such a shame not to play there. We will see!
ELOISE: Yeah, I have hope! Also, I didn’t ask you back, about social media and promotion. You said that you didn’t think you were a natural at it, does that hinder your work do you think?
Tertia: Yeah I think probably I could do better. Now social media is so important and everyone keeps saying to me “Tertia, TikTok is the music industry now.” I’d love to do it but I just don’t know if I have it in me. But then I don’t know if we really have that much of a choice nowadays, as young “up and coming” artists can’t really pick and choose so much; you have to make the most of every single possible thing.
ELOISE: I didn’t have TikTok until pretty recently and I just mainly use it to watch my friends’ funny videos, but anytime that I do make videos I make sure to use either Greg’s music or your music. Because if you’re gonna do it you might as well support your friends whilst doing it!
Tertia: Oh my god that’s so cute, I didn’t know that!
ELOISE: Well it is a great way to do it, when you’re scrolling through you just see so many musicians! So many artists, of whatever form, tend to think that there’s not enough space for them out there, but I do think you just have to lean into your niche and there’s always room. And you have such a unique sound!
Tertia: Aw thanks, that’s actually really encouraging! I don’t know about you but I definitely have these dips and troughs of feeling really inspired, confident and motivated, and then times when I’m just like, “Maybe I should just be a librarian…” It can be quite a stressful and vulnerable experience, trying to make a career out of something creative. But the risk is the reward! You know the brother in Sing Street? “Rock and roll is a risk!” I love that, not that I play rock and roll, but the sentiment works.
ELOISE: I love that film.
Tertia: Such a good film! Except I watched it again and I was like, “Is it really shit?” But no I don’t think it is, everyone needs a bit of cringe in their life!
ELOISE: Well, thank you for having this amazing discussion with me!
Tertia: Yeah it was great chatting!
ELOISE: We should definitely go for a pint when we’re back.