Yoga, healthy cooking, open swimming and the power of nature – just some of the calming influences in the life of Australian soundscape artist Penelope Trappes
“I didn’t study visual arts in any way, but photography, sculpture, fine art and performance art all profoundly affect my music work – they are constant sources of inspiration for my writing and video making. With hindsight, sometimes I wish I had studied art. I was a history major, so I was more into understanding how we got to where we are now, which definitely helps, but I was always very deeply touched by art gallery experiences as a child.
“I’m particularly inspired by the stories of female artists, as well as other artists working hard at breaking down the white colonial patriarchal dominance of the arts. My ‘Eel Drip’ EP from last year was very heavily influenced by Francesca Woodman, and some of the video work that I’m doing for ‘Penelope Three’ is very much inspired by Ana Mendieta. I’m a huge fan of Cindy Sherman, and have been forever. I tend to gravitate toward more confrontational artists who really address what’s going on in society.”
YOGA AND MEDITATION
“Since the pandemic started, I’ve committed to a daily practice of yoga. I dabbled with it on and off for years, but I’d become a bit blasé about the importance of it. The pandemic put things into focus, and it has seriously saved my sanity many times. Moving with a sense of peace yet with strength, breathing through the good and the bad, has been a life-saver.
“As a kid growing up in Australia, I loved anything active – running around, climbing trees, biking, playing basketball. Now that I am mature, it’s still vital for me to be at peace with my body. If I feel anxiety, then I have to do something about dealing with that in a peaceful manner. I approach yoga as a moving meditation. It inspires me physically, emotionally and spiritually. It gives me the strength I need to face the maddening world, but also clears my mind so I can create. Meditation generally is really important to me. I live in Brighton now, and sometimes I just go and sit and stare at the horizon.”
“Growing up, there were loads of plants in our house – when we relocated, they counted over 100. My mother was mad for them, and her green thumb definitely rubbed off on me. Getting new house plants, germinating seeds, gardening, repotting plants, and every element in between, fills me with so much joy and calm. It’s also really creative – when your seedlings are coming up, it’s like writing a demo. I grew up in a place in Australia called Lismore, surrounded by rainforests and beaches, so it was always important to me. It’s in my genes.”
“My mum encouraged a love of cinema in me. When she was little, the movie theatre was her escape from a not-so-happy home. Pure escapism is a magical thing: the creative mind gets to explore other worlds. For me, stranded in a small country town in rural Australia with dreams of big cities, new countries and cultures, I followed her lead and got lost in cinema from a young age. The soundtracks were incredibly important to me. When I first saw ‘Blade Runner’, my life was changed forever. I think my parents were out one night, and I had the place to myself. I was just like, ‘Woah!’ – not just the movie itself, but the soundtrack by Vangelis… I still can’t get over how fucking awesome it is. I just love it.
“Soundtracks became a fantastic introduction to so many different artists, and a way to explore and study the art of curation. Today I like to focus my interest in on some of the current film composers in the under-represented female category – Mica Levi, Gazelle Twin, Hannah Peel, Nainita Desai, Hildur Guðnadottír, and any others I can discover who are working out there. I get very excited imagining the gender imbalances fading away, and the emotional impact of music within films becoming more balanced and having lasting effects on a much deeper level within society.”
“I’ve always had a fascination with the esoteric and the mystical, and felt there was more to know beneath the surface. I loved all of it, from incense, to crystals, to tarot and astrology. Astrology became a study that I treated like environmental science – as in the way the moon and planets affect our moods. Combining my love of staring up at the night sky with my knowledge of astrology has taught me a lot about myself. The interest has sort of fluctuated in my life, but last year it resurfaced with a vengeance. It seemed to be saying, ‘I am here to save you!’.”
COOKING UP A STORM
“If I wasn’t completely besotted with music and performing live, I may have become a vegan, gluten-free chef. I freaking love cooking. Like a lot of musicians, I worked in cafes and restaurants, but was always out front and wishing I was in the kitchen. I have this frustrated entrepreneur chef in me. So many times I have made something and thought, ‘Wow, I bet loads of people would love this!’.”
SWIMMING WITH THE TIDE
“It means the world to me to be able to swim in the sea. Before lockdown, I relished swimming at the pool, but obviously that stopped. Thankfully, I moved to Brighton, so now I get to be with nature while I immerse myself. The weightlessness of the salt water and the sense of being at one with my environment, floating and looking up the sky, all soothe my soul and open my heart in a way that words can’t explain. These moments are like a deep meditation, which clears my mind and, in turn, helps me with my writing process.”
‘Penelope Three’ is out now on Houndstooth