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An Interview with echolily

  • 3 min read

It was only recently that we first discovered Michelle Chong, better known by her gorgeous musical moniker, echolily. Born in Malaysia, but now calling Melbourne home, Michelle is one of our brave frontline workers, a doctor and consultant anaesthetist who has found music to be her escape from hard time and growing struggles. Living in a world of textured synth-pop that shines a light on nostalgic lo-fi sounds, Michelle captured our hearts and minds just last week with the release of her debut single ‘under the clocks (stay)’, delivering a stunning debut that was as charming and effortlessly catchy as it was wistful and brilliantly melancholic.

It was a track that we called “one of 2021’s most ensnaring and important new tracks”, and as the celestial sounds still linger in our minds, we thought it was about time we sat down with Michelle and got to know her a little bit better.

Wonderful to have this time to talk to you, Michelle. Let’s get right down to it. How did you first start making music? Where did echolily begin?

[I] started making music ever since I could remember! Music has always been a part of my life. I
have dabbled in Classical (piano), Jazz (double bass), and contemporary pop (guitar) in the past, but I guess I found my sound when a friend encouraged me to learn about synths two years
ago. I went on to build a tiny home studio and started producing synth pop ever since.

It’s such a gorgeous sound you’ve created on the single, and it’s been called “nostalgic lo-fi” and “bedroom synth-pop in the past, but how would you describe your sound for those that haven’t heard the song yet?

A combination of electronica downtempo, synth pop, trip hop, and lo-fi. My focus is on storytelling, and on bringing the audience into the story. For example, the intro to ‘under the clocks (stay)’ features sound samples from the iconic Flinders station, the vocals are designed to space out and to echo like it is happening at the station.

One of the many wonders of the track is its authenticity, and that plays so well of the samples from Flinders station. What sort of other influences help build your music?

So many! I had different influences growing up, from pop to RnB to jazz, to Julie Andrews in ‘Sound of Music’, they all played a part! I have however listed Sia, Bjork, Portishead, Flight Facilities, Tokimonsta and Jamie xx as my influences for my current project. If I have to choose one, probably Sia because she’s the best songwriter!

Going back to that sense of authenticity and realism that you infused into ‘under the clocks’, is find that sense all part of the songwriting process? How does a track all come together for you?

It depends. It could start from an idea or a story, [for example] I want to write about the moon because it reminds me of someone I loved. Then I will proceed to write a few verses and chord progression and lay down the beats. Or it could start from random interesting beats followed by a bass line, chord progressions and then a story that might fit into that

What’s the most important thing for you when you’re writing a song, do you have that special something that just works?

hmmm... I am quite easy when it comes to that. It could be anywhere, anytime, on a piece of paper or old receipt (laughs).

Your debut single has definitely made its mark, and I imagine everyone will be looking forward to what comes next. What should we expect from echolily in 2021?

[I want to] keep releasing music for the rest of the year, and hopefully have a song featured on TV. I want my song on Grey’s Anatomy!

Sounds like an excellent plan! Best of luck, Michelle.

While ‘under the clocks (stay)’ continues to build, with over 50,000 streams on Spotify already, all eyes will surely be on Michelle and her echolily project. Along with her plans to get her music featured on TV, she’s also set to release another single and music video in the coming weeks, with ‘michelle imagination (blue)’ set for release on March 27th via YouTube and all major platforms.

Be sure to tune into her current single above and follow echolily on all her social media pages so you don’t miss the new single when it drops later in the month.

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