If throwing parties, creating zines, playing Sydney’s DJ circuit and digging for new tunes at Triple J and FBi Radio sound like your idea of sweet gigs, you’re going to be jealous of Sydney’s Luen Jacobs.
Originally from Brisbane, she started out at just 19, deeply entrenched in the local live music scene and throwing parties. A few years later, she moved to Sydney and launched Hand Games; a punk and indie focused mixtape accompanied by blowout nights. In the years since, Luen’s taste has transformed as her career has matured, undergoing a stylistic shift and starting a new project called TAXX which reflects her deep love of dance music. While the musical genre’s she represents have evolved, moving further into the realm of beats and dance, her vision of promoting talented and lesser-known artists remains.
Luen’s path from music curator to party-thrower to DJ to presenter has been a typically nonlinear creative journey, one grounded in dedication and a burning passion for promoting local artists. And in true Gen Y slashie style, she now dabbles in all of the above, along with recording her own music and working on side projects. As well as her obvious talent and industry know-how, she puts her bourgeoning DJ career down to a tonne of practice and persistence.
“I was so keen about 5 years ago and did my training at FBi, but after two night time shifts absolutely blundering my way around the studio like a nervous wreck, I decided it just wasn't something I was good at and I should pursue other interests.”
If you follow Luen on social media, you would have noticed a selfie or two in front of her DJ decks or radio panel at some point. And if you’re technologically-impaired like me, wonder how anyone makes sense of the complex sea of buttons, knobs, screens and mixers (I don’t think any of those are actually the correct technical terms) in front of her. To clarify for any aspiring presenters out there:“A couple of years later, I started guest curating playlists at triple J unearthed and had an amazing side kick, Lachlan Macara who helped me to feel comfortable and in control behind the microphone. After that, I felt powerful and slowly got back into it. I love radio and what it represents and am glad I gave myself a second chance.”
“There's a screen just for net and research, one for text line, you have one to search music in the system and one that acts as a cart so you'll load your music and your little bits of info 'stings', and that's where you trigger everything that plays live on air. If you have a producer, you'll have a one-way screen that they can type messages to you on, and is constantly updated with info about your callers etc. Every studio is different though!”
Luen is pretty positive about the future of the radio industry and feels that with the rise of podcasts and DIY radio, it’s having a bit of a comeback moment. Platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have allowed people to have a digitally curated listening experience, but a more familiar connection is what she thinks people are longing to rekindle.
“I reckon people are so overwhelmed with unlimited access to everything that's ever been recorded ever, we are craving human curation. We want to be educated on music from someone real who has personal taste - who is not an algorithm.”
This personalised curation is what she aims for in her DJ sets, and she also gets to add a bit of her own flair to her regular presenting spot at Triple J on Saturdays from 1 – 6am. So who is she currently listening to?
“I'm obsessed with a DJ from Cologne called Christian. S, he makes dark house and techno that feels super minimal yet mythical, his rhythms are insane. Locally from Sydney, I love Hubert Clarke Jr, he runs a record store called Otis and is influenced by hip hop but makes really warm old school style house. It's so good to play on a dance floor.”
“Wanna vibe out? Hit up Hiatus Kaiyote from Melbourne. They are some of Australia's best musicians, Nai's voice will transport you. Jad & The is cool, Love Tool and Zulu by him are my favourite songs - African influenced house and disco. His podcast Beats Of No Nation is also a radio show I listen to regularly for new soul, funk, disco, house and everything in between. He's from Brisbane living in Berlin now.”
“Nearly every show I do on triple J I play a song from Jaala. But the recordings barely do justice to her live show. Cosi demands the stage with so much casual sass. She is my idol.”
Music-wise, Sydney is copping a lot of criticism right now, with lots of young creatives choosing to flee for states with less restricted nightlife and fresh opportunities. But Luen still holds the city where it all began for her close to her heart, suggesting that Sydney’s environment is conducive to a tightknit and growing community of creative people.
“There’s lots of support. You can always ask someone for help, and people are taking back the power to put on their own shows and book their friends for small scale gigs. It takes the pressure off those starting out when everyone around you is supportive and doesn't expect you to be the best. It's about learning and growing into yourself slowly, I think Sydney allows that.”
And this support is extended to those who inspire her various endeavours.
“I'm usually influenced by my friends and people who love what they do who are close to me – in all industries. When people are passionate, I get so excited and it rubs off on me.”
Astonishingly, when asked about Australia’s most notorious party icon, Corey Worthington, Luen isn’t familiar with the infamous legend.
“Is that the guy who threw the house party then never took off his glasses?”
Clearly she hasn’t drawn any inspo from his antics when it comes to party-throwing etiquette, but luckily for us, she does have some pearls of industry/life wisdom to share.
“Be respectful people. Be nice, treat others how you'd want to be treated yourself. People have long memories. Don't think being a d***head won't come back and bite you. To throw good parties just be true to your taste and try to find your people, keep at it and start small. Things will happen!”
Keep up to date with Luen's mixes and upcoming DJ sets here.
Photography by Ben Murphy.