Tommy Faith unpacks TEEF Records’ 2016 OXFAM fundraiser compilation album, Imperium In Imperio II

Independent Sydney record label TEEF recently released a special album curated and collaborated on by some of Australia’s best and innovative new talent. Titled Imperium In Imperio II (or, ‘Empire Within an Empire’), the title is in reference to this group of artists surging forward and creating something huge of their own within the wider Australian music community.

All proceeds from the sales of Imperium In Imperio II are going directly to OXFAM’s Syrian refugee appeal, helping in some way, the 13.5 million people who have had to flee their homes in the last few years. OXFAM is aiming to provide food, water and sanitation for those who are in need, and so the crew behind TEEF (us too) have been encouraging people to give as generously as possible.

“We released the original Imperium In Imperio compilation in 2015,” TEEF’s Tommy Faith explains. “When I first came up with the idea, it wasn’t actually going to be a charity album. In the lead up to its release though, the Nepal earthquake happened and suddenly it felt like the right thing to do would be to give the money away to a charity serving the Nepalese people.”

“This year, I almost decided to donate to the same cause again because disasters drop out of the news but they still need long term support, but the Syrian appeal felt more urgent and the movement of refugees around the world in the coming years is going to be one of the biggest geopolitical issues. The idea of combining a special album with philanthropy feels right to me, in that TEEF as a label is about releasing special and strange albums, so why not play to our strengths and raise money in a very TEEF way?”

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Since the album’s release at the end of July, support for Imperium In Imperio II has been impressive to watch build. Available to purchase for a ‘name your price’ cost, the compilation album has seen the likes of Japanese WallpaperSampa The GreatFishingAlice IvyRibongia and more pool together in presenting some excellent in creating this musically enticing record.

“It’s incredibly flattering that people are taking the time to listen through the record, let alone finding favourites on it.” Faith says. “Like last year, I tried to have a strong discovery element to the record. There are some well known names like Japanese Wallpaper and Sampa The Great but there are some lesser known beasts on there too. I’m hoping that artists like Jack Grace, Tracy Chen and IljusWifmo will find new fans as casual listeners stumble across their songs on the album. It’s a lovely double for me that we’re also raising some good coin for something important at the same time.”

“I’m in love with “Eggs”, Tracy Chen’s offering on the album.” he adds. “It’s a slow burning track that’s very sparse and has a fragility like little else I’ve heard. It feels like a strong gust of wind could blow it out of the air, but it sits there cushioned on warm air and chopped vocals. It’s a very special song.”

Curating and contacting the musicians involved in this year’s compilation proved to be easier than one might have thought and for any listener of the record, it’s evident that the wave of young creatives making some eclectic and vibrant music in our own backyard is an exciting one.

“[It] was reasonably simple,” Faith recalls. “I generated a longlist of the artists that I’d love to have on the album and then we reached out to all of them, knowing that only some of them would have songs sitting idly by that they could offer up for the record. The songs they sent back varied in their initial purposes; some were written for university assignments, some didn’t fit on the artists own albums and others were written especially for the compilation. I can’t overstate the generosity of the artists who put these songs forward, they did so with no potential for reimbursement. It took time and effort to curate this thing but without the extreme charity of the artists contained, we’d have nothing.”

“I tried to build a diverse lineup that consisted of artists of different ethnic, gender and sonic identities, then sequenced the tracks so that there was an ebb and flow to the feeling.” he says of the track listing. “I made sure that the record has dynamics, more intense moments and then softening down to more gentle sections. I don’t know how well I succeeded in doing this, but that was the intention. You just need to look at the Sydney artists on this record to see the creative potential. There’s Sampa The Great, Fishing and Jack Grace among others, all writing clever songs and phrasing them in different sonic narratives. The future is incredibly bright for Sydney right now.”

While the aim to raise as much money and awareness as possible for OXFAM for another year, the release of an album like Imperium In Imperio II also offers music fans the opportunity to branch out a little and stray off track in discovering some intriguing new music and the artists behind them.

“I’d hope that people recognise that the vast majority of interesting music doesn’t sit at the top of the pool.” Faith says. “If you dive a little deeper, you’ll find a whole new world of musicians making strange songs and telling strange stories; here’s eighteen of them, custom-piled together in one easy package. This isn’t to say that what you’ll hear via traditional channels doesn’t also have a lot of merit, but there’s an undercurrent that’s really worth exploring, if you’re of a mind to.”

For more information about Imperium In Imperio II and to buy a copy of the album yourself, visit the TEEF Records Bandcamp, HERE.