It’s safe to say that 24-year-old Jack McAllister, otherwise known as Willaris. K, has been on a whirlwind journey. After releasing the track Alchemy in 2017, the Australian producer’s musical career has taken the world by storm. But gaining fame and having only one finished track can be difficult. Willaris. takes a few moments to talk to us about the pressures to make new music, the stunning EP visuals, and much more.
So, as I understand it, you’re from a small coastal town in Australia and before going into full-time producing, you worked as an electrician for five years. Was there any one specific thing that led you to your music, or was it always there – niggling in the back of your mind?
I DJ’d in Brisbane all throughout my apprenticeship and was always experimenting with production. It was a slow process, as I realised my ideas weren’t quite there musically. I started piano lessons in 2015 and, slowly, it grew from there. I never expected to be doing it as a job, but I was always working towards it.
You had planned on travelling around Europe, but after releasing your first song, Alchemy, (which received such amazing feedback), decided instead to focus on your music. But now you’re doing your music and travelling, and have released your seven-track EP earlier this year. Bet you’re glad you made that decision, right?
A hundred per cent. It’s a dream come true.
Being the only track with lyrics in the EP, Catch Phrase has me intrigued. This is the first song and it’s paired with the pulsating sandy bass and oscillating melody. Is it an introduction to the musical journey in the rest of the EP?
Definitely. It’s the live show intro as well. I love the abrasive, fire up type introduction to it all. If I’m ever nervous before a show, as soon as Catch Phrase starts, I’m on.
And being the only lyrics, why did you choose this specific sample – a quote from the film Harry Brown?
I started Catch Phrase the morning after I watched Harry Brown for the first time. The energy and feeling in that movie was the initial inspiration. I went back months later and later added the sample in just for the live show and it just stuck.
We need to talk about River Song – it’s really intriguing. Especially coming right after Risen, which is dark, thick and heavy. You’ve mentioned before that you mix the ‘intense moments’ with more thoughtful ‘down moments’, and I think that’s what really sets you apart from other current producers. How do your audiences react when the peaceful forest-like ambience and delicate piano chords kick in?
Thank you! River Song always goes down so well live. From the shows I played late last year and early this year, it was one of the three songs released from my hour/ninety-minute set. It really brings the energy down post-Catch Phrase and Risen, to transition into more progressive tracks like Perpetual Love – both live and on the EP. That’s the idea behind it, River Song; like the changing tide.
When you play live, do you feel that the performance aspect plays a big part in the audience’s experience?
Definitely. Playing live is easily my favourite part of this whole thing. If I’m enjoying myself, I suppose it rids any pretentiousness from the room, and everyone’s in it.
Definitely. Playing live is easily my favourite part of this whole thing. If I’m enjoying myself, I suppose it rids any pretentiousness from the room, and everyone’s in it.
I don’t DJ very often, but when I do, yeah, for sure. Being a resident for four years was huge for me in that department.
Last year, you did a remix of Exhibitionist’s song Hands. How do you find working with others? And if you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
I’ve only worked personally with close friends. Some it works, some it doesn’t. You can’t force it. King Krule would be awesome to work with; I love his voice and production.
Visuals play such an important role in the synesthetic impression of the music. The videos by Yeoseop Yoon really manage to envisage that dark ambient atmosphere and the euphoric moments. Did you play any part in assisting the artistic direction, or was Yeoseop completely guided by the music?
Both were different. With the Alchemy - River Song - Dour Nights trilogy, Yeoseop had originally hit us up about doing the Alchemy video, but it didn’t eventuate. It was getting close to the time when I released Dour Nights, and I suggested a trilogy with River Song as well, so Yeoseop ran with it and absolutely killed it. With Risen, I’d always had the idea of a live video for it, but that was about it. I gave Yeoseop a few rough ideas for what I wanted, and he came up with the whole video. I trusted him with the visual aspect of my music from the day he sent us the initial treatment for Alchemy. He is incredible.
There are a lot of weird things on the Internet, one of them being a ten-minute video of your music put to a Harry Potter compilation. Have you watched it?
Yeah, my brother sent it to me recently. Nice one, whoever put that together!
I know that you made your international debut at Coachella festival this April. What was the audience like?
To be honest with you, I played at 12pm, so it wasn’t the best show I’ve played. But it was an insane experience, and I’m so thankful for that opportunity. I ended up playing an after party in an old airplane hangar inside this huge property in Palm Springs later that night, and that was amazing.
You’ve been hailed as the 2018 artist to watch, you’re heading on your first Australian solo tour (which is partly sold out), and have started playing across the globe. Do you feel the pressure?
Not now, but initially, I did. Last year, after I put Alchemy out, it was getting played on the radio but I had no other songs finished. Now that I’ve played so many amazing shows with all of my original music, and the whole project has been released, I feel a big weight off my shoulders. I now have the freedom to write whatever I want.
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