Dubbed the “Lioness” of the Australian clubs, Tess Vokler is leading the pack when it comes to rising stars on the electronic music scene.
A classically trained musician from a young age, the Melbourne-born DJ, singer and songwriter is no stranger to roars of applause. Down under, she made a name for herself as the scene’s go-to DJ for the hottest nightclubs and brands, like Formula 1, Ralph Lauren, Nana Judy, Sephora and more.
With an electrifying stage presence and feverish passion, Tess has shared the stage with the likes of headliners Sneaky Sound System, Mobin Master and even Taylor Swift on her 2013 Red Tour. Now based in Los Angeles, Tess is slaying it stateside, jumping behind the decks at some of the most iconic venues, including The Standard, Soho House, Skybar and S Bar here in LA and Drais After Hours in Las Vegas.
Known for her hooky vocals and intoxicating beats, Tess expertly blurs the lines of pop music and dance electro with a unique mix of power and delicacy, and a hint of edge.
Last year, Tess dropped her groovy single “Body Language,” which was revered for it’s crazy baselines, crystal-clear drops and bright vocals. Not stopping, the artist kicked off 2023 with an exclusive record deal with European dance slayer, Sirup Music (Enormous Tunes, Pinkstar Records), which has launched the careers of artists such as EDX and Nora En Pure. She also recently landed a major partnership with Virgin Voyages Miami, marking a pivotal moment in the young artist’s incredible journey.
Last year, Tess dropped her groovy single “Body Language,” which was revered for it’s crazy baselines, crystal-clear drops and bright vocals. Not stopping, the artist kicked off 2023 with an exclusive record deal with European dance slayer, Sirup Music (Enormous Tunes, Pinkstar Records), which has launched the careers of artists such as EDX and Nora Loop Magazine recently caught up with the Aussie showstopper where she opened up about her musical journey, the LA scene, her unexpected take on celebrity DJs, what you should never do when you come to one of her shows and more. Check out our exclusive interview with Tess below.
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Loop Magazine: Tell us your origin story
Tess Vockler: I started off my journey in Australia where I learned violin and singing from a very young age. I also participated in choirs. Then I went to study music which was epic. I just fell in love with it. I fell in love with the people, the creativity and I just felt like it was my place in the world. So I decided to pursue that and travel overseas to the States and I actually won a green card in the lottery. It was this textbook perfect moment to just go for it.
How did you transition into becoming a DJ?
My DJing really started from a friend of mine who believed in me. She told me, “you are going into this club and you’re going to play,” and I was like, “no, I don’t know anyone.” I just turned 18, I’d taken a mixing course and they gave me a shot. It just so happened that it was the best nightclub in Melbourne at the time and it became a residency. I felt very privileged to start my journey off that way.
How do you think your traditional music background has influenced your style as a DJ?
I think I do understand differently because I write my own music, so being able to have that creative input with the producer while I’m in the studio kind of gives me that edge, like ok, this is actually going to become a very interesting track that’s super different.
How would you describe your personal sound and set style?
I think for me, I really just want to create a feeling of joy and euphoria for people. Just kind of an escape from the worries of everyday life. That’s really how I pictured my music. It’s something where you need to watch the performance. It’s definitely a new world. And I would say it definitely makes you feel like you are escaping everyday life and its challenges. That’s really where I try to provide that experience for people, where they are thinking about it after days and remembering that night because it was just such fun and so different.
You’ve been bestowed with the nickname the “Lioness” of the Australia clubs. Where did that come from?
The lioness started with my agent at the time and she just was like, “you are literally one of the only DJs that I think is so special and so wild and also just goes for it and is super ambitious.” So at the time she was like, “you’re just the lioness.” And I think it was just a term we kind of came up with and I found it was really fun to just play into that as well.
How does LA compare to the Melbourne music scene?
The reason I found that LA would be somewhere where I wanted to be was the remarkable way that everyone is living out their dreams. There’s just that point of difference where people are really going for it. They are incredibly talented at what they do. They are people that have escaped to their hometown in one way or another. It just kind of makes the music industry fire and it just puts you in another league. I think that’s what makes LA special. It’s just that feeling of being able to really come out of your shell.
Let’s talk about your single “Body Language.” What was the writing process like?
“Body Language” is really special because I wrote that song in Denmark in Copenhagen when I was staying there. It was definitely a song that was inspired by the trip itself and this hotel room in particular had these incredible chandeliers (and chandeliers ended up coming into the lyrics). Writing that song just kind of flowed. I found that it was definitely about a long story and a kind of seductive time. It was a very much a verse-chorus song that I’d written and established, however I definitely wanted it to be put into my sets and for other DJs to play it out, so we actually ended up shifting the trajectory of the song and cutting out a lot of the verses and just kind of keeping the hooks. That really made it into a different story and we just put a very, very hooky back on the track. The production is very much like a club track so that appealed to not only people that were definitely into that pop vibe, but also the dance spectra of that track as well. I’m super proud of it.
How does it feel to be a female DJ in a male dominated industry?
I actually love having guys in the industry and being someone that’s a force, that is different and kind of challenging the norms. I think there’s definitely a place for everyone and I’ve also had a lot of guys that have kind of really got behind me and supported me and pushed me to be better. And even on the off chance that I may have a guy that kind of wants to move around all the knobs and see if I don’t know what I’m doing and mess up my set, it’s definitely not going to happen because I know my stuff. I’m going to make sure everything’s perfect before I get on.
But it’s definitely different to have women in the industry. I think it kind of softens the mood of a venue as well. It kind of gives you that feeling like you want to dance and you want to get straight onto the dance floor because there’s a chick.
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Tell us about one of your favorite gigs ever.
My favorite gig was in Vegas and it was at Drais After Hours, which is one of the most special places that you can play in the whole of America. I remember Diplo had played there and also like Skrillex. Some of the real big guys had played there so I felt very privileged to play a set from 5 a.m. till 7 a m.. It was very interesting to say the least. I woke up at 4 a.m. because I was not going to stay up all night. There was cash being thrown everywhere, all over the DJ booth. It was wild. People were saying, “you know I have to work at 8 a.m. but I’m not going. I’m staying here for your set.” They just canceled their workday, which I felt incredible about.”
What’s your biggest pet peeve as a DJ?
If you’re on a stage, I don’t mind if I’m on the same level. But I’m like on a stage, people behind me just kind of trips me out. Like, I feel like I don’t know what’s going on behind me. I feel a bit anxious about it.
Do you prefer day sets or night sets?
I personally love the day sets because I feel like the weather is usually good, at least you hope anyway and people are not so captured by the night yet. The people are still fresh. The nights are really fun too, just not too late.
What’s your take on celebrities and influencers who want to become DJs?
I don’t know if I’m very naive or just overly positive, but I definitely think there’s an interest. I’m seeing someone that’s trying something and I’m like, “wow that’s great. That’s adding to the genre, that’s adding to the industry.” If a person like Kim Kardashian wants to become a DJ, great. I found it interesting that was one of the JP Morgan executives who’s very senior, he’s now a DJ as well. Interesting personalities making the shift, I think it’s all positive. I’m someone that’s followed my craft religiously for over 10 years, but if people want to try it, that’s awesome as well. I’m all for it.
What’s your favorite LA venue?
I usually follow someone I aspire to be like, so that may be at Exchange downtown or Sound Nightclub. Sound is a venue that I hold in high regard. That’s somewhere that I would definitely be seen at 2 a.m..
Aussies have a reputation for partying harder than Americans. Is it true?
Australians are very fun people for sure. Every time I go home, I’m really reminded that I need to get out more. Even though I live in LA, it’s incredible how interesting my parents are and my friends are. They just go really, really hard. They don’t stop. It can be a Monday night and they’re just completely off their head. But drinking is just a part of our lifestyle. It really hones in on our whole weekend and really articulates who we are. I think it definitely lives up to the culture and I feel like in America, I’ve almost stopped drinking now, which is wild.
How do you answer the viral question, what do DJs actually do?
That TikTok is so hilarious by the way. I found it interesting that she was just so perplexed by what those buttons do. I mean, there’s a button for everything. If you want to just maneuver the sound in the slightest aspect, it will be completely possible. You really need to know what you’re doing because there’s so many dials. But a DJ is really the sound purveyor. They are creating the environment, they are religiously planning the night for people coming to the venue. It really starts and ends with the DJ. It’s quite an important aspect and that’s why I guess the rates can be really lucrative because it’s someone that can either make or break a night.
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