Some days I crave the characteristics of a 9 to 5 job.
Someone to let me know I’m making a mistake, someone to help me improve, someone to create tasks that are to be done in a set time frame, the hype of working in a team to get those tasks done.
I know this longing is based on the classic, “grass is greener on the other side”, hole of darkness that we all fall into. I know this because when I used to work in an office I would crave the freedom, joy, and flexibility of being a full-time musician. I also know that this desire for another life most strongly presents itself in the moments where I lose perspective and forget to count my blessings and see my privilege.
My name is Parissa Tosif and I am one half of the electronic music duo Vallis Alps. I am currently a full-time musician with a bunch of other less prioritized interests including law and workplace culture.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation, creativity and creating a strong workplace culture as a solo worker. Maybe because I’m deep in the crevasse of writing a full length album or maybe because my anxiety seems to emerge when I don’t have motivation or a strong sense of purpose in my day.
I don’t claim to know a lot about these things, or be an expert, but here are some things I’ve learnt recently.
We have so much to learn from each other as human beings!
Collaboration is a complex act. It can be really special and produce a better result than would have ever been possible acting solo or it can be really scary and hard, fraught with ego and average outcomes. But when it works it is a lifesaver and a source of joy and amazing ideas. I’ve been a part of both types of experiences, and I think they can bring a lot of learning.
Intention - When the two or more people involved have set expectations, goals and awareness of purpose it brings a lot of efficiency and good vibes to the process. Sometimes this purpose can be tactical – ‘Let’s record a guitar part we love for this song that is nostalgic’ or conceptual – ‘Let’s try and write about mental health in this song.’ Intention gives a lot of life to action either way.
Method – Consulting about things, especially when they’re hard is so important. This is something I’ve had to learn the tough way. Times where there’s been no structure or time for communication has resulted in hurt feelings and confusion. Things like active listening, letting go of ego and opinions and even a mediator can be helpful.
Madness – There’s sometimes a madness in collaboration. All of us are so unique and when we’re being creative these weird and wonderful qualities emerge. I say embrace them.
Result – I have learnt to see the process of collaborating as the result. If the collaborative process feels good deep down, and the process is enjoyable, the end result will be a step in the right direction. There’s something mystical about differing opinions and strengths clashing and merging to create something new.
On using Creativity to Explore Reality
One of my favorite quotes of all time is “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” ― Victor Hugo.
It speaks to the fact that we need creativity to explore the world around us, to understand the reality of things and to feel more deeply. When we wrote our song “Oceans,” I saw this come to life. We wanted to write a song that celebrated the strength and resilience of people facing oppression, especially women. It was only when we started writing the lyrics that the many feelings I had about being a woman in today’s society hit me. The image of an ocean, and the implications of solidarity, movement, endlessness- all came to me after the process of making the song. Singing the melody itself felt like an anthem for strength and fighting for equality. These were things I couldn’t explain or say out loud, but so many people seem to feel the message so strongly once we released the song.
Understanding is the greatest motivator. It gives us a channel for our hopes and goals. I find myself relying heavily on my intention a lot, and this motivating me to move forward. Do I want to make something that has an impact on someone’s life in a positive way? Do I want to develop my skills as a songwriter? Do I want to be a good team mate? I think about all of these things.
But most of all I think about this: How can all of us utilize our talents for the betterment of society? We all can contribute in our own way to the prosperity of our communities. Given the state of the world and the power of art and music, exploring this question is the greatest motivator and engine behind some of the concepts in songs I write. It also helps take the pressure off and creates a sense of trust in the long term process.
I think figuring this out is a lifelong journey, but let me know if you have any ideas.
Parissa Tosif, Vallis Alps
About Parissa Tosif, Vallis Alps
Parissa Tosif and David Ansari are Canberra/Seattle-based electronic duo Vallis Alps.
Their music blends down-tempo, piano-driven melodies and acoustic guitar with 80’s pop synths and gritty trap beats to compliment their half-nostalgic, half- foretelling lyrics.
Since releasing their independent self-titled debut EP in Jan 2015, the pair’s mesmerizing tunes have clocked over 2+ million SoundCloud plays (27,000 of which appeared in the first 24 hours) and peaked at #1 on Hype Machine upon release. On the strength of their music alone, Vallis Alps were named as Triple J Unearthed, AIR, and FBi Radio feature artists and were more recently included as Zan Rowe’s ‘Song You Need To Hear’ on CBC’s Public Radio Picks. They also continued to make their mark on the Aus iTunes Electronic Album and Singles Chart for ‘Young’ at #2 and #23 respectively, debuting in the Top 100 ARIA singles chart—an impressive feat for a new independent act.