Sep 11, 2012

Johann Ponniah of I OH YOU

A hipster’s backyard dream, I OH YOU was founded in 2009 after four teenage housemates received a final notice on their overdue gas bill. Their plan to raise the cashola? Host a party, invite bands to play, charge a small fee. I OH YOU is now a record label, creative agency and party central. When he’s not trying to impress the cute girls, co-founder Johann Ponniah is working with the hottest indie bands and talking about his partying ways on The Innovators panel at this year’s BIGSOUND.
Interview by Angela Allan.

Is it fair to say I OH YOU is built on a party philosophy?
I think that’s definitely where our roots lie. We still only do things if we find them fun to do, otherwise, what’s the point? I like to think that we’ve also built a philosophy on working with good music, but I guess that’s more for everyone else to decide.

Was it easy to create the first I OH YOU event?
Yeah, it was in our backyard and our friend’s bands that were touring together at the time – Neon Love and Comic Sans, rest in peace – had their Melbourne show cancelled, so we just had it at our house.

What were the reasons (apart from paying off the gas bill) to start I OH YOU?
We were getting tired of going to the same clubs over and over; we were really keen to experience music in an environment that was a bit different to the normal – whether it be in a warehouse, under a bridge or in our backyard –  and just create a different atmosphere. I was managing a band called Howl at the time and they needed to release an EP, so we created I OH YOU as a label to do that too.

What were the challenges when starting I OH YOU?
To be honest, I can’t really think of any off the top of my head. We’ve been really lucky.

Your aim with I OH YOU was to impress cute girls, but you say you’re unsuccessful in doing so. How do you know you haven’t impressed any cute girls?
I think I would know if I had impressed any by now.

What is your best party trick to impress the cute girls?
If I could figure that out we could probably stop I OH YOU and get a real job.

What’s your best tried and tested hangover cure?
A Bloody Mary from the greatest bar in the world Yellowbird and the movie Cool Runnings.

Who has been your greatest influence or mentor in this field?
I’ve been super lucky and had a lot of different people offer me great advice over the years. I still remember emailing Jai Al-Attas when I was 14 asking him how he created Below Par Records. I’m quite sure I did the same with Jaddan Comerford when he created Boomtown Records. Pop punk 4 lyf.

You’re on The Innovators panel at BIGSOUND, what advice will you give to young entrepreneurs wanting to start a music label (and to impress the cute girls)?
Regarding starting a music label or probably anything in the music industry, just be passionate – for me, that’s really the most important part. Regarding impressing cute girls, shower at least once a day.

Why did you start your alternative BIGSOUND blog? What can we expect to read on it?
My friend Nick Yates and I were having a few beers one night at the Corner Hotel and decided that it would be rad to create a blog called ULTIMATE BIGSOUND and just take the piss a little. You can expect to read more great ideas that only occur to people after a few beers.

Favourite local haunt to catch some great live music?
Too many to name!

What was the first concert you ever attended?
Never Pay Retail and Lightly Salted Peanuts at Picton Church Hall. First big show was The Ataris (supported by New School Hero and Kisschasy). Pop punk 4 lyf.

What are your favourite Australian indie releases from the past year?
I love Twerps, Smith Street Band and Chet Faker’s release.

Why is being “independent” important in the music industry?
I just love being able to have a lot of creative control, and the fact that our artists can really carve their own path and go about things in their own unique way.

Any tips on who you think are great up-and-coming Australian indie artists?
Oh, there’s so many. I wouldn’t do it justice by only naming a few.

Best avenue to discover new Aussie music?
Word of mouth.

Which Aussie indie release are you looking forward to in the next year?
To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to see what’s coming.

What’s your most memorable party experience as part of I OH YOU?
Probably the full 72 hours that the Call The Cops tour lasted for with Bleeding Knees Club, DZ Deathrays and Yacht Club DJs. That was pretty killer!

What’s next for I OH YOU?
Just continuing to work with artists and people we love.