Arts & Entertainment

Sydney musician explodes on TikTok

Photo: Rena Zheng

In the creative space we’re always looking for a new way to get noticed. In recent months the talk of the industry has been new social media platform TikTok, which Sydney band Autosuggest has found incredible success on. Speaking to us recently frontman Alec Mallia talk us through the band’s history, their musical inspirations & finally the TikTok he used to grow from zero to over 140,000 followers in less than six months.

Prior to blowing up on TikTok Autosuggest had been slowly building a following in & around Sydney since 2016-17. As Alec explained the band settled in on their current three-piece lineup in 2017 after he spent some time experimenting alone in order to find his own sound.

“Before Autosuggest I was in a sad, piano, alternative punk sort of of band,” Alec recalled. “One day the keyboard player took me aside to teach me how to use Ableton because in his words I was “too much of a bully in rehearsal” and “needed to learn how to make my own music.”

Now with the success of Autosuggest under his belt Alec is able to look back at those comments & say with a wry chuckle, “yeah I was a bit of a control freak.”

Once the three-piece lineup was solidified Alec and the band went about plotting the direction of the band & their sound. According to Alec they did this by infusing elements from the bands they all enjoyed, so much so they even took inspiration for the band name form one of Alec’s favourite songs.

“The name Autosuggest comes from the Joy Division song Autosuggestion because they were the band that made me want to do music,” Alec told us. “I was obsessed with Joy Division from the moment I first heard them when I was 18… I had heard that Autosuggestion track which has the lyric “take a chance & say you tried” & I think at that time I couldn’t play guitar, & I definitely couldn’t sing, so I thought that’s a good motto. Ever since then I have always had that lyric in my mind whenever I tried anything new.”

As Autosuggest has progressed they’ve also added in flourishes from the likes of New Order & INXS. A process which Alec describes as a “thrilling” & incredibly “addictive” experience. 

Throughout this process of refining a sound & creating new music Alec was also working on building a social presence for the band on the new video sharing platform TikTok. Much like he did with the vision for the band sonically & visually Alec meticulously planned his TikTok content for peak results.

“I would literally sketch out on paper what I thought these TikTok’s would look like,” Alec said with a bit of a giggle. “When I sat down & started a sort of video diary of the songs that I was listening to people started frothing it & then the audience for the band shot up immediately.”

This very strategic approach saw very rapid & very early success. According to Alec the band’s TikTok following exploded from zero at the end of March to over 100,000 by the end of July. When asked how he managed to grow such an impressive following in such a short period Alec said it all came down to learning the platform & formulating a plan.

“In order to do well on any social platform you have to spend a lot of time consuming content in order to understand what people like & expect from that particular platform… I knew I didn’t want to just follow the trends. Instead I focused on carving out my own little cloister within TikTok, which was difficult but from the moment I had one successful post it took off. That success came in the fist week that I committed to doing one post per day. By the end of the week we had 2000 followers & by the end of the next week it was up to 20,000.”

Obviously this sort of exponential growth isn’t going to be common but for Alec he’s aus he would highly recommend all creatives invest in building a following on either TikTok or YouTube. Alec highlights these two platform in particular because he feels they are some of “last places on the internet where you can genuinely just have people stumble across your content.”

The hard work refining a sound & social media presence has certainly paid off with Autosuggest’s latest single, It Won’t Come Back, being far & away their most successful release to date – despite it being a departure from the sound of their prior album.

“This single was a bit of a gamble because it is so different to our previous album, Introhedonism,” explained Alec.” That previous release was a collection of very bombastic, searing, attitude driven songs. Whereas this new record is a lot more romantic, melodic & has a bit more space to it. But, it seems like people were happy to have something new & to see that twist happening.”

As he now reflects on the growth of Autosuggest & their upcoming plans Alec says TikTok was “completely game changing.” So much so that they had requests to return to the stage as soon as lockdown lifted but Alec has resisted that urge in order to provide the best show possible.

“We weren’t comfortable doing shows so close to the reopening without first taking time to complete some rehearsals. This next show is going to be a lot of new material but we haven’t even been in the same room for over 3 months, so I wasn’t a fan of our first show back being a ‘live rehearsal.'”

Just because they won’t be hitting the stage right away Autosuggest will be hard not to notice thanks to their social presence.

“We’re everywhere so it’s very difficult to avoid us now!” Alec said in closing.

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