Melbourne-based musician Tash Sultana has accolades in every colour: the ARIA award winner has staged a world tour, amassed over a million Instagram followers and hit 126 million views on their bedroom recording of ‘Jungle’.
But what is quintessential to their identity is live performance. “My fucking pinnacle of existence is to be performing live,” Sultana tells Refinery29 Australia. “That’s my calling… it's healing for me. And in turn, I think maybe it's received by other people as healing. It's just this big, spiritual experience for me to perform like that. And I had to find my spirit again.”
The unadulterated joy in Sultana’s voice and the way they speak about music gives it a spiritual quality that makes me lean in closer.
“It's the energy exchange,” they continue. "You’re with this big wall of energy from everybody… you’re the one that's in control of how that energy flows. It's just playing with the present.”
But over the last two years, Sultana has only performed live six times. For someone who wears their purpose so candidly on their sleeve, the restlessness of not being out there performing (like so many other Aussie musicians) has manifested into an excitement for the future, and the possibility of large live crowds. Their fans are equally eager: in mid-November, Sultana’s entire 10,000-ticket Red Rocks show sold out in five minutes.
Often described as a “one-person band,” Sultana is a person of many talents. An engineer and producer with the ability to play 20-odd instruments, they have dipped their fingers in many (if not all) the musical pies.
Back in 2019, Sultana co-founded Lonely Lands Agency with co-managers Jaddan Comerford and Regan Lethbridge. The live booking agency has signed the likes of Boy & Bear, Hockey Dad, Jack River, Ocean Alley, and Tones And I.
“I was unsatisfied when I was an artist in a previous booking agency. I just wanted to try and change the dial because we've got a lot of men in suits running the music industry. But there's not a hell of a lot of artists running any capacity of the music industry that's taken seriously,” they explain. “I think there's been some funny instances where people don't actually realise that I'm one of the directors of the business.”
Now, Sultana is stepping into the fashion realm. In their first-ever brand affiliation, they’ve become an ambassador for New Balance. “I think prior to now, I wasn't in the right place, mentally, physically, spiritually… I feel like I can say that I'm an adult now. Whereas before — I‘m young still, obviously — but I had a very young mindset,” they share, explaining why they hadn’t chosen to partner with a brand in this capacity before.
Fashion means nothing. To me, style means everything. Fashion is disposable and style is independent.
Since pivoting to fame, Sultana’s style has stayed consistent. Flat caps, baggy tees, and a penchant for street style have become synonymous with their laidback image. “Fashion means nothing. To me, style means everything,” they say. “Fashion is disposable and style is independent.”
A huge pull of the New Balance collaboration was the brand’s mission to focus more on its unisex ranges.
“When I walk into a shop and it's divided by the men's and women's section, I’m kinda like, ‘why?’. Who gives a fuck? Just shop wherever you want,” they say. Sultana then tells me that only a few months ago, they went to try buy a new suit from the men’s section to no avail. “The person in the store literally flat refused to get me men's pants. [He said] the women's pants will fit [me] much better. And I was like, ‘Yeah, but I literally just want these in a 26 men’s.’”
“That kind of behaviour is really not acceptable. When you walk into a shop and you want a blue shirt, you don't want a fucking red shirt. You want a fucking blue shirt. I don't want the red shirt today, but maybe tomorrow I might want the red shirt because I might feel like that aligns with the type of person that I am today. Therefore I want the men's pants in a men’s 26,” they laugh.
As a genderfluid person who has consistently spoken out against the rigid binds of the gender binary, Sultana is adamant in their proclamation of self, but feels it's unnecessary to feed into the idea of labels.
“I just am how I am. And I don't think it really needs an explanation, because I just am this little fucking speck floating through the universe, and I just am appearing this way for this lifetime.”