Founded by Shelley Liu and Sasha Chifura, Melbourne-based music label Valve Sounds has built a home for local talent in the emerging hip-hop, R&B and soul space.

With a nuanced approach tailored to the needs of each artist as an individual, Valve Sounds is overturning rigid corporate structures within the music industry, hoping to “redefine what an ‘export’ Australian artist should look and sound like” in the process.


Ahead of the label’s 2023 relaunch, Shelley and Sasha tell us more about the ethos underpinning Valve Sounds 2.0, introducing us to their local scene and the three artists they’re backing right now — Maina Doe, King Ivy and IJALE.

Shelley and Sasha, can you introduce yourselves and what you both do?

SHELLEY LIU: Hi! I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and play a few different roles in the music industry including artist manager, booking agent, Valve Sounds record label co-director, event programmer and tour manager. I also DJ (whenever I can fit it in between everything else!)


SASHA CHIFURA: I’ve spent most of mycareer based in Melbourne, I’m thedirector of a boutique artist management company and co-director of Valve Sounds with Shelley.

NOTION: How did you meet and what did you first find common ground over?

SHELLEY: We met in 2014 randomly when an artist Sasha was working with was touring in Melbourne. The first thing we bonded over was actually over a mutual hate towards a certain person that we both interned for once upon a time!


SASHA: We quickly found that we had a lot in common and a similar outlook towards the industry and decided to start working together.


SHELLEY: Back then — and unfortunately still now — there weren’t many people in the music industry that looked like us (young BIPOC kids) with ambitions and goals, that a lot of the traditional ‘gate-keepers’ of the music industry didn’t really take seriously

NOTION: Why did you decide to form your own label?

SASHA: In the alternative hip-hop/soul/R&B niche, there weren’t any domestic record labels who approached artist development and marketing positioning with a strong understanding in the way that we envisioned.With our label partners extendingresources and further access to a globalnetwork, it made sense for us to createour own infrastructure.

NOTION: How has Valve Sounds evolved since then?

SHELLEY: We took a bit of a hiatus over thelast few years — partly because we weregoing through a change in label partners, and partly because we got busy withsome other things we were individuallyworking on. We knew that whenever it wastime to relaunch the label we wanted togo all out and devote all our energy to it.


SASHA: With the hiatus, it allowed us time to further evaluate and refine our purpose and mission, which has now allowed us to be more focused with better execution of our processes.


SHELLEY: We’re very excited to berelaunching the label with a newpartnership with Mushroom Group, whowe’ve had a close relationship with inother facets of our work, so it only made sense to partner up with them on the label! Mushroom Group have played sucha pivotal role in music within Australiaand exporting that to the rest of the world, so we are thrilled to be working together.

NOTION: What kind of space are you looking to provide your artists within the local industry?

SASHA: We are a boutique label that canprovide a nuanced understanding and approach to artist development and themusic we work with. Our long-term focus,paired with an ability to competitivelyfund and scale when appropriate, allows for an environment that values andencourages talent to learn, grow and mature — both personally and creatively — without immediate commercial pressures.


SHELLEY: We are quite hands-on in the way we work given our backgrounds in other areas of the industry, so we have close friendships with the artists and their managers that extend beyond just music. We find this provides a more comfortable working environment where artists can feel safe in entrusting us with their music, given we have a deeper understanding of who they are as people.

NOTION: How do you approach nurturing and growing an artist?

SHELLEY: Each artist is so different in their needs, so identifying those to begin with is important. Giving them time and resources to properly figure out who they want to be as artists, and what kind of music and art they want to be putting out into the world.


SASHA: Our role in artist development isto assist the artist in creating a roadmapand growth trajectory that’s synonymouswith their aspirations. We also nurturean environment that gives autonomy inthe ideation and execution of a vision, allowing artists to take risks and make their own mistakes with guard rails that don’t make failures completely detrimental.

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NOTION: What legacy do you hope to create with Valve Sounds?

SHELLEY: Being tastemakers that work with forward-thinking music that stray from the traditional norms, and providing platforms to help others amplify their stories via music and art. We’ve always felt a bit like outcasts in the Australian music industry, but over time we learnt how to create our own pathways within it, and do things our way.


SASHA: We also want the artists we sign, the music we release and the stories we share to compound into having a positive cultural impact that helps redefine what an ‘export’ Australian artist should look and sound like.

NOTION: Looking to 2023, what are your goals for the year?

SHELLEY: To push the sound of alternative R&B, hip-hp and soul music coming out of Australia together as a collective and movement. SASHA: We want to play a role in the increased appetite of homegrown talent in our niche having an impact here domestically and internationally. This is not only for those signed to our label, but also other artists outside of the ones we directly work with.

NOTION: Can you tell us a bit about each of the artists you’re working with?

SHELLEY: Our starting roster with the label relaunch is one that we’re so proud of and grateful to be working with. Maina Doe is a divine celestial goddess making the most beautiful R&B music, and is able to express herself so poetically both sonically and visually.


IJALE is a jack of all trades — he is a singer, rapper, producer, engineer, and really dedicated to incorporating sounds from his Nigerian background with a contemporary twist. And last but not least is King Ivy, who is a newcomer to the scene, but can already write the most heart-melting melodies and hooks and sing them with such steez.

NOTION: Who are you as an artist and what kind of music do you make?

MAINA:I am a Sydney-based artist who makesintrospective, ethereal but bouncy alternativeR&B. As an artist, I am a fluid lovechild of 21st century melancholy, casual hedonismand romance.

N:When did you decide you wanted to makemusic and what would you tell that versionof yourself now?

M: I decided I wanted to be an artist when I wasworking a shitty job at a restaurant whilst alsodoing session work as a vocalist in 2019.I basically met my manager and was like ‘Fuckit, I’m doing this’. I would tell that version of myselfto not worry so much and be as presentas possible.

N:What kind of world are you looking to build with your music?

build through my music and visuals because theway I view the world is always evolving. For me,it makes sense that I have to treat a songor project as a world in and of its own that I have to fully realise. That being said, right nowI want to invite everyone into a world that is calm, connected, fun and a bit dark.

N: You’ve collaborated and played shows withthe likes of Jay Cooper, Genesis Owusu, BLESSEDand Tkay Maidza, what do you look for connectingwith other artists?

M: I look for originality more than anything.It takes bravery to do what you want to do insteadof what everyone else is doing and whenI see that in others, I’m immediately drawn to them and inspired by them.

N: Have you found a community in your industry?

M: Yes absolutely. I love my city. Everyone atValve Sounds and everyone on my team is sosexy and smart. My fans been riding with me eventhough I haven’t released since Covid began.Community is the reason why I’m here right now.

N: What are your hopes for the year ahead?

M: I hope to collaborate with some heavyweights.I hope to play special shows where I get to look intensely into people’s eyes, make new friends and dance.

N: What do you want your legacy as an artist to be?

M: I want to be remembered as an artist that affirms, challenges, soothes and heightens people’shuman experience, and connected with people in a real way.

NOTION: Who are you as an artist and what kind of music do you make?

IJALE: I make a wide range of music, but it’s usually coloured with hints of afrobeat, jazz, soul and R&B. Just depends on who I’m working with and what mood I’m in.

N: What artists and genres do you draw from?

I: I draw from a lot. I love music from the continent.Nigerian music from the 60s, 70s and 80s but also Nigerian contemporary music like Wizkid,Cruel Santino. J Dilla and Madlib have always beencanon for me. I also love experimental and ambientstuff like Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing and otherpeople on Brainfeeder Records.

N: Where do you envision people listening to your music?

I: I don’t have any specific scenes or places, but I dowant to be listened to back home in Nigeria.Other than that, I want my music to be listened to whenpeople are doing what they enjoy the most in life

N: What inspires you about the industry in Melbourne?

I: I feel like there are more unique musicalcharacters here, people that can’t be boxed in to an archetype and are making their own lanes. That definitely keeps me on my toes and makes me feel more confident because I’m trying to do the same.

N: What’s inspiring you personally right now?

I: The people I’m surrounded by and resonating with. For the first time, I feel like I have a group of like-minded artists around me that I can bounce ideas off of and vent to when needed. It’s validating and pushes me to make music that impresses them and myself.

N: What will you be listening to in 2023?

I: I hope 2023 is the year that Frank Ocean decidesto bless us with new music. I can’t afford none of the jewellery he been making.

N: What are your hopes for the year ahead

I: Honestly I’m just trying to make new music thatactually excites me. The kind of stuff I can’t waitto share. I always want to grow the fan base anddevelop a tribe of people who understand the music, and make sure that homies and thepeople I’m building with are getting opportunities to do the same.

N: Do you think about what you want your legacy as an artist to be?

I: Putting on for the culture. Stretching what people expect from Australia, from hip-hop, from Black males. Doing that without ego and showing love to people whenever I can.

NOTION: Who are you as an artist and what kind of music do you make?

KING IVY: Hey I’m King Ivy, I’m a Ghana-born artist from Australia and I make all kinds of music.

N: Who are your main influences musically?

K: There have been so many people involvedwith the influence of my music, so it’s hard tosay, but if I had to pick some I’d say Steve Lacy and Tyler, the Creator.

N: What was your process for finding your ownsound and how would you describe it?

K: I just get in the studio and try a lot of stuff ’til I make something that sounds good. I’ll describe my sound as raw.

N: You recently dropped your debut single, “Complicated” — what does it mean to you to drop your first official release?

K: It means everything to me. The people around me know how long I’ve been sitting on that song and all my music in general.

N: Coming into the Brisbane music scene, have you found an artist support network there?

K: Yeah, I’ve got great creative minds around methat contribute to the music I’m creating.

N: How do you hope the music industry there will evolve?

K: I hope the industry here grows to be more open to different types of music. There is a lot of creative talent waiting to be seen.

N: What are your hopes for the year ahead?

K: I hope my music is received well and it findsits own place somewhere in this scene.

N: Any upcoming releases we should be looking out for?

K: I have an EP coming out start of 2023!

N: What do you want your legacy as an artist to be?

K: I want to be remembered as a creative mind with no genre barriers. Someone who executed ideas.