Catching up with FYA on her 2021 so far, future plans and musical influences.
FYA FOX is one of the hottest new acts in a burgeoning Irish electropop scene that seems set to sweep the country in 2021. The singer came to attention with ‘White Lies’ back in November last year before the release of ‘BODY’ in February. An atmospheric single that showcased the considerable chops of its powerful vocalist, ‘BODY’ quite rightly received mainstream attention from the likes of RTÉ and Hot Press, as well as most prestigiously being featured in Either/Or's February 2021 Playlist.
With today marking the release of another storming electropop single in 'Sunset', FYA looks set to ride her current wave of momentum to even greater success this year. She sat down with me this past March to chat about her new music, her influences, plans for 2021, childhood Boyzone gigs, and much more...
First off, massive congrats on ‘BODY’! There has been such a positive reaction to the single so far… Were you surprised by the reception?
Really, really surprised. I suppose it’s a strange time to release music, and it’s really nerve-racking in itself, but releasing music as a new artist in lockdown has its pressures. You just don’t wanna get your hopes up too high but I’ve been overwhelmed with the support and the love for ‘BODY’ so yeah, delighted with it!
I know that previously you’ve mentioned FKA Twigs and BANKS as two major influences and you can hear them both in ‘BODY’ for sure. In addition to those, who would you say are the most influential artists on your sound?
Definitely for me, my number one would always be London Grammar. I have a major connection with London Grammar. I think as well, probably cause my classical side is kinda coming out, I just find that my voice and Hannah Reid’s voice are quite similar, I love their sound. So BANKS, Lana Del Rey… are all major influences. Also Florence and The Machine, Beyoncé… I suppose big voices mainly. But I then also like the production side of it, so I also love an artist called Elderbrook who has that electro-pop sound. Those are my influences.
You’ve started gaining a lot of attention since November with ‘White Lies’, and then ‘A Little Different’ over Christmas, and ‘BODY’ in Februrary. Was the lockdown a moment of inspiration to start releasing your own music?
Yeah, I intended prior to COVID to start releasing my own music, and I have been working on my own music for a number of years now. Even though it looks like it’s all just happened overnight, I have been working away for the last few years!
You also mentioned a classical side of your voice. Was there a local music scene where you came from?
Yeah, it’s funny cause I was one of those annoying children that wouldn’t just sit down and be quiet and my mother was like “we need to channel all this energy somewhere”. I’m from a rural area out in the countryside, so there weren’t really many stage schools around, the closest thing was classical training, my local teacher was classically trained.
Then as I got older I sort of switched to the cover gig scene and transitioned over, but you can still definitely hear the classical twang. I suppose with the classical training you also get all the breathing techniques and the good posture and things like that, but sometimes I’m not as “pop-ish” as other artists, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.
‘A Little Different’ lived up to its title as it’s quite different from your other two singles, being a piano ballad (now that you mentioned it, I can probably hear a little Lana in there)—would this be a style that you would like to explore in more detail on an EP or debut release or do you see your eventual debut being a more electronic sound?
Well, the way ‘A Little Different’ came about is a local business contacted me, they were shooting a promo video for last Christmas for their socials, and they had seen clips that I’d done for Barry’s Tea and Brown Thomas—I had recorded vocals for their previous adverts – so they asked me would I write something for their Christmas advert instead of using a typical Christmas song. So the meaning behind ‘A Little Different’ was actually wrote for this company, sort of about Christmas and about COVID, and that’s how it came about. But definitely that is kind of another element to my voice which I love.
At the minute I suppose I’m focusing on the electro-pop side, and that’s kinda where things will continue, but it is another avenue maybe that I could explore down the line, or I can kinda dip in and out of.
Interesting to hear how ‘A Little Different’ was conceived. What’s the company?
It’s a company called IGWT. They have a little farm shop and they’re based in Monaghan. What they did—you can actually go and look at the video—is they actually went around the local area and videoed elderly people in their homes, you know, you can see them waving at the door. There were also children and they recorded a little clip of them singing and added it, so it was quite nice. It was a nice sentiment, especially for that local area because there are some of those elderly people, you know, that you would meet them at the shops and you haven’t seen them in a while, so it’s nice to see them there.
Before you started listening to the artists who’ve come to define your sound today, who were the artists that originally got you into music from an early age? (My embarrassing answer would be, for example, Boyzone)
Again, where I live is heavily invested in Irish country and my parents would be big into it, so I would’ve been exposed to a lot of Irish country artists, but I also used to love to watch music videos, I was obsessed with music videos. I would’ve listened to everything, my brother was massive into dance so I listened to a lot of dance as well, but I always loved Eminem, Rihanna, Missy Elliot, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prodigy, Chemical Brothers… loved Tina Turner… I just was obsessed. I suppose it would depend on the song and the video, I was just obsessed with it, but definitely a range of musicians. And then if it was Irish music I would’ve listened to The Cranberries, Luke Kelly…
That’s not an embarrassing answer at all, it’s not like me saying Boyzone, those are all actually pretty cool artists…
I would’ve definitely listened to Boyzone! And Beyoncé, and Destiny’s Child, and Vengaboys… I suppose it’s because though the music scene in Ireland has changed a lot in the last few years—people are more willing to explore other genres—definitely growing up I was obsessed with watching music videos and probably influenced by a lot of American artists, cause that was probably what I was seeing on the TV. And I still love—since we obviously can’t go anywhere at the moment—just to play YouTube and watch artists live. I don’t know if there are many people who do that anymore or if it’s doing a full circle, but there doesn’t seem to be as many dedicated music channels as there used to be.
So I guess from the sound of that you would like to incorporate the visual element as well and do music videos, for ‘BODY’ and also in the future going forward?
Yeah, definitely, cause I think it just plays a part in telling the whole story, and it gives you a view of the artist, or what they’re into or, you know, what they’re wearing… I just think it paints this whole picture. Cause, you know, there’s a lot of people now that know the song but maybe don’t know the artist, they don’t know what they’re into, so I think definitely when you have a video you can go “oh, they like certain aesthetics”, so for me it’s about creating a whole picture.
So, going back to the talk of early music, you said there was a cool local scene growing up. What about your earlier gigs? Do you have any early memories? What was your first concert?
Well (laughs) I actually think it was Boyzone, cause my cousin was a massive, massive Boyzone fan. I think it kinda happened by default, cause he was meant to go with his friend but his friend was sick, so his parents called and asked did I want to go and I went so it was kinda by default. I wasn’t even a massive Boyzone fan! I was just kinda getting a day out.
Was there a particular album or song that made you say, “okay, I want to make my own music”?
For a long time I would write music on scrap pieces of paper and then I would scrunch them up and throw them in the fire so that no one could ever find them. I think for a long time I knew I wanted to be a singer and obviously I was training as a classical singer, but I think I always knew that classical wasn’t really the route I wanted to go, and then there really wasn’t anyone around me that was doing pop music, cause for so long pop music was like a “dirty word”, and I don’t know why because 90% of the music here on radio and TV was a cross between pop and something else.
I think I always knew I wanted to be a singer and I always wanted to write, I think it was just getting the belief in my songs cause I just always thought they were cringey and nobody wanted to listen to them. I don’t know whether there was like a pinnacle moment, I just always wanted to sing and just kind of be like the people I’d seen on TV.
With ‘BODY’ and ‘White Lies’ having such strong vocals, a strong lyrical focus goes hand in hand—without getting into any specifics, would your songwriting be more autobiographical or more of a storytelling process?
Kind of both. I suppose when I’m writing a lot of the time it’s either from a personal experience or something that I’ve seen somebody go through, you know, you’re putting yourself in someone’s shoes, so I suppose all songwriting is storytelling, you are creating a story and telling a story. But I like to play with songs as well, because a lot of times people will think that a song is about a particular thing when it’s actually about something completely different.
You know, the way Billie Eilish has a song that’s actually about global warming, but people didn’t realize that until she talked about it (‘all the good girls go to hell’ from Eilish’s 2019 debut)—so I kinda like to put out my songs and for people to interpret them whatever way they want even though the meaning or the intent might actually be completely different. It’s kinda cool to play with songs that way and have the inside info to myself.
You’ve already come a long way in a very short space of time so I’m sure what people want to know is—what’s next? Can we expect more releases in 2021?
Yeah, it seems weird to be talking about a new release when I’ve just released a song but I am working on my next release and it will be out very soon, so keep watching out for that. I think that once I started I just got on the bandwagon and now I can’t be stopped! But definitely there will be a new single very soon and then I would love to be able to perform live—fingers crossed if things go the way they are—I think with the pandemic I haven’t been able to get into radio stations, and, you know, gig live and really connect with people, and for new people to even come and see my music or see what I’m about, so I would love to get out and perform live and get back in action. So yeah, there’s definitely more new music on the way!
FYA lived up to her word on the new music coming soon - 'Sunset' drops today and is available all all major streaming platforms.
Interview & Words: Andrew Lambert Transcription: Isabel de Cea Oroz
Enjoying Either/Or? If you like what you're reading then subscribe and support independent music journalism!