Interview & Photos by Keira Zhou
When did you start playing music?
I moved to LA to start college when I was 12 because I was homeschooled. That’s why I moved to the west coast because there weren’t colleges in the east coast that would let me in. We moved there for that, and I had to wait for 6 months for the school year to start. So I picked up the guitar and I started playing songs, and I got the American Idiot album and I started teaching myself.
Are there musicians in your family?
My parents were both musicians, that’s how they met. My mom was a musician in the 80s and my dad, he sold a bunch of records in the 70s. By the time my mom came around, he was already super established. So he produced her album, that’s how they met. So yea, music family.
Who were your inspirations when you were growing up? Like the bands you liked or the bands you parents listened to?
I actually can’t stand what my parents listened to. It’s so funny; we went totally different routes. I remember taking these long road trips and they would listen to all those slow R&B stuff. And it’s the color orange to me, and I hate the color orange. I would call it headache music, because it would give me a headache. I think the people inspiring me the most growing up are, of course Green Day, Bjork, she’s one of my favorites. Not just her music but also her as a person, like the fact that she always wants to be learning something new. And collaborating with interesting minds in all fields, whether it’s people who create slimy 3D creatures, things like that. In music industry, you hear the phrase, just focus on what you do, just be the artist. But she’s always doing something intellectual and creative and she’s like a multimedia artist. And that’s kinda what I based my idea of success and happiness around. I always want to be learning something new and I always want to be traveling somewhere new, just using all the parts of my brain, just exercise all the gifts I’ve been given.
Do you also create multi-media art?
I do. Right now I’ve been branching into film. As my resources grow and my brand grows, I’m just going step by step. So the first step for me is to direct my own music videos. I think the very first video I did, I wrote the treatment but I didn’t have the confidence to direct it, and I was with a label, so they were like “oh we are gonna hire this director”. And he fucked up my vision. He cut out one of my scenes. And he messed up the set design and the metaphor. So the last two videos I’ve done, I directed and wrote the treatment for. I also produce them, so I found the lighting people, the set builders, and I was exploring all these different ways of how film works together, cause that’s one of my passions. But in the future, my new thing now is writing. So I’ve been working with this scriptwriter on little script that we are gonna turn into a short film. I just feel like now that I put out an album, and that I have established my brand the way that I see it. Now I can attract like minds.
Do you have a day job outside of being a musician?
I work as an audio engineer as my day job. I’ve only been doing for 6 months, but it found that it’s a cool way to up my technical knowledge about what I do, cause I produce my music. But also a good way to keep me sane, Because music can be kind of wishy washy and overly creative, but not enough hard technical things. And I have a very technical brain.
How do you balance your passion for music, for film and your day job?
I actually find that right now having a day job and having time constraints, makes my artistic creative time that much more productive because when I have had a bunch of money at my disposal, sometimes having everyday to devote to creativity, you can lose the structural sense. But to go from the structured world where people are afraid, to the world where you are not afraid of anything, you kind of carry over some of the good habits of that. So when I am in front of the computer and I decide that I’m gonna make this track, I have only this short amount of time to do that, or I’m gonna go on this tour so I better make this fucking good tour. I think the structure makes my time more productive.
Your album Lost Angels just came out in October, could you tell us a little bit more of the album?
Lost Angels is a post coming of age album, because the oldest song there is about 5 years old. But I wrote it over a period of time where I was making peace and healing all the decisions I’ve made when I was coming of age, like I broke up with my first long term partner, and I just got out of my first label deal, and I was just out on my own for the first time. I was living in my car for a part of time, taking all these crazy jobs to make ends meet and deciding what music really meant to me. It was just me finding and creating my own home, which is why the album starts in this lost place and ends at home. The title is Lost Angels because I feel like we are all born with good potentials in us and I always have a strong sense of self, so I never didn’t know who I was, but I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t understand my surroundings, cause when you are in the industry, like I was 15 and on a major label and had all these people driving me around and carrying my bag and telling me what to do and all that. So for that to be a formative thing, and even if you are not in that situation, and if you are in high school, and all your teachers are telling you who to be, it’s like, you don’t know where you are, you don’t understand your surroundings. And you come of age, and then after that, you start to build your own home, you start to settle in to where you are.
Have you ever struggled of who you are or who you want to be when the surroundings influence you so much?
I think that is one of the benefits of having been home schooled. I was home schooled till I was 12, that’s why I was ready for college when I was 13. And because I grew up very isolated, I also had freedom of choice, kind for better or for worse. I kinda don’t know how to assimilate; I was always very single minded. I grew up with a lot of lot of rules. But I was also given the freedom to decide what my ideas are going to be and I was always reading books and always deciding what I want to listen to. If I go to school, you are gonna listen to everything your friends are listening to. But I didn’t go school and I turned on KROQ and I was like “yea! I like this”, so I listen to it. So people are like, how did you get into rock? Cause this is just what I want to listen to. So I think my parents gifted me with freedom of choice.
Do you have any fun memories of making the album?
Yea it was funny recording it, because I was recording it, engineering it and producing the whole thing myself. Studios are not built for that. So I did a lot of in my bedroom, but then it would come time to track guitars or track piano, where you need to be near the amp or the big piano, I rented a studio and would be in the control room with computer, and press record, and then I would have to run to the tracking room, and I would like play the guitar and then I would have to run back and stop the track. It was really funny and I caught couple of videos of it but it’s funnier to me watching the video than anyone else. Yea it was a lot of that, funny one man band stuff.
What’s your favorite food?
That’s difficult. Just because we are staying above a pizza shop, I’ve been eating pizza everyday. But my favorite food is Ethiopian food. I can just eat it forever.