The Los Angeles-based musician externalizes the internal on her new record, Premonitions.
Miya Folick only released her debut album, Premonitions, in 2018, but she’s quickly established herself as a most thoughtful, powerful, and revelatory songwriter. Through Premonitions and her two previous EPs, she’s charted a path towards the celebratory, the nourishing, and the irrepressible. Her songs sound like they are bursting from a place deep within, whether they’re danceable and sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-worthy, or slow tracks that nestle their way inside and make you feel her pain and triumph. The track “Deadbody” begins with dirge-y piano and Folick singing low and rough. “Don’t want your money for my silence / I don’t care who knows your name,” sings Folick. When the chorus arrives, her voice soars. “Over my dead body,” she repeats, lifting the song from a verse of slick anger to pumping, atmospheric synths and drums fit for marching, for moving forward.
AdHoc chatted with Folick about being compared to other artists, her intentions in the music video process, and externalizing the internal. Catch her at Kings on March 6 in Raleigh with support from Barrie.
AdHoc: How is Premonitions different from your previous releases?
Miya Folick: I think my first EP, [2015’s] Strange Darling, was very inwardly focused and immediate in scope. It was quiet songs about my personal and romantic life. The Give it to Me EP, [from 2017], started to expand a little and get a bit louder, but it was still pretty inwardly focused. With Premonitions, I wanted to make something broader in scope and little more community-minded. There are more songs about friendship and family—the kinds of relationships that usually get less attention from songs. Sonically, it’s more expansive, more inclusive. Basically, I took my inspiration from Creed, you know: “With arms wide open.”
People often compare you to artists like Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries, or Tori Amos. What does it feel like to hear those comparisons?
It feels like when someone says to you, “Omg, you look so much like my friend _____”, and you don’t know their friend _____ [sic]. Basically, it feels like nothing. I understand that people use comparison and categorization as a way to digest the world, but it doesn’t really mean anything to me. I also think that women who are honest will always be compared to each other.
Which non-musical inspirations influenced your songwriting and performance style when you first started out?
When I first started playing music I was very into reading about and seeing dance. I still am, but I don’t have as much time to do it anymore. I was very into Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Michael Clark, Kazuo Ohno, Martha Graham. I was also into video art like Charles Atlas and Pipilotti Rist. These artists all have wildly different styles, but I think they are all interested in exploring ways of expressing.
Your lyrics are often full of “you” and “I” statements. Are you ever inhabiting different characters? When are you writing to yourself, and when are you writing outwardly, from yourself to someone else?
I don’t really think about characters when I’m writing music. I’m just singing words. I write in more of a flow style than a super calculated style. Sometimes the “you” in the song is a separate entity; sometimes the “you” is myself. Like, “Cost Your Love” is actually about singing to myself, even though it sounds like it’s a break-up song.
Many of your music videos have incorporated sound from the video’s production, sounds that aren’t on the record itself. What was the intention behind that decision?
I think it’s generally more interesting to think of a music video as its own unique project, not just a visual aid to a song. And, when you think about it that way, it frees up the possibilities in sound mixing. You start thinking about the sound as it serves the video and not just the song. I think the directors I work with have similar feelings about music videos. In “Deadbody,” the decision to include ambient noise was because the director, Ariel Fisher, and I wanted the video to feel like a short film. In “Stop Talking,” which I again made with Ariel Fisher and also with Sarah C. Prinz, the sound was more for comic effect. It was funny to hear the stuff clatter to the ground.
I can’t remember exactly what I said in that video, but I think I was trying to explain that my emotive movements in the video were an exaggeration of how I would usually walk down a street. They were more a reflection of a peregrination of my mind. But I think most music and art in general is an attempt at externalizing the internal. I might even venture to say that much of human life is an attempt at externalizing the internal, or internalizing the external. It’s all just a funneling of information into brains and out of brains.
There seems to be a sense of celebration and levity in many of your songs, although the lyrics are often about something far darker. What’s that about?
I think I just really like music that is sad but also hopeful. Maybe “sad” isn’t the right word. Maybe “heavy” is a better word. I like music that feels buoyant but is rich with the heaviness of living.
Your song “Deadbody” has gotten a powerful response from many as a source of strength. What sort of message were you trying to get across with it?
You’re not alone. It’s ok to feel ashamed, but you don’t have to feel that way anymore. You are strong and vibrant and resilient.
What are you looking forward to now?
My first headline tour is in February/March! I’m excited for that.