Welcome to another edition of Le Café Music’s Indie ArtistInterview Series. Today’s guest is dark pop indie artist, ya.
Now that I got that out of my system, let’s get this thing started.
Ryan: What’s up, ya! I’ve been looking forward to having you on! Can you give us a little intro?
ya: I go by the name ya. Eighteen years ago, I was born into a family of business working parents and one older sister, based in Moscow, Russia. Alongside the rest of the family and family friends coming over to our grand house parties hosted strictly every weekend, I grew up in what would be called a “holiday house”, somewhat far from the city, in its own isolated universe.
My music making began then, yes probably from the day I was born. It came to me naturally and noticing that, my parents (not too musical themselves) encouraged me to take vocal, opera and piano lessons at a private Moscow school I was attending. When I was about 11 years old, a lot has changed for me but my music making remained; I moved to the Coast of Spain with my family and got into a British school, changing my first language and the language of my songs which I was already writing at the time. The strange juxtaposition of these two countries heavily influenced my music-making, aesthetics of my life and my character; the cold and cynical Moscovite has fused with the fiesta-summer-time lover.
Ryan: Haha I love that. The “holiday house” sounds dope. Living in Thailand, I have met a lot of cynical Moscovites starting to fuse with island life, so I get it.
CHANGE YOUR BODY
Ryan: When I first started working for Estabrook Road Records, I was listening to unsigned artists on Spotify. When I first heard your voice, I was like “Damn, this girl has a very strange vibe, but I kind of love it.” Jason (Payne) agreed, and you were my first artist signed to the label. You released your album with us in January. Tell us a little bit about it.
ya: My debut album Change Your Body came out on the fifth of January this year and it is the best and the most autobiographical thing I have created in my life so far, I have shared so much of myself with anyone…Change Your Body is a clear representation of my life; my childhood, my internal world, my teen years, my career…But it is not limited at me. In the album I explore ideas of reincarnation, growing up, creative progress, and artistic dehumanization. Change Your Body has endless meanings…
I feel that somehow the album came to represent the future; globalized, genderless, faceless, unified. The revolution of humankind, fusing with technological advancements; the possibility of being able to choose your body or the body of your child, already experienced through the obsessive editing of your representation on social media. I strive to musically represent the one ultimate being and be the voice for those who fear being defined.
Ryan: That’s deep as hell. I love the album and what it represents. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to it since it was released. Here is the title track, Change Your Body
Ryan: What’s your favorite song on the album?
ya: My favourite track on Change Your Body is Vision as it is the ultimate ya song, i wrote it when i just turned 16 and two years later the song still makes me feel the same way. I know I say that I hate being defined but if I had to choose one song to define my style, define my essence, it would be Vision, 100%. I was very lucky to find an amazing producer through SoundBetter, JD Stefan who allowed the song to reach its potential.
Ryan:Vision is an awesome song. You and JD did a great job on it.
Ryan: Your musical style is very interesting. Who are your biggest influences?
ya: I grew up on jazz, blues and funk (being influenced by dad’s taste.) For me any blues artists (that I listen to) are IT. Blues to me feels more right than anything else and has influenced me far beyond just my music but my lifestyle and life views.
If I had to name an artist, it would be a pop star, Miley Cyrus. Her influence also went way beyond my music. Actually, musically I was not so much influenced by her in the actual music style etc, but what she stands for.
“Change is a thing you can count on.” Miley sang, and her encouragement of embracing moments and not tying yourself down to any one identity has been so meaningful to me. Even when she was on Hannah Montana and I was a kid in Russia, she became my first ever idol; from early age, I felt this desire to be ALL, to have no limits and yeah I saw that in Hannah Montana hahah. Since then, I’ve stood by her and expanded these ideas to my own projects, like Change Your Body.
Ryan: Wow. I would have never pegged you as a Hannah Montana kind of person haha. But you’re right, the message is great and one I think every young girl would benefit from.
Ryan: That being said, what artist would you love to collaborate with? I have a feeling I already know the answer to this one.
ya: Goes without saying, Miley Cyrus…besides her, Young Fathers whose music I feel very deeply, and I think they are just next level, their music feels sacred to me and I would be humbled to take part in that.
Ryan:Young Fathers makes so much more sense to me. But I would love to hear a collaboration between you and Miley. That would be interesting. What’s your collab process like?
ya: With collaborations, the process is quite different from my usual songwriting; like in my personal life, I work better when I’m alone and in full control. I get a lot of collaboration requests and usually it consists of someone sending me an instrumental. Sometimes with part of their vocals on it and the only thing I need to do is write melody and lyrics for my voice, keeping in mind the aesthetics of the other artist to so it doesn’t clash.
In these cases, I’m more detached and sometimes will work on a song for weeks, changing the lyrics until the best result is reached whether with fully my own songs the process takes about twenty minutes, plus potential future polishing and producing. I have only had one collaboration so far which in my view matched to the standard and authenticity of my original solo music which is the song Cult on my album in collaboration with a Rhode Island – based rapper, Nerdteck. Maybe this is because I originally wrote the song, my hook and verse with acoustic guitar and later found a perfect instrumental.
Ryan: I totally get being detached, especially when you’re not in the same room together. I do love the fact that technology allows us to collaborate from Spain to Rhode Island.
Outside of Music
Ryan: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not making music?
ya: Limitless. I find myself very grateful to still have so much interest in almost everything from which I can learn something. All forms of art, of course I am very involved in. I write anything from prose, poetry to screenplays and theatre. I am very into film and actually have had filmmakers in my family. It’s another career I’m pursuing.
Fashion is very important to me, architecture, journalism, law and politic; literally anything within the arts and humanities spectrum. And it’s all I do. There’s not a part in my life where what I spend my time doing something that isn’t somehow related to my art-making. From more “fun” hobbies, I do indulge in parties when I feel the time is right, like I mentioned, I grew up in parties so it means a lot to me and it is the only time I can take somewhat of a break.
Ryan: That’s awesome. I’d love to read one of your scripts sometime!
Ryan: Your music is quite dark. You…are quite dark as an artist. What were you like as a kid?
ya: I’ve been “dark” since I was born, and more and more so I become each day. As a kid, I was neurotic and obsessively religious. My psychological issues were the worst at the time of my childhood. I had to fully alone manage more than any person, especially child could, so it made me strong but bitter.
It’s like there’s this lack of connection between me and other people because I know I will never be able to fully open up to anyone, I won’t be able to be fully honest and have these genuine relationships that I see. I don’t know what image you’re getting from my childhood but even though it was dark, I did have a lot of friends and grew up well-off and it was beautiful but painful. Now I thrive in darkness and nothing really scares me, I just try to keep up my interest and lust for life.
Ryan: A childhood like that creates endless possibilities as an artist, and you seem to be using that as much as you can.
Ryan: If you could go on a date with any artist, who would it be and what would you do?
ya: If I could go on a date with any other musician it would be Playboi Carti. We would make vampire love to each other and creep in the night, drinking stranger’s blood.
Ryan: That is a terrifying image.
Ryan: What are you doing to stay connected with your fanbase during the pandemic?
ya: The pandemic hasn’t made changes in my career. I started my music career in the midst of the pandemic. Although I was doing live shows locally in Spain before harsh restrictions, all my fans were online from the beginning; mostly in the US and UK and for them I do regular live shows on social media and keep creating more content.
Ryan: I’ve seen some of your live shows on social media. I recommend you guys follow ya. Her links will be at the bottom of the page.
Live Gigs and Stuff
Ryan: If you could perform in any city in the world today, where would you go?
ya: If I could do a gig in any city, it would be LA because you know…where to promote yourself if not in LA? Plus, it’s one of the cities in which my music is listened to the most and I know people would go hard.
Ryan: That would be an awesome show. Can’t wait to get live music back. If you had to choose a “last meal,” what would it be?
ya: My last meal choice would be Russian pancakes with red caviar and a shot of Vodka.
Ryan: I learned to never drink vodka with Russians. I learned the hard way.
Ryan: What keeps you going?
ya: What keeps me going is restless, obsessive ambition and not in an ego centrical way, but in a way that I genuinely feel and know and have felt and known my whole life that I need to release my art into the world ,as should everyone else who feels that need. Because if you feel it, the universe is in some way asking for it. We are all constantly changing the world and this feeling, in my opinion, means that there is some duty you have. That’s the way I often feel about my music and everything else in my life, actually. I feel it is my duty to make the best out of it. It’s a feeling that moves beyond the temporary, hedonistic wishes and basic human needs.
Ryan: Wow. That’s a great answer.
Ryan: We’re running short on time, so I have 2 more questions for you. What’s next for ya?
ya: Most of the time when I tell people about my plans, they end up not happening… I can tell you, I have big plans. The kind that some people laugh at, but it doesn’t bother me. What I can reveal now is my next biggest project is a music video for my most popular song Movie.
It’s pop track from my album, exploring the subject of identity and fame. My visual ideas for it consist of a surrealist music video in themes of selling the soul fused with the groovy, moody, modern pop sound. This will be my best music video ever, as I will be working with a film company in Moscow to make it as professional and as artistic as possible. For this, I have started a crowdfunding campaign which I hope will allow me to make this video come to life. At this point, it depends on my supporters, but I know I will do my best with the resources I do have.
One for the Fans
Ryan:Movie is the first song I heard from you. That was the one that made me reach out to you for the label. I can’t wait to see the video. One last question. What would you like to say to our readers?
ya: To my fans – Thank you for all your support and for spending time from your world to gain insight into mine. The connections we have are rare and very meaningful to me. And if you want to support me further, please, look into the crowdfunding or help me spread the word. I can guarantee you the most authentic and unique music video, and with it being for Movie, my most famous song and the most mainstream song, I know this project will go far. I’d love for you to take part in that.
To people who haven’t heard my music yet – I will very much appreciate you taking time to listening to my music. With it, I have opened myself up in a way I could never do in real life and have exposed myself in hopes to find a connection with the right person. If the right person is you, if you find something that moves you in my music, I know how valuable that is.
Ryan: Thank you so much for joining us today, ya. Your answers were incredible. I can’t wait for the video and I’ll chat with you soon!