Earlier on in the month I was afforded the chance to sit down with Theia whilst she was in Sydney.
We talked at length about her music and the then-upcoming Not Your Princess EP.
Ez: So you’re already working on new music and you’ve got an EP coming out as well.
Ez: And the EP is titled…?
Theia: It’s okay. I can help you if you want.
Ez: Please help me. (laughter)
Theia: Not Your Princess. (laughter)
Ez: “Not Your Princess”: A song that I wrote enthusiastically about and can’t remember the name of.
Theia: Yeah. It’s called Not Your Princess as well.
It basically encompasses everything and it kind of is like a key message I guess. I’m just at this time where, like for myself I’m feeling really confident and sassy.
This EP is full of anger and passion, and umm… I’m writing about what’s… I guess whatever’s triggering me or what makes me angry, and the notion that I suppose that a woman, or one has to be a certain way, and you know what? There’s so much strength and anger and passion, and just being frank and knowing your faults and knowing your strengths, and whatnot.
If you look at the songs, they’re all empowering in their own way. Some of them – Like “Bad Idea” – I listen to it and I’m like “Wow, I’m so proud of myself.” I’m glad I did that because even that has so much strength ’cause it does take a lot of strength to process your feelings that you want to [put down].
Then there’s “Bye Bye”. The main lyrics are “I don’t need your fake ass around me”. That’s [about] identifying anyone who is hanging around your… has ulterior motives, or didn’t support you before and suddenly support you.
Then there’s “Candy” which was just a moment after I had a two month break from music and I was really was going through a really depressive few weeks and months and then my manager encouraged me. She’s like “Okay, got to get up. Studio”. I was like “I don’t know what I’m going to write about. I don’t know what I’m going to do”.
And so she put me in the studio, and then literally, “Candy” – just so in your face and obnoxious – came in three hours.
So each one has a story, but overall; Yeah, I’m not really anyone’s princess. It just means that it’s not that I’m not a princess, but I’m not pandering to anyone. I’m my own person, so that’s what it’s about I guess.
Ez: So the songs then [are] thematically connected in sense. Is that why they’re all on the EP, or is it just a collection of songs that just happened to work nicely together?
Theia: Kind of both.
I think I started releasing them…
I came up with “Bye Bye” and “Bad Idea” a couple of days after each other. Then “Telling Everyone My Name” I did in LA. It was super fun.
So basically there’s been a bunch of songs that I’ve written and I didn’t plan for them to necessarily sit next to each other, but they just do because they all have a kind of similar motion running through them and sonically they sit next to each other really well so it just kind of worked out perfectly. They all can sit under the same umbrella. Sonically they’re very similar. Like you said, thematically I guess.
They all kind of just sit in different areas, like “Not Your Princess” or that kind of thing. Just confident and not caring.
Basically I just started releasing singles effectively and there’s four singles: “Bye Bye”, “Bad Idea”, “Candy” and “Not your Princess”. Then I already had “Telling Everyone My Name” and I just desperately wanted to put it on a record ’cause it’s just beautiful.
I don’t really care if it’s single material or not. It’s just beautiful.
Then there’s honest that goes on it as well.
They basically all sit next to each other. What started off as singles, you then look at them and go “Wow, they really can sit next to each other”. It’s just nice to give them a home and just bundle them together and have them in the right order and put them on the EP ’cause they do tell a nice story.
Even the track-listing was very, very fun to do. I like the journey it takes you on starts with “Not Your Princess”, and ends with “Candy”, which the first lyrics is “I’m a Killer Queen / I do my own thing”.
It starts off with “Not Your Princess” and then it graduates into “Bad Idea” which is more of a pain, but turned into power. It goes from there. So it kind of ebbs and flows.
Ez: Your music’s very electronic. Very dance pop in a way.
Compositionally, does it start off electronic, or is it more acoustic? More analog?
Theia: No. It’s all synth-based. The entire record is synth-based and electronic.
But I would call my vibe avant-pop, or alt-pop, meaning that it’s got the accessibility with hooks and whatnot to be pop, but prod-wise it’s a mix of… there’s hip-hop elements in there and “Bye Bye”‘s almost trap mixed with rock or R&B.
It’s all very synthesized. There’s distortion on the vocals. So it kind of is electro one one end. Just all the influences are from everywhere because my melodies are quite R&B anyhow. So I suppose it’s like R&B melodies that are accessible, popular or whatever mixed with different prod influences like trap, electro, hip-hop, rock and whatnot. So I just call my sound avant-pop or alt-pop ’cause I feel like it’s kind of a mix of the two.
Then there’s the new stuff I’ve been working on which is super, super cool. It’s kind of just an extension of it. I just feel like I’m releasing myself a bit more. My first EP – which I absolutely adore – was very much electro pop. Really fitting that certain kind of niche. This one is more experimental but in a really fun way. Just using different sounds. Different samples. Playing around and kind of definitely finding more of my own sound.
I feel this one obviously should be that way. That it’s so me right now.
Ez: So what you’re essentially saying is that compared to the first EP, this one is more experimental. It’s more of a growth outward.
Theia: Exactly. Yeah.
I feel it’s a nice way to go and it’s almost the opposite and it just comes from basically personal growth. There’s a lot of records that you listen to when kids start out – or artists – and there’s something so cool and free about it. When they start to gain traction, they start to – possibly unknowingly – fit a niche or a mould, or take on more structure or pop elements. I don’t know what it is, but you can kind of sometimes see – and that’s not always bad – but you almost start to follow certain trends and stuff.
For me, in a more liberating way, I felt like because everything happens so quickly…
To be honest I did one song. It got released. I didn’t have anything to follow it up, so once that started gaining traction it was like “Oh, I better write some stuff to follow it up with”, which was all meaningful and great, but I feel like now I’ve had some space and I’m like “You know what? I just really wanna make sure that everything I’m making I just really feel and not really try to make it for anyone else, or try to please a certain thing”.
I feel like you can feel it a lot more. There’s something kind of more frank and not as people pleasing, possibly, as my other stuff.
I feel like I can totally say that because I feel like I did kind of just get thrown into music and I felt like I was trying to keep my head above the water. Now I just feel way more free and bolshie and like myself, and confident, and that just comes from growing and trying to find your feet a bit.
So, yeah. It’s been a really freeing time.
It also kinda comes along with obviously having space, living a bit more in the music world, finding my feet, finding what I stand for, but also it’s been really cool [as] I’m a writer. I obviously write my own project, but just enjoying being able to write for other people’s projects as well.
Most of that is pop, but what’s kinda been cool I guess is that I can write pop and radio bangers but with my twist for other people and then it kind of gives me that permission of freedom to be able to do whatever I want on my own project, which is really fun, so I just feel like in many ways I’ve just had time to experiment, explore, just take some time to think and figure out what I want to do.
I’d love to be [able to] continue so that I’m at the point where I can kind of be writing for other projects. Write for anyone. Write for really cool young artists that are trying to find their sound; write for really experienced artists that are on the radio; write my own project which can be whatever I want and have the best of both worlds I guess.
It does give you so much freedom ’cause it means that one day if I wanna stop my project and stop being an artist, I can always write.
Dolly Parton, Sia, Stevie Nicks who is writing for Lana Del Rey… I feel like it’s nice to be able to flex both muscles and just enjoy both sides.
Ez: So then, in relation to the EP, when you were composing these songs, were the vocals more centric, or was the music more centric, or was it a blend?
Theia: I think both because it’s literally like… “Bye Bye” for instance; I went into it and I was like “I’m just sick of this. This vibe. What the whole song’s about.”
I went in and actually told the producer that I was working with “I want it to be like Rihanna meets Radiohead”, and so it was kind of like dreamy but also like super gangster.
I knew that was going to be the thing, but lyrically I hadn’t really done anything. My first EP was quite sweet, even though it dealt with some melancholia. On this one I was like “I wanna be a badass bitch, I just wanna serious say what I think”.
It was kind of like the prod had skip-hop – Definitely something that I hadn’t done before. The lyrics were definitely more fierce than I had allowed people to see.
It was way more open. I definitely sang way more retrained on my first EP. [With] this one, every song [I was] doing things I never thought I’d do. In every way it’s probably a bit larger.
I think that side by side, the first [EP], very electronic, solidly ethereal, like synth-pop. Vocally very sweet.
I’m obsessed with harmonies and the art of harmonising. That still stays in my new EP, but the contrast is quite cool. The hard reverb on stacked vocals mixed with little distortion on the lead and whatnot. It’s just a really different thing and I really like it.
Ez: So it’s a bit more balanced, music to vocals?
Theia: I feel like the other one was balanced, but it was a sweeter vibe. This one is balanced again, but everything a little larger. Because the prod is larger, the vocals are too.
Ez: So have you started touring or playing the EP?
Theia: I’ve been playing the EP. Not all the songs.
…Now I would have played all the songs since “Not Your Princess” came out, but some of them have been in real demo form and they haven’t been played in their fullest.
I started playing the newer tracks at festivals. Just throwing them in there and literally just playing to a track to gauge everyone’s reactions, which was really fun, but no one’s kind of heard [the new EP] in its full glory, which I’m working on when I go back [to NZ].
It’s been really fun rearranging my show and kind of stepping it up and going forward.
Ez: With the music being performed live, when [the songs] are out of demo form, are you playing with other people, or is it still just yourself?
Theia: It depends. With this new track – “Honest” – that I’ve only performed maybe twice just because it’s still getting mixed and is still very [much] in demo form, I just had people press play on it and I just sang over the top to play for the audience and see what it was like and it went down very well.
But now for the EP, then that will be fully fleshed out and have all the stems like I have for my other songs. But basically it’s just very fun to see how people react to it.
All of my other songs though, I’ve had the stems but some of them – because they are in demo form – would be a lot less crisp or filled out than when they would when they’re done. But it’s still really fun.
I think the cool thing about performing live is adding different sounds to thicken it up, or just change it up slightly. That is kind of what I’m working on now is bridging the old material with the new material.
Thankfully you can take bits out and add bits in to join them all, transition everything… It’s just really fun. I think that can give songs new life, ’cause there’s different audiences that will only know my new material and they’ve never had the chance to get to know the former stuff, so that will be really fun; to make it cohesive and bring it together.
Ez: So is it just you and a keyboard on stage?
Theia: It varies. If I have a full setup…
For instance, when I played at the Music Awards, which are like the NZ ARIAs: That was keys, drums and bass. Then I’ve done some really small intimate gigs which are just keys, but on the whole if I’m doing uni festivals or something, I’ll have keys and drums. It’s really small and clean.
Ez: Would you say then that performing stuff live is important to you?
Theia: Oh yeah. Do you mean like as an artist or for the songs, or just me personally? Do I enjoy performing?
Theia: Definitely. I would say that when I first began, because I’d never performed before and you’re just expected if you’re releasing music to perform, was absolutely terrifying. At every show I do I still get mad nerves. Just kind of debilitating, can’t talk to anyone. But now I actually enjoy it despite the nerves. It comes down to a bunch of things.
The more you do something, the easier it gets to adjust to it.
I hadn’t done vocal lessons before. They’ve been incredible. Just teaching you how to relax because I get so anxious and it affects my whole body. Your vocal is a muscle so when your nervous, that’s tight. It affects how you sing.
It’s just been a whole bunch of things, but mostly experience and getting out and doing it, and confidence. My new music has helped me heal a lot of the nerves [from] doing shows that were just terrible ’cause I was so inexperienced, but that’s what happens when you’re super fresh and new.
So now I can very quickly say that I absolutely enjoy performing ’cause it’s so fun. I was stuck on a mike stand until six months ago. I just could not move. I was so petrified. Now I don’t have a mike stand. It sits there literally to hold the mike until I come on and I spend my time engaging with the fans and dancing.
It’s just so freeing now, so I feel like I’ve definitely come a long way.
I guess that even with just the knowledge that you gain just by being involved with a band and understanding when it’s converted from the studio to a live setting, you kind of just get to know how everything works and how you like the sound and what you want going forward if you could change up some songs to work live in different ways, and the art of crafting a set to fit the event or the audience.
It’s just really fun now whereas before it was just terrifying ’cause [I was ] like “I don’t know what to do. I just hope I can get up there and not faint”. Now I freaking love it. It’s so fun.
I guess I love both. You always get asked the question: “Which do you like better? Studio or performing?” I like both, but obviously without studio I would never be able to perform. You could, but you’d be doing covers or something.
So I love both. I love spending so much time making music that you believe in that obviously comes from your heart. And the process of even making music is completely different. Making music for me is almost like spiritual. You’re just trying to get everything out the best you can.
Then you go perform it. You take something that was made in such an intimate space and then you just go and push through that play to hundreds of people.
I would say that studio comes first and that comes second, but I now enjoy the performing part.
Ez: Well, I’m out of things to ask. You were pretty much covering things before I could ask them.
Ez: Umm, so do you have any parting words?
Theia: Thank you so much for being interested in my project. I really, genuinely appreciate it, and I hope that there’s something you can connect with, or provokes you even if you don’t like it. Thanks for listening anyway, ’cause I’d rather leave you with a feeling than nothing.
And keep an eye out for my new material beyond this as well.
Ez: The EP comes out on April the 12th?
Ez: The Not Your Princess EP. I’m guessing it’s available through all…
Theia: Youtube, iTunes, Apple Music, Soundcloud. I think that’s everyone.
Ez: Well, thanks for your time.
Theia: Thank you.