Miya Folick and I sit down for a drink in Downtown, Los Angeles. Donned with slightly pink hair, pink patent leather shoes and a cream coat, her aesthetic is apposite to her music: diaphanous and eccentric with a touch of charm. But, as we sit down and chat about her L.A. life’s complexities, her band’s unique start, and her metamorphosis from studio to stage, we learn that behind Miya’s alluring whimsicality is a feisty and bold musician. Miya Folick is ready to come out and gambol.
I just finished reading Carrie Brownstein’s memoir. She was saying when she was in the whole Punk Rock, riot grrrl world, people would always ask her…
... What it is like to be a girl in a band?
Yes, exactly. Let’s shy away from those stereotypical questions
I have listened to a bunch of her interviews and the excerpts I’ve read are so relatable. From the outside, it looks like you are having the the time of your life, but actually feeling sad, lonely, and lost along the way. That seemed more relatable to me than somebody who says, “Everything was amazing, I had the best time in my 20s…”
Well, do you feel like you’re having a good time being a young musician in L.A.?
Well I mean, yeah, but it’s not always like that. Of course, my experience is totally different than hers. I didn't tour when I was in my early 20s, not in a punk band. I’m not touring the U.S. sleeping on people’s couches. I assume that will happen to me, I assume on my first tour we will not be sleeping at hotels, and I will probably be fine with that. But yeah, it will feel lonely. There is this camaraderie in a band, but that doesn't mean those people are your best friends. I mean, I love the people in my band, but they are not my best friends.
And who is in your band?
I didn't know any of them. I met one of them [when] I put up an ad on Tinder. I made a profile on Tinder that said "looking for a band" and linked it to my Instagram. I figured they could find my music through that. Quite a few people reached out but a lot of it was, “I don’t play an instrument, but do you wanna hang out?”
Bryant ended up reaching out to me. He’s my bass player and seemed pretty enthusiastic. I actually wasn't certain about him because I didn't know anything about him. I was keeping my distance. But a couple of months later, we finally got into a rehearsal space with him playing bass and the guitarist from his other band. It was just awesome. That guitarist, Josh, and the bassist Bryant are still playing with me. They happened to find the drummer. He is actually the drummer from L.A.-based band HOTT MT.
So pretty much I put up a profile on Tinder and Bryant ended up putting together my whole band.
Well it kind of seemed like it worked out. Tinder seems to help in many facets of life…
[Laughs.] I’ve never dated anyone off Tinder, but I have made music and collaborated with quite a few. There are different websites where bands can look for members, but nobody uses them. My friend who is always on Tinder was scrolling through one day and when I looked over I realized that they were all musicians in their 20s and 30s. Tinder seemed the better way.
How many shows have you done with your current band?
Uh, a lot. It has been since July 2015.
And you perform a lot locally in L.A. I know you have been at the Bootleg and The Echo. Are you based in L.A. by choice or necessity?
By choice. I like it here. I think when I first moved here I didn't really like it. I moved here from New York and LA seemed so sprawling and inaccessible. You needed a car to go everywhere and you needed to make a decision about what you wanted to do with your night; where I felt like in NY you could fly by the seat of your pants and just go where the night took you, which I grew to enjoy. So here I felt really isolated at first. I didn't know anyone but now that I know the city, I can’t imagine moving back to New York.
Is there an inspiring spirit about Los Angeles? What is it about here that you feel you don't want to go back to NY?
I feel like there is an inspiring spirit about Los Angeles. There also is an inspiring spirit of every city. My family always makes fun of me because every time I visit a city I say I want to move there... and I tell everyone I want to move there. When you are a visitor, you experience the city like a child with wonder and awe, and then you get used to it and then it bores you. But with L.A., I have crossed over that boredom into a newfound appreciation.
There is always something happening in L.A. A lot of people are moving to L.A., there's this feeling of danger and uncertainty because we are in a drought, and we might have an earthquake and fall off the continent – L.A. has a bunch of fault lines. There’s this feeling that, “We shouldn't be here,” but we are here. And to me, that makes it kind of exciting.
There’s a different type of fear living on the east and wests coasts. Like Joan Didion says, L.A. weather is that of catastrophe and apocalypse. There is a violence and unpredictability about L.A. weather. While in New York, there are reliable weather factors: the bitter winters, isolation, in addition to the heavy metropolitan, urban nature, claustrophobia.
Living in NY, I was never afraid of walking around by myself. I would walk around any time of day, everywhere. It became something I required, being able to walk at any time of night to clear my head. And then I moved here, and I didn't feel safe. And because of that I felt more isolated in L.A., like I had to stay inside, and I didn't really know where to go. I didn't know where my people were. And this was 2009, so pre-Instagram. I feel like Instagram opened up every world to everyone. People weren't so actively online all the time. Where now if I want to go a tech party or go see a punk show, or go see old school hip hop DJs, I can easily find it online. When I first moved here, I didn't know where my people were so I would just stay in all the time.
Even with followers, you can see where they go. And because they have like-minded interests and are checking in and geo-tagging places, you are inspired to go and check out those venues and scenes.
Someone I know who was visiting L.A. from the Bay Area, he had a theory about L.A.: that it doesn't have any landmarks like other cities do. I kind of like that about L.A. We are still figuring it out as a city, what it wants to be. And I feel like it does have landmarks, but they are... duddy. But I kind of like that.
I feel like most buildings in L.A. are in a time-warp.
Yeah, it totally is a time warp. I don’t think L.A. has really has reinvented itself. It’s not quite old and it's not quite new.
It is not old enough to be old. I know we are trying to avoid the stereotypical questions. But, I was curious to know, do you have relationships with other women singer-songwriters in L.A.?
I pretty much just work with myself. And playing, I just play with my band, and they happen to be men. I’ve made it a point to pursue relationships with other singer-songwriters because I don’t really know very many. I wish I had a crew of women doing the same thing as me, and we could swap stories and give each other advice, but I don’t really.
I do think it is important for women in the music industry to band together. Even my publicist and I, I feel like I have a tighter knit relationship than maybe I would if she were a dude. She understands what it’s like to be a woman in the industry even though she's not an artist.
She understands the world of it.
The world is such a boys’ club in every facet from label execs, to publicists, to A & R. And nothing against the guys, I’ve met all of them and they are really cool, but it is really hard for women. I have yet to have a bad experience, it can just feel kind of lonely.
So, you do a lot of your song writing by yourself. What’s your process?
I usually start songs stream of consciousness, singing gibberish words. Then a sentence and phrase that makes some sense will pop out, and I try to figure out what it means to me. Sometimes it is very obvious. It’s about a person I am in a relationship with or a person I was in a relationship with 5 years ago. In those cases, I try to tap into whatever emotion that person brings out in me.
That’s how most of the EP was. Those songs are about specific people. Not all the lyrics are fact. Some of it is invented because it sounds good with the phrasing and the melody, but a lot of it is totally factual. Some things that sound metaphorical are actually just fact.
What about what you’re writing now?
It is a lot more broad. A little less about my personal life. A little more about how I see the world.
Is that a conscious decision?
Yeah. I think I started boring myself. I got bored with love songs. There is nothing wrong with love songs, but I personally became bored with thinking about my personal relationships.
Trying to think on a more global perspective?
Yeah. When I have the intention of writing a more global song, it often is just even more personal. And instead of being about a relationship with a person, it’s just about my relationship with me. But I guess in some ways that is more global because I’m not really that different from anyone else.
Women musicians of the past have paved the way to express vulnerability and honesty. Even today, we are stereotyped as magnanimous and charming creatures. Do you feel that this informs your persona as an artist?
As a child, I was always the type of person who liked to make people happy. That meant being charming and delightful. But I feel as an adult I am less interested in that and more interested in being a little bit abrasive or aggressive. That doesn't come across in the recorded music but in the live show.
I feel tension and restlessness in your recorded music.
The tension is definitely built in musically. A lot of the songs don't end where you want them to and that’s intentional. But the energy is a little mellower then our live show. I think playing them live gives me a different approach to how I sing them. I didn't perform any before I recorded and now the EP is sort of a time capsule.
I heard about your CMJ performances. CMJ is known to help beginner bands create a profound sense of empowerment for musicians. How important are festivals to development for artists?
CMJ is so different than other festivals. It is very industry-centric. I don't think CMJ is yet a destination festival. CMJ was a really good experience for us. It was the first time we played a series of shows back to back, to be sleeping next to one another, bonding. We were seen by a lot of people who might help my project.
It felt really good to play there. We were able to meet some of the people who follow me on twitter and have listened to my EP, who I interacted with online before, that got to come to the show. One person in particular came out to every show, and that was really surprising and validating. It felt good to come home knowing we made an impression.
Do set goals for yourself?
I don't tend to set specific goals. But, I am now finding that habit to be helpful emotionally and creatively. It gives me a certain structure and deadlines. Though, every time I think I'm getting better about goal-setting, someone comes along and asks me what my plans for 2017 are and I'm thinking, "I haven't thought that far! My brain doesn't work that way!" It is too hard at this point. It is me and my band, but it is really my responsibility to make things happen. Everything requires so much planning. Writing down my goals and completing them is something I've never done [before].
Do you feel like now, doing them, you are more career motivated?
The career part is all very nice but I think my main goal is really to make the best music. And I am worried I won’t ever do that so I am trying to make things happen as quickly as possible to be able to do that before I die, ya know?