Hello again! It’s resident uncle maSHerman with another conversation piece on another lovely friend of mine, who deserves your admiration and attention.
Today, the full-time sad boy himself, NYHLA’s youngest & friendliest young friend released a brand new EP entitled yours kindly, an absolute indie-pop clinic tailored for sunny days and midnight drives, with more ear-worm hooks in its modest run-time than your brain can handle being stuck on at once. We FaceTimed for 30 minutes and covered more than I could concisely fit into this piece.
SH: What does yours kindly, represent to you, whether it’s a part of the process, your actual attachment to it, or what it’s about — what’s your main takeaway from creating this EP?
YF: My main takeaway? I see it as a bit of a departure, honestly, from start to finish — everything from the cover to all of the songs. It feels like opening a new chapter to not only my music, but to myself. Like a goodbye to all of the things I used to do, and the music I was making.
SH: How would you describe the difference? What aren’t you making anymore, and what do you make now? How would you describe that musical transition in stylistic terms?
YF: Well I was making rap music before. There were a few cuts I made that were a bit more alternative, and a few acoustic cuts as well, but it was super heavy, very rap focused. I think what I did with the whole transition into this new sort of style is take all of the elements that I liked about rap and translated that into a more alternative, bedroom pop style. So you’ll notice on a lot of songs on the EP there’s a lot of flows that are like rap flows — it’s just adding that melody, and singing it rather than rapping it.
SH: Yeah, and you added your messaging to it, you aren’t just rapping for rap’s sake. You aren’t just being like “hey, I can rap”, you’re using it as a tool to get your messaging across.
YF: Absolutely. Let it serve a purpose in a song rather than just [thinking] “I can rap here” instead of thinking about a good verse.
SH: You mentioned your cover. It’s definitely a lot brighter, it sort of looks like you’ve elevated, literally and figuratively. The sun's out; the last cover was dark and rainy.
YF: The [concept is that] on the cover, I’m flying, and it’s almost like “Ok, we’re on an upward trajectory here, we’re moving on to a new era”.
SH: I can absolutely appreciate that. Another thing that’s been part of your evolution in this process is that in your formative stage, when you were performing, it was just you and a mic, and now you’ve got a full band setup that you’re debuting at your release party. I know that you self-produce your music, so what’s it like working with other people to translate something you made into something that four different pieces can create? Has that been difficult?
YF: Dude, it’s actually been so much easier than I thought it would be. So a little backstory to the band: we have Ross, our bassist, we have Lucas, the guitarist, and our friend Devon on drums. All three of these guys, I’ve known for years, and we’ve all at some point have jammed or written something, so we’ve had that musical chemistry for quite some time. They’re also stupid talented, some of the best musicians I know. I can play something for Lucas, and he’ll just be able to figure it out after listening to it. They’re all geniuses like that. A few of the songs don’t actually have bass lines, but Ross, the superstar that he is, can make something work and make it sound amazing. Like, on done w u, we have slap bass — which is insane, 'cause while writing that song I could have never imagined that. It’s been super easy, they’re fantastic.
SH: It’s great that it came together naturally. You mentioned done w u, which was the first single from the EP, and you put a lot of personal messaging in there — it wasn’t just a song, it was a story that you had to get off your back. How was that experience, not only putting something so personal in a song, but leading this new EP with a song that’s so vulnerable? I just put out a personal story, and it’s very cathartic but a weird, uncomfortable position to put yourself in. What was putting out done w u like?
YF: Catharsis is the perfect way to describe it. It was really nerve-wracking to put out. I think just because it’s such a personal story, I had a lot of worry that people were gonna take it as an attack almost, or think I was trying to start some shit by putting it out — but I really wasn’t. It was just something I had on my chest that I needed to get away from and move on from. It was a really interesting process putting out something like that, because I’ve never really opened up like that on record before, so having something so difficult to talk about was a big point for me as far as growth as an artist goes, being able to let people in like that. It’s really tough, but it felt like the right thing to do. I’m glad that I did it.
SH: I feel like you get out what you put in. You can get closer to a heart the more of your own you put into something. If there’s layers in between you and what you wrote, then you can only get that deep into it as a listener, if that makes sense.
YF: No, totally.
SH: And not to hang on something like that, but I’ve had this conversation with tons of artists, and it’s a very artist-specific experience that when some personal calamity happens, it almost feels like you’re given something. Are you one of those artists that sort of craves these things so that you have some shit to write about? I feel like some people just relationship-hop so they can keep writing love songs. Is that you? Do you let these things come to you, or do you search for them?
YF: It’s hard to say, 'cause I don’t think I ever do it consciously, I don’t think I’m ever like, “I wanna get my heart broken so I can write some really good sad music,” but I also don’t shy away from it. It is creative fuel in a way. There was a period where all of my friends would call me the self-saboteur. I would rather experience some real emotion and go through some shit than shy away from it just to preserve my feelings. Even if it does hurt me, it’ll probably make some honest stuff and help me grow. I wouldn’t say I do it deliberately.
SH: It does help that you have this mechanism to be able to deal with whatever enters your life because you know that you can turn it into art and make it separate from you. It’s funny, you just mentioned that some of your friends in the past have called you the self-saboteur, but on this record you drop your favourite tagline, which is the “full-time sad boy”. So, besides music, what does the full-time sad boy do to take care of himself? When you’re off the clock from your 9-5 being full-time sad, what helps you clear your head?
YF: I have a few things. I do the crossword every day. My girlfriend and I like to do it together. That’s literally what I was doing before you called. I was doing the crossword outside.
SH: Are you on the New York Times Crossword app?
YF: There’s an app for it? That’s actually brilliant. I feel like I wouldn’t be as big of a fan on the phone. I’m into those archaic habits, getting a pen and finding the page in the paper and going outside with it, there’s something I love about that. It’s very simple.
SH: It’s funny you bring up old-school things like that, because I have two books that I read. One is very short-and sweet, it’s low-key a picture book, it’s very therapeutic. I also have a psych textbook on a couple concepts of love and relationships I like to read. Are you reading?
YF: I am reading, I’m reading a couple different books right now. For starters, I’m reading Lolita, which is a classic.
RAUNIE MAE BAKER, INTERJECTING: I would just like to say, I said “he’s probably reading Lolita right now,” right before we started this.
YF: I’m like, almost done Lolita. It’s actually a really, really disgusting story. I don’t even really want to get into it, I don’t think it’s really a conversation piece, but you should look up what Lolita’s about. It’s really dirty, and like, not cool. But it’s a classic. I’m also reading Siddhartha, which is actually a novel that Gabe Hendry gave me. It’s very interesting, and highly praised. And then [there's] a bunch of poetry books I’m always diving through.
SH: That might make you a better writer, to be reading poetry fairly often.
YF: I think it does. I was never a big reader, I wasn’t a video game kid either, I was always just outside or doing something creative. In the past year I started actually reading, and I’m falling in love, man. There’s so many good books out there, and I don’t know why I never read, it’s really grounding, helps me focus on one thing and not have my head run to a million different places.
*We talk about travelling for 5 minutes, then another 7 about Vancouver vs. North Vancouver*
SH: Well, I know you’re bringing the band to Vancouver on release day.
YF: Yes, today.
SH: Today. If people are reading this on day one, they'd better get their butts there. Let’s end with the classic, the good old-fashioned ‘what can we expect next’. I know your unreleased music is so there, and by ‘there’ I mean when I met you, you were just coming off of the mixtape, and I knew you had it, but what you’ve been making has really found its seat. Is there anything you want to say about that next step, now that people have this EP, that you say is a transformation, and an exploration of a more authentic you, what does the next chapter look like from your perspective?
YF: I think it’s just gonna take a bit of a different tone. I think that a lot of the music in the past that I’ve released, even in a sense some of the songs on the EP, have a younger tone on them. I mean, I’m young friend, but I think the new unreleased music that I’ve been making feels a lot more mature. It’s less of a sense of wonder & magic, and dives more into real topics and real things that I’m going through, and less about dreams — but I’m still singing about dreams, so I don’t know. Trying to find that healthy in-between. It’s some of my favourite stuff that I’ve ever made, and it’s really different. It’s a lot of live instruments, a lot of different jazz rhythms and a lot of funk going on in there, a lot of experimentation. Don’t expect anything from me, just keep your ears open, take it, experience it as it is and enjoy it. Love it. Share it with your momma.
SH: I’m ready to watch young friend mature, and be like, “I remember when young friend was really young and really friendly.”
YF: I say this, but I’m like, turning 20 this year.
SH: It’s so weird to be a dad in this community at 25.
YF: You’re such a dad to me.
SH: Oh, my son. I love you. We should have a catch some day.
YF: Can we actually do that?
SH: Oh, yes. 100%. Let’s toss the ball, talk about girls.
YF: Yeah, you can give me the talk.
SH: It’s a date. I’m proud of you, I’m excited for the release of yours kindly, and I’ll see you tonight!