Interview: Pyra

Interview: Pyra

Whenever I discover a really fantastic local artist or band that I didn’t know about before, it’s a bit of a rush for me.

I first heard Pyra’s latest single ‘Levitate’ when grabbing some local indie tracks to show at our musician meetup event.

I was riveted by it. It’s the sort of song that lingers with you for a few days, begging you to listen to it again. It has a very distinct and moody groove matched by an equally compelling music video. It just puts you in a different world, both musically and visually.

Naturally, after hearing one great song, I wanted to hear more. But the thing about finding new indie artists here in Bangkok is that once your interest in piqued, you have to be ready for a bit of a runaround to find out more. No Wikipedia to help you in these cases.

So I looked around, and the more I looked up Pyra and her music – a few details on her social media and Fungjai here, quite a few more on a Muse interview there – the more intrigued I was.

Pyra isn’t new. She’s not like an act from Chiangmai playing in Bangkok for the first time with passionate but unpolished demos recorded live in their bedroom. She has the experience of having been with 2 labels previously and now, releasing her first fully solo single, she knows what she wants and has a clear brand and style to match.

 

Read on and get to know Pyra in her own words. But also, get to know a whole new breed of artists and bands who aren’t taking no for an answer, who have the guts to go it on their own, who feel that even though the struggles are monumental and they don’t have everything figured out, they’re going to eventually find a way to succeed.

 

This girl has an unrelenting passion to be an independent artist, and do it on her terms, and I didn’t have to meet her to know that. It’s clear in the way she sings, brands herself, and in the stage presence she had at her recent self-organized gig at JAM, which sold out.

Going into this interview, I thought I knew exactly what to expect, and I prepped my questions accordingly.

But I was wrong.

Sure, I did find that Pyra was all those things I noted, but there is more than meets the eye, more than a Facebook feed or YouTube channel can express, more than branding.

In meeting Pyra, I was reminded that there’s a very real, human struggle to being an independent artist or band. Bangkok has a friendly and booming scene to be sure, but you very much start from zero, building your contact list from scratch and having to carve out a fanbase in a social media world of 10 second attention spans.

Read on and get to know Pyra in her own words. But also, get to know a whole new breed of artists and bands who aren’t taking no for an answer, who have the guts to go it on their own, who feel that even though the struggles are monumental and they don’t have everything figured out, they’re going to eventually find a way to succeed.

 

 

Alright so I guess firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your band, for people who don’t know you?

I’m Pyra, and I’m not really a band. I’m actually a solo independent artist.

But you do work sometimes with a backline? We saw recently that you played with 3 others at your gig at JAM.

Yeah. I mean I have backup band members, who are also my friends.

Ah I see. So you’ve been with 2 separate labels. Seems like a lot of history and lessons. What was the biggest takeaway from working with labels before and now working by yourself.

I currently have no record label and I’m not looking for one yet, because I was with those two labels before, and it didn’t turn out well. I have my own vision and style that the labels didn’t see as profitable. So I quit.

I felt like I was losing my soul. You can’t be yourself, you have to be what they want you to be. You have to be what they can sell, like a money-making machine.

Actually I think, as you can see, many big labels are dying in Thailand, and they’re saying that music doesn’t sell anymore. But actually that’s not true. I think Thai music hasn’t evolved that much and maybe the vision that the big labels have of developing their product, which is music, isn’t right.

I would say that music isn’t the main product anymore, I would say that artists are the product and music is more like an advertisement. So music doesn’t sell anymore, it’s kind of true, but artists can sell themselves through shows, becoming a presenter for a brand, etc.

 

“I was with those two labels before, and it didn’t turn out well. I have my own vision and style that the labels didn’t see as profitable. So I quit. I felt like I was losing my soul.”

 

I’ve seen that you’ve done stuff with ‘Rap Is Now’ and recently you did a self-organized show at JAM. Do you think the tools are there for musicians to be successful and do you think it’s about finding them, or do you think that they need more support?

They need more support!

In which ways?

Well I would say that in 2016 compared to the 90s, we have the internet and everyone has their own media channels. It opens doors for artists to be discovered, but at the same time there are too many artists out there to be discovered. So I think we still need support.

So you can do a lot on your own but you do need support to go further?

Yeah. I’m trying to connect to media channels to get myself out there. We need them to present us.

As your songs are in Thai, for our English audience, could you explain what your music is like and what are the lyrics about? What’s your message?

The main concept for the first EP is following your dreams. Actually I planned it that way, marketing wise. I wanted a song that would be a good first song for myself, especially for an unknown artist. I feel that telling others about my dreams is a humble approach.

 

“I would say that in 2016 compared to the 90s, we have the internet and everyone has their own media channels. It opens doors for artists to be discovered, but at the same time there are too many artists out there to be discovered. So I think we still need support.”

 

I feel like there’s a lot of people where, when you look at them through their music and social media, you may think that they are probably really lame, but then you meet them in real life and they’re just the nicest people you’ve ever met. Like for example Tun, from Apartment Khunpa …

I love him!!

You look at photos and you think he’s a crazy, douche, bad-ass sort of guy, but then when you meet him …

He’s so nice!

Yeah, he’s so chill.

He’s the cutest guy ever! I love him.

 

 

 

Yeah. What’s your next EP about? Is it gonna be similar?

No. More commercial. I’m trying to reach an underground audience in my first EP, but in my second EP I’m trying to target another audience, which is more mainstream. Not too mainstream, that’s not me, but the lyrics will be more commercial, like about love and such topics. But it will still stick to being electronic, that’s where I’m from.

You said in your interview with Muse that you don’t really have a genre, but would it be safe to say that your genre is synth-pop?

I would say electronic.

Because you like to move around within the electronic genre?

Yeah.

Will you make stuff in English?

Actually I’m releasing an English track today with Gramaphone Children called ”Move Slowly’, premiering today on Cat Radio.

 

“I feel that there’s still time for Thai people to understand what crowdfunding is. When I did my crowdfunding campaign, I kind of knew it wouldn’t be funded, but I wanted to be a part of educating people about this and that it exists with the hope that maybe artists after me could get funded.”

 

The reason I ask about English is because I see an artist like yourself wanting to go a bit through the region. Do you see yourself touring through SEA, or even India, China or Australia? Is that a dream?

I would say that that’s my dream, but it’s not in my year plan.

So it’s more in the 3 year plan?

Yes, exactly.

What do you feel about crowdfunding? I feel that it’s new to Thailand, Asiola is bringing it here, and all of a sudden it’s a thing. From one day to the next. Thai bands are crowdfunding. Having gone through that by having a campaign on Asiola, what’s your experience with it.

I feel that there’s still time for Thai people to understand what crowdfunding is. When I did my crowdfunding campaign, I kind of knew it wouldn’t be funded, but I wanted to be a part of educating people about this and that it exists with the hope that maybe artists after me could get funded.

So you see this more as getting your name out through their channel?

Yep.

You talked in your article with Muse about depression and about not being on the best terms with your mom because you chose music as a career. I thought that was very bold. What do you feel about the struggle of being a solo musician and having to do everything on your own? I’m sure it’s exciting in some ways but in other ways it must be a struggle. How do you feel about that?

I think I have a lot of struggles, compared to bands. With 5 people you can help each other idea-wise and also financially. For example, my music video cost 40,000 baht to make. You can share that when it’s 5 people, but I had to carry that on my own. So yeah I think the financial struggle is the biggest thing.

 

“My highest hope is to get myself out there, and out in other regions as well. But I don’t expect much, because if you expect much and it doesn’t happen you feel terrible. So wherever life takes me I’ll be fine with it, but I’m never gonna stop doing music, even if no one cares about my music.”

 

So what’s your 3 year plan? How do you see your music going from launching ‘Levitate’ to touring. How would you like to see it go?

My highest hope is to get myself out there, and out in other regions as well. But I don’t expect much, because if you expect much and it doesn’t happen you feel terrible. So wherever life takes me I’ll be fine with it, but I’m never gonna stop doing music, even if no one cares about my music.

Going back to collaboration with other artists, do you think that when you collaborate you’re sharing fanbases? Do you think collaboration is something that al artists in the scene should be doing?

Actually I have no comment on that because I think different people have different directions and perspective. Collaborating too much actually makes people confused about your style.

On the one hand you talk about not having such high expectations, but on the other hand, you seem to have high expectations with your music. You seem like you believe in your music and you want to make it happen.

Yeah, I believe in myself and I believe in my music, but I don’t expect people to believe in the same thing.

What have been some of your best experiences so far? What was your best gig and what was your best recording experience?

Actually the whole journey has been my favorite part, and I couldn’t select what has been the best part of my musical career. It’s always exciting doing things yourself. For example, with a label, I wouldn’t have got this excited to have an interview with you. But on my own, I see people coming and taking interest in me and I think every day is exciting for me.

Check out Pyra online

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/onlypyra
YouTube – https://goo.gl/25JV6e
iTunes – https://itun.es/th/-w2yN
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/onlypyra
Website – http://www.onlypyra.com
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/onlypyra

— Interview on August 5th, written by Abner Olivieri. Photos courtesy of Pyra.

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