girl, interrupted: the sensitive surf rock of miya folick

 LA-based Miya Folick talks touring, tears and song writing for teenage girls.

When Miya Folick is on tour, she does just about the same thing every morning. While the other three members of her band (with whom she often ends up sharing one room), sleep in until noon, she gets up at 7am. “So I have several hours to myself, and I'll just go out and read and walk around and have breakfast by myself. It makes me giddy to think about it. I'll go to bed excited for my alone time. But then I'll also do things like go to the bathroom for 45 minutes. If I need to be alone and we're out somewhere with a bunch of people, I'll just disappear.”

This week, Folick has found it easy to disappear within the vastness of an unfamiliar city. When we meet in a Shoreditch bar over cocktails, her band have already returned to the US, so she’s been left to explore London by herself. It’s been an intense week of live shows, and the opportunity to unwind, alone, is a welcome one.

In fact, it’s been an intense few months. Folick toured the US throughout September, released a new single, ‘Pet Body’, and then another, ‘God Is A Woman’. Both were a distinct shift from her previous releases. 2015’s Strange Darling EP was vulnerable and restrained, though with moments that cracked the veneer and let rip, unsettling the implicit expectations put upon a feminine voice. With her new material, those cracks have widened, as Folick pours into them surf rock guitars and bold, wailing vocals. “I’m just a brain with a pet body,” she sings on ‘Pet Body,’ “I’m just a feeling in the room / I’m just a finger on a trigger / On a Friday afternoon.”

“To me the song is about feeling a bit detached and disoriented, and a little bit invisible or misunderstood,” she explains. Something about how the song evokes a disconnect between the physical and mental self – the way it disowns the former as “just a sack of flesh” –  feels almost dissociative. “I think I just tend to be really very critical of my own mind, and I think of it as this other thing that I can fix.”

“I think of myself as separate from my brain. Like, ‘OK, I'm gonna fix my brain, and I'm gonna train my brain to be better’. I guess that's not such a bad thing, but it can really drive you crazy. When you're at a party and you start to be overly critical of yourself, and you get into thought spirals where you just can't stop criticising everything you do. My brain starts feeling like it's floating, because I'm just thinking too much about everything.” She laughs, though more out of awkwardness than anything else.”

The song is supposed to be fun too, she points out – and it is. The chorus, with its octave climbing “oohs” and yells of “pet body!”, is instantly catchy. “I think I just wanted it to feel like the kind of song that a teenage girl could bounce around in her bedroom to. A song for a teenage girl that's not about a boy, it's just about yourself. I mean it's not just for teenage girls, but I think that's who I was making it for when we were recording.” 

Folick likes to have an image in her mind when she’s recording – who the song is aimed at, a sense of physical place, or a scene running through her head. But she likes to create without overthinking too - a sort of stream of consciousness with which her band have to keep up. “I think I can be really impatient,” she admits of her creative process. “Sometimes, for obvious reasons because they can’t read my mind, it takes [my band] a little while to understand what I’m saying, and I think I’m being more clear than I am. But my band is so easy going, and they’ll always try something if I ask them to.”

Even though it’s her own project, it’s taken some time for Folick to feel confident enough to take the lead. In the beginning, she says, she felt that if somebody was more experienced, their opinions were more valid. The periods of debilitating doubt over her own ability didn’t help. “I definitely have imposter syndrome, and sometimes it's pretty crippling. I'll get these intense bouts that last for maybe two to three weeks, where I can't do anything because I'm afraid. I'm just scared. But then I get over it. Every time it happens I just have to say to myself, ‘It's gonna go away and I'll feel better later’. It's really difficult to write when I feel that way, because I judge everything that comes out of my mouth.”

At other times though, she’s utterly fearless. She performs unfinished songs live just for the thrill of it, and ad libs lyrics onstage when she’s not quite figured them out yet. “I'm not like an adrenaline junkie sports-wise, I don't do crazy back flips on snowboards or anything, but I really like to put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable. It makes me feel really turned on.”

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