One of the more compelling new talents to hit our radar in recent months, Miya Folick writes and performs atmospheric alt-rock songs of depth, resonance and meaning. A singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer, over the last two months she's released three striking singles (now bundled up as an EP on bandcamp), drawing comparisons to the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Daughter along the way.

Possessed of a compelling command of mood and tone, her astute lyric writing style cuts straight to the emotional core of the scenarios she articles, be it tales of talking to strangers, getting drunk, or strange darlings. Raised in a Buddhist household in Santa Ana, California, Miya has sung her whole life. She studied theatre in college, and first picked up guitar half a decade ago. These days she lives in downtown Los Angeles, spends her nights off dancing to electronic music, and shares stage bills with the likes of Television. Early on a Monday afternoon, she spoke with us via Skype from her apartment. We talked about the recent legalisation of gay marriage in the US, the Los Angeles music scene, her writing process, dance music, and converting the challenges faced by female musicians into positive outcomes.

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How do you think your country is feeling about the legalisation of gay marriage?

I live in Los Angeles. Our country is big and wide, and there are a lot of different communities. But in my community people are overjoyed and relieved, because finally this is happening for us. There are also people who feel like this isn't the end, and we still have a lot to do, but there have also been a lot of celebrations. We had [the] Pride [event] last weekend, and we had it again this weekend. I think people are taking the time to celebrate.

It's a fine line isn't it? You want to celebrate progress, but at the same time stay aware of how much still needs to be done.

I think that keeping the momentum going is good. I also think it is important to revel in victories. They bring people together and allow people to have a bit of happiness, and we have a lot of bad news and ugly news all the time.

Sometimes after a concert, I'll be talking to a musician who feels like they could have played better that night. Regardless someone will often want to come up and tell them how amazing they were. I always tell them to take the compliments, and then go and beat themselves up about what they could have done better the next day.

I totally agree. There have been times when people gave me compliments about performances I didn't feel that good about. I think when you as the artist push all of your crap onto the audience member, it's not fair. They had a good time, why do you have to ruin it, or make them feel like they weren't listening well enough, or feel like they don't really understand what good is? You can just keep that to yourself. I will tell my friends when I think I did a crappy job [laughs], but I try to not load that onto anybody else.

Tell me about your Los Angeles?

I keep to myself quite a bit. There are definitely cliques of bands here. I go out and see a lot of music, but I don't really play with other musicians a lot. I write alone and demo alone. For the three songs of that EP I just released, I found musicians to play with who are friends of mine. In that way I think I am a little less influenced by the LA music scene. I'm not jamming or playing with these people all the time. LA is amazing because there is always something happening, or something to see.

I live downtown, and there are a lot of electronic music parties here. I go to those. Techno, EDM, House, it's pretty overwhelming. There is so much to do; you have to pick and choose wisely, or you are going to be out every night. I like to dance, so I go to those things. There is a big garage and punk scene is LA as well. I like to see those types of bands as well. I think it influences me, but not super directly. I'm sure what I'm listening to finds its way into my music.


"I felt like I had trouble trusting my judgment against these people who I felt should know more than me, because they had been doing it for longer."

Miya Folick

It sounds like your writing process involves starting from a place of solitude. Why do you think you work like this?

I think it doesn't work for everyone. I think it is one of those things where you start doing something a certain way, and then you keep doing it that way because that's how you do it, you know? [Laughs] I didn't grow up doing music, but I always sang. I was never in a band in high school. I never played with anybody. I started playing guitar almost secretly. My friends didn't know I played guitar. It was really the only way I could write songs because I didn't have anyone to write them with. When I started meeting musicians, I found it that finding the right writing partner was such a delicate thing. Personally I never really felt like I needed to find a writing partner, so I just didn't. I do love playing with a band. I love the experience of bringing a song I made as a demo in my apartment into the full band experience. I think in the future I will probably really enjoy writing and playing with a band. For now, I am going to keep doing it this way because this is the way I've been doing it.

I guess you're also at the stage where you're defining who you are as a musician and what your music is about? You probably don't need a whole bunch of additional opinions in there as well?

I think when I first started playing with a band, it felt like too many cooks in the kitchen. I was playing with guys who had been playing for a lot longer than me. I felt like I had trouble trusting my judgment against these people who I felt should know more than me, because they had been doing it for longer. Often I would really dislike their ideas [laughs]. So I felt like I needed to figure out a better way of communicating with a band before I start letting myself be too influenced by them. Now I think I'm better at communicating what I want, saying when I dislike something and moving people closer to the direction in my head.

I've seen you mention that you enjoy dance music in a couple of interviews. How important is it to you to let people know from the jump that you're interested in a wider range of music than just guitar stuff?

I do mention that quite often don't I? [Laughs]. I think it's because people just make assumptions about you. They probably think that I hate electronic music and grew up on Americana. That's just not true at all. I think it is easier for people when you make sense and fit into a box or genre. I don't think I do that. I guess I am just warning people. I think it's also because I am super interested in collaborating with people who make those sorts of music, so I like to throw it out there. I like to make that kind of music. If you happen to read this interview, reach out to me.


"I have been in situations where someone I like, or respect is being casually sexist and I have to think, do I want to start this argument right now? Can I say something that is polite while still standing up for myself?"

Miya Folick

It's interesting because where I come from, it's relatively common for musicians to play in a band on one hand, and make electronic music or DJ on the other hand.

It might be different where you are, but I think there is this assumption about female singer-songwriters where people think you probably hardly play an instruments, and if you do, you're probably not very good at it. They also think you probably don't know anything about production. I don't feel like I have to push it super hard, but when people make those kinds of assumptions I do try to assert myself in a different manner.

I think the experience of being a female musician is just so different to being a male musician. I go back and forth. I have been in situations where someone I like, or respect is being casually sexist and I have to think, do I want to start this argument right now? Can I say something that is polite while still standing up for myself? Other times I think I should say something anytime someone is being sexist or bigoted. It's hard, especially when you're the only girl in the room. It's not like it's been so hard for me, or people have been so mean to me. I don't want to give you that impression. It's just really minor, casual remarks that people make that can make you feel unwelcome.

It's probably not going to stop you, but it will irritate the hell out of you, and it's not okay.

I was writing songs for a couple of years before I ever started showing them to people. I think part of that came from feeling unworthy. I felt like I wasn't a songwriter, guitarist, or musician the way other people were. That might have something to do with being a girl. It might have something to do with growing up in a household where people weren't musicians or working artists. I didn't have an example of that in my life.

Last year I interviewed Genevieve McGuckin from These Immortal Souls. There was a thing she said that really stuck with me. "The women musicians I know are incredibly self-critical. It's just a symptom of the way the world is and the way women look at themselves. You have to fight against this, but it also makes you more discerning I think."

I think that is totally true. I completely agree. I mean, not for every guy. Some guys I know feel the same way as me and have some of the same difficulties. I think a lot of the time when I see bands of younger men playing; they're allowed to be way crappier. People still enjoy it, because a lot of people enjoy crappy rock music. Rock music often sounds crappy when you go out to see it live. The sound isn't always great, but if it's a bunch of guys, people usually give them the allowance that they would sound better in another environment.

I feel like when it's a band of women [people are a lot harsher]. I say this because I've overheard a lot of really terrible comments while bands of women are performing. They sound good for girls, or they're not bad for a bunch of girls [laughs]. It's all just so offensive. I think she is right that the pressure to have a really good product is not so bad. The pressure to set yourself apart, make something different, or do things your own way, I don't think that is a bad pressure either. I think it's more interesting that way.


Strange Darling is available now via Bandcamp. Stream it below.