With ethereal vocals and dark, thumping production, Chymes inhabits a world of seamless contradictions – made for the divinity of the underworld.
However, it’s her ability to make two worlds effortlessly collide that’s solidified her mainstay amid Sydney’s sideways-pop scene.
On her latest EP, Hell & Divine, Chymes brings the most fascinating aspects of her music together, to form her most fully realised, and terrifying work to date. Happy was lucky enough to sit down with Chymes for a hilarious chat about contradictory forces, Hell & Divine, and the intricacies of ‘sonic environments’.
HAPPY: How’re you doing today?
CHYMES: I’m really good! Just being hitting up Newtown today and coming in to see you guys, so it’s been really good!
HAPPY: Cute! Also can I just say, your music is super ethereal and magical. There’s so much radiance in it – how long has it taken you to find your sound?
CHYMES: Thank you so much! Honestly, a little while. I’ve transitioned form being like, a duo, with Cameron, because he’s sort of decided that he didn’t want to be the face of it and sort of sing and perform in that kinda thing. So, when we first got together to make Chymes, I was like a folk singer-songwriter with a guitar, you know, very Ed Sheeran-esque! (laughs)
But, he was an electronic producer, so that’s sort of how the sound formed, and it’s sort of evolved over the years. Since transitioning to solo pop, female artist, I’ve definitely had a lot more creative control. But, I definitely want the music to feel like its own world. My vocals are very soft, and ethereal – as much as I wanna sound like Ariana Grande, I definitely can’t!
So, I sort of want to work with that, and contrast that with more edgy and dark production. So, I feel that’s what makes it a little bit unique!
HAPPY: It’s definitely unique! Especially Death Wish! That goes off! It’s also definitely an evolution in what you’ve been doing before, what’s inspired that choice to go full force?
CHYMES: It’s always what I’ve wanted to do, and I guess easing myself into the industry as a duo with Cameron definitely felt like a safety net. But now, I feel like I’m coming into my own and fully understand what I like, and what I want my voice to sound like, and how it gets complimented with the production. My songwriting as well has been a lot more personal, rather than metaphorical, so I just feel like as I’m growing up and getting older, I’m becoming more confident in myself and that’s translating into the music.
HAPPY: Going from folk, over into electronic music is an interesting jump. Did you always have an interest in electronic music, or did you more so discover it as the opportunity to work with electronic producers became available?
CHYMES: A bit of both, honestly! I’ve been a pop girl through and through – Justin Bieber, I was obsessed with him! One Direction, Taylor Swift and her transition from country, into pop was also very interesting to witness and inspiring as well. So, I definitely feel like I’m doing what I want to do, and it’s always been a part of me in that way I guess!
HAPPY: Yeah! I just wanted to ask, I did a stalk of your Tik Tok and I wanted to talk about autism awareness. I think it’s really important that we’re bringing neurodivergence into the public sphere. Why is it important to bring neurodivergence to the forefront, especially in a comedic style like your TikToks?
CHYMES: That’s a good question! I guess it’s such an interesting topic because people literally don’t understand it at all, and I’m still learning and understanding it. I only got diagnosed 18 months ago, so I’m still like ‘what the fuck?’. I’m literally relearning the world! But, there’s so many people like me, and so many girls who go undiagnosed, and I think just spreading awareness gets rid of the stereotypes and the taboos. It’s educational… to some degree…
CHYMES: As educational as TikTok can be! (laughs) So yeah, I don’t know, it is a bit scary sometimes because there are so many misunderstandings and misconceptions, and stuff. There’s not enough representation of people with disabilities, firstly, and there’s not enough neurodivergent representation at all. I’m pretty sure Billie Eilish has Tourette’s… wait does she?
HAPPY: Yeah, yeah!
CHYMES: Oh thank god… I was like ‘I don’t wanna get that wrong’ (laughs) AHHH cut the cameras!
HAPPY: Deadass! (laughs)
CHYMES: So, yeah! She doesn’t really talk about that much, but the people who know, know. She’s really good representation because she’s very ‘normal’ and doesn’t live up to the warped idea of what other people might think Tourette’s is. It’s also good exposure, because there’s so many different neuro-types!
HAPPY: Yeah! It’s funny because after Billie’s bedroom interview with Rolling Stone, Twitter blew up with people talking about neurodivergent women, and women with Tourette’s. Why, do you reckon, we have such gendered ideas of what neurodiversity looks like in men and women?
CHYMES: it’s a lot more obvious in men. Stereotypically, and generally speaking, autism is a lot more obvious in men. Growing up, boys have special interests that include ‘mechanics’, or ‘maths’ and ‘science’ – like very stereotypical autistic traits. In females, it tends to be a lot more creative. Things like arts, music, boybands – it just gets brushed off as being a ‘quirky teenage girl’ thing. Women are also better at masking than men are in the autism world.
@iamchymesidea from @jasper.james ✨ ##actuallyautistic ##autism ##autisticqueen ##autisticwomen ##neurodivergent ##neurodiverse ##fypage♬ sonido original – 𝐒𝖆𝖗𝖆𝖍
So, it’s good to spread awareness in that sense! Like I said, I only got diagnosed 18 months ago, so I went my whole life… not knowing what the fuck was wrong with me! (laughs).
CHYMES: Literally I went through school thinking ‘why do I feel so different?’, ‘why do I not understand a single thing?’. Social interactions, I really struggled academically cause it’s a learning disability, and just had no clue. So, it took me into my adulthood, to start researching, as well as exposure through the internet. I found YouTube videos by accident, and that’s what helped me.
So, if I can do that even in the most subtle form. If someone comes across my videos, and it’s cute and fun, and they do some research from there, then maybe I can help them in that way.
HAPPY: Would you agree with the statement ‘men ain’t shit?’
CHYMES: (laughs) Kinda agree!
HAPPY: Favourite meme right now?
CHYMES: Oh shit! There’s like TikTok memes and Reddit memes to choose from. I watch PewDiePie on YouTube, and he does his weekly meme review, and that’s what’s educating me at the moment – but honestly, I love them all!
HAPPY: Alright, back to music and your new EP. You’ve mentioned that your songwriting has moved past metaphorical storytelling, to much more personal storytelling. Is this something that you want to continue exploring?
CHYMES: Yes! Writing music feels like creative writing, when you’re in English and you have to make up a story! It definitely feels like creative writing! A lot of the stories coming up on Hell & Divine are very personal, but I’ve had. A lot of fun doing it. So, it’s definitely stories and concepts, or situations that relate to me – but I’ve tried to bring in some of that creative writing aspect. One of the songs, Never Win, is about a power dynamic in a narcissistic relationship. But, I’m singing it as if I’m the bad guy, from the perspective of the bad person in the relationship. That was really fun for me because it’s this relationship that I’ve experience in my life, and I really wanted to write about it, but then tried to be more creative about it and write form that perspective, rather than mine.
So, yeah. I definitely wanna keep being honest because it’s nice for me to have a little piece of how I feel in song but definitely still be creative with it. A lot of stories that I write relate to me, but I’m often inspires by movies or TV shows, and it’s fun to create a story and create. World. When people listen to it, sonically they can like, hear the environment and imagine the world that they’re in… if that makes sense.
HAPPY: Fuck. I love that idea of creating an ‘environment’ within your music. For this EP, I’m guessing that environment is gonna go down a much darker vibe?
CHYMES: Yes! Hell & Divine is definitely that dark-pop aesthetic, with also dark stories and lyrics about power-play dynamics and personal issues, but mixed with an atmospheric, dreamy vibe – that I somehow accidentally put in everything I make… but I’m already working on the next EP after this one.
HAPPY: Oh god!
CHYMES: I know! (laughs) there’s something wrong with me! But the next one is a lot more playful in sound aesthetic, so I feel like I’m already evolving in that way!
HAPPY: I think it’s interesting that you collab with Cameron and other songwriters. What’s the creative process, and how do you describe what you’re looking for?
CHYMES: Honestly, it’s difficult sometimes, because obviously I struggle with communication sometimes. Sometimes I have this idea in my head but I can’t articulate it, but I do all of Chymes’ production with Cameron, so he’s like partner in crime and has decoded my language a bit. In terms of writing, I work with another writer sometimes. One writer in particular, she did five out of the six tracks on the EP with me. But, when you sit down with them in the studio – usually Cameron and prep a ‘vibe’, so we’ll come up with some chords or we’ll find a drum sample or something, and we’re like ‘this is the vibe that we’re after’ (laughs) and hopefully they understand what I mean.
CHYMES: Usually I’ll also bring lyric ideas, just cause sessions can go downhill VERY quickly. SO, I like to bring a concept, and then I’ll brain-dump rhymes, I’ll try to write out a story and rhyme it, and then bring it to the session. Then, the writer I’m working with will help me flesh it out.
HAPPY: So then, what’s the most challenging song that eventually just hit right?
CHYMES: Ohhhh. I feel like Worship, which is the first single I released from the EP, was totally different initially. I was like ‘I want it to sound like a Selena Gomez track’, and like, now it sounds nothing like a Selena Gomez track. But, at the time, we had started with this really dark, long, moody bass, it was almost a little bit Rhianna-esque. But then, I was like ‘I want it to feel more bouncy, I want there to be a bouncy synth. Imagine if Selena Gomez crossed with Banks’. That’s the sort of vibe we were going for. So, that song transformed into something completely different at the end and we struggle with that one for a while. But suddenly, you replace something like a bass, and it becomes a completely different song.
Death Wish, that’s my favourite track, had a completely different chorus-melody, and I really really liked the track, but I was like ‘there’s something not right about it’. So, I got my friend back into the studio and she was like ‘I don’t know what to do with it’, and I was like ‘No! We gotta rewrite it, we gotta try again!’. So we sat back playing the track on loop just like ‘(sings dissonantly)’ just trying to come up with a melody. And then, it just happened. She sang something, and I sang the next part, and then we were like ‘Holy fuck! That’s it! Record it before we forget!’.
So yeah, that’s sorta how things happen. Sometimes a song can come together in an hour, sometimes it takes weeks!
HAPPY: (laughs) I guess, my final question, is there something specific you want people to take away from this EP?
CHYMES: Holy fuck! I don’t know! Honestly, I don’t make music for anybody else but me. I don’t have a particular message for people, I just wanna make music for me. With a sensory-processing disorder, I experience music in a different way, and I want people to LOVE music the way I do. You know when you hear a song and you’re like ‘holy fuck, this is the best song I’ve heard in my entire LIFE’ and it changes your life every time you listen to it and you feel like the main character?
HAPPY: Fuck yes!
CHYMES: so I just want people to experience that magic when they listen to my music. But like I said, I make it for me. I guess, I just want people to love music the way I do, and if it can be my music – that helps and that would be great!
HAPPY: Well, fuck, thank you so much for chatting to us!
CHYMES: Thank you!
Interview by Mike Hitch
Photos by Four Minutes to Midnight