“I was just writing as a way to process a whole heap of trauma,” PHAEDRA says when we sit down for an interview.
Earlier this month we were blessed with the electro alt-pop of PHAEDRA, whose sophomore single Another Nail navigated the complex waters of grief with a firm mastery of sound.
Flitting effortlessly between powerhouse vocals and echoey whispers, the Australian musician balanced her vocal finesse with an equally textured soundscape, one that recalled the electro-pop stylings of Flume or Disclosure.
Now, a few weeks on from the release, PHAEDRA has swung by Happy Mag to dive deep into the single’s genesis, the influence of Billie Eilish, and using music as a “way to process a whole heap of trauma and grief.”
Catch our full interview with the maestro below, and scroll down to listen to her latest single Another Nail.
HAPPY: What are you up to today?
PHAEDRA: I spent the morning recording ADR for a New Zealand indie feature film, followed by an afternoon of producing at my work.
I’ve been battling a lingering hangover from an industry awards night over the weekend so it was a bit of a tough start to the week tbh.
HAPPY: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the scene like in your neck of the woods?
PHAEDRA: I grew up in Mackay but have spent most of my adult life living in Brisbane. There’s a really cool and inclusive music scene here and a huge pool of talent.
Over the last few years I stepped away from gigging to focus on writing, recording and launching this new project, but I’m looking at putting a live show together and getting back out into the scene.
I honestly can’t wait to do that because I truly love being up on stage and putting my all into a live show.
HAPPY: Describe an average day?
PHAEDRA: I work in audio post-production as a producer and ADR engineer so the days are often fairly different depending on what projects we have going on.
I usually try to get out throughout the week a fair bit, either to a live show of some sort or a catchup with friends. I also curate a playlist of all-new Australian music for a 4ZZZ show so I’m always deep diving into new releases.
When I’m in songwriting mode, the evenings are filled with playing music, but right now my evenings are filled with the early seasons of Will & Grace while I work on music promotion.
This is more of a snapshot of an average week because I’m not really one who follows a strict daily routine.
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HAPPY: Who are some of your musical influences, and how have they shaped your style and sound?
PHAEDRA: My biggest influence when I’m writing music is easily Alkaline Trio – they shaped me as a songwriter more than anyone else.
As far as the production of the songs I’m releasing at the moment, Melanie Martinez and Billie Eilish would be the ones that sparked my interest in dark pop.
There’s also big MARINA and P!ATD influences along with Ecca Vandal, who’s genre-bending productions completely blew my mind.
HAPPY: You mentioned that “Another Nail” started as a piano/vocal track. How did the song evolve from its initial form to the final, synth-driven version we hear now?
PHAEDRA: I wrote Another Nail in a makeshift studio that was in the shed of a sharehouse I was living in during 2019. I play keys so all my songs start out as piano/vocal tracks in their bare form.
There was probably about a year and a half between writing and recording it and during that time there was a lot of internal back-and-forth about what I was going to do with all this music I was writing.
I didn’t know what genre I wanted it to be firstly, nor which way to make it evolve. For instance put a live band together and see how a group of people influenced it?
Or track it in the studio first and then put a live show together. It ended up being the latter, although there’s no live show yet. That’s on the list for next year.
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HAPPY: Can you walk us through your creative process when you’re working on a new song? How do you approach writing and composing music?
PHAEDRA: I don’t necessarily have a formula that I always follow. I’m constantly jotting down lyric ideas in my notes app, sometimes most of a song will come out at once and other times it’ll just be a line or two.
Similarly, when I sit down at the piano sometimes I’ll noodle around until I find a chord progression that works, and other times it’s kind of just there in my fingers already.
For example, Another Nail and Bathroom Surgery just poured out in a day or two, whereas my third single Waking Life took about 4 months to write.
HAPPY: Your music has been described as a guiding light through dark times. What role does music play in your own journey of healing and self-expression?
PHAEDRA: Definitely a huge one. This solo project I’m working on now started out as a form of therapy really, I was just writing for myself as a way to process a whole heap of trauma and grief and externalise how I was feeling at the time.
I’ve always found it tough to express my feelings so music is how I do that.
HAPPY: The shift from an indie rock attempt to the final pop-infused sound of “Another Nail” is intriguing. Can you elaborate on how that transition happened and what led you to feel that it was the right direction for the song?
PHAEDRA: I spent a week in the studio recording 3 tracks with my producer, and for Bathroom Surgery we already knew what we were doing with that one, but for the other two we had no clue what was going to happen.
When it was time to start working on Another Nail, we had a go at making it an indie-rock/soft-rock track but it just wasn’t working, it didn’t feel right, so we scrapped it all and started again.
What you’re hearing now is attempt number 2. We used Sia’s Cellophane as a reference track for that sparse yet beautifully textured production and once we started heading down that direction it was an easy ‘yes this is it’.
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HAPPY: Can you share any details about your upcoming projects or future plans for your music?
PHAEDRA: I have a third single ready to be released in early 2024. That one leans a bit more into the dark-pop/horror-pop realm and is a bit of a strange one so I’m curious to see how it’s received.
I have another handful of tracks that are ready to record so I’ll be looking at jumping back in the studio soon, which I’d say is my favourite part of the whole song creation process.
If all goes according to plan I should be releasing about 4 or 5 tracks throughout next year. Watch this space.
HAPPY: Lastly, what makes you happy?
PHAEDRA: Tonkotsu ramen, a sunny day at the beach, and playing a live show