Before coming through with her acclaimed debut album, Premonitions, in 2018, Miya Folick gained tracition with the release of two EPs, 2015’s Strange Darling and 2017’s Give It to Me. Those early releases were a showcase for the Los Angeles-based artist’s arresting vocals and visceral songwriting, and though her palette became more sprawling and dynamic on Premonitions, her lyrical approach remained sharply focused, aiming to “shine a light on normal life and make tiny moments feel like special occasions.” Today, Folick has returned with her first collection of songs in a while, an EP called 2007, which channels a range of everyday emotions with a similar kind of intensity but places more emphasis on directness and experimentation, skirting the line between pop and indie.
Many of the songs zero in on a pivotal point in Folick’s life before offering a zoomed-out perspective, full of yearning and regret but confident in carving a path forward. It’s a captivating and intimate 20-minute project that’s also refreshingly collaborative, with production from Gabe Wax, Mike Malchicoff, and Andrew Sarlo, among others, as well as contributions from the likes of Mitski and Gia Margaret. “Our life is small but it’s big enough for me,” Folick sings on ‘Ordinary’, a simple reminder not just of how magical those tiny moments can feel, but of all the joy, fear, loneliness, and hope that lives between them.
We caught up with Miya Folick ahead of the release of 2007 to talk about the ideas and process behind every song on the EP. Check out the track-by-track interview and listen to the EP below.
1. Oh God
Why did you choose to lead with this as your first song in three years and the opening track on the EP?
There is a storyline to the EP, and I think what ‘Oh God’ does is it gives you the beginning of the story, but there’s also this time travel element to that song. I’m talking about where I’m at now, but also what things used to be, and there’s also this feeling of yearning or reaching towards the future. So I think story-wise, it felt like a good place to start. In thinking about the EP if it were a film, it’s a nice place to start with this moment of panic, because that’s what the chorus of that song is, so it’s just jumping in the middle of the action. Beyond that, I felt that there was something quite arresting about the chorus to that song that felt like a really strong first moment of this new era for me.
That song gives a general overview [laughs] – it sounds so banal when I describe it that way – but there’s a zooming out in that song to, “This is what my life is like in LA,” on more of a macro level. And I think other songs then zoom in, so it was nice to start from this big picture place, and from there, we can zoom in to different parts of the story. That kind of encompasses why. And of course, there’s the additional element of, you just go with your gut. It felt like the right song to start with.
It sounds like it comes from a visceral emotional place, but I’m curious if there was also a genuine reckoning with spirituality underlying the chorus.
No, I don’t think so. [laughs] I don’t feel like that informs the rest of the record, or even necessarily that song. I think a lot of the EP is about patterns or behaviours that are thoughtless, and trying to approach life with more thoughtfulness, more so than spirituality. I was playing with this idea of this phrase, “Oh God,” that I say all the time, but the meaning of it is really, “Oh no.” That’s what I’m saying. “Oh no, oh no.” But I say, “Oh God, Oh God.” And so, I was exploring, “What if I really meant that?” What if I really was looking for something, and maybe I should be thinking more about what I say. But also this idea that when you are desperate for change, you’re willing to find the answer anywhere. And maybe it’s in this little phrase that I say, “Oh God” – maybe I should actually dig inside of that phrase and find some actual meaning in it. So I think that’s more what it is, like, “Why do I keep saying this shit, doing this shit?” It doesn’t mean anything. [laughs] It’s trying to explore a more purposeful way of going through life. Not that I’ve found it, but I think that part of that song was just exploring what is this thing that I say all the time.
2. Bad Thing
This is a song about waking up from a hangover, and you wrote it with Mitski and Andrew Wells. You said in a press release that you’re not the kind of person who can hide a hangover. Did you have to tell them about it? How did it all go down?
I’m trying to remember… [laughs] I think that I’m generally an oversharer. But beyond that, I think I felt immediately comfortable around both of them. And there was an immediate sense of playfulness, and also comfort. I think that when I’m feeling physically or emotionally bad, I approach songwriting with an additional sense of urgency. And it just felt very important to get that song out. It just felt really obvious what we should write about. To be honest, I don’t think I thought very much about sharing what I was going through with them. I don’t think I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna tell them.” I think that I just said, “This is where I’m at. This is what I want to write about.” I go into it, when I’m writing, I feel like I’m just working off pure instinct, and so it’s difficult for me to go back and remember how things happened, because I’m honestly not thinking that much. [laughs] I’m just thinking about how to finish the song.
How did working with them specifically help you build out the song?
Most writing sessions are honestly pretty similar for me, regardless of who I’m working with. You just enter a state of flow, and you’re sharing information back and forth, and then the song is done. I think that that’s simply what it is. And if the people that you’re working with feel comfortable, supportive, and free with their ideas, then it flows very easily. And that’s what that day was like.
I feel like the song continues down this path of realizing that things need to change, but takes a more thoughtful, steadier approach to it. Sequencing-wise, it seems like an intentional decision to have it follow ‘Oh God’.
I think initially, this was not the second track, and then we switched it around. I think the decision to have this come second was partially a story decision, but it was also a decision of wanting the energy of the EP to kick into higher gear immediately. Initially, ‘Nothing to See’ was going to come here, but that felt like a slower start, and we wanted to start out with a little bit more of a dance track. I do think that story-wise, it ended up serving the story as well. But I think I just really wanted to hear those drums. [laughs]
3. Nothing to See
There’s a bit of hope that comes through on ‘Bad Thing’, and with ‘Nothing to See’, the EP kind of slips back into a mode of desperation, this time in relation to the dynamics of a relationship. Was it a struggle to portray that in a way that wasn’t giving into the feeling too much?
‘Nothing to See’ I wrote about a relationship that I’d actually been out of for quite a few years. So I think the distance of time made it easier for the song to have some perspective, emotionally. But also, there were certain choices lyrically that were made that dig into that feeling of despair unapologetically, which I think was also important, because I didn’t want the song to come across as, “I changed myself for you, and I regret it, but also, I’m totally fine. [laughs] No worries.” Because I think that what is important about music, and what is so special about music, is you’re allowed to say the thing that feels really ugly when you say it. The kinds of things that you can tell your closest friends, where you say, “I actually feel really bad about this, and I can spin it – yes, I can spin it to make it sound like I came out on top, but what I really need to express right now is that I don’t feel like I came out on top and that’s an important thing to express.” And I think that in writing this song, it felt important that I didn’t try to make myself look good. [laughs]
It’s interesting because it’s a song that’s saying, “These are all the ways in which you hurt me,” but it’s not a “fuck you” song. It’s exploring, what is it about me that – I don’t want to say allowed that to happen to me, because I don’t think that’s fair either – but why did I find myself in this relationship? And why did I do these things?
I feel like that’s exactly what you’re highlighting with the raw catharsis at the end. The emotionality you bring to that second layer of vocals in the final chorus, it kind of contradicts the calmness that’s at the surface.
What’s interesting about this song is, the master was due to be delivered to the label, and I was listening to the song and decided at the very last minute that we needed to change the ending. Initially, the ending was more understated, the drums did not go to the ride like they do now, there were less vocals at the end. And at the very last minute, I called Andrew Sarlo and I said, “I’ve been thinking that we need to have cymbals at the end, and I need to have bigger vocals at the end. Are you down and do you have time to finish this in the next few days?” And so we went back, recut the drums, cut more vocals, Andrew remixed the entire song to have that more cathartic ending. I think in 72 hours got it mastered and then delivered to the label, just like that. [laughs]
And that ending does feel really important, I think, for the story of the song. Even though lyrically, it’s quite sad and desperate, it felt important for the ending to musically be cathartic and give that moment of like: there’s something that happens to you, internally, when you’re able to be so honest about your own shortcomings or things that you wish you had done differently. There’s something very cathartic about that, and it felt important for the song to go there.
4. Cartoon Clouds
One line that immediately stood out to me is: “Describe it. What’s purpose for you?” At least at the start, the song sounds like you’re having a very intimate conversation with yourself.
That song I wrote with Matias [Mora], who produced it. I think the intimacy probably comes from that, the way that it was written. We got on Zoom – this was during COVID – and I think we were only on Zoom for maybe 30 minutes and I came up with that guitar part. I started coming up with an idea for the song, we had just bits and pieces of this idea, and then decided that it might work better if we just got off Zoom and worked separately. You can hear little noise artifacts of the guitar part, and that’s because I think I may have even just recorded it into my phone. I sent it to him, he started building out the track. And then separately, I was finishing the lyrics and the melody. I think we came back on Zoom, figured out the chorus, then came off Zoom. Then he sent me the track – it must have been just hours later, and I thought this is amazing. The version that we released sounds almost exactly like the version that he made just in a couple hours.
I was blown away. I sent him back the vocals, and he sent me back the vocals mixed in. He started to do some of those interesting vocal sampling and tuning that you hear on the final version, and he sent it back to me. I remember just was just pacing around my apartment again and again listening to it just thinking, “This sounds so cool.”
I think that it feels intimate because the way that it was written was intimate. It was both the intimacy of being on Zoom, early pandemic, where we were just reaching out to feel some sort of connection, but then that mixed with the intimacy of both of us having a little bit of privacy in finishing our parts of the song. I ended up re-cutting quite a few of the vocals at his studio later, and I rewrote the second verse. We added a little bit more production, but the version that is released is very close to the first.
Was the vocal section at the end – the “doesn’t it feel good to feel good” part – in that original version? That’s where it kind of opens up to me and takes on a new meaning.
I forgot about that, actually. Initially, we had this song that just went verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and then there was this long musical outro. I was on a long walk listening to the song, just thinking, “There needs to be another part to this song, it just doesn’t feel complete.” And the idea for the bridge came to me. I think that when the song was first written, the meaning of it felt a little bit ambiguous in a way that I wasn’t satisfied with. Sometimes an ambiguous meaning can be nice, but on this song, I felt like I wasn’t quite sure what I was trying to say. And I think that a lot of the process of finishing the lyrics was an attempt to make the song about the importance of feeling good, and that that matters in and of itself. I think that is a very difficult concept for me, and it’s something that I quite struggle with.
You mean in the simplest sense of the word?
Yeah, in the simplest sense of the word. It feels good to feel good. So, I quickly recorded that bridge and sent it to Matias to see what he thought and he liked it, so we kept it. And now it’s one of my favourite parts of the song.
I think what also happens lyrically that’s interesting is that, initially, the chorus was in second person. So I was saying, “Guilty when you’re not having fun, guilty when you…” And I changed it to “I” and “me”, because part of this ambiguous meaning issue that we were having is that it felt a little judgy, to be like, “Here, from my perspective, I can see all the issues in your life.” It felt a little bit judgmental in a way that wasn’t working. And so I changed it to “I” to make it feel more internal, more self-reflective, and I think probably contributes to that feeling of intimacy. And then the idea of this other person doesn’t get introduced until the ending, which I think is kind of interesting. So that’s when the window opens and we go into the outside world.
I feel like this is the point where all the hope that’s been hinted at previously really comes to light. I love all the little things you associate with being brave: singing karaoke, smiling real big, taking up space. What reminded you – and keeps reminding you – to embrace those things that make you feel good?
I think I need constant reminders to make myself feel happy. What is interesting about this song to me is that it started in my apartment alone, I wrote it by myself. And the version that ended up on the record is such a communal product of a communal experience, of a band playing the song together. Which, that, in and of itself, makes me feel emotional and makes me feel so supported and loved in a way that I think the person who wrote that song alone in her apartment couldn’t really have imagined. There’s such grit to it, there’s nothing about the song that is that is giving up on life. It’s very much reaching and yearning. But what I mean to say is that my community, the community that I live in musically, but also my community of friends and family, make me feel brave and supported and loved.
I definitely still go through intense periods of self-doubt, but I think that the experience of playing music and the experience of singing with other people is a big part of what this song is about. It’s about wanting to connect. It’s interesting that a lot of the people who played on this song have become some of the closest people in my life, even since just playing on the song. So it feels very emotional for me to listen to just knowing, like, that’s Greg on guitar and that’s Sam on drums and that’s Sam’s on bass. I think that that’s what the song is about, is just wanting to be a part of something and be moved by other people.
It sounds like it comes from that place of yearning, and the way the song actually came together – in a way that you didn’t expect when you were writing it – was almost proof that it can be fulfilled.
Yeah. The demo is a lot darker feeling – the demo is keys, drum machine, and pulsing bass, almost in this goth, slow dance version of the song. It’s much darker. And when we started working on this song, Sam [KS], the drummer, proposed this completely different beat. He didn’t think that I would like it, but I did. It ended up really setting a different tone for the song. Another thing that really informed this version of the song was another Sam, Sam Wilkes, the bass player – the chords that he’s playing on bass really informed the feeling of the song. He is such a joyful person, and I think that his joyfulness really informed the tone of the song. There’s a softness to this version of the song that I didn’t expect to want or like, because initially, I was thinking that this song was more about grit and perseverance and toughness. But I think that this more tender version of the song is so much more moving than the other, darker, more driving version of the song.
Was there a moment of connection that really stands out in your mind that came from making the song as a group?
The first time we played through that outro, where the band just keeps playing and I’m singing but my voice kind of fades away – there’s something about it that just feels so good. It’s a moment where everybody who played on the track really gets to shine individually. I can hear each one of their personalities so distinctly at the end of the song. I remember the first time listening back to that, just thinking that it feels so good to listen to.
This is a sillier question, but do you have any go-to karaoke songs?
[laughs] If there are any Joni Mitchell songs in the book, I will single one of them, but there often isn’t one. I really like singing Fleetwood Mac, ‘Dreams’. That’s probably my main go-to.
Why did you decide this to be the closing track?
There’s a bit more of a sense of acceptance, I think, in that song than in any of the other songs. So thematically, it felt right for it to be last. Also, it didn’t really fit anywhere else, and in ordering tracks, sometimes there are certain songs where it obviously feels like it needs to be in a certain place. I also like that the song falls apart at the end, and that felt like it should exist at the very end of the EP. And there’s something about the song lyrically that feels a little bit like waking up after a fitful night’s sleep. I think that the rest of the EP maybe is that fitful night’s sleep, and then ‘Ordinary’ is the waking and trying to decide how to move forward. And then aesthetically, there’s something very homemade about it production-wise. It’s a little bit different from the other songs in that it’s very underproduced purposefully, and it felt like a nice, intimate moment to end the EP with.
The song is about enjoying the ordinary things and taking things slowly, but I feel like it’s kind of at the start of that process, and there’s maybe still a bit of grief and melancholy associated with that change. I’m curious what your take on it is now, having had some distance from it.
Yeah, I think there’s definitely melancholy to this song, but there’s also celebration. The bridge of the song feels quite celebratory to me in a quiet way. And that feels like an important part of the story for me, always, is this ability to find joy or celebration even in a struggle. I think that, for better or for worse, is a big part of my personality and a big part of the record. I don’t think that I make music that is ever just melancholy or ever just a huge party, it’s always about that tension between the two things. It’s important for me even in the songs that are a little bit sadder or a little bit darker, a little bit heavier, for there to be a moment of catharsis or a little bit of tension release at some point. To me, ‘Ordinary’ has always been a sweet song. A little bit sad, but mostly sweet.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Miya Folick’s 2007 EP is out now via Nettwerk.