Raging and unapologetic, 'Myopia' is the first single from Fenris' upcoming EP. The fascinating Glaswegian artist already has a synthwave soundtrack to her name for the cyberpunk series, Killtopia. We listen to 'Myopia' and ask Fenris about its message and creative process.
Written and recorded in Berlin, 'Myopia' starts off as a brooding ballad with smooth keys and a solid pop hook. The lyrics tell of anger building up underneath the surface. The song changes colour in the chorus as the bass and drums kick in. The sound widens; we're lifted up.
But this is not a sugarcoated pop song. Fenris speaks out against being spoken over, and she is not letting us off the hook. She confronts us and the music works to underline her power and rage.
The song increases in intensity until the instrumental bridge turns it down a notch, with interesting guitar effects against groovy keys and fingers snapping, before erupting in a final chorus.
There's an honest hostility to the lyrics that clearly places 'Myopia' in the lineage of grunge. Fenris' raw vocal delivery is reminiscent of Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, but with a softer Scottish accent, like Garbage's Shirley Manson. The track effectively builds up tension and has a crystal clear sound, courtesy of producer Rosie Bans.
The juxtaposition of the empowering message with the track's superb indie pop production and songwriting makes Garbage its closest musical relative. Its main hook will linger in your head long after the song ends.
We talk to Fenris about the inspiration behind 'Myopia', and her creative process.
Myopia has a confrontational message and despite the pop production, it has a raw and honest bite. Who are your musical inspirations; I think I could hear a grunge influence?
"'90s grunge is part of my DNA, I think. Anything that sounds a bit dark and broody, I'm there for, especially if there are open guitar tunings!
In my misspent youth, I loved artists like Skunk Anansie, PJ Harvey, Garbage, and Depeche Mode, as well as the usual roster of rock bands beloved by moody teenagers wearing too much eyeliner (Smashing Pumpkins, Porcupine Tree, A Perfect Circle). Later I grew into a deep love of more downtempo acts like Fever Ray, Portishead who can do so much with sparse, selective instrumentation which made me consider arrangement and sound design in a different way."
Did you have specific events or people in mind when you wrote Myopia?
"There's a specific behaviour type I've encountered both as a woman and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, which is a baffling tendency for people to co-opt your experiences and reframe them to centre themselves, then police what they think you should feel about those experiences. There have been straight people taking over conversations to tell me what I should feel about Pride, about openly homophobic politicians; there have been men telling me what I should feel about casual workplace misogyny, industry sexism, even my own assault. There are people around who are simply not interested in listening to anyone who is perceived to be easy to drown out."
When did you write Myopia? Was it while you were still in Glasgow, or after you moved to Berlin? Does where you are influence your writing?
"I was in Berlin when I made the earliest demo of what would become Myopia. While environment has a huge impact on creativity, I don't think Berlin has fully had a chance to sink into my writing due to moving here during lockdown - virtually all of the songwriting workshops, challenges, and groups I've participated in over the last two years have been online, and most of my frequent musician contacts are based in the UK."
It’s quite extraordinary to have a song with this message built around a keyboard part instead of having a guitar as the main instrument. Was this a conscious choice, or did it happen naturally?
"I wrote it on keys! It seemed to simply fall out of the sky and on to my keyboard one day - I'm still not entirely sure where it came from. It's quite unlike anything I've written on keys before."
You said elsewhere that you have synesthesia - you see colours when you hear music. How does that come into play when you write music? Do chords and keys have colours, or is it about the flow of the melody or the texture of the sound? Do the colours influence your writing decisions?
"Colours can definitely influence where I'll start with a piece of writing. In the case of Myopia, I leaned into fiery colours: reds, copper, orange. Once a piece of music has started to coalesce, I'll pursue it in an instinctive way, chipping away until it feels right, but I've used colours as a starting prompt more than once."
I love the sound design and production on Myopia. I think I can hear the sonic stamp of producer Rosie Bans. How did your work with her go; how did you get from your song to the finished track? Did you co-produce the track?
"Rosie mixed and mastered the track, and brought it to life in exactly the way I'd hoped for. To begin with, I sent her an unpolished demo and a few reference tracks, so we had a clear starting point and a map for where I wanted the track to go. We had a long call to discuss the track, and I cobbled together my lyrics, chord, song structure, and song notes so she had as much information to work from as possible. I recorded my takes at home on my own DAW (which also let me do fun things with amp modelling, and sculpting some interesting guitar sounds) and I sent her those as stems (we simply do not talk about how many vocal takes I sent across for this track and gave her the utterly thankless job of sifting through). As best as I can understand, Rosie then cast a magic spell and summoned a really polished song into existence.
Just to be a shameless shill for a moment, I'd really recommend Rosie Bans as a producer! She has incredible technical knowledge of production, music, and songwriting, but she also has a deeply intuitive and emotional connection to how music should feel. It's rare to find someone so proficient in both of those pillars of songcraft."
Find out more about Fenris' music on her website.