EP Walkthrough: Theia talks her attitude-packed new EP, Not Your Princess
The forward-thinking New Zealand musician makes a striking return with her second EP, out now.
Two years ago, we first met Theia. At the time, she was working alongside Australian ex-pat songwriter Alex Hope on new material, celebrating the release of her then-latest single Champagne Supernova (whose video featured The Royal New Zealand Ballet), and about to go on an Australian tour supporting The Kite String Tangle, spotlighting tracks from her self-titled, 2017-released debut EP. Skip forward two years to present day, and Theia is an artist on the edge of an international explosion, singing to Warner for the release of her second EP, Not Your Princess.
Spanning six tracks, Not Your Princess is a release that feels like the true arrival of Theia as her authentic, unabashed self, drawing comparisons to names including Charli XCX and Kota Banks as she combines catchy hooks with clanging, percussive productions that teeter on the experimental/mainstream edge; accessible enough that you can play them over and over again, but left-field and unique - making Theia stand out in a saturated, constantly-growing pop circuit. It's unapologetic and carefree but focused enough that you can feel that every beat, every smack, and every vocal twitch is intricately placed, leaving an complex, detailed listen that doesn't feel too bulky thanks to its light attitude.
Dive into the EP below with a track-by-track walkthrough from Theia herself, who details each song's creation and central themes: the perfect reading accompaniment.
Not Your Princess
I had already identified the six tracks that I wanted on my EP by October last year. Three of them had already been released (Bye Bye, Bad Idea and Candy) and three were still a work in progress (in varying stages of the production process). I was in Sydney on a writing trip and I had an impromptu session with a producer called Liam Quinn. I had no intentions of writing a new song for the EP, but I came out of the session with Not Your Princess. We thought about holding it back but it just felt so right and I knew that it needed to be on this record. Not only that, I knew that the song’s title Not Your Princess had to be the title of my EP, because it summed up the sassy, empowering vibe of the songs as a body of work. Not Your Princess (the song) is a girl-power anthem, full of complex sounds and gritty 808s and a killer bridge and I love it. It also accurately signals the sonic direction my music is taking beyond this EP.
Making Bad Idea was a drawn out and painful process. I wrote part of the song on a songwriting camp in Sydney, with several others, including the Grammy-winning Emily Warren. The first verse and the chorus came together after several hours, in which I shed many tears. The content of the song - self-harm - was autobiographical and a trigger point for me. I had no intention of releasing it because it was just a little too personal. It felt far too revealing so I just shelved it. A few months later, my manager asked about the song and we spoke at great length about its meaning and whether it was something I wanted to finish. Gradually over time, and after much contemplation, I started to make peace with it. So I locked myself away in my bedroom and wrote the remainder of the track on my own, including the bridge, which is one of my favourite parts of the song. “I came and I conquered, survived in the fire, I’m strong. My pain is my power, I don’t have to fight on my own.”
Bye Bye was the first song I wrote on the EP. Like much of the record, it’s a sassy song - a finger up at the haters and hanger-ons. It’s an epic soundscape, which felt like a transition from the more low-key vibe of my first EP. I co-wrote the song in Sydney with the legendary Mike Elizondo, the Australian rapper L-FRESH The Lion and Kiwi artist Vince Harder. From there, I took the song to LA to be produced by Australian producer Tony Buchen. I love Tony’s prod! It’s so intricate, yet big and epic. I met Tony in his studio in Eagle Rock in LA but most of the work was done over email. He’d send me a bounce and I’d send my suggestions back to him. It came together over a few weeks. It was mastered by the LA-based legend, Brian Lucy, who happens to have won a Grammy this year for his work on the Greatest Showman soundtrack.
Telling Everyone My Name
I have such fond memories of writing this song. I was staying at an AirBnB in Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, surrounded by trees and wandering deer and coyotes. It’s a pretty dark song - a break-up track if you like - about that person who treats you like sh**, but then they’re still trying to claim you as ‘theirs’. I’m proud of the two-part bridge. Lyrically and vocally it’s me letting loose and just throwing every ounce of feeling into it. The truly talented Tony Buchen also produced Telling Everyone My Name. After his work on Bye Bye, I knew that Tony was the one who’d be able to give it the treatment that I wanted. And he really did. Listen closely to the complex layers he’s got in there, they work so beautifully with all my harmonies. It’s one of my favourite tracks to play live.
Honest (with Alice Ivy)
Honest is like the fun, cheeky, musical interlude on the EP. It’s another break-up song, with some cutting lyrics about a failing relationship set against an upbeat, pacy dance vibe. I’m a big fan of juxtaposition and it’s something you’ll find a lot of in my first EP. It’s a very different sounding track for me, and in some ways, it’s probably the odd one out on this EP. But I’ve included it because it is fun and it does feel like it offers a bit of relief from the intensity, ‘in your face’ nature of the other songs. From a songwriting perspective, it doesn’t really follow any proper structure, but that’s what I also like about it. For instance, the ‘first verse’ is also the chorus. I wrote the song with the Melbourne artist Alice Ivy when she was on tour in New Zealand. We jumped in the studio together and just had some fun. She produced the track and it was mixed and mastered by Timon Martin and Sam Harvey in New Zealand.
Writing Candy was a major breakthrough moment for me, personally and professionally. It came to me after a period of depression and just general exhaustion. I’d already released Bye Bye and Bad Idea, and I was empty. I felt like I didn’t have much more to give and was questioning where I was going. I felt like I wasn’t good at anything. My manager told me to take a break, to stop thinking about music and to just chill for a bit. Then after a few weeks, she said, ok, I’ve booked you a session with Josh Fountain (who I worked with on the majority of my first EP). She said, “No pressure. Even if you don’t write a good song, just go in to the studio and have some fun working with someone you know well and who you feel safe with.” Josh had an instrumental which he played to me. I loved it and within an hour or two, we had the bones for Candy. It was like an opening of the flood gates. I felt like I had my mojo back and haven’t really looked back since. It’s another gurl power anthem. “I’m a Killer Queen, I do my own thing… I’m just living life and I live it how I like”. I owe a lot to this song.
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