How homesickness and pop music shaped Eves Karydas' debut album, summerskin
The rising pop force is currently amongst Australia's best, and she's touring the country in February next year.
Header photo provided.
In case you've been hiding under a rock in the past twelve months, chances are you'd know about the strength of Australian pop's next generation. Artists such as Troye Sivan, Amy Shark and G Flip are currently making serious waves overseas - the former selling out arenas in the US off the back of his recent sophomore album Bloom - while others, such as Mallrat, Kota Banks, CXLOE and Jess Kent, are giving our local scene a dynamic and exciting breath of fresh air. Brisbane's Eves Karydas is a name among this elite league in 2018, but she has been for a while. Initially emerging back in 2015 under the name Eves The Behavior, her self-titled debut EP and feature tracks such as TV and Electrical had her plastered with tags such as "the next big thing" and "Australia's most exciting", but after releasing the EP, she basically disappeared.
In the three years since, Eves - real name Hannah Karydas - has been "finding herself" she says on the phone from Brisbane, where she talks two weeks before the arrival of her long-awaited debut album, summerskin. "I just felt like another girl, another day, with this male producer wearing a cap, sitting on his laptop," she says in the album's bio, reflecting on how international writing trips found her feeling uninspired and stepped on as a young, emerging musician. "When you’re in the room every day, you can’t come up with enough meaningful concepts, and so I just end up writing meaningless music. It’s like looking at myself through a veil or something. It just feels wrong."
After relocating to LA temporarily, Karydas eventually found a home in a "small, dingy flat on the fifth floor of an ex-council block" in wintery north-west London, before moving to Camberwell - a slightly rougher district of south London, but one that would eventually influence and shape her debut album. According to Karydas, moving away and living in packed London share-houses proved to be the "catalyst for what the record ended up being like", with the "feeling of displacement and being very far away from home" in her time overseas shaping many of summerskin's inner-themes and inspiration. However, summerskin isn't the bleak and melancholic record its themes and recording setting suggest.
Teaming up with Australian ex-pats Sam Dixon (Adele, Sia) and Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa, plus New York's Chris Zane (Passion Pit), summerskin is a bold and uplifting display of Karydas' pop brilliance that glistens with a slick and polished shine. Feature singles such as Couch, Further Than The Planes Fly and Damn Loyal unite Karydas' triumphant and soaring vocal with head-turning productions that give it a strong push into commercial success, while others - such as the album's closing Wildest Ones and Honest - offer a more tender and down-tempo side of her pop brilliance, each thick with the emotion that the album's creation suggests.
Arriving today via Dew Process / Universal Music Australia, summerskin - if nothing else - is proof of Australia's rising pop prowess in 2018, further showcasing the skillfulness of Australia's leading pop women in creating captivating and powerful art without the big budget backgrounds that often go into their rivals. More personally, it also proves that Karydas is here to stay after a rocky few years following Eves The Behavior's rapid rise. summerskin truly sounds like an artist finding themselves, with every twist and turn Karydas takes you on in the album's ten-track duration marked with an empowering confidence that is only emphasised by the album's pre-creation struggle.
With summerskin's arrival firmly placing Eves Karydas on the map, we caught up with the Brisbane musician to talk about how homesickness and pop music shaped the album's creation, and what to expect from her headline tour in February next year - dates and tickets at the end. Listen to summerskin below:
Just to start us off, I wanted to talk about the time in between your debut EP as Eves The Behavior and your full album - summerskin - under the Eves Karydas name. After the EP cycle was done, you left Queensland to Europe and America before you ended up in the UK for a while, which is now where you are largely based and where you wrote much of the album. Was there anything in particular that spurred this decision or did it just feel like the right thing for you to do at the time?
Yeah, it just felt like something that I'd always dreamt of doing when when I was young, and I made the decision based on personal reasons more than career reasons. I just felt like I needed to explore and move away from home to try and find myself a bit. It was really something I've always wanted to and it just felt like the moment where I was like "all right, now is the time!" I don't regret it. It transformed me into the person I am now and the artist I am now, which I adore.
I know you said it was mostly personal, but was there any career aspect that you felt like it was a good thing for as well?
Yeah, I guess it was. It was exciting for me to be able to work with a whole new pool of people and there were people in London that I ended up working, most of which I don't think I would've otherwise. They were actually mostly Australian artists that just happened to live over there, but it's just things like that wouldn't have happened if I had stayed here. Also, it's nice to get out of your comfort zone, your 'scene' and the people you know. So that was kind of a part of it too. I guess I was like, "I need to just be by myself and not be influenced by anyone else."
You mention that summerskin covers some of your experiences over this time, particularly moving around and the feeling of displacement and homesickness that you might've encountered while moving around.
That's right. Everything on the album was written in London, so there's not anything on there that's from before or after that time. It's very much about that time of my life where I was like suddenly in this whole big city where I didn't know anyone.
I did feel quite homesick for a long time and a lot of that trickled into what I was writing and the subject matter that I ended up writing about. Like, things that I care about, people that you care about and how important those are, and how much you realise they're important until you're away from them; that is really what much of the album is about. The whole record is about that time in London.
It's mentioned how you moved around into some pretty shifty areas - like you were living in like a massive share house with a bunch of people at one stage. How did that influence the album?
That share house mentioned was the first place I moved into when I went to London and I only knew one person, a Canadian friend, but he was a massive - like, massive - fan of pop music. I think it was really good for me to be spending so much time with him because I've always liked pop music, but I didn't know too many people back home that enjoyed it on the same level. Suddenly, I was able to have this discourse with someone about pop music and I think that very much influenced my transition into embracing that side of my creativity.
On the side of being in a big share house, while it was not the most ideal situation, I spent a lot of time focusing on writing because it made me feel good and made me really think "well, it doesn't matter if I'm in this shitty little apartment because I can write and I can work my way out."
What was your relationship with pop music growing up?
It's like two-fold. There was the side of me that adored Joni Mitchell and Crowded House - the more folk music side - and then this other side of me that was always pop music. Even still now - I was thinking about it this morning - that when it comes to the music that I put on the most, there's two different genres equal to each other - folk music and pop music - and it's always been like that with me. When I was younger, I was obsessed with pop and people like Hilary Duff - she was my idol and she's the reason why I started writing songs when I was about 10. I've just always straddled between those two worlds.
To be fair, Hilary Duff is sick. I'm not gonna not gonna argue against that. So as well as giving you that encouragement to start off, pop music has definitely has shaped your music to what it is now. Right?
Yeah, absolutely. I listen to pop music and I listen to Joni Mitchell as well, but the music that I started writing when I first started writing when I was 10 was pop music. I've always been fascinated by it and it just makes sense to me. More so than anything else.
Is there anything in particular that fascinates you about pop music?
Yeah, I think it's when you can kind of quantify a feeling or a concept into its most pure concentrated form - its most easy to digest form. I find that in itself is remarkable and I love that. I love trying to do that and not just with lyrics but, melodically, pop music is like math in a way and I find that it just makes sense to me. I can't even explain it. Some people talk about like being good at building things for instance, but I think I understand how pop music works, without sounding completely wanky. It just makes sense to me as I see it visually.
"The final song on summerskin is a song called Wildest Ones. Its one of the only songs with a guitar on it and one of my favourite songs. It was the last song I wrote for the album and sums up the story of the record perfectly," - Eves Karydas. Go behind-the-scenes of summerskin's creation with more photos HERE.
There's a lot of themes of empowerment in your album and that's actually something that I think has been popping up a lot in pop music right now. Would you agree with that?
Yeah, totally. That said, I think it's a theme that's always been in pop music. People love the whole victim-to-victory story in whatever form it takes and that's kind of what pop music is about - making people feel good. I want to make a record that made me feel good.
On summerskin, the theme of empowerment - particularly female empowerment - is quite heavy. This has always played a large part in yourself, whether it's across Eves The Behavior or your project now. That said, this time around, I feel like you convey it more through yourself rather than using classic feminist icons as you would as Eves The Behavior.
Yeah. I agree with that.
When it comes to putting yourself out there and making yourself the subject, was that intimidating at all? Or was it something that you've always wanted to do?
I don't really think I thought about it so much. I made a conscious decision at the start of making this album to just be honest with myself and to be open and upfront, and I think in doing that, I just started writing about experiences I was going through.
I feel pretty empowered as a person - I've never really struggled with confidence issues and stuff like that. It was just nice to be able to explore that side of me. I'd always kind of had, but more shied away from it with me directly, and then suddenly I was like "ah, I'm good at dealing with situations and oh, I'm not easily intimidated!" or things like that. I then sorta decided to just write from this perspective and it was great. I love that I did that and I will continue to do that now with whatever I move forward into after this album.
Did going through LA and London and staying there encourage you to do this?
Yeah, I think so. I just went out of my comfort zone. It's was just like "okay, I have to deal with this myself. There's no one else around me, my mum's in a different timezone..." You either crumble or you just rise to this challenge. I definitely had to build that muscle up, and the funny thing is now that I'm home again back in my mum and dad's house, it's like, "oh, I'm dealing with this so badly! You resort straight back into that the minute you go back home.
Are you back just as a temporary thing - are you going back to London?
I don't really know to be honest. I've been here since June and I still have the intention to go back to London, I just don't know when. Things are going really well here and I'm really enjoying being back and feeling that sense of validation of being away for so long, feeling so detached from everything but then going touring and seeing people responding to that. I just shelled like a hermit for a very long time. I'm taking my time here, let's just put it that way.
You are going on a full national tour in February next year, which was just announced. What can we expect from that?
I think some things that I learned about myself and my brand on my last tour - my single tour which was just on the east coast, only three shows - was how I like to be on stage and for me, I took that really positively. It was my first time playing much of these songs on my own, live. It helped me see that for me, the biggest thing I want people to take away from my show is the good energy - I want people to have fun. I move around a lot and I dance and I want people to feel too. When I'm on stage, I almost can't sing half the time because I can't stop smiling. But I like that that's part of the show. I just like being like that on stage - almost giddy-like.
Your upcoming shows are headline shows, while you were recently doing support slots for people like Cub Sport. What are the differences for you personally that go into doing a headline show and doing a support slot for someone like Cub Sport?
When you're supporting, a lot of your energy goes into winning the crowd over, whereas doing a headline show, which I've only done three, it's just completely different. People are already won over, so you just get to have a different kind of fun. It's interesting. It's definitely a very different sort of experience, but I like both. I like being able to win people over when I'm doing supports. It's like a challenge for me.