Live-looping wunderkind Phia is hitting the road for her Sky and Sea Tour alongside indie-pop chameleon Georgia Fields, as they re-imagine songs from their recent albums. We chat to Phia in the midst of the tour.
Hey Phia, thanks for chatting. You are known for being a whiz on the loop pedal in your live performances. What initially drew you to looping and did it take much practice to get right?
The loop pedal took quite a few hours of practise in my room until I had enough confidence to bring it to a gig! I started out as a piano player and I loved the concept of the loop pedal that you could create your own world of sound.
You have a very soothing DIY art-pop tone, and you often include an unusual instrument that’s become a definitive feature of your work, a kalimba. Could you tell us a bit about what it is and why you’ve decided to use it in your music?
Why thank you! A kalimba is a westernised version of an African musical instrument called an mbira. It’s a wooden board with metal tines that you pluck with your thumbs. I studied improvisation and composition at university and around the end of my studies I became interested in toy instruments, so I had a toy piano, a glockenspiel, a melodica and then I saw someone playing the kalimba at a gig and thought I’d get one to add to my collection. But when I played it for the first time I absolutely fell in love with the sound. It resonates in your hand and is the perfect instrument for looping – it has a percussive attack and also a harp-like resonance. It creates such a gorgeous soundscape.
In 2011 you made the move to Berlin and lived there for five years, where you toured and recorded your debut album. What was the appeal of the European music scene for you, and is it much different to the Australian music scene?
I was eager for a change when I moved. I bought a one-way ticket and wasn’t sure how long I’d stay, never expecting I’d stay for five years! What’s so wonderful about Europe is how close everything is, the touring opportunities are endless because you can jump on a train, or get a cheap flight to another country. So I had the opportunity to play so many gigs in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy…it was so fun and really helped me develop my live show. Australia has an incredible live scene, but it’s a lot harder to play as often as our population is so much smaller and spread over a huge amount of space so touring is a lot more expensive.
The title of your debut album, ‘The Ocean of Everything’, is very interesting. Could you talk a bit about what inspired that title, and some of the central themes you’ve expressed within this album?
The title comes from a line in one of the songs ‘Begin Again’. “..in the ocean of everything, who knows where it ends or begins.”. The album is about growing up, what changes as you leave childhood behind, reflecting on youth and family and discovering myself in a new city far from where I grew up, over many oceans.
You’ve been doing a co-headline tour with Georgia Fields, who you’ve previously collaborated with, featuring on her song ‘Open Orange’. What do you see in Georgia that’s made you want to work with her?
I’ve always loved Georgia’s work. She’s such a fantastic songwriter, I feel I learn something every time I hear her songs. I love the vivid imagery in her lyrics and her incredible band and string arrangements.
Thanks for chatting with Forte. On a final note, have you got any plans for the future of your career, any new music coming?
Thank you Forte! Yes I’ve been working on a new EP with my guitarist and producer Josh Teicher. I’m really proud of it, it’s got distorted guitars and intergalactic juno synths and songs about science and feminism. I’ll be releasing it later in the year and touring it back to Europe. It’s a busy year!
When & Where: Old Castlemaine Gaol, Castlemaine – August 6