I was first introduced to Evelyn Mason’s music through her project Bobo Eyes, which she worked on alongside Regular Fantasy’s Olivia Meek. The two made the sweetest electronic/pop/R&B, brought to you by Evy’s smooth, soulful vocals. Little did I know at the time, Bobo Eyes was just one arm of the multifaceted songstress, and her solo project, Evy Jane, was silently working towards what is now her newly released album, Breaking. A month or so ago Evy appeared on the single “Court Vision” by Rat King affiliate Sporting Life, which would be the start of the artist’s wave of new music and video releases. Evy is raw and whimsical, and as a true Aquarian, her unrelenting sincerity seeps into her music. The hazy, beat-driven R&B takes you with the singer as she works through her life, trauma and identity. She is figuring out her shit, and she does it ever so gracefully. Breaking showcases a very vulnerable side of the artist, and I felt I had to catch up with her about where these feels were coming from, growing up as one of few people of color in small-town British Columbia, and using music as a healing remedy.
What can people look forward to hearing on the new album that’s different than your previous work? What are you the happiest about?
While writing music as Evy Jane, I was also doing Bobo Eyes, which is a very different world from the Evy Jane world. Bobo was a special outlet for me, between Closer and Breaking, where I could basically just make fun of myself and build a fantasy land with my friend Olivia. Bobo was a very happy time, being active in the dance scene in Vancouver. I already knew how to use software but Olivia pushed me to wire MIDI, set up synths and pedals, and use the MPC. I always thought of “Evy Jane” as the “popstar”—a person-alien based on a facet of myself that Jeremiah and I created together. Breaking is cool because it’s way more hi-fi than Bobo Eyes, and way more “put together,” sonically. Jeremiah’s skills are very refined, whereas I was still searching for my sound. So, any stylistic cohesiveness in Breaking is due to his efforts to make it so. I used to think I was an experimental musician but really, I don’t even care to know what that means exactly. I just know that I am experimental with myself—I’ve pushed my own boundaries to experience as many aspects of my humanity as possible. Now, I know that the music is always going to be pop, or the closest thing to “pop” I can achieve in my way. My favorite song on the album is “Under Your Weather”—that song will always be good, even when I’m dead and gone.
Can you tell me about your work process? I know that you went back to your hometown of Nelson, BC to work on this album. Why was that such a necessary process for you?
No matter what I am doing, improvisation is always part of the process. I’m trained in classical and jazz. Music is where I connect to the Cancer moon in me and I become an unshelled soul. It’s where I say the things that I can’t say to anyone at all. I’ll get in the studio and watch an uplifting video, or listen to something that gets me hype, like Mr. Fingers or Young Thug. Then I’ll pull up the fledgling song spirits I’ve been digesting, and try to nurture them by tapping into the source; asking, what do I need? What does this world need? What does the song need? I’ve sort of come full circle now in a way, being in Nelson where I grew up. I get to appreciate it through a very novel new lens and feel like I’m tending to my family. I’m doing ballet with my dance teacher from ten years ago, spending time in nature.
What’s Nelson like? I just picture white guys with dreads and kombucha, but what was it like growing up there? And how has it been being back working on your craft?
I’m not one to label people but for the sake of simplicity, I grew up around lots of hippies, rednecks and bears in Nelson. The four-legged kind of bear. I’ve done my fair share of escaping, especially the bears. Nonetheless, ‘round here you’re more likely to die in a drunk-driving crash on a logging road or from eating a deathcap mushroom than getting messed up by a bear. It’s not a place for people looking for a conventional lifestyle. I’ve seen people do a lot with food gardening/barter and trade, because the concept of community is embraced, but despite the utopian ideals, I still see it as rough place. My teen years were brightened by raving, but in a pretty wholesome way. My parents were both working-poor immigrants in Saskatchewan until we moved here in the very same school bus I’m dancing on in the Sporting Life “Court Vision” video. My parents aren’t really hippies, though. They were strict, but they let us be ourselves 100%. As a kid I was bullied a lot for being Chinese. My sister and brother and I were 3 out of a very tiny handful of visible minority kids at school. It’s common that populations of small towns are generally less accepting and less accustomed to diversity. Still, I had an enchanted childhood. Isolation makes you have to entertain yourself. It helped that we travelled a lot as a family, but I got out into the world as soon as I could. Would I be where I am in life if I had felt accepted socially? I don’t think so. I was 10 years old but didn’t want to go to recess because I preferred making choral arrangements and choreography for me and my friends to perform at the old folks home.
What’s your routine been like working on this album? What do you eat, drink or do to put yourself in the right mind frame?
During the recording of Breaking, I had to smoke approximately three pounds of weed to keep it together. I was suffering for personal reasons, but it felt cathartic to feel like I was fulfilling a promise through it. Now, I’m in a really different place. I wake up early, have breakfast with my family, discuss plans, meals, work, projects. We hike up the hill together every morning and do kung fu exercises with my mom. I’m meditating these days on how to be as open as I naturally am while still protecting myself, as technology changes our definitions of privacy. I choose to project my own image because there were basically zero entertainers I could look to growing up who were like me. “It’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it,” is what my dad always says. Beyond that I want to create space for listeners to feel good and grounded. Less about me, more about you. I want to inspire people, but not to follow the path I have followed. There is no path. I want people to remember this, the one vague esoteric spiritualism that I will self-righteously force on you. Truth is infinite and no one will lead you there but you.
You mentioned a few times that you were dealing with personal struggles working up to this album. Do you mind delving into what it is about personal struggles that changes the way you make music? Does it change your style? The way you sing? What you sing about?
Intellectually, I wanted to write music that was empowering. But this music was self-soothing and wound-tending. That’s cool too. I was starved for connection to other young powerful women. That was something I was used to, growing up. But if you’re in a particular environment, it’s not gonna be easy to fake it. I talk about what is in my world. The environment I was in made it so there were references to the things I saw during that time. I talk about crows at least twice, I mention Strath Park, Lighthouse Park, the damned weather. Waves breaking, hearts breaking, imminent oil spills, impending earthquakes, the particular isolation of the Pacific Northwest (ie. “The Half You Hide/Under Your Weather“). Swimming in the ocean with someone you love. Music is so sacred. When I began my musical journey, I was smaller, fearful, lost. If you listen to “Sayso,” the first track I put out when I was 21, it’s rife with guilt, internalized misogyny, and self-loathing. It was frankly the sound of my suicidal ideation, disassociation, disorder—a cosmic, nihilist eye-roll. I was really embarrassed by that song because I wasn’t trying to add my darkness to the world. I didn’t want the people in my life to worry about me, Chinese people don’t seem to talk about mental health, you just work it away. I never wanted to write music about how unhappy my experiences made me. But I had committed myself to always telling my unfiltered truth, like the people I looked up to (Lauryn Hill, Fiona Apple). It’s a process. But also it just happens, the words come out and I don’t know what they mean at first. I was so disconnected from my emotions that I wouldn’t know until I listened to the songs maybe a year later that I really needed to change things for myself. I listen to these songs and it makes me cry, because now I know why some of my loved ones tried (in vain) to guide me to a happier place. Now that I’m feeling better, music synergistically heals me. Music heals the world, Rihanna once tweeted. Also, as I find other artists that I resonate with, my style shifts around a bit, confidence/influence, clarity, who even knows.
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