Interview - PHEA
American-German singer-songwriter and producer PHEA transforms the painful and hopeless moments of her life into art. With her unique style of music, she drops deeply melodious grooves with meaningful lyrics that cast provocative light on human equality, PTSD, and sheer survival, inspired by her own rare heart condition.
Combining genres of pop, avant guard pop, and indie pop, PHEA’s brand-new single ‘I Saw You’ is a flavourable addition to her music catalog. The fierce and energetic mood to the track portrays the inner monologue of a rape victim; it expresses all the questions you will never get answered and the endless hours of contemplating why it happened.
We sat down with PHEA to discuss her music and much more. Here is what she had to say:
Hey PHEA, welcome to FLEX! How are you?
I’m happy to be releasing new music. So, I’m feeling great today, thank you.
Congratulations on your latest single ‘I Saw You’ - what inspired this particular track?
When I write for myself, in a way, it is always autobiographical. Maybe because I feel like it has always been easier to express myself through music. I wrote down this dialogue of questions that just wouldn’t leave me alone while trying to process something that had happened to me.
“Was it worth it if you’re honest? Did you get what you wanted? Breaking people in the process. But she didn’t even say no”.
“I Saw You” tells the story of sexual harassment and abuse through the eyes of a victim. As most victims, I never fully got closure or answers. I guess this song is my way of regaining control and empowering not only myself, but others to speak up.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
In between writing some of the lyrics on my phone to actually putting down chords, melody and production with Raphael Neikes, I was able to talk to other women and men with similar experiences. It helped me process, knowing that I was not alone and that someone would believe me if I spoke out. So, I would like to think it was inspired by others and their stories as well.
And do you have to be in a certain mood to write?
I guess It depends on what I am writing for. I also write, compose and produce for other artists as well as commercials and film. Mostly, I don’t overthink it and just get started with whatever I think is the most important for the composition or song - Lyrics, a specific Instrument, chords or harmony. Lately, for my own music, it has been different. I tend to have emotional surges and a melody, lyrics or a specific sound that comes to mind expresses what I am feeling in that moment. I just sit down and write something in an hour and then finish up with the production later or work with a co-producer to get a second perspective on the track. Towards the end I do really like finishing the production on my own. There is something about the solitude of being alone in the studio and just listening back on a track without external opinions.
Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?
Yes, there is a CGI-Music Video for “I Saw You”. My close friend Lucy Dye who is an amazing artist, writer and producer and directed the music video. We worked with Itar Pas, a very talented 3D Artist based in Berlin, to bring it to life. Especially with my visual aesthetic, I want to turn my weaknesses into strengths. I’ve had an implanted defibrillator since the age of ten following a heart attack and open-heart surgery. The scars and my body itself used to be a huge insecurity of mine. To turn it into a strength for this video, we wanted to channel a Cyborg-Warrior-Aesthetic. Itar created sci-fi surroundings in which Cyborg-PHEA fights off perpetrators, and gives a glimpse into the reality and journey a victim is confronted with.
How was the recording and writing process?
I had written most of the lyrics in bits and pieces on my phone when Raphael Neikes and I went into a writing session. He laid down that heavy bass and chords you can hear in the chorus. It sounded so dark and haunting that it almost instantly took me back to what I felt writing down the lyrics. Anger, confusion, not knowing how to speak out and regain control. I improvised the chorus melody, and from that point it came to us very naturally. We added these distorted guitars and vocals. After a couple of hours we had finished most of the song. The only thing added after that writing session were some backing vocals I recorded in Venice, LA almost a year later.
For viewers that don’t know PHEA, how would you describe your sound?
I would like to think it evolves with every Track I release. I started out as a songwriter, so I do like a good hook, lyrics and intimate and fragile vocals. As a producer, I discovered my love for synthesizers, which defines my sound and gives it an electronic touch. Most people say my music is either very dark or melancholic. Artists such as James Blake and Bon Iver have inspired the way I think about music production heavily. I try to express what I am feeling through sounds and by doing so, make them as unique as possible, all in a way that is catchy and will fit to a more or less pop arrangement.
What’s the music scene like where you live?
I grew up in Heidelberg, Germany.I started playing instruments and taking vocal lessons at a young age. Even though it is a small town, the electronic music scene has a lot to offer. It was actually my twin sister who got into synthesizers and live-beat-making first, and later inspired me to start producing my own music.
And what are some of those activities that you engage yourself in when you aren't writing or recording in the studio?
It is quite hard for me to get out of the studio. When I’m not making music I feel most myself in nature. At the moment I love just hanging out with my dog and taking long walks or drawing and writing poetry or short stories.