With over 100 million streams on Spotify and having been used in adverts for Apple and Burberry, Phildel is an artist that should not be brushed over. With a sprinkling of pop, Phildel’s music almost certainly leans on the electronic side and although very original in her own right, any one a fan Grimes, Crystal Castles or Bjork needs to check out Phildel. What’s best about Phidel is the genuine passion behind the lyrics in her work and it’s clear she knowledgeable as well as talented, as we discovered when we interviewed her about feminism, music and of course her new track “Electric Heights”.
Tell us about yourself and your music.
I’m quite a dreamer - I use music and my imagination as a way to both escape reality as well as to reaffirm who I am. My music tends to be the product of wayward journeys through my imagination (which is guided by whatever emotional state I’m in - so there’s a strong connection to my experiences). My albums feature songs that span a few genres and use quite an expansive range of instruments, because I love the freedom of following anywhere my imagination leads.
You currently live in Brighton, what are the best things about the city for you?
The food (I’ve only really ever used one thing to modify my mood in life and it’s food). I also love the range of natural landscapes, from the beaches, rock-pools, to The South Downs and beyond. I film a high number of my music videos and so I generally relocate to take advantage of places with scenic landscapes. I also love that it’s a progressive place to live, that’s important to me. That people here feel more able to be their authentic selves than perhaps elsewhere.
Your music has been described as ‘strong and emotional’ as well as electronic and piano based. Who has been your influence in your sound?
There are many artists I love, generally artists that have pioneered a very unique sound, people such as Tori Amos, Imogen Heap, Bjork. These women have always made me feel that I could authentically create whatever I liked, without needing to compromise. They have made me feel my creativity can have free-reign and I’d say that principle has influenced my sound.
I’ve also been influenced by my inability to collaborate! I tend to have an extremely defined vision of how things should sound and so it makes it challenging to create a shared work. On top of this I’m an introvert. And if you’re an introvert - your musical way is generally the “alone in the studio programming synths” way. I also like to cry, quite a lot, whilst writing songs, so the privacy of my own studio works for me. I would probably not be able to capture the same creative process in the presence of a band. So, I guess that’s why the music sounds emotional, electronic and piano-based...as opposed to guitar-band based.
What is your new song “Electric Heights” about?
“Electric Heights” is about that dizzy feeling of attraction you get when you want to get closer to someone. Except, it’s about the memory of that feeling, because you’ve since parted ways and regret how things have turned out. It’s re-living the intense, dizzying thrill of infatuation, through a memory. Because it’s caught in the haze of memory, there’s a sense of removed calm and control to the song, slightly detached but still intimate. Both vocally and through the arrangement.
In the video and on your website, there is a lot of images of a sort of “geo-ram”, does this have any meaning behind it?
Yes, I spent around four years working on the visual themes to this album. For me the ram, who has been named Ramsey, symbolises the blend between the manufactured geometric and the natural organic...a blend I’ve always loved musically (synths plus human voice etc). The masked character represents many themes that are often viewed as polar - man and nature, maths and art etc. Like many artists, I seek to combine them, and the ram combined them perfectly - he is a woodland creature, formed from geometric shapes. I think as a society, we tend to view things/people/ourselves as either intellectual or emotional, artistic or mathematical - there’s a whole dialogue questioning “are men more logical than women?” “are women more emotional than men?”. Regardless of what my opinion is on these questions, I’m struck by the very existence of the dialogue - the relentless need to examine, classify and form a generalised conclusion. I think in viewing the world and relating to the world, in a more integrated way (rather than needing to categorise), we each give ourselves a lot more space, to be authentic to who we are.
You have also spoken about your album “Wave Your Flags” being a reflection on the #metoo movement. How important do you think music is as a form of activism in popular culture?
I don’t think it’s so much a reflection as the fact that, I’m a part of that dialogue. As someone who suffered sexual abuse, went to the police, and suffered the process of never gaining legal justice because the surrounding community lied to cover up the crime, my voice is just one of millions of women who must simply, come to terms with a crime that will never face consequence. From a place of total powerlessness - I had to re-find a position that would help me to survive. In the end, I found a position that has helped me to absolutely thrive. I wrote the song “Glorious” about this place...it’s about forming your own place of inner refuge and strength, completely independent of society…
How can we use music to help promote feminism in general?
I think every time we see a woman who feels she can behave authentically and express herself authentically, we see a promotion of feminism. Music forms an incredible platform to share, celebrate and document the experiences and journeys of women. It’s been nice to see more diverse images of women in music, from different body types, to different ethnicities etc, although these tend not to be directly in the mainstream spotlight - and I feel it’s clear that the industry still favours giving most exposure to women who fulfill a certain criteria - young, slim and conventionally “aesthetically pleasing”. So, it would be nice to see a truer representation of women included in what gets heavily promoted.
I’d like to add that I’ve always been a real supporter of the male journey...I think men have had an extremely difficult time with social prejudice in a way that hasn’t received the same widespread acknowledgement as feminism. More young men die from committing suicide than any other cause of death, because in a society that historically has ostracised men for needing help or support, we now see a culture where men commit suicide because reaching out for support is something that feels impossible.
I think my conclusion here is that historically, society got really weird in its treatment of people generally and we all need to try to have compassion for ourselves and everyone else and sort it out.
Also, you have said the album is about loss and renewal, how has music helped you with this process?
Music is how I communicate most effectively, so expressing a traumatic process or transition through music, really helps me feel I’ve been present with the emotions of the experience. And that generally leads me to being able to find closure and place it, somewhere on the shelf. I wrote “A Great Wave” about the process of reporting abuse to the police and the immense amount of stress that brought to my life. That experience was so hard, I became suicidal and the song is based on imagining my body beneath the waves of The River Thames. It also captures the power of relationship - my own relationship with my long-term partner, was how I survived through that devastating time...and the lyrics “But your love took me out of the water”, sum that up.
What is your favourite place to perform?
Any time I’ve ever played at the Southbank Centre it has felt amazing. The design of the venues are incredible for sound and I love a seated audience show (mainly because I personally prefer shows that are seated - my legs ache if I have to stand for more than 10 mins...so it makes me happy to know my audience are comfortable and relaxed). I constantly feel concerned for everyone if I’m playing a long set and people are standing. I also love performing for BBC radio in general - it’s a beautiful blend of homely, friendly and professional.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?
God. Because then I’d know he’s real...
What does 2019 hold for you?
I’m hoping a smoother year than previous years...lots of exciting live shows, I’ll probably write a new album about being happy and content, that would be nice.
To check out more words of wisdom and great music, find Phildel on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
Phildel's new album Wave Your Flags is out March 22.
Catch her live in London at The Purcell Room, on March 20.