Christchurch-born Theia’s second EP Not Your Princess drops today. Sam Brooks chats with the singer about her new music and her video for International Women’s Day.
Theia’s first self-titled EP was released two years ago, and it was a stunning artistic statement. The production was lush, her voice had a distinctive husk to it, and the album swept you up into a different world for its duration. In short: It was a real good pop EP, mature and distinct in a way that made it feel like a third or fourth album.
Charli XCX and MIA are the names that accompany the press release for Theia’s second EP Not Your Princess, and they’re apt ones. The music enters the room attitude and energy first, but never loses sight of the underlying hooks; it’s a clear progression in risk-taking from her first EP but no less mature. There’s no mistake: Theia is an artist who is making edgy, socially-conscious and deeply catchy pop music.
Not Your Princess is released today, with a track-by-track in-depth podcast by Theia herself being dropped daily after its release, and I got a chance to talk to Theia about the new sound of the album, and what her ideal 2019 looks like.
So there’s a very PC Music vibe to ‘Not Your Princess’, is that a genre that resonates with you?
I absolutely love them. It’s a compliment to hear my stuff likened to PC Music. I’m definitely into really clever production – a huge bass, bright top-ends, quirky sounds. I describe my sound as alt-pop. ‘Not Your Princess’ was the last song on this EP that I wrote, and it’s definitely a signal of the direction my sound is taking after this body of work. I’m already back in the studio and working on new stuff.
How did you gather all the women together for the International Women’s Day version of the ‘Not Your Princess’ video?
I just started contacting female identifying and non-binary people on Instagram – creatives and influencers who I admire. I sent everyone a private message and explained a bit about ‘Not Your Princess’ as a song and also the meaning behind it and what I was hoping to do.
Those who were interested came back asking to hear the song and we pretty much went from there. They’re all strong and fierce – all kicking ass in their respective lives and careers. I was so stoked with how it came together and how it turned out.
What was it like filming the other version in your bedroom?
It was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been on a video shoot and also so much fun. It was literally just me, Matt who helped me film and edit it, my beautiful friend Liz who also happens to be an amazing MAC artist and my manager. When my manager and I started discussing ideas for a video for NYP, we chatted about bigger budget type concepts and we reached this point where we were like, ‘Why are we discussing spending thousands of dollars on this, when we don’t actually have thousands of dollars to spend on it?’
So we decided to make it in my bedroom, which is where most of my songs start – me alone, writing. We set out to use just a laptop and my iPhone but after doing a few rough takes, we called on Matt, who’s an amazing photographer and videographer to come along with his camera and help.
So we essentially had footage from all three devices to choose from. I wanted to challenge myself to make something DIY but to still stay true to the meaning behind the song, which I feel it does. And I didn’t force myself into debt to make it.
Your music has a super infectious energy to it. How do you bring that vibe and energy into your live performances?
This new EP is definitely a lot more upbeat than my first EP so it doesn’t take too much to rework the songs for a live show.
I still play my older songs – like ‘Roam’ and ‘Champagne Supernova’ – but they’re now worked into a more club-style show alongside the new songs, with dance breaks and super cool transitions that keep the energy and pace up. I also like to test out demos at shows, so I usually chuck a few unreleased tracks in to see how they go. There’s also my ‘go to’ folder of demos, which are really cool live but ones that are unlikely to ever be recorded to be released.
I traditionally played as a three-piece or a four-piece (keys, electronic drums and sometimes bass) but I’ve also been experimenting lately as a two-piece – doing some really cool things like having electronic guitar over songs or as I mentioned above, giving the songs a more club-feel, which just means slightly re-working stuff in the studio. It’s such a fun time and definitely something I’ll be doing more of this year.
What would your ideal 2019 look like, professionally and personally?
I’m looking forward to having the new EP out in the world, because it’s been at least a year in the making. It’s nice to just have it done – almost like ending the chapter of a book. It feels satisfying. I’m already working on new material and I’m totally in love with the new vibe and sound.
So for me, 2019 is all about pushing that as far as I can and making music that I love. I am in a really great space creatively at the moment and have been spending a lot of time in Sydney, writing and working with a couple of producers who I really click with. It’s been such a good time and I can’t wait to get back there soon and do more.
On a personal level, it’s all about maintaining a healthy balance between the hectic world of music and other stuff, like exercise, hanging with family and friends. I have been dividing my time between Auckland and Sydney and I hope to spend more time in Sydney, because it’s such a cool city, where I feel very at home.
Weird question: You used to be a lifeguard, what was that like? I was a swim teacher for like two years and I always wondered what it would be like on ‘the other side’, so to speak.
Hahaha, nice one! I was a lifeguard at a pool and I also did Surf Life Saving for many years. Being at the pool was very different to getting out on the ocean, but I enjoyed both. At the pool, I loved seeing the regulars come in for their daily swims. But I think I spent more time cleaning showers and what not than I did rescuing people. But it was a good time.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day's best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.