- Words Jamie Wilde
- Photography Niall Lea
Pixey is the Liverpool-based indie-pop artist on a one-woman mission. Her goal? To bring a sense of reflection but also joy and danceability through her upbeat, self-produced music.
Pixey’s sophomore EP ‘Free To Live In Colour’ is due for release on 24th March and displays her latest musical endeavours in full bloom. Falling in love with music as a toddler, Pixey recounts not even being able to walk, yet desperate to sing and dance to Queen. The likes of Kate Bush, Björk, and George Harrison struck a chord with her early on thanks to their endearing songwriting styles. Yet it was suffering a near-fatal viral illness in early 2016 which proved to be the real catalyst for Pixey’s musical coming of age, giving her a renewed perspective of life and what she wanted to achieve most with it.
Having recently signed to the Chess Club record label (Alfie Templeman, Phoebe Green), Pixey’s trajectory has risen sharply in recent months following the success of “Just Move” and her most recent release “Electric Dream” which have garnered widespread radio and press attention.
Notion caught up with Pixey over Zoom to talk about the message she hopes to put across with her upcoming EP, her relationship with vivid soundscapes and also her advice for women looking to get into the typically male-dominated field of music production.
Hey Pixey! How have you been coping with everything over the last year?
It’s been the craziest whirlwind of events! If you’d have told me that not only would there be a global pandemic but that I’d get signed, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. So, it’s actually not been so bad for me. I feel quite fortunate, really.
Have you found these times of isolation creatively inspiring or relatively uninspiring?
It’s had its ebbs and flows. At some points, it’s been the most creative I’ve ever been then other times it’s not. It’s been quite challenging because obviously right now we don’t have the same exposure to different places, events and people which often inspire songwriting. But as a whole, I’d say it’s been the perfect time to actually delve into what I enjoy about songwriting and producing – which go hand in hand for me. It’s been the perfect time to get better at that.
Growing up in Lancashire and then Liverpool, do you think that the North’s musical legacy perhaps influenced you to become a musician? What effect have these places had on your sound? How have they shaped you into the artist you are today?
Yeah 100%. I think when you grow up in a place where there’s not much to do and there’s not a huge communal aspect, you kind of delve into the online world and the music world as well. They’ve always been places I’d tap into to escape how boring everything was as a kid, I suppose. And this shaped my sound for sure because I don’t think I would’ve had the motivation to think that I could start doing more stuff with my music without having that ‘need’ to because I wasn’t being fulfilled in other ways.
Sound-wise, I have so many vivid memories of walking through fields with my headphones on in the summer and just wanting to take that feeling and recreate it sonically. That definitely shaped a lot of the way that I write.
You also encountered a near-death experience just a few years ago and it pushed you to follow your dreams of becoming a musician. Can you tell me about this journey? Do you think you would have still become a musician eventually if you hadn’t gone through that intense experience?
While I was at uni, I was always under the notion that I was gonna get through my studies and find a straight paying job and all that. But around midway through my studies, I got this really out of the blue viral infection and it nearly killed me. I remember being so seriously ill and my parents were told to expect the worst which I cannot imagine what that must’ve felt like. I mean, I was the one in the fortunate situation just completely out of it! But I’d have hated to have been in my parents’ shoes.
I remember coming round after a really rough night where it was touch and go and the first thing that I thought of was that I felt like I hadn’t done anything that I wanted to do in my life. It wasn’t until I had that choice stripped from me, which does sound a bit cliché, that I realised what was important. To be honest, after that, I didn’t waste any time on things that weren’t gonna make me feel happy or fulfilled.
As soon as I got out of the hospital and started to recover, I was bed-bound for a while and quite frail. And actually, I mentioned this to someone recently, it kind of felt like a lockdown before lockdown because I couldn’t move, I couldn’t go anywhere, you know. But when I finally got back on my laptop, that’s when I downloaded Ableton and I just started writing. I couldn’t play guitar or anything but I was able to loop some chopped up parts together and from there, this kind of became my style of writing. I remember sending off my debut single “Young”, which I’d done on my old laptop and was the clunkiest thing ever, and that was when it felt like this was the right thing for me to do.
Thinking about it now, I really don’t know if I’d have taken that leap into taking it seriously if I hadn’t had that near-death experience, in all honesty.
Your new EP is due for release on 24th March. What do you want people to take away from the record? Is there anything you’re hoping to communicate about yourself in particular?
This is the first cohesive thing I’ve written where I’ve felt like I’ve really pushed myself with my production to make these vivid soundscapes. Kind of like what I was saying before when I was walking through a field or even walking along the docks in Liverpool, which I did a lot writing this EP, it captures what I feel sonically – that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s also different angles on me and my personality as a person. In one sense it can give off quite dense, moody colours but also still have that upbeat undertone to it. Some of the other tracks are full of reflective thinking – which I’ve done a lot of – then others are ones that you can just dance to. I absolutely love playing stuff that people can have a good time to.
If you’re gonna take anything away from it, it would be to take what you want in a sense. If you want to take the overarching name of the EP, that can mean so many different things and I want it to mean different things to different people because if it doesn’t, what’s the point? That’s the goal with writing, you know.
Talk to me about your latest single “Electric Dream”. You’ve previously said that you wanted to give people a “sense of being locked in with nothing to rely on but technology”. When was the song written? Was it inspired by your illness or isolation through the pandemic?
This one was written during the first lockdown before I was signed or anything and I remember just mucking about on the piano with that riff in the song “tell me what you wanna know,” and I was gonna write it as a ballad on the piano with no dancing or anything. Then after I wrote it, it was quite sad. So, I thought to myself this just needs a huge breakbeat on it, let’s make it a dance tune, and it worked really well.
For me, this song was the start of me trying to make this sort of shift online during the first lockdown. I mean, this interaction right now isn’t really normal when you think about it. All the human aspects of it are completely stripped like I can see myself in a screen and it’s really off-putting! But “Electric Dream” was written to journal in my head how I would cope with making sense of this new kind of digital interaction. But at the end of the day, it’s never as beautifully imperfect as real life.
Do you think that signing to Chess Club (Wolf Alice, Phoebe Green) has been a pivotal moment in your career so far? How did you know this label was the right home for your music?
It’s been a really rocky ride for me in terms of getting signed then changing then taking time off. I took a couple of years out when I really wasn’t quite sure about what I wanted to with music and everything. Then I got a normal job and did some waitressing which gave me a lot of time to reflect and it was almost like a second epiphany after the first one – nothing is ever smooth sailing!
But again, it definitely strengthened my belief and when Chess Club reached out, I listened to their roster and loved the artists they already worked with. It felt like a right place right time sort of thing, you know. Even though I was signed over zoom, it was the best thing ever because now I had other people who believed in my music and it just added to my own fire for writing and making music.
You also produce your own music. What advice would you give to any young women looking to get into the historically male-dominated field of music production today?
I think when you’re trying to discover your sonic identity, it’s hard and intimidating sometimes going into a studio with a room full of men and sometimes being made to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Quite frankly, I don’t think anyone really does!
In terms of production, for just starting out, all you really have to do is upload a DAW – it doesn’t have to be Ableton or Logic or anything – and just spend the time learning it. That’s what I did. It’s really not rocket science even though people want you to believe that it is. It’s as much a personal preference as it is a technical skill and like anything, the skills will get better themselves over time. Even though my track “Young” was terribly mixed and had absolutely no coherent frequency balance or anything, it’s still been played more than tracks by people who are trained in the field!
I think being able to produce is the best asset you can have as a female artist. It lets people know how you want to identify sonically as an artist and where you wanna go with your music. None of the male producers just picked it up overnight, did they? Just make that start and you will learn is what I’d say.
We’re all missing live gigs so much right now. What kind of energy do you want to bring to your shows when we can play again?
I am so excited to play live with all this new music that I’ve got. Energy-wise, you can expect something sonically big and upbeat. I have been practising my moves so maybe I’ll be getting around a bit on stage! I’d just love to stand on stage, belt out my new tunes to you, hear you singing them back, see you all dancing, and I really hope that it can all happen soon.
Are there any upcoming names in the Liverpool scene we should keep an eye out for in the near future?
Yeah, there’s so many fantastic artists in Liverpool, especially female artists actually. I love Jetta, I think she’s amazing and she also produces a lot of her own stuff. She was quite an inspiration for me when I was starting out too. Zuzu as well, she’s an absolute cracker she’s so, so talented! There are also a few other artists on the scene I’d recommend pizzagirl, he also produces in his bedroom like me. He calls it the ‘Beatzeria’ which I think is so funny!
I’m actually so excited to see how everyone responds to each other’s gigs when it all does come back. I feel like Liverpool can often get skipped out on the tour circuits which is frustrating and disappointing. It’d be really cool to have some big hometown shows. Let’s hope that it all works out!
Besides your upcoming EP, what are your future plans?
In terms of what I’m doing personally, I’m working on the next project already and almost finishing it like now. It’s so funny releasing all this stuff and rounding up the next lot of stuff…
Nice! Will that be a new EP or album?
I probably can’t say yet but it’s gonna be exciting! I’ve been pushing myself further than I ever have in terms of my production and I just want to be able to let people know that’s not impossible to carry on developing and growing. I know it’s a really shit time at the moment for so many different reasons but I really think taking the best of it, not to sound too cliché, there’s so many things that you can achieve from within your own room. The possibilities are endless.