From opening for Avril Lavigne to releasing her new single Slippery Slope, phem is having a wild start to 2023.
Los Angeles based alt pop artist phem is forging her own artistic path, equipped with a triple threat skillset: she’s a songwriter, producer and vocalist. An artist that is truly self made, she spent time living between her car and studio space prior to her commercial success. For phem, her identity and her art intertwined, and fluid. Her time that she spent in isolation allowed her to better understand her own sexuality, as well as develop her own creativity. Her down to earth, authentic self shines through in all of her music, especially in latest single Slippery Slope.
Phem’s latest release is a deeply vulnerable anthem, lyrically one of her best. Slippery Slope is about how phem feels as though she’s wearing a mask at all times, and nobody truly knows the real her. There are nods to her artistic journey in the chorus (“Used to work at mini malls/ Just so I could make some songs), the diaristic lyrics taking listeners into her innermost frustrations and insecurities. It’s raw and authentic, and also showcases phem’s complicated relationship with being an artist (Am I better off dead/ With a Grammy in my bed). Whether you’re an artist or not, there’s at least one line in this song that will emotionally affect any listener, it’s just that impactful. By opening up like this in her work, phem creates a safe space for those who share her same emotions.
Along with the release of Slippery Slope, phem is also currently on tour with pop punk icon Avril Lavigne as an opening act. This is a huge turning point in phem’s career thus far, and 1883 Magazine got a chance to catch up with her to hear all about it.
Congratulations on the release of your latest single, Slippery Slope! How are you feeling about the response to it so far?
Thank you! Seems like everyone really resonates with it. People are showing lots of love to the song.
I love the lyric about getting stopped on the street because your hair is green. I’ve had that same experience many times when my hair is a bright colour. Could you tell me a bit more about the lyrics of this song, and what they mean to you? It’s such a deeply vulnerable track, but I feel that anyone who’s an artist (in any capacity) can relate to the lyrics.
Yeah I feel like lots of people can relate to it… it’s seeing someone discover the colour of your hair for the first time and them feeling the need to tell you as if you don’t already know. That’s what really does it for me. It gets even worse because I love matcha and green tea… so when I have one of those in my hands, that’s what makes me even more self conscious…
Do you have a favourite lyric in Slippery Slope, or maybe one that you’re most proud of?
I like “yeah i’m just the villain and you’re all just god.” Feels fitting for the times.
In the Slippery Slope music video and in some of the promotional media for the track, you’re wearing a sort of mascot head of yourself. Can you tell me about that creative choice, and what that symbolizes to you?
I just thought it would be interesting to make a caricature of myself, since a lot of times I do feel that way by being a public figure.
What do you want listeners to take away from your music? Do you think that it has changed over the years, or do you still have the same goals?
I’m constantly trying to stay true to myself… figure out what’s inside me that needs to be shared or expressed. I hope my fans can take that from my music. True self expression and not caring what people think. Being yourself, as simple as that sounds, can be a really hard skill to practice.
Congratulations, also, on heading out on tour with Avril Lavigne! How are you feeling about heading out on the road?
Being on the road with Avril has been truly amazing. We’ve only done three shows so far but I’ve already learned so much from watching her every night. I feel really blessed to be here. The fans have been really receptive and welcoming to me.
What’s your favourite part of your live shows? Is there a particular song you love to perform, or a moment during your set that’s always extra special to you?
I love doing Slippery Slope because I get to tell a little bit about my story before I begin… how I just followed my intuition and what my heart was telling me and although i used to work at mini malls, I’m now here on tour with Avril!
Is there a particular tour stop or city you’re most looking forward to visiting?
I always love playing in the UK, because I think I have quite a following there now, but I’m most excited for Poland.
Following this phenomenal single release, are there any other upcoming projects that you could share a bit about? Or is the tour the main focus?
I have a few surprises coming out later this year… a few features and what not, but mostly focused on rolling out my first album ever and doing as best as I can on this tour. I just want to keep improving and getting stronger as an artist.
Slippery Slope is out now.
Interview Brigid Young
Photography Jason Puma