Antonia Vai, an artist and singer-songwriter from Stockholm, has released the first track and music video off her forthcoming album of the same name.
The single is a catchy electronic pop tune with a melancholy, pulsing beat and a memorable chorus hook. The accompanying music video was filmed, directed, and edited by Vai, an artist renowned for pushing the boundaries of her own creativity.
In her words, the song is about surrendering. About walking the razor’s edge between clarity and delusion, pleasure and self-destruction. She desired a video that allows the spectator to explore their own imagination.
In the summer of 2022, Vai and her muse, Carla Inczédy-Gombos, who appears in the film, shot the footage. Without a crew, the two were stranded in the deep wooded islands of Dalarna, Sweden. According to Vai, the technique was a “intuitive experiment.” Check out the song and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
ANTONIA VAI: I was born and raised in Stockholm. Growing up I was always making songs, hidden away in my room. It was the way I wrote my diary. Every feeling and experience became a sung story. I mostly kept them to myself, thinking that something so personal doesn’t need to be shared. Or deserved to be shared. But of course, I dreamt of singing, of daring. One changing point was when I turned 18 and decided to give it a try. I gathered musicians to see how my songs sound outside of my head. Hearing them played for the first time was unreal, I couldn’t believe it. We did a first gig in a little underground bar in Stockholm. And from that point on I decided I won’t hide what I do. I’m already writing all these songs, why not make something out of it?
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
ANTONIA VAI: I went to a choir singing school as a kid, singing Swedish folk music and classical pieces. In a choir, everyone has to work as one organism. This school was quite strict, it definitely trained my discipline, but maybe mostly, my rebellion. I always longed for breaking out, singing music my own “incorrect” way, not having anyone tell me what’s right or wrong. I could finally explore my own expression after graduation, when I started singing my songs. Looking back, I think the choir school influenced my songwriting way more than I’ve understood though. Up to this day, I keep finding Swedish folk music influences hidden in the music I make.
3. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters, and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
ANTONIA VAI: The first time I got a hating comment on one of my music videos on YouTube I felt like “look mama, I made it!!!” (laughs). That was proof that my music had reached outside of my little clique. I am strangely amused by trolls and hating comments. Its incredible how it takes months, maybe years, to put together music with our entire soul – only for it to be released and end up as a post on the internet, that a complete, anonymous stranger can diss in one second. It doesn’t add up. So I laugh at it. I know hating is easy and quick, but creating and pushing through ’til the end of a creation isn’t.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
ANTONIA VAI: It’s not up to me to decide what should resonate in the listener, this is the terrifying excitement of releasing music. As soon as I drop something, the effect of my songs are outside of my control. I know what the stories mean to me but everybody relates in their own way. About my sound, I have always struggled having to define that and it is constantly changing. Right now I’m very excited about blending ancient stories, old tales with electronic, modern sounds. A few years ago I was deep in exploring the most acoustic, folky sounds, songs for bon fires nights.
5. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
Damn! Both, definitely both. After a long, withdrawn writing season comes the live gig season, just like spring. Meeting an audience after a long time of turning inwards is a reminder that music connects and that I’m not all alone. Whatever feeling I had writing the songs is now ready to be shared with other feeling human beings.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
I often think I am writing a personal song only to later realise that it’s very political. Even in my personal narrative, the political and spiritual often intertwines.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
This is a great question. I think the fruit and feedback of a final song is never gonna be enough compared to the amount of work and sweat and tears (laughs). Knowing this, i am very focused on enjoying the transformation I go through while working on a song. The fulfillment is in the creative process itself. The actual release of a song is like putting a dot at the end of a long, introspective sentence. My fulfillment has to be in the journey itself, not in the outer validation of the music made. This is my continous aim.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
It definitely differs. Many times, I start with a rhythm, a beat that I loop and sing over, letting myself fall into meditation when I sing. I have to know that nobody can hear me, no neighbours, no flatmates, no nothing. If I find that meditative space I probably won’t know what I’m writing about until the song is finished. Another process is when I have lyrics as the starting point, and I begin looking for chords, for a soundscape to the story. I usually bring in other musicians by the time I have a demo of a song ready to be taken to the next level in the production.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your music career so far?
ANTONIA VAI: The most difficult thing has been feeling that I’m on my path, I’m in the right industry, but I am surrounded by the wrong people. I have faced a lot of unsupportiveness from people I’ve worked very tightly with, people who I have trusted. Gaslit into thinking I don’t know what I’m doing or that I’m not worthy of the success. These have been devastating realisations. But you know what, we gotta find our people and that takes time. We also gotta believe that we are worthy of support and encouragement. Since these experiences I’ve learned to trust myself even more and I am carefully choosing who I let into my creative space.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your music career so far?
ANTONIA VAI: Every time I’ve dared taking a risk to push myself outside of my comfort zone to challenge myself creatively. These risks have led me to exciting places and I’ve faced and overcome many fears through them. Like deciding to pack up from Stockholm and move to Budapest, where my music career eventually took off, an entire new world opened up to me. Or every time I’ve hit the road to work on a new album, or new music video, knowing I need to push myself in new ways to grow. My last experience like this was with the making of my latest song and music video “Where The Bluebirds Fly”. I didn’t find a cinematographer I felt connected to work with for this song so I decided to shoot, direct and cut the video myself. It was a huge challenge in many ways, my first time behind the camera and without any outside help. It was also very rewarding and inspiring. Me and my good friend Carla (who is in the video) spent a few days completely alone on the small islands of Dalarna, Sweden. The shoot was a very intimate, intuitive experiment. I’ll be forever grateful for it.
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