Both smooth and threatening at once: Ivy Falls is searching for the light

Pictures by Matthias Truyts

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On November 15, Ivy Falls’ new EP 'The Light' will hit the shelves. Threatening and sweet at the same time, Fien Deman's mesmerising music and lyrics slowly get under your skin. Chances are you recognise the silky smooth voice from Deman’s previous band 'I will, I swear'. We talked with the 25-year-old West Flemish self-made artist about her influences, her prejudices, her competitive drive, and her upcoming EP. Wanna attend an exclusive press showcase on a secret location in Ghent on November 19? Scroll down below to see how you can win your place on the guestlist.

Ivy Falls played a live version of 'Thunder' in an abandoned chapel. Fien and Trui made a very special and intimate duo set version of this new single, especially for this live session:

Let's begin at the beginning. Have you been involved in music from an early age?

It started around the age of 14. At that time, I couldn't imagine myself as an artist. My surroundings often stimulated me. Trui (Amerlinck, bass player Ivy Falls, ed.) encouraged me to start making music and writing texts, and so I discovered my voice. It took me until my 19th birthday, however - while singing in my previous band 'I will, I swear' - that I realised I wanted to make it to another level.

After 'I will I swear' you gathered three musicians and started your band 'Ivy Falls'. What is the meaning behind the band's name?

When my solo project got more tangible, I reflected on what I wanted to express. Ivy Falls isn’t a band, nor is it a solo project, it’s something in between. The name should be representative for both the collective and myself. 'Ivy Falls' also hints a contradiction, and I often contradict myself in my music, which is something I wanted to reflect on the band's name too. 'Ivy Falls' does this perfectly, since poison ivy grows and doesn’t ‘fall’. Funny enough, Ivy Falls is also is a town in the USA. Sometimes people post questions on my Facebook page, like "where can I find a good gardener?" (laughs).

I am definitely a melancholic person. I often lose myself in fretting about the past or the future.

How would you describe the Ivy Falls sound yourself?

The sound is electronic, poppy and dreamy at the same time. It is undoubtedly sweet, with a threatening and cynical twist. My previous 2017 EP 'Mean Girls' featured some pastel-coloured songs, which sometimes stand in sharp contrast with my lyrics. My upcoming EP is a little more direct. A song like 'Fight Me' can provoke the listener, and it shows I have lost a part of my naivety by growing up. Nowadays, I feel more confident as a songwriter and a co-producer, and my musical and aesthetical choices are more pronounced.

Does the dreamy and melancholic mood in your music reflect your personality?

I am definitely a melancholic person. I often lose myself in fretting about the past or the future. In my lyrics, I try to deal with that. Every song ends with a lesson for myself about how to handle a specific situation.

How do you start making a track? Do you first compose the music or do you kick off with the lyrics?

I start with a synth sound that sets a specific mood. In a relatively short timeframe, I create a chord progression. Before adding other instruments, I focus on the vocals. In this early phase of first improvisations, I already determine the final text structure. Later on, I add bass, drums and other instruments. Once I am satisfied with a song, I go to my producer, and together we finalise it. This is a significant moment for me: getting my music heard by a fresh pair of ears I trust.

Who are your most cherished musical influences?

I have been influenced by various artists, from indie and electronic artists such as Sylvan

Esso, Solange, James Blake, Wet, Tei Shi, Buzzy Lee, but also by artists such as Sharon Van Etten, Amen Dunes, Men I Trust and HAIM. That being said, the inspiration for my lyrics always comes spontaneous: I sing about the things that are important for me at that moment of my life. Putting these things in my music often helps me to see them from a different perspective.

The song 'Fight Me', released last year, is about unapologetically doing your own thing. 'City' is about competing with people who want to put a label on you. Do you often have to fight against prejudices?

More and more, I realise many people in their twenties and thirties are suffering from a competitive drive. For one reason or another, everyone should do something special, and being normal is labelled as boring. I have to admit I am guilty as well; I place demands on myself about what to achieve in life. At the same time, I don't want to be put in a specific category just because I am a musician. I do not fit the cliché of the ‘tormented-soul artists’ are often associated with. Besides my music, I have an (ambitious) office job, and run a small freelance business. And yes, I can enjoy having a normal, boring life.

Many people in their twenties and thirties are suffering from a competitive drive. Everyone should do something special, and being normal is labelled as boring.

As a woman, I sometimes feel I have to prove myself more than my male musicians. People often ask me whether I write my music and my lyrics myself. I don't care about those questions. I am involved in all aspects of making music; I don't only write the music and the lyrics, I also take care of the promotion, the aesthetics, and the production, in collaboration with my label and my booker. Women and men are differently interpreted on stage as well; strong women on stage are often criticised as arrogant. I think that has to do with the stereotypical image that a girl has to be sweet, and a boy has to be strong. It must be difficult for men as well, when they want to portray themselves differently; it goes both ways. If you express yourself in another way, you run into these prejudices.

In November, your second EP, The Light, will be released. In the single 'Thunder', you sing: "I won't let you steal my thunder" or "maybe I am a real believer". What is this song about?

I wrote 'Thunder' during a period when many opportunities were coming my way. It felt like a result of hard work. This doesn't often happen to me, so I really enjoyed that feeling. Then someone from my inner circle doubted me and questioned whether I really earned this. The result: my good vibe was over. This is what the song is about: me wanting to control what I think, about what I deserve or don't deserve, regardless of what someone else thinks or says. The whole EP revolves around me trying to hold on real tight. The title of the album refers to my search to control that light. The record features a quote about this, "though I am not sure whether we' ll ever manage the craft of fueling the light when it's needed, let's pretend that we do or at least we will once". Those are positive and hopeful insights for me.

This EP is produced by Daan Schepers, who is also producer of Warhola and Eefje De Visser. How did you end up with him?

I was looking for someone who was able to translate my feelings into music. At the same time, it had to be someone who is very skilled in song structure, and who is not averse of a little catchiness. That search wasn't easy, but after the first collaboration with Daan, it became clear that we had a match. He hadn't produced a considerable amount of music yet, so it was a gamble, but it was one that turned out very well.

In an earlier interview, you once claimed that "when a song is meaningless, and it's just meant to dance, I don't care anymore". Should music always contain a message for you, or can it just be plain and simple entertainment?

Some music feels like a marketing machine has made it, and I don't like that feeling. I love the illusion of a song existing of deeper layers. Maybe sometimes it's meant to be easier than I experience it, but then too I would like to maintain that illusion.

Are there specific plans for a full album?

After the release of this EP, I will be working on my full album. In Spring, we will play several club shows from Ghent to Leuven; those dates will be revealed soon, so stay tuned.