It’s been a long time coming, but we’re back with a brand new interview in our series! We speak to UK-based Ylissa about music, lockdown, and what’s next, as well as premiering brand new single “Byron”.
PW – Hey Ylissa! Happy New Year and welcome to Pastel Wasteland. For those who aren’t familiar with you, how would you introduce both yourself and your sound?
HNY Pastel Wasteland, thank you for having me! I would describe the Ylissa sound as powerful dream pop with a dollop of sass and sensuality. For fans of Sia, Haim, Jessie Ware, Banks and 1989 era Taylor Swift.
PW – 2020 has been a tough year in several ways, what spurred you back into creating music, and why does now feel like the right time to release it?
It was a truly sh*% year wasn’t it? And there is collective fatigue, fear and disconnect all round. So it feels like the right time because 2020 proved that there is no ‘right time’ for anything. Over planning, strategising or simply waiting is pointless. People need music!
In terms of getting back into music, that’s a BIG question. The short version is that I had put music out from age 19, by 27 I’d totally burnt out. The hustle and grind of running a 7 piece band, trying to get on tours and radio to get any momentum was relentless. I placed way too much of my value as a person on being ‘successful’ in music and the joy left me. So I went travelling by myself around Asia, ended up in Australia, ended up making a life there which had a premature ending. Came back to London Summer of 2016 pretty lost but with about 40 songs and demos. I got over myself, did a couple of low key gigs, remembered how much I love to perform, met a couple of amazing Producers who convinced me to start recording new music at the end of 2017. That’s the mechanics of it all, but the main part was working on my mindset and confidence and creating a safe space to make music again. For me that meant setting myself up financially, buying a home, finding my guy- all major markers and stabilising factors that armoured me with so much more than *just* me and my songs.
PW – What has the last year taught you in terms of both your career and life as a whole?
2020 taught me that I know nothing. That I worry and hesitate too much. That I self sabotage, but that I am resilient as fuck. That actually what I missed most from stepping away from music the past few years was the community I had built up with my fans, the conversation, the connection.
I had a major health scare at the end of August 2020, a cramp in my leg sent me to A&E on a hunch, turned out it was a huge blood clot that had travelled up to my lungs and I was 48 hours away from a heart attack or a stroke. I spent 4 days in ICU, thought about writing a Will in my phone. The level of physical surrender when you lose your health and/or have a major health scare is like nothing I’d ever experienced. You feel completely helpless, completely at the mercy of the skill and compassion of the Doctors and Nurses around you. If it hadn’t of happened I’d most likely still be procrastinating about putting out music. I’m still recovering from the clot now, it’s down to 30%, and I just think come on, just do what you love and be bold about it.
PW – What can you tell us about the making of your first release, Byron? Did you always envision this to be your ‘comeback’ single, so to speak?
Chronologically it makes sense to be the first single as it’s really a song about taking your power back and reclaiming a place that was special to you, in this case, ‘Byron’ is based off of Byron Bay in Australia. The song captures a painful moment in time about 5 years ago, on the surface it’s a ‘I healed, I’m okay now’ dream pop power-ballad but really it’s my love note to Australia, how the song feels with all the production is how I felt when I was there. We recorded it in an old library bus on the beaches of Croatia with the sound of waves pouring into each vocal take. It was an insanely cathartic experience, I remember being red hot and sweating with energy getting the vocals down. As soon as we finished, I felt physically lighter and honest to god I’ve never felt sad about the trauma since.
PW – In a similar vein, what can you tell us about the body of singles you plan to put out over the course of this year, will they be like Byron?
I can tell you that I have 6 singles to put out across 2021 and I am SO EXCITED about all of them. I would say that Byron is a solid segway between the music I used to make when I was younger and the new sound I’ve created which is a little more dreamy and sexy. There is one song in particular that is just total sass and fun which will make you dance! There’s a song to get naked to, a song I wrote about a love affair I had during my travels in Vietnam, a song about how hard it is to be an adult and how lost you can get and then there’s a windows’ down in the car lush Summer song.
PW – What are your goals for 2021?
I cannot wait to perform the new material live, to bring them to life with musicians in a live setting would be a dream. I’d love for the songs to be heard far and wide and I’m doing what I can as an Independent Artist to get myself out there, but I’m not straining too hard, really I am just hoping to make new fan connections and see them embrace the songs and take ownership of them in their own way.
PW – In terms of the creative journey, in this kind of industry, it can be tough to feel like we’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up, and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?
Here’s the thing, I know countless Artists and Bands that should be gigantic, and they’re not, and I don’t know why that is. I’ve seen people reach great heights of success and are miserable. So, I’ll say what I wish someone had told me- just make Art that moves and excites you. Detach yourself from all outcomes and just do it for the love of the ride. The creative journey is the ride- ego, timing, chance and grace that is the stuff that comes after and it’s messy. I say that because I have heard my songs on Radio 1, I have sung in Wembley and charted on Itunes Top 15- and there’s nothing when you get there if you weren’t at peace in the first place. For me the concept of ‘moving forward’ is now purely rooted in- am I creating music that I like to listen to, does it feel good to share it in the world and leave behind an offering of who I was, am I evolving as a person/Artist? If it’s yes then I have moved forward. Anything beyond that is out of my control so doesn’t affect my state of mind. But it took me 18 years to get there.
PW – On a more fun note, who are your three most favourite artists in the world right now, and why?
I’m obsessed with Vera Blue and Meg Mac, both Female Australian artists that are just killing it and have that old school grainy vocal over modern production that just slays your brain off.
So annoyingly I’ve hung out with the Nothing but Thieves guys a few times now, sick songwriters and a great live band but their lead singer Conor’s never been there when we’ve been out. So Conor Mason- I intend to stalk you until you let me sing with you. He is the Jeff Buckley of our time.
PW – What plans do you have in terms of releasing official videos/ content to coincide with this release?
We are recording live performance videos on a grand piano of all the singles which will be very raw and stripped back and will take me back to my piano roots. I’d love to do something with a string quartet as I’m pretty in love with my live string arrangements and there are some music videos in the planning stages. Just need Covid to piss off so I can bring the dream team together!
PW – And finally, where would we find you on social media, and do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Well, Byron is out TODAY so please go stream it from your preferred music platform now!
Honestly the best thing a fan can do to support an Independent Artist in 2021 is club together with your mates and spread the word. There’s so much red tape with visibility across social media these days with algorithms etc, so if you want someone to know about my music: Follow me on Spotify, Stream Byron on repeat, add me to your playlists, send the streaming link everywhere, tag me in your stories, do a Tik Tok with the song linked [coz I sure as shit won’t be on Tik Tok at my age!] Tell me what you think! Interacting with fans is the part I look forward to the most when releasing.