Chatting with Fuvk about Giving a Fuvk: On Memories and Growth
Songwriter Fuvk has remained freely elusive as an artist in Austin, Texas. Consistently releasing EPs and singles each year, she generally views her work as a series of timestamps through life. Her love for analog and simplicity results in an endearingly gentle type of acoustic storytelling. By recollecting past experiences, Fuvk creates music that speaks for the person she once was. She then openly grows and moves forward alongside her raw, minimalist sound.
2019 marked Fuvk’s SXSW festival debut after releasing the EP Golden Girl, a soft and bittersweet musing over the end of a relationship. Although she was set to perform again in 2020, this year’s festival cancellation marked an abrupt halt to the pulse of Austin’s music scene.
Like many local artists, Fuvk has now adopted a more intimate and intentional focus on her private life. Her single “Little Spoon” dropped during April of this year, with newer music being lined up for release in the near future. I had the chance recently to sit down and chat with her about what’s evolved, as well as what’s to come amidst the current pandemic.
A lot of the feelings from your music tend to be reflective, like you’re reminiscing quite a bit. How has the recent isolation been affecting these thoughts?
For the last three years I would write about a specific person. And over time, it just gets tied to a memory or experience that’s really specific. Which is fine, but I really want to get back to a more spontaneous method. If you listen to the old shit, a lot of it doesn’t make sense. It’s nonsensical and it doesn’t tie into anything specific, like with “Panic” or “Fardels Bear.”
It’s kind of hard to write about specific things. You get shoehorned into something so hard that if you run out of organic material, it becomes really forced to keep trying to write about the same subject.
Memories for me that have really large impacts are not an entire event of something that happened but a freeze frame or a screenshot. Like a streetlight or a view from a car window. Like a sentiment rather than something from a timeline. With quarantine I’ve done a little more collage-ing of these sentiments. “Little Spoon” was actually three different songs that I put together because I didn’t know what else to put them with.
You’ve established quite a name for yourself in recent years, especially within the Austin music community. At the same time, you’ve been releasing new songs primarily for yourself as documentation. Has this attitude or approach changed as your songs garnered more attention?
Honestly speaking, I’m not really happy with anything that I put out in the last two years. In the beginning, I was just documenting songs for myself. There was no expectation of how they should sound or what I was saying. I only uploaded them because Bandcamp seemed to have a neatly organized archival structure. But as it gained some kind of traction, and I had more people get involved with it, I tried more to cater to a sound. Or if someone I was working with thought something sounded weird, I would change it.
I picked up the guitar halfway through college, around sophomore year. And I started writing music about a year after. But that was way before I got into any relationships, so I was mostly writing about myself. And looking back retroactively, I feel way better about what I was writing about back then. Because now I feel like the problem is, I fixate too much on another person.
Recently I can’t stop writing without saying the three words “I love you” in some form or some capacity. It’s a meaningful expression in interpersonal relationships, but so meaningless on a massive scale. So I don’t like using that phrase, but it’s so hard not to. When you’re a kid, you listen to love songs and wonder why people are saying the same things over and over again- like with Ed Sheeran, I used to think “What a lazy dude, he just says the same thing twelve different ways in the same album.” And that’s kind of how I feel right now about my songs.
I did find a common running theme of connectedness with others. Yet certain tracks like “Panic, It’s Okay” are refreshingly interesting because they deviate from this theme. Does this make you want to focus more internally now when writing music?
That’s definitely true. I wrote “Panic” when I was having a panic attack. But recently since around 2019, I’ve been super generic. I don’t want to take them down because part of what I wanted was transparency. Because even if I’m not happy with it, it still came out of me.
One of my favorite songs from you is “Michael” from the album Fragmented. I really resonated with the inclusion of car noises and your reference to North Lamar Boulevard. It felt uplifting and reminded me of times I drove around aimlessly with people I cared about. Many songs around that period actually sound very uplifting. Do you mind explaining where you were in life at this time?
That’s probably because I was still in school at that time. I was writing a lot of uplifting shit because I was depressed (laughs). Honestly. But yeah, that song’s about my friend Michael. He used to have this orange sports car that he totaled on the I-35 service road or something. I used to always go on drives with him when we were in school because we lived in the same dorm for a while. We always drove up to that coffee shop Epoch. The orange car always reminded me of streetlights because it’s such a warm color. And that song is just full of references to inside jokes or certain things that happened.
That was a good era though because it was so untouched. I was only bouncing ideas off of one person, and I hadn’t attached my name to it yet. So it felt very personal.
But after you reveal yourself and your name comes out, you can’t get that feeling back. I actually ended up deleting all my social media accounts attached to Fuvk. Why do I want to see other people’s reactions? And who am I selling this to?
So with the upcoming releases you have lined up now- do you think being in a quarantine state is helping the production process for you in any way?
With quarantine- even if things were normal, there would realistically be no deadline. But now it feels even more that I could keep doing this forever. At what point do I put this out? I guess I’m never done, like I could keep going and make it better.
The reason everything I put out is sounds so stripped back and minimal–especially my older stuff–is because I can’t work on anything for too long or I’ll start to hate it. In the past I would stop recording and be like, “Okay this is fucking done.” And I’ll push it out into the world. But now I’ll be like “these five seconds sound harsh,” and it just keeps going. You find all things to nitpick about it and it only gets worse the more time you spend with it.
I had an EP planned before Covid happened–the songs from that were really quite old, probably from around the time I did Time Series. I have no concept of what that sounds like now, just because it’s been in my hands for a long time. But the newer stuff probably changed a little bit. Sounds more like the motherland. I had a lot of fun with it.
I’m excited to hear that you’re incorporating more Asian-sounding instrumentals. How influential is your Chinese identity to these new sounds you’re putting out? Do you purposefully identify as an Asian American musical artist?
I think as Asian Americans, we can recognize when other Asian Americans are trying really hard to connect with their roots. It’s like imposter syndrome both ways. Not Asian enough or too Asian. I feel that conflict sometimes, especially with massive groups. Because the Asian American identity is so diverse. Just because we’re all Chinese American, for instance, doesn’t mean we’ll get along. Just because you look like me doesn’t mean we have much in common.
It feels a little fake to me if I were to insert little Chinese words or Chinese phrases. I don’t do that in real life. I’m writing in English, and I’m fucking living in Texas. I am definitely inspired or influenced by Chinese music, in part. Because Chinese music is so… soft. It’s not very dissonant, at least popular music. And it’s very palatable.
I definitely can recognize similarities between your music and the soft, analog, acoustic-heavy influences of mainstream Chinese music. Got any favorite Chinese singers?
There’s a singer named Vae (Chinese name Xu Song). He uses a lot of really traditional instruments in his music- it’s pretty fucking Chinese.
Nice. Are you hinting that you’ll do well in China? Is that a potential move for you?
No, but the country that I have the most plays and Bandcamp sales in is Japan. It’s always been. When I went to Tokyo, I found the one cassette store that carried my tapes. I was in there meeting the store owner. He was this forty-something-year-old man in the corner who peeked around and pulled out his cell phone. I don’t think he spoke English, but he showed me a picture of my cassette tape sitting on his shelf at home. (Laughs)
I was like, “So this is my demographic.”
This interview was conducted by K T in mid-September of 2020.