INTERVIEW: YVA | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Born Amy Holford and formerly known as Eva Stone, it’s taken a long, circuitous process for the artist currently known as YVA to arrive at her debut EP. Indeed, the native Geordie’s ever-shifting monikers are outward symptoms of a decade-long identity struggle; one that’s incorporated mental health crises, fruitless stints with London-based producers and a first-hand view of the lesser discussed trials facing young creatives in a cut-throat industry.

“I’ve spent the past 10 years looking for a sound, being told that I wasn’t good enough or that I had to improve,” she reflects. “I developed a deep sense of anxiety around songwriting – I felt like I was cheating or pretending, and as a woman in the music industry there’s not the same sense that you can grow. If I’d released singles in my late teens and early twenties it would have been so much easier, but I put it off and put it off. Every time I tried to write it made me absolutely miserable. It became a trigger for depression. Performing music was a release, but writing became manic.”

Everyone’s behaviour – my own included – has become more curated

Following a self-imposed hiatus from music – plus the encouragement of both partner Jonathan Hibbert (ex-Lilliput) and Ivor Novello winning collaborator Nitin Sawhney – Amy emerged from this rut with a fresh determination, intent on working at nobody’s pace but her own. Recorded at her and Jonathan’s home studio, this month’s long-awaited EP is a remarkable culmination, as well as a reflection on a broader perspective acquired amidst years of tumult. “When I started out I was just singing about guys and having my heart broken on acoustic guitar, but I think being in a settled relationship helped put an end to that. It got me thinking: ‘Now that that part of my life is all good, what else can I write about?”’

Startling in its sprawling scope, the resulting release maps a broad sonic and thematic landscape – a disconcerting dystopia dictated by ‘new gods’ and dominated by shadowy algorithms, impenetrable online bubbles and rampant hyper-commercialism. Sound familiar? “At the time I was having all these overwhelming feelings about social media…I saw a not-too-distant future culture where everything was performative and people had been reduced to mere brands, and two words kept coming into my head: ‘Hype Machine.’ Everyone’s behaviour – my own included – has become more curated. There’s a quote from Professor Sherry Turkle – ‘We preach authenticity, but we practise curation’ – and I felt I could build an EP around that idea.

“I wouldn’t use the platforms were it not for my music, but unfortunately if you don’t have a strong grasp of marketing or don’t care about social media, then as an artist you’re kind of fucked,” she continues. “I remember watching The Social Dilemma and being pleasantly surprised that ex-employees were admitting things like ‘This isn’t good for your brain…We know because we designed it that way!’”

At just 17 minutes, Hype Machine wastes nary a note communicating her fears. Conveying everything from malignant fixations (Fountain of Youth) to stark religious imagery (Hype Machine) and cathartic emotional release (Missing Me) via engrossing composition and Amy’s soaring vocal, it’s a stirring letter of caution against an unchecked, self-perpetuating system. Come its end, listeners may recall and subsequently dwell on the despairing, scene setting question posed by opener Echo Chamber: “Why didn’t we just smash our screens?

YVA releases Hype Machine on 7th May

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