Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Lena Fayre isn’t afraid to speak the truth or share her innermost feelings. Last year—the same year she graduated from high school—Fayre self-released her debut album Oko, and on July 24 she’ll release her latest EP, Is There Only One?. Co-produced and co-written with Noah Georgeson (Joanna Newsome, Devendra Banhart), the EP opens with the track “Do You Like That?”, which gives way to “Possession,” “New Sensation,” “Colors of Leaving,” and “Serenity,” to tell the story of love, heartbreak, and moving forward. In this case, however, Fayre was the other girl—not the one being cheated on—and the lyrics are just as honest (“Why you be so sad? / Love you but I got no time to promise”). Her harmonious and dark lyricism is paired with underlying synth-pop and R&B-tinged melodies.
For each of the songs on Is There Only One? Fayre created a 30 second video teaser, and here, we are pleased to premiere the first of five. To Fayre, whose friends are mostly visual artists, the aesthetics are just as important as the sound. We caught up with the 19-year-old over the phone to learn more.
NAME: Lena Fayre
BASED: Los Angeles
JUST MUSIC: I applied and got into the college I wanted to go to, but I decided that I really cared a lot more about music. I have a strong connection to school, I care about my education, and that’s actually a really fun environment for me, so I think I’ll go eventually for my own self, but now I’m really focused on music.
“I BELIVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE”: God, I was really young [when I first heard that song], maybe I was in second grade, so I was 7. I watched a lot of music videos on AOL Music—a lot of Cher, Britney Spears, and Aaron Carter. [laughs] I don’t know how The Darkness got in there, but it did. With that song, it was a combination of yes, this song is amazing and epic, but the music video for that song is absurd and very strange and otherworldly. Visuals are really important to me as an artist, and that was the first time I really associated a strong but weird video with a really great song. The power of melody and that voice coming out of a man is amazing.
THE NEED TO WRITE AND PERFORM: I didn’t really get the bug for performing until third grade, that’s when I started performing in talent shows. It felt like I was doing the right thing, it felt like I was being authentic to myself and going outside of myself. I didn’t start writing songs until I was 12, that’s when I started doing music in a semi-professional setting, in a studio and actually recording and collaborating with people. [The first song I wrote] was called “Framed” and I put it on MySpace. I think it got 200 plays, but my dad still plays it in the house during Christmas and Thanksgiving and family events.
SIBLING INFLUENCE: All of my siblings are really creative, and my older brother was really into screamo and grunge. Naturally you kind of absorb whatever your siblings are listening to—at least that was the case for me—and I just loved it. I started listening to Evanescence a lot, like exclusively for months. That’s where I realized that the voice is an instrument. The singer of the band, Amy Lee, she has this amazing control of her voice and this beautiful high pitch. It was incredible and just blew me away at a young age. But it was a phase; I grew out of it and went back to pop, so now I have this weird blending of sensibilities. I think that’s where the pop-but-not-pop, comes from. I really liked The Veronicas, I listened to their record a lot. And then I got into all the mainstream stuff, and my love for Beyoncé blossomed.
VISUAL AESTHETICS: If I could create a video for every song, I would. It’s really important and they’re two halves for me. With the music video, I realize it’s really important for the visuals to match the vibe of the song—that’s something, that through experimentation and a couple of music videos, I had to learn—but if you can watch a video and have it feel like the song, that’s what makes a good music video to me. Sometimes while I’m creating a song, I can see visuals and I have shots in mind or a particular location in mind, like “Oh this would look good on a beach,” or “I want this to be a dance song, with people dancing in the music video.”
FINE ART: I love art. I live in a part of Los Angeles that is really conducive to going and seeing art frequently and attending cultural events. I go to LACMA pretty frequently to see different exhibits, like there was an Islamic art exhibit up that was amazing. I go to my friends’ studios to see what they’re working on and talk about it, just like how we talk about my music. It’s a really collaborative, back-and-forth thing with all my friends and the art they’re making. I’m not a visual artist, I don’t self-identify as that, so to be around people that have studied that or have a different medium of art is always really inspirational.
INSPIRATION: I used to gravitate toward more figurative stuff—I love imagery and speaking in nondescript phrases and letting people read into what I’m writing for themselves. It’s all over the Oko record and that’s still a big part of my lyricism, but now I’m more interested in writing about my own life because that’s more difficult for me. It’s easy for me to go into my own head and turn on the dream world and float into a non-grounded song, but to provide lyrics that are honest and grounded and that people can understand that are still interesting and complex, but more grounded—that’s been where I’m at lately with the new music I’m working on.
END GOAL: When I was recording Oko last year, I met and got to work with a lot of musicians that I really admire, and have conversations with them and write songs with them, which is super intimate and personal, and to have those experiences has been life changing. I’m really just after human connection and to see communication happen with my music between myself and someone I don’t know—that’s the moment that’s like, “Wow, this is what I’m doing, and what I’m supposed to be doing,” and it’s proof of everything.
IS THERE ONLY ONE? WILL BE RELEASED JULY 24. FOR MORE ON LENA FAYRE, VISIT HER WEBSITE.