Nearly two years have passed since praise from NME, SPIN, and The Guardian turned our attention to (Eyedress) Vicuña, a Fil-Am musician who had just been picked up by a label whose roster included The xx and Vampire Weekend. Gio Dionisio catches up with the young beatmaker, now hellbent on building bigger things in his own backyard.
Photo by Jasmine Cabrera.
Since his split with British music label XL Recordings, Idris Vicuña (artistically styled as Eyedress) has gone through fluctuating phases in order to regain his agency.
Between playing guerrilla gigs and necessarily self-motivated marketing, the versatile artist has pushed past his breaking point, often losing himself in his New Manila studio and pouring his recouped energy into his work. Through bouts of instability, it’s his friends that have stayed constant, and the positivity of his environment has grounded him.
Existing ties with overseas artists and organizations have proven supportive, resulting in efficient partnerships—from King Krule luring in listeners (as Edgar the Breathtaker) on the opening track of Eyedress’s new album Shapeshifter to distribution deals in London and ongoing collaborations with fellow internet-savvy musicians. His local mob of creative cohorts have rallied behind him, boosting morale as well as providing a variety of perspectives throughout the album.
Completing his return to form, Eyedress makes good on this new position with Babe Slayer, an independent label and platform for exercising his creative vision—which is to say, an outlet for showcasing the music he has been producing with his closest friends and a venue to promote various merchandise. He serves multiple roles as A&R, creative director, even graphic designer. The first line of Babe Slayer sweaters, co-designed by Roy Back, is currently being sold at Secret Fresh in Ronac Art Center, while a limited run of Shapeshifter on pink vinyl will be available early next year.
Your album is called Shapeshifter. What are some of the significant transformations you’ve had to go through this year? In what ways are they reflected in your music?
This year was heavy for me; I got divorced and my former record label dropped me because I just wasn’t complying with all the terms I had agreed to on paper. I was also slacking off really hard because I had everything at my feet. It was a lot to take in, but amidst all the terrible things I went through, I found a way to turn it into something positive. I saw who really stood by me regardless of what I had. I took all my fake friends out of the picture. Everyone’s intentions became clearer to me, and in time I found peace within myself. My girlfriend kept me alive through all the times I just wanted to give up on life. There was a lot of doubt surrounding me, but I didn’t let it get to me. All these experiences reflect in my song, “When the Planets Align.” It was the first time in a long time where I really opened up about what was going on. I had way too much pride to make myself vulnerable, but I felt I owed it to myself and to those that cared about me to make something that was honest. Prior to this song, I was goofing around making very ignorant rap songs, so the shift from that ice cold persona to being vulnerable came just at the right time. If I had stayed that way, I would have definitely fallen off. Not as an artist, but as a person.
How else has your work evolved?
My work now is self-deprecating. Before, I used to be so self-loathing and self-centered. I felt I was always caught up in my own problems, not really doing anything to change them and make things better. Instead, I was just carelessly allowing myself to go down this destructive path where I brought everyone along with me. I shed my skin and got all that out of me though… I’m always striving for a better change. That’s my motivation. To never stay the same and to keep growing at all times, adapting to all the hardships in my path and making the most out of these situations.
You’ve previously mentioned that the music you create is your way of escape. Are there any themes you consciously explore in this way?
I think now my music is a way for me to reflect upon certain topics in my daily life. I’m not really escaping much anymore, as I’ve come to accept everything around me. I guess I like to explore themes that could comfort the way someone is feeling by pretending to be a certain someone going through something. Like the other day, I made a song for my designer friend Roy Back about his current situation with the girl he loves, and I just pretended to be him, hoping that if she hears this song, she’ll realize how much he loves her. So much that even his closest friend knows his pain.
How do you stay creative?
I just try to make something new every day or every other day. Because some days I feel like I suck at everything, so I’ll take a little break until I get myself sorted out. Sometimes, I’ll find myself going back to unfinished songs, adding little bits here and there. I don’t ever really take breaks for that long. The longest I’ve gone without making something is like 5 days. But even when I’m not making something, I’m thinking about making something. My mind never really gets any rest unless I am sleeping. It’s definitely not healthy.
How much of your music is personal and how much of it is inspired by others around you?
Every song that I sing on in this album is my personal truth. The only people whose influence manifested through me in this album were the ones that I worked with here in Manila. Like RH Xanders, for example. We made our song, “Trust the Process” from scratch. He just came over and messed around with my synth a couple times. He came up with a really awesome chord progression, then we just looped it, and he wrote a hook to it, and from there my words just came out of me in response to his verse. I remember he had stepped out for a cigarette and I recorded my verse alone in my room. I’ve known him since he was a teenager, so my response to his verse was just coming from the heart. He’s actually influenced me throughout my life, musically and spiritually. He’s awakened me to a lot of bullshit, too, including my own. I know he’s working on a new EP right now. I expect there to be a lot of wisdom coming from him.
What do you think is lacking in the local music industry and OPM in general? On the other hand, what are you optimistic about?
Class. Proper distribution of funds. Unity. I’m not too concerned with what’s lacking, since I’m doing everything I can to be the change. But I also don’t feel involved at all with what’s going on here. I just live here. It’s definitely my home town, but I don’t feel very welcome most of the time. Technically, I can’t really claim this place as my home since I grew up in the States. I’m just a nomad. Last year, I was in London doing my thing. This year, I’m back trying to make it work from here. You just gotta carry all your wisdom with you. Make sure your skill set is portable and you’ll be straight wherever you are in this world. I’m grateful that there are a few like-minded individuals here who aren’t fazed by all the bullshit and just continue to do their thing regardless of our circumstances. That’s definitely something to be happy about. I’m pretty happy these days. I’ve also washed off all my angst. I think I’m in a really good place right now and I don’t feel that my surroundings are in a bad place either because I certainly feel hopeful about everything and what everyone is doing.
Eyedress’ new album Shapeshifter can be streamed on Soundcloud.