Writer and singer And Is Phi talked to us about the stories that inspire her, and sampling her burnt-up records.
I grew up in the Phillipines, and RnB and hip hop was huge. I grew up loving Aaliyah and TLC and Boyz 2 Men, and shit like that. Then I moved to Norway — I moved to the middle of nowhere, an industrial town, and there was still MTV and stuff, but the coolest people living in that town, the ones that I resonated with, were the punks. So I just got really into punk as well, and I still blast the Dead Kennedys when I’m at home and I know that I’m not gonna give anyone a headache.
Not a lot of people know this, but I’ve been a record collector since I was 20. I had 400 records recently burn up in a fire. But basically I have a fuckload of music that’s now in my head that I want to sample. Me and Tile [Gichigi-Lipere, producer] wanted to sample my records, and now some of that stuff doesn’t even exist.
Me and Tile are really collaborative. Sometimes we’ll sit for hours and just talk about things, sometimes we’ll have a conversation about how we’re feeling, and he’ll be making a beat as we talk, and I’ll say “that’s how I feel!” and he’ll be like “me too!” and then I’ll write something for it. We’re still quite early in our project but I think we’ll be able to put out a collaborative EP this year.
Because have such a desire to be vocal sometimes my lyrics can suffer sometimes — I’m still trying to find a way to consolidate both urges
Whatever form it’s taking, the writing is always storytelling. The way I might be saying something might be trying to pull me into what I’m feeling or why I wanted to writer it in the first place, but the words are there to build a bridge between what I am seeing in my mind and what I am experiencing. Because I have such a desire to be vocal sometimes my lyrics can suffer — I’m still trying to find a way to consolidate both urges, which is why I wanted to try and release something for the page, make a space just for the writing, and have people see what might not always come through. I feel like the writing has evolved so much that there is a lot less rhythm — it’s becoming more and more just my voice facilitating words rather than my voice stylistically pulling you in.
I’m a very responsive person, so a lot of the time I respond to songs that fucking kill me, and I say ” I want to go on that journey myself”. Not all of my work is responsive, but a lot of it is. I’m very sensitive, and I feel everything around me, I feel people. Conversations make me feel like “I have to go and have that conversation with myself” because it’s a great conversation.
I have a crazy long term memory. What I love about writing is that when I want to go somewhere, I can draw on so many different things. Pieces of one conversation, or it becomes one conversation, but really it’s thoughts I’ve been having for ages and they find their place together in another conversation through the writing. I was contemplating [in her poem “Blood”] on how “I could have been a woman trying to paint but only allowed to paint indoors”, because that was sign of the times. I wrote an essay on this Norwegian painter called Harriet Baker who, ages ago, was one the most boundary-pushing naturalist painters when it came to light, regardless of being a woman, but also because of her circumstances. I found it fascinating and enraging at the same time. Living in Norway I felt really alienated, being half-Norwegian but growing up elsewhere.
I see myself not as an artist, but as a part of a community.
As an artist, I just want to be as honest as possible, because real answers only come from real reflection and real openness, that means being critical of myself, not just other people, and that means looking as deep inside of me as I can go. I see myself not as an artist, but as a part of a community. When I think about my work, I don’t think about myself in isolation, but the conversations that are happening at the moment, and how I can add to that conversation.