Fee Lion Talks Self Love, Chicago Couture, and Stepping Into Your Power.
Written by Vocalo Radio on May 7, 2019
Fee Lion revels in a moody synthpop blend of hard hitting drum machines, pulsating bass lines, airy synths and haunting vocal melodies. In her music, and presentation, Justina Kairyte, the Chicago-based musician and songwriter behind Fee Lion, says she loves to evoke an image of “technology meets grimy dystopia” set to the soundtrack of a futuristic dance party.
On her new EP “Blood Sisters,” the artist taps into her dark fantasies in search of self-love, and steps into her own power. We spoke with the electronic artist about the themes of her new EP, her keen interest in fashion and design, and how her unique aesthetics and music merge to form the world of Fee Lion.
I am always taken by the role that fashion plays in your career… Talk to me about the visual team and why they’re such a huge part of what you do….
I have had the privilege to work with a variety of different designers and collaborators. Someone that I’ve worked with on a number of occasions is Kaleigh Moynihan, she has a brand called An Authentic Skid Mark based in Chicago. The first outfit that we made together is called the squid oil spill dress. It’s kind of this big black droopy two piece, also the most recent collaboration of ours is the garment I wear on the Blood Sisters cover art.
Which comes first when you’re creating? The music or the aesthetic?
I think it goes hand in hand. Also I have to say that I haven’t been in the mindset of creating from scratch for a really long time. This EP has been stretched for two years, so I have been in the mindset of finishing something. And I’ve forgotten a lot about my process. Like wait… how do I actually start to write again?
I’m in the place now where I feel pressed, once again, I just put something out and already I feel like… when’s the next album? Do I write a full length now? What’s the procedure here? But I will say I’m always thinking about the visual side, as much as the music…
Let’s talk about Blood Sisters! This is a 4 year in the making endeavor. I wonder if that is due to someone’s perfectionism or are there other factor’s at play?
I’m thinking now was it really 4 years? I wrote the first song “RE” and released it on guitar and vocals probably 4 years ago, I think you’re right. Then i remixed that song into something that is now called “Re:Visit” that is on the Blood Sisters EP. So that song has had a very long lifespan and it’s now kind of revived.
But yeah, perfectionism [laughter]. I do admit, I like things to be a certain way. But each time I release something I really try to make it easy on myself. Because at the end of the day it’s just me. 95% percent of everything I do is just me… doing it alone, pretty much in isolation. So the easier and more pleasurable that I can create and make the experience, it’s only better for me. I tried to let go of my perfectionist tendencies. But even so things take a while.
And I was going through a tough emotional period in life. Going through some hard transitions and music took a backseat for a little bit. Not to say that it ever left my mind, I was always thinking about it and wanting to get back to it. But it took a while. And even though deadlines are very important, self love and health is even more important. That’s where i found myself, tending to some areas I needed time with, and the project took longer.
Did any of this life happening seep into the stories you are telling on Blood Sisters?
Blood sisters to me is all about self love. That’s what I needed at the time and so, inevitably, that’s what I was writing about. Blood Sisters is just about letting go of any negative energy (whether it be people or habits) and stepping into your own power. That’s what I was trying to find, I was trying to find my way to step back into my strength and honestly step back into music. So what I was going through finds itself in the album.
Sonically Blood Sisters sounds in equal measures from this dystopian Blade Runner type future and also from a very distinct period in the 80s when Wax Trax! Records was at their peak. How do you strike that balance so well?
Because you could get in a time machine and drop this record at a few different points and it would sound just as timely.
I have many influences but I can never pinpoint exactly what is coming through at what time. When I’m in the studio I’m just laying down what comes out. It’s not in reference to anything specifically it’s just what’s happening. Blade Runner, love Blade Runner, love anything that has technology meets grimy dystopian mesh. That’s where Fee Lion lives and I’m glad that I can conjure that feeling and that environment in the tracks.
I now wonder…Blood Sisters is out for the whole world to experience. What do you do next?
It’s not over! Even though it’s out – there’s a lot still on the table. There’s a lot of computer work, finishing the physical release, I’m doing it all myself so shipping those out. Some graphic design, now that I’m going to be playing out of town shows I’m making a new t-shirt design… There’s still a lot.
I wish that I could say I’m super relieved and a giant weight has been lifted but I’m still in the thick of it and I honestly don’t see an end to it.
That’s part of the process especially when you’re a solo artist. There’s no delegation, it’s all you…
I know. And I will say, it’s been really quite challenging to work on this EP and release it and stay financially stable as an artist. I feel like society nowadays makes it almost impossible for an artist to survive and thrive. Most of us are hustling at our gig, working multiple jobs, three to four jobs some of us, and we’re not even thriving! We’re simply surviving, if that.
Something like releasing an EP, releasing music in general, I think is so important for our culture and for art. But it takes so much time. It takes every investment, everything that i had went into this release. And now I’m kind of twiddling my thumbs like oh my god!
I made a huge investment and I’m not necessarily getting anything back yet. And as much as I would love to sit back and just say I do this because I love it, I do this for the art, I do this to inspire people… It is why I do it…
But the overarching theme and reason is I do it is to survive. In the end I want this to be my endgame. I want to do this for a long time and I want this to be sustainable for me. But in order for that to become a reality there are some things we need to fix
Interview by Jill Hopkins
Audio produced by Fyodor Sakhnovski
Nicolas John (@itsnicjohn)
Benji Morino (@girlboifriend)