“Have you watched much Oprah?” Miya Folick inquires, tilting her head towards the screen. She’s mid-flow talking about the mythology of catharsis “as a life-changing experience” when the question comes into her head. It might seem random at first, but there’s a reason behind it, really.
“Oprah had this thing called ‘aha moments’ where you may have a grand realisation,” the musician continues, voice picking up speed again. “I think there’s a way that you can get addicted to those moments, without them actually meaning anything – it feels good to have a grand realisation! But you actually have to change, and that’s really hard because humans are habitual.”
Those big epiphanies, the LA singer-songwriter posits, are actually much rarer than we’re led to believe, only cropping up “a select amount of times” across the decades we spend on Earth. Folick, so far, has experienced only one – when she decided to make music for a living. “That literally was an ‘aha moment’,” she grins. “I woke up in the morning, and I thought, ‘I spend all my time making music, and I’m not pursuing it in any serious way. But I clearly care about it, so I’m just going to do it’. And I did – I just completely changed the direction of my life.” That decision, she adds, was the only time where she’s successfully and instantly transformed some part of her existence: “Every other time, I’ve had to change my life in small ways every day.”
Since 2015, Folick has been proving that move was the right one. Her debut album ‘Premonitions’, released in 2018 and following two interest-piquing EPs, earned her praise for her powerful, emotion-provoking voice and her ability to craft challenging-yet-catchy alternative pop anthems. Last year, the ‘2007’ EP presented a bitesize stunner of a release, all while giving hints at where the artist would be going next. Now, at last, the rest of that puzzle has arrived in ‘Roach’, her direct, danceable second album.
The six songs from that 2007 EP all feature on ‘Roach’ and, at the time they were first shared, the musician described them as “the beginning of the story”. But littered throughout the tracklist, rather than all loaded at the start, the rest of the record doesn’t necessarily continue some narrative arc in a neat, conclusive way. Linear narratives, it turns out, aren’t something Folick believes in.
“I don’t think that’s how life pans out,” she reasons.. “it’s an ebb and flow, an up and down – it’s a cycle.” Instead of finishing what she started on ‘2007’, the new tracks on ‘Roach’ “really deepen the story or expand upon it, or really drive home the point that it’s a cycle”. “If you think that at the end of the record, I’m gonna soar off into the sunset, happy and complete and completely understanding myself…” She doesn’t finish her sentence, unintentionally reinforcing her point by moving on to another tangent instead of tidily wrapping up that thought.
‘Shortstop’, the album’s final song, might be beautiful, but it isn’t a bow that concludes things perfectly. Instead, it finds Folick settling back into life in LA after time on the road and yearning – to “make it”, for company, for nights out at Echo Park bar The Short Stop where “there’s no need to get dressed up” or “fucked up”. Elsewhere, she flies between joyfully exorcising an ex from her life (‘Get Out Of My House’), lamenting her habit of “tearing through love” (‘Tetherball’), and resolving to quit using substances and those around her (‘Drugs Or People’).
Lyrically, ‘Roach’ sees a shift compared to its predecessor. Where the songs on ‘Premonitions’ often cloaked the stories at the heart of them, this record lays everything bare in its direct songwriting. “After touring ‘Premonitions’, I craved a lyrical style that was more straightforward and less mysterious,” Folick explains. “I was pretty aware of how much I was hiding behind the lyrics and choosing to shroud them in mystery, and I got tired of that.”
Choosing to go down that path could have made touring this album a much harder task, feeling like she was inviting strangers into her most intimate experiences and thoughts every night. So far, that hasn’t been the case, with her describing recent gigs as “really fun”. “These songs felt so lyrically exposing when I wrote them, but I wrote them two or three years ago. So even though they’re so honest because there’s all this time between when I wrote them and now, they almost don’t feel that exposing.”
Writing ‘Roach’ might not have brought Folick complete catharsis, but as she wrote it – and as she grew in the rest of her life, too – she came to accept some things about herself. “I’ve started to think of just certain issues that I personally deal with as my companion on this Earth,” she shrugs, noting that things that can seem like they’ve gone away, like her issues with anxiety, often rear their head again later. “There’s this expectation that if you face your issues and you see a therapist – or you meditate, exercise, eat right, reach out to friends – and do all the right things for your mental health that you’re gonna get to this place where there’s just stability and happiness. But I don’t think that’s true – that, as an expectation, is just unrealistic. All I can really strive for is that I get better and better at facing difficult times rather than expecting not to have them.”
The adaptability and strength she hopes to continue to foster are evident in ‘Roach’, not least in the album’s title itself. Where most people might see cockroaches as dirty, gross pests, Folick found some parts of the insect that she could empathise with. “They’re this universally despised creature, but also so resilient have survived mass extinctions because that’s what they’re designed to do. I really relate to that.” She pauses to laugh at herself before explaining that while she knows she isn’t also universally despised, sometimes she feels like she is.
“I feel like I’m the worst person in the world. I’m horrible. I’m terrible. I’m bad. But, on the flip side of that, I also think I have this incredible belief in myself that I can do anything. There’s this interesting tug of war between those sides of myself – crazy confidence and really deep insecurity bordering on self-loathing.”
Folick’s ideal for her life also creates some conflict within her. “As a person who wants things to feel meaningful, it can be really difficult to deal with moments in my life that feel meaningless,” she shares. Part of ‘Roach’, though, is her trying to come to terms with the fact that she doesn’t always need “to feel connected to the part of me that believes in meaning”. It’s another example of the ebb and flow of life, one that she is starting to accept.
“I don’t always have to be tethered to that part of myself,” she adds, “but I always need to have faith that I will come back to it.” In her second album, she’s created not just a reminder of that but an exquisite guide to riding the wave through life’s ups and downs.
‘Roach’ by Miya Folick is out now.Buy ‘Roach’ on vinyl