Words by Pankhuri Bhutani.
Photography by Steph Jewell
AYA YVES was the birth of a new creative project for Sydney based singer-songwriter Vendulka who has always used music to express her internal exploration. Finding herself under a newfound confident light, this project really allowed her to combine the candid vulnerability she found through a previous folk project, with her experimental leaning influences of artists like Banks and Tove Lo. The darker pop sound was unveiled through lead single ‘(in)Sanity’ and was honed even further on ‘Smart Girls’.
Gaining a lot of immediate acclaim, she began shedding more layers of her artistry through the raw and heartbreaking sentiments of ‘Dear E’ and ‘Brave’. Putting her vulnerable songwriting under a microscope, she gave a contrastingly strong outlook of what this project would look, sound and feel like the deeper she got into it.
Recently releasing her brand new project “feeling small (let the light in)”, AYA recently sat down with The Fade In magazine in order to discuss the creative process behind the track.
Hi there AYA! Thank you for joining us on The Fade In! How are you doing? How has the start of 2023 been for you so far?
Hey! Thanks for having me. It’s been really nice, I’ve been slowing my life down a bit over the last year or so and just stepping into feeling like a human. It’s been really great to feel present and back in my body, makes me feel ready to take on things like releasing music again!
I’d love to begin the conversation by mentioning how beautiful your new track is. I believe “feeling small (let the light in)” deals with the unexpected vulnerabilities of those intrusive thoughts that most of us often end up feeling. Firstly, what was the initial inspiration behind this track?
Secondly, was there ever a moment where you felt insignificant and later realized the true impact of that feeling that somehow led you to write this song or did the idea come out of somewhere else?
Thank you so much! Honestly this one has a few layers of inspiration. I’d been wanting to write a song that felt like you were outrunning the sun, a song that felt like it belonged in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty (my favourite movie). Sometimes when I write I look at other art mediums for inspiration- but anything I found on the topic of “feeling small” saw it as a negative thing. Every blog, poem, painting I looked at was coming from the angle of “what to do if you’re feeling small in a big world”. I don’t see it like that! I think there’s so much power in being nobody, what we do with our lives won’t matter in 50,100,1000 years time so why not just do what you actually want to?
On your second question- there have been plenty of times I’ve felt insignificant and endless. A few core memories though.
One night when I was living in Canada my friends and I went to watch the Northern Lights at the lake. The night was so still and clear you couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the lake began. That was also the first night I ever heard “crowded places” by BANKS- which I reference in the outtro of feeling small.
Another time in Canada, my friends and I hiked really hungover in 30+ degree heat up Wedge Mountain, which is an 18km hike, with the last 1km or so being a scramble on all fours. We had a singular sandwich and a muesli bar to share between 8 people, everyone was a shell of themselves, but we got to the top and there wasn’t a single other person around. The water looked like something you see in a children’s book. I had this overwhelming sense of déjà Vu- but how could I? I’d never been there before. I burst into tears because I’d never seen something so beautiful before.
Recently I’ve been going for night swims in the ocean, and honestly that’s better than therapy for me- and it’s free. The stillness, feeling the waves rise and fall while you float. It makes me feel like I’m just a tiny speck in time, gives me perspective on the problems that feel huge to me. I wanted the song to feel like those moments.
What was the overall creative process like with the song? Did you face any sort of challenges while making the song?
I’d tried writing what became feeling small twice before it became what you hear today. It was a bit of an opposite approach to songwriting for me- taking a big idea and figuring out how to make it personal. Usually my songwriting is narrative from my life, so there are really specific details to include. This song was trying to capture a feeling, which felt a bit more complex. It was a really fun challenge!
Bri (Clark) and I have done a lot of writing together, and Xavier (Dunn) and
Breaking it down lyrically though, it’s the story of getting stuck and depressed in a 9-5 life, but still believing it can be more. Having hope that your dreams are still there, hope for your mental health.
Now that it’s been over a week since the song is out, how are you perceiving the song’s reception to be so far? Are you enjoying the reactions that you have been receiving from the listeners?
Thus far it seems that people are really connecting! The response has been positive and I can see that people are saving it to their own playlists and streaming it so I can only assume that means that it’s being well received. There’s been lots of positive feedback on the visuals too, which is super exciting because I’m yet to release the music video- thinking that one will go down well!
When it comes to defining your artistic abilities, do you go with a specific type of genre in order to define your music style and creations or do you consider yourself to be quite flexible and everchanging?
Ooh good question! I feel like genre is a little bit irrelevant in 2023. Everyone borrows from every genre, everything is a mish mash now. I do think we keep evolving and changing as artists – otherwise what’s the point? I feel like the last EP was quite influenced by dark pop, whereas my upcoming releases feel more cinematic, dreamy, alternative. Some are more prog rock? Maybe? I don’t know. I just make music and hope it connects. If it does, I’ve done my job well.
What’s the one thing that you think your fans should definitely know about you as a person which they might not get to know about you by listening solely to your music?
I’m a very open book, so I find this one hard to answer ! My music feels like a diary to me, so most things about me are in there. I guess maybe the thing that isn’t obvious in my music is that I’m actually quite a cheerful person in my day to day life. I love people who make me laugh and I try not to take myself too seriously.
If given an opportunity, is there anyone on your radar who you would absolutely love to collaborate with in the future?
How do I narrow this down? I think top of the list is always Justin Vernon. He’s my absolute top tier favourite artist ever. I think he’s a musical genius, I’d give my left kidney to make music with him.
What’s next for you, Aya? Have you set yourself any goals for the rest of this year? Any upcoming projects of yours that you’d like to tell your fans about?
So many goals for this year!! Aiming to play way more shows this year, keep writing, keep releasing. Just keep doing what I do and hope it gets somewhere! There’ll be some more official announcements coming soon…
Lastly, is there any message that you would like to convey to your fans reading this interview?
Hi, you’re the best, I couldn’t do what I do without you. Hope I can catch you at a show this year!
More by Pankhuri Bhutani
Instagram // Twitter // Online portfolio