Walking into a room containing someone exuding such a confident and self-assured demeanour can be a somewhat daunting experience if you find yourself an inadequate match for that energy. When I walked into the studio where Tlya X An was taking press photos prior to our discussion however, I instantly felt her commanding presence as a contagiously energising force, one that didn’t intimidate, but rather invigorated. As we began to talk, I quickly realized that behind her commanding presence was a warm and down-to-earth personality, one that was as enthusiastic to share her experiences and insights with me as I was to listen.
Born in Jerusalem and relocating to Bristol at seventeen, Tlya (pronounced tah-li-ya) has spent the past few years boldly fashioning a seat for herself within the upper echelons of the Bristol music scene. Her musical journey has been underpinned by an unwavering commitment to exploring her unique sound and pushing the boundaries of her artistry. After being signed by tastemakers Spinny Nights at the beginning of this year, Tlya has released 3 tracks, ‘Holy J’, ‘Daddy’ and ‘Stuck in Mind’ as sonic entrées in the lead up to her debut EP TXN, released this Friday April 28th.
Through years of meticulous cultivation of her artistry, Tlya X An has developed a unique sound that is both powerful and intimate, combining vocals alternating from towering to hypnogenic with enthralling hyperpop beats and haunting melodies. Her new EP, one shrouded in reflexivity and introspection, is both a profound rumination into her personal experiences and a satirical, almost paradoxical exploration of her ambitions, exploring themes of identity, relationships, and self-discovery, while keeping that dynamic energy that has made her so popular sustained throughout.
Winston Churchill in all his ostensible profundity once said that “perfection is the enemy of progress”. He also was a genocidal white-supremacist who’s rampant bigotry resulted in the Bengal Famine, so perhaps not the best historical figure to seek guidance from. While the quote may be unfortunately attributed to Churchill, it does however stand on its own as a powerful reminder that the pursuit of perfection can sometimes hinder progress and innovation. The idea of letting go of perfectionism and overcoming the hard task of giving away some of artistic control is a topic Tlya and I probe in this conversation, a conversation that would prove itself to be as engaging and thought-provoking as her music.
What, for you would you say the main source of inspiration by the creation of TXN. How did you come up with the concept for it?
I guess, a way of thinking, I wanted a fresh perspective. I feel like a lot has started changing in my life and I was experimenting with a lot of different sounds and just kind of creating whatever I wanted with no rules, or trying anything specific, and I was learning a lot about who I was as person as a musician. I then started developing Tlya X An in my mind slowly without really realising it, but kind of focusing [on the project] more and more. Most of the EP is ultimately describing states of mind, the analysis of these emotional states and the thoughts that go with them and what does that say about where I’m at.
While some more than others I feel like in all your songs there is a palpable level of vulnerability –
And humour, not taking it too seriously and taking the piss.
Of course! Especially ‘Daddy’ – I love how satirical it is even despite an underlying anxiety. Would you say satire is a tool you want to wield more to bring out your personality as an artist?
Yeah, I would say that. I think that’s one of my philosophies which Harold Rubin, a great artist said once is “don’t take yourself too seriously but take what you do seriously” and I love that quote, I really try and live by it. And you know, I have this lyric actually which goes “Dancing to the sounds of my fears // Laughing as I drown for a moment” and it’s this kind of like, when you’re even at your hardest moments in life you have to see the beauty in the pain and say, ‘yeah, okay, this is hard’, but life is short, and we’ve been given this opportunity to enjoy all of it and experience all of it. Life is just better with a laugh you know, that’s just the bottom line.
Through the making of TXN did you experience any particularly difficult moments during the creative process?
100 percent; it’s a very up and down journey. Especially, I feel like as an up-and-coming artist when nobody knows who you are, and you’re kind of sat there in the studio on your own making all this music – one moment you feel good about it and then suddenly you feel ‘oh, this is absolute shit’. No one’s there to confirm one way or the other, you just have to trust yourself. You hear your tracks a million times, especially as a producer, and when mixing down my album. I would say that the mixing is probably the hardest part because I was constantly trying to disconnect from the songs and be objective enough to get the job done.
I imagine as it’s just you, you might fixate and overthink on things far more than you need to, always having that fear of not reaching perfection.
Yeah, constantly wanting to get better and better. I guess that’s when you have to take the leap of faith and just trust the process and say to yourself ‘you might feel like this could be better but you will only get better by doing it, so keep doing it’. Also working with a team for the first time in my life, Spinny Nights and my amazing manager, Lavinia has been a game changer. I had people to listen to my mixes and go, ‘this is good’ – it allows me to let go. I have someone to feed of now which is so important
It can become quite isolating being an artist executing all the parts of it solo without anyone to feed off but now you have Spinny Nights and Lavinia you have invested people now to back you in your journey which must be an incredible weight off your shoulders.
Honestly, I’m so grateful for that, like, that alone has taught me so much about myself. I mean letting go was hard for me – I didn’t really realise how hard it would be. Even when they would tell me the mix is good, I would still end up going back and mixing it longer. I’ll never forget this time with Rafi, one of the guys from Spinny Nights; I posted on BeReal a picture of me working on Logic, and Rafi texted me like ‘nope, nope, close it right now!’ He knows me too well! But it was worth it because that’s the version you can find on the album, so I’m glad I trusted my gut here.
From all of the tracks on your EP which one has been your favourite to produce and why? Which track has been your favourite to perform live?
So the one to produce? I would have to say ‘Deal’, which is one of the ones being released with the full EP.
Ayy that’s exciting!
It is! It’s also probably my most vulnerable one. I know that I said ‘Stuck in Mind’ was up to this date, but ‘Deal’ is definitely talking about subjects I’ve never really delved into creatively. I actually felt quite uncomfortable with the thought of releasing it. It’s actually my little sister’s favourite track, and that really pushed me to release it and look at it in a different light. It almost didn’t make it on the EP. It’s a very different kind of song, one that just flew out of me. I feel like ‘Deal’ has to be my favourite just because of that.
With ‘Deal’ being so vulnerable and coupled with ‘Stuck In Mind’, one you gave the appellation of ‘your most exposing one yet’, do you as a creative have any fears of how your vulnerability will be received once your art is out in the world? Do you feel being so vulnerable is a vital and cathartic experience?
It’s 100 percent a cathartic experience, like 1000 percent. I am not worried though, the more vulnerable I am the more able I am to connect with people. I feel like the walls I’ve been building around me throughout the years behind the cool bad bitch vibes is fun, and it is a very big part of my energy. I thrive on in this energy, but I’m also just a human being and I’ve got my fears and my insecurities, and I want to showcase them in my art as well.
Yeah, it demonstrates your multifaceted personality to the audience and provides another layer of your artistic dimensions. Your listeners will be impressed by the way you exude a strong and confident aura, while also being willing to show your vulnerable and open side, making them think ‘wow, she has the perfect balance of bad bitch energy and emotional authenticity’. I think that’s important.
Yes exactly! I’m glad you agree.
I’m also super excited to hear ‘Deal’!
I’m excited for you to hear it now!
Which is your favourite to perform?
My favourite one to perform is ‘Daddy’!
Of course, that one must pop off!
It really does! But it wasn’t my favourite at the beginning, actually it was my least favourite for a while, and then something happened in the last five shows. I don’t know what it was, but I just started performing it a little bit differently and it kind of opened my chakras or something like that! I just love performing it now. The minute it comes on on stage I’m like, ‘right it’s about to go down’.
When I wrote about it I said that it gives me the energy of being at a sweaty London club at 2am where it comes out of nowhere and everyone is just like going mad!
Amazing! I was literally at a sweaty London club performing it the other day and then it went down beautifully you know.
It’s such a bop, I imagine it must get the crowd so energised.
They love it! And my DJ Charlie puts on the Scream mask from the music video when we do it so that just obviously gets everyone going its so good!
Nice! Actually on the subject of London – so you’re Bristol based, do you do most of your recording in Bristol or venture to London?
It’s all in Bristol in a home studio, proper DIY vibes at this stage.
Do you feel, as an artist who’s definitely going to blow up, do you feel Bristol might be a bit restrictive for your sound? Do you feel as you inevitably get bigger and bigger you might reach a glass ceiling of sorts here?
I feel like it’s hard to place me in the Bristol scene, which is not a bad thing. I think the Bristol music scene is amazing and supportive, and so open minded that you could rock up with any genre and any performance and you’ll find people that love it. You don’t have to have other people doing what you do to find the crowd here for it. But also, I feel like London will be a challenge I want to take on, and the fact that it scares me a bit, makes me want to do it. Yeah, I feel like I have reached some kind of wall with this. I don’t know if it’s Bristol or myself. I know that I need to step out of my comfort zone to find out.
Bristol was obviously a great place for music but London is just so big and there’s so much going on constantly, it’s just a good place to be now to see how your sound can develop in a new territory.
Exactly, I feel like that uncomfortable kind of experience will do wonders for any artist.
Kind of leading on from that subject, what are your future plans for TXN and for you generally as an artist?
Okay, so future plans. I mean, obviously, the EP is coming out today which I can’t believe is actually happening! We have the EP launch we’ve which we’ve been working on relentlessly on May 5th and I’m so excited for that because that’s going to be the first focused TXN show. I’m really trying to bring my vision to life and allow people to actually experience my brain a bit.
Yes for sure, I’m excited for it!
I’m excited for it! Are you coming?
Yes of course!
Ayy! We’ve got a lot planned, like, I’m gonna bring all kinds of elements from the videos that you’ve seen repeating and the show is gonna be the biggest one I’ve done yet. I’ve got guests coming up, and the line-up is just queer and wacky, and, just visuals everywhere, it should be really fun night! So that’s like a big one for me. I feel like that’s gonna be something I just really wanted to try out it and I’m gonna actually put it to action for the first time. So yeah I’m really excited for that. But in general for TXN, of course, endless exploring and trials and errors and just taking risks. Like I’m sure that that’s never going to stop for me. I’ve got a lot of shows coming up. I’ve got Dot to Dot at the end of May, both Bristol and Nottingham. I’ve got a headline show in London, which is to be announced soon, a few other exciting days and summer festivals and you know, all that show stuff. I’m not planning on stopping performing anytime soon – just lots more music.
Basically just keeping that momentum going.
Yeah, I’m just enjoying this so much. I just want to keep growing from it and bring hopefully better and better music to the world and see where that takes us.
I’m eager to witness your development happen. Are there any other up-and-coming artists who particularly influenced your sound or your style or vision that you would like to shout out?
In terms of influences, I found that after I started releasing stuff, I noticed what kind of music I’ve been influenced by, but I kind of isolate myself while I’m actually creating so I don’t really listen to too much other music. I’m very focused on trying to just bring out whatever I have to say, but then afterwards I suddenly say ‘oh, I can hear a bit of these elements’. Like for example there’s one track in my album that I definitely took ideas from Travis Scott’s adlibs in it – like I can hear it now! In terms of up-and-coming though, Grove has actually been an amazing supporter of me before anything has been on show of any kind and I feel like their belief in me has been so inspiring without them even knowing that. In general their energy and power in their talent is very, very inspiring. I absolutely have to shout out to Grove because without really knowing or doing much they’ve done so much for me, just confidence-wise and just being one of the first people to really reach out and be like ‘you’re sick’ before anything had come out and they’re truly amazing. Grove is definitely someone to watch out for and I’m so excited for them.
Words: Jonathan Davis // Photos: Lydia Cashmore
Tlya X An’s debut EP ‘TXN’ is out now via Spinny Nights. Stream and purchase the record, and find tickets for her EP launch party on May 5th at Dareshack, Bristol here.