YONI YEN DIVES DEEP WITH HER DEBUT EP 'UNFOLD'
Words by Sharen Samson / Photography by Chris Loutfy
Yoni Yen interlaces melancholy through hard-hitting trap and RnB. The artist’s dark instrumentals seek to unleash the stark reality of the fiends of the mind, and capture this as a common brawl. The Sydney-based producer, songwriter and vocalist’s debut releases Halfway and In Between and four track EP Unfold lays bare internalised trauma through a blend of beats bound to hit a nerve. I speak to Yoni about her deep dive into the psyche, and her desires for those who listen.
Tell me about the production of your debut single Halfway and In Between. Do you think the feelings of alienation are adequately reflected through its sound?
Halfway and In Between was produced by my partner, who goes by Grimoire. Very little about the song has changed since it was first written and produced because I felt like it didn’t need anything more or less. The tone of the song is very melancholic and dark, yet powerful. I think this reflects the message behind the song which is the acceptance of alienation and discomfort one experiences with mental health. You can’t always rely on someone else to make it better for you and I believe that the song communicates this well.
What was the vision for Halfway and In Between’s music video? I appreciate its cinematography, can you tell me about the creative team behind it, and how this was put together?
The music video is symbolic of someone who runs from their demons but ends up being consumed by them. This can be interpreted in both good and bad ways. I had a really small team of three working with me to make the video come to life. Ben Baggay, from Redscope Films, has helped me with previous projects, such as my short film from my final year of University. I have always admired and loved Kenneth Pan and their pieces, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to collaborate. My partner assisted during the shoot with lighting. We managed to get it all done in one long day using a small studio and local reserves. As someone who has an interest in film, I did a lot of the production and editing myself.
How can we find traces of Yoni within Unfold?
I usually use the process of creating art, whether it’s through music or film, as a cathartic release of a lot of negative, and sometimes positive, experiences in my life. It’s really helpful to be able to look or listen to a finished piece and know that you transformed something ugly into something really beautiful and personal.
I noticed the overlap between RnB and trap weaved throughout this. Is this relatively important to you, what genre do your tracks to fall under?
I have a really mixed bag of influences. While RnB has been part of the mix since I first discovered my dad’s CD collection as a kid, trap has more recently influenced my sound. I wanted to blend these genres with the darker genres that I’m inspired by like, Metal and Trip Hop. I’m not sure how you would categorise my music—electronica, trap, or dare I say Neo Trip Hop? I don’t think that’s a thing...but it could be!
What’s your songwriting process like? When are you your best creative self, and how do you refuel?
In my early days of song writing I was always quite literal with my words. Over the years I’ve practised communicating stories and emotions in a more poetic way that evokes a sort of imagery. I want my songs to carry a mood with them. I’ll often start songs in that literal way and after a while slowly rewrite everything. I might start with one line that is already quite visual or sensual and sometimes I’ll hear a melody in my head and start from there. It’s hard to know when I’m my best creative self because it’s never really that consistent. All I’ve noticed is that I often feel more inspired to create art when my personal life is not in it’s usually routine or if I’m going through a significant life event. Other times I might watch a movie/tv series or have a really vivid dream and feel inspired by that. For example, I have a single that will be coming out soon that was inspired by a dream I had where I had to fight off a house full of black snakes from my mum was sitting placidly on a couch in the middle of the room. Fun stuff!
What’s the takeaway for your listeners?
I really hope that my listeners can identify with the emotions or stories that they take away from my songs. It would mean the world to me if a song of mine helped at least one other person through a hard time or inspired them in any way.