An Interview with Ryan Fennis


Dreamy synths, left-of-field samples and beautiful vocals – we are so excited about Detour, the newly-released EP from Ryan Fennis. Making tunes that recall Jai Paul and Ta-ku in moments, yet definitely see him carving out a sound of his own, the Canberra artist is no doubt set for great things this year. We caught up with Ryan about the EP, how his Filipino heritage informs his music, and his early love of the Black Eyed Peas.

You released your EP Detour just a few weeks ago – congratulations! How does it feel to have it out in the world?
It feels great! I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback which I’m thankful for. Prior to the release I was really nervous. I didn’t know what people would think of it.

It’s such an intricate, accomplished body of work. Could you walk us through the writing and production process?
Thank you! I try and write a lot of ideas, the one’s that stick in my head over a longer period of time and still possess some kind of value to me I’ll continue. Every song’s writing process is different though. I might just jam at home and hope something comes out of it. But I always want to think of ways to better my music, I want to make something that doesn’t exist yet.

Do you have a favourite track on the EP at the moment? If so, which one and why?
My favorite tracks are ‘Good Kid’ and ‘Doesn’t Matter’. They just feel more mature and lyrically I have more of a connection.

Who are some of your musical influences?
I have a lot of influences. One that comes to mind is Ryuichi Sakamoto. The way he challenged electronic music in the 80s with the release of B-2 Unit, to see him grow as an artist in those early days to the artist he is today is inspiring, the films he’s scored, his work is ever-changing and growing. He wants to make music he wouldn’t be ashamed to leave behind and I think that’s important.

Tell us about your first music-related memory.
My first musical memories aren’t very fond. When I was in early primary school, I used to have piano lessons that my mum made me go to. I hated them and would hold back tears during the lessons. I was also not very good at reading sheet music – still to this day I find it very difficult. However, I definitely did like music and would listen to whatever it was my older siblings listened to (there are five of us and I’m the second youngest). They all had different music tastes, my eldest sister was really into RnB and my eldest brother was really into EDM, they’d make me playlists and burn CDs for me to listen to, looking back I really appreciate that. The first album I ever got was Monkey Business by the Black Eyed Peas. I think I got it for my 9th birthday. I was listening to it non-stop, it was the first album I loved.

Growing up as Asian kids in Australia, I feel like stereotypes often shaped many of our ambitions, or at least what we thought our ambitions should be. Did your cultural identity impact the way you saw a potential career in music when you were starting out?
Definitely, for sure. I knew I wanted to make music since Year 7. All the music I’d listen to and wanted to make wasn’t made by Filipino/Australians, and I would often question myself doing it. My family still worry about me doing it, but I know it’s coming from a good place.

How does your cultural identity inform your music now? 
Realising who I am was very important to me and my music. A Filipino/Australian that grew up in Canberra – what does that sound like? It doesn’t sound like anything at the moment which is challenging but at the same time exciting and freeing. At first I saw it as an obstacle but now I see it as an opportunity. I want to create a new Australian identity in my music.

Peril’s current edition, Man Up, aims to spark discussions around ideas of masculinity and how these tie into an Asian-Australian experience. Taking into account your experiences of race/culture, what does masculinity mean to you, particularly as a musician?
I know that there are stereotypes around men of Asian descent being weak, but I’ve never applied those stereotypes to the way I see myself. Masculinity and coming off as masculine has never been something I cared too much about. I think about the male figures I look up to ( they’re mostly musicians)… they’re strong-minded, creative, caring, hardworking, and humble. But that’s not being masculine, anyone can have those traits. I guess as a musician I aspire to have the traits. Maybe those traits are my own definition of being masculine? I find it hard to answer this question as I find myself questioning my own answers. But I know at the end of the day the traditional term of masculinity isn’t something I care for and think about, which is mostly the reason why I don’t think I’m very fit to answer this.

You’ve just been announced on the Bigsound 2019 lineup, which is super exciting. What can punters expect from your live show?
Me singing and playing guitar to Detour. I’ve also written a lot of unreleased music that I’d be keen to play. I’m also going to bring a few Detour vinyls with me for people to purchase!

Are there any artists you’re loving at the moment that you reckon we should be listening to?
e4444e and Voidhood. They’re some of my favourite Australian musicians and I’m lucky enough to bring them on tour with me.

Now that Detour is out, what’s next on the Ryan Fennis agenda?
I’ve made some music videos for it that I’m quite proud of, I’ve written a lot more songs that’ll hopefully become something, and I’m going on tour for the Detour EP.

Ryan Fennis’ track ‘Doesn’t Matter’ features on our brand new You Don’t Sound Asian playlist. Give the Detour EP a spin here, and catch Ryan on tour over the next few months:

Sun 28 July – Gasometer – Melbourne*
Thurs 8 Aug – Sideway – Canberra*
Sat 17 Aug – Freda’s – Sydney*
Sept 3-6 – Bigsound Festival – Brisbane
*Tickets for $10 at the door

Tanya Ali

Author: Tanya Ali

Tanya Ali is a Sydney-based writer, who makes music and dabbles in doodling. She is the host of Monday Arvos on FBi Radio. Along with music, her interests lie in art, culture, race and politics. She tweets @tanya__ali.

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