An Interview with Ayria’s Jennifer Parkin

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We are pleased to welcome Ayria back to Minneapolis on May 23 with Project Pitchfork at the Triple Rock. Click for full event details and pre-sale tickets. We hope to see everyone at the Triple Rock on May 23!

Ayria is the one-woman electronic music project of Toronto’s Jennifer Parkin. Now on the verge of releasing her 4th full length album, Plastic Makes Perfect, and launching a US tour with Project Pitchfork, Jenn took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about the upcoming tour, the new album, dubstep, roller derby names, managing burnout and more.

Kilted Farmer Koncerts:
You’ve toured with Project Pitchfork before and we’re excited to have both Project Pitchfork and Ayria back in Minneapolis on May 23. What are you most looking forward to on the upcoming tour?

Jenn:
Getting back out on the road, getting to play the new songs from “Plastic Makes Perfect” finally! Also it’s always a pleasure touring with Project Pitchfork! Hopefully we’ll get to make and Peter will post more tour videos from the “Fork Force”. Most importantly, seeing the fans old and new, some who have supported me for the past decade (or close to) through all my releases. Meeting people and having a good time, albeit an exhausting time since touring is very draining, but the adrenaline of what we get to do each night keeps us going!

Ayria promo image

Jennifer Parkin of Ayria, by Jeff Turner Photo

KFK:
You consistently put on a pretty energetic live show. What do you do to make the show interesting and engaging for fans and how do you prepare? How do you overcome the challenge of having geographically separated band mates when preparing for a tour or show?

Jenn:
Luckily, with electronic music like mine, the live band can practice on their own and since it’s people I’ve worked with previously and throughout the past decade (like my drummer Mike) I usually know exactly what to expect. It’s funny since the first show on the tour the past 2 tours is Minneapolis. So if my band can already have a good energy and togetherness on stage, that’s a great sign for the rest of the tour since the first show is actually the first time we are all onstage live together since the last shows or tours!

Also, thank you for the compliment about the energetic live show. I put a lot of pre-work into my own set with massive amounts of cardio training. This is something all bands should do and I encourage my band mates to work on their cardio pre-tour. It really helps me with lung capacity trying to move and sing and not being a sweaty mess right from the first song trying to catch my breath. I rehearse my vocals (starting to now, the few month before the tour since I’m rusty!) and I sing in my studio trying to move in my big boots.. to make sure I’ll be ready for the tour! 😉 I hope the shows are interesting to fans. We try and change up the pace of the songs in the set, both for the fans and so that we don’t die on stage from our “work out”.

KFK:
Plastic Makes Perfect is your 4th full length album as Ayria, and you worked with Sebastian R. Komor (Icon of Coil, Komor Kommando, Zombie Girl), who also produced Hearts for Bullets. What was the process like for this album? Was it similar to or different from creating Hearts for Bullets?

Jenn:
This release I tried to challenge myself further to write better songs, write different songs, work on developing more harmonies, different melodies that moved me. I spent a lot of time on this aspect. This album sonically has more textures and layers. There’s more sounds going on than in Hearts For Bullets, which, while I love HFB, I’d like to say Plastic Makes Perfect is more mature and has more depth. I think any artist wants to think they have evolved which each release. I’m older now. I still have a lot of angst and drive for aggression, but I’m also in a happier place too with parts of my life so I wanted to play with all sides of my self and where I’m at now. Some songs are playful, fun but others stay true to my darker side too. The diversity is wide on this album, there’s a song for every mood I’d like to say. Seb and I had both grown, and coming back together to work at producing the next album was another great combination that doesn’t sound identical to the first time around. I hope the fans enjoy it!

KFK:
Which of the songs on Plastic Makes Perfect are you most excited to perform live and why? Or is that a surprise? 😉 [Interviewer note: I’m definitely hoping to hear the title track, Plastic Makes Perfect. I think it would be killer live!]

Jenn:
Well, I think it’s fair to say I’ll most likely be playing the songs that people will have heard already. Technically, there have been 4 tracks released: “Hunger”, “Missed The Mark”, “Plastic Makes Perfect” and now “Friends And Enemies” which was included for anyone who pre-ordered from the Ayria bandcamp page as an instant download. I have one other new track I’m toying with since I think it will be so fun live.

It’s hard to choose the set list now when I have 4 releases. That sadly means that older tracks will have to get cut out. But that’s the reality. Artists tend to favour their new material since you become a bit bored with the older stuff… think about performing the same songs for 30 days straight that were from 4 years ago! 😉 I can’t imagine bands that have 10 releases under their belt! You’d never even get to touch most of your back catalog live!

KFK:
You wrote song dissections for Hearts for Bullets quite a while after the album was released. What inspired you to take on this project and what was the experience like for you? Are song dissections a possibility for Plastic Makes Perfect?

Jenn:
YES! I’ll be starting the song dissections again soon! For Hearts For bullets, I was digging through all these old files and demos, and I got really nostalgic about the writing of HFB. A few friends of mine loved hearing the demos and my stories about writing different parts, so I thought perhaps my fans would too! I’ve seen documentaries of bands I love talking about the inspiration of their songs, and playing different layers of the recordings, and I can’t get enough of this kind of stuff, so hoped my fans might like it too! It also was a great way to highlight the songs individually again. For example, a song like ‘Insect Calm’ from HFB might not get played live, or in a club, so therefore perhaps gets a bit buried in an album filled with more obvious songs or “hits” but there was a time when I was writing that track where that one song was the centre of my universe! Everything about it, the lyrics, inspiration, music. So it’s nice to go back and remember the hours and hours I would have spent focussing on that song and that emotion and how it came out vs how it started and the process to get it there. I don’t consider any tracks as throw aways! Just some are more subtle and let obvious than others for getting attention 😉

Ayria promo photo

Jennifer Parkin of Ayria, by Jeff Turner Photo

KFK:
Dark Electronic music in almost any form always seems to be shunned by the mainstream. Why do you think that is?

Jenn:
I don’t know, I thought dub step sounded darker than anything that was going on in our genre when I first heard it and it got pretty popular. But I’m not sure why to be honest, it might be the limited appeal of the subject matter, goth fashion. It’s not for everyone. Although, Pop stars wear the black PVC and bondage fashion now too (think Lady Gaga and Rhianna). I guess distortion in music or making lyrics unintelligible, is never going to be accessible to the masses? I guess if industrial music is like a dark sci-fi movie, only some of the population will be interested, and think it’s super cool, but pop music is like the summer blockbuster that everyone goes and sees, no matter if it’s good or not because the ads are shoved down your throat. Is that an ok analogy? Hahaha 🙂 to be fair, there’s a lot of mainstream music I like as well these days. I try and keep an open mind with all music and just know that not all styles of music are destined for top 40 audiences but I’m happy with the types of unique fans that my music draws, and how supportive and wonderful they are to help make sure I can keep doing this and touring for them. It’s ok if it’s not for everyone 😉

KFK:
You have a lot on your plate between working a “real” job (like most artists in the genre) on top of creating new music, managing all aspects of Ayria, performing, etc. How do you balance everything? How do you avoid burnout?

Jenn:
(obviously I don’t balance things well since being so late with my interview response! Hahaha) I unfortunately don’t avoid burnout. I still haven’t mastered balance in my life. There are times when I stay off email completely knowing that I’m too overwhelmed and I need a day or two to NOT think about Ayria. I’m not complaining about what I have going on. I feel so lucky to get to do what I do for 10 years. I am a one-woman project. I do work with some amazing people with art, production, etc. but at the end of the day, I’m the one responsible for Ayria succeeding or not, I’m the one with the vested interest in Ayria. There are some things in my life I’ve delayed, or sacrificed completely in order to do Ayria at the level I have. Again, my choices, I’m happy with everything I’ve been able to do. I do it all for the passion of the music I’ve created. Nothing more. I touch on this in one of the new songs “Big City Lullaby”. It’s me realizing that I may be on a path that’s ending, and how certain things in my life have not been easy as I’m wrapped up in this world, as well as touching on the absurd experience of being on tour in cities you never get to see except the inside of a club. I’ll try and stay balanced this year despite it being packed with touring and the new release. But I have a vacation planned at a cottage this July. There’s no internet there 😉 Oh! And working out helps me clear my mind about everything! Plus I try and book massages to get the ridiculous kinks out of my neck and back where the stress lives 😉 I have no coverage for them, so that’s my go to gift request for family and friends for Christmas.

KFK:
As a fan, what’s been one of your favorite live concert experiences? Who did you see and why was it an especially memorable show?

Jenn:
My first concert in my life was seeing Madonna when I was a kid. That inspired me to want to be on stage. I think that’s common for many little girls when they see a pop star of that status! It all seems so glamorous and exciting. Then I’ve seen Depeche Mode twice, Nine Inch Nails three times, um, to name some bands I’ve seen that I’ve found the shows inspiring: The Presets, The Cranes (I was star struck), VNV Nation, The Cruxshadows, Switchblade Symphony, I AM X, The Police, Um.. there’s so more, I’m blanking right now. I need to get out more I think, but every time I see live acts I’m in awe and try and gather inspiration for my own performance.

KFK:
Silly question*: You’ve mentioned in past interviews that you like to rollerblade, so this is a bit of a spin off…If you joined the roller derby, what would your roller derby name be and why?

*Nod to Theresa at Dark Horizons Radio

Jenn:
Hahaha! (I ❤ Theresa!) Definitely it would be Jenn-o-cide!! Hmm, I’ll have to think of more, that one’s most likely taken already. I’ve never done roller derby but it looks so fun and I have friends that do it! I like plain old rollerblading through the park on a waterfront trail we have here in Toronto! I also LOVE Zumba. It’s my thing right now. Latin and hip hop music and the most intense cardio ever! 🙂

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