TVRQUOISE front woman Faye Wellman is elated. The album she's been wanting to make for years, her very first, entitled 99¢ Dreams has just dropped with Text Me Records. Amidst a very chaotic release schedule, Faye and I sat down once again to discuss the less tangible elements of making an album; banishing creative self-doubt, rebuilding personal identity and reclaiming life as an artist.
OMG: What were your main influences and inspirations for the album?
FW: My personal life and internal struggles are certainly the main influences. I was in a bit of a creative lull until I began working on this album. It had been 3 years since I'd written any new material. I felt really lost in Los Angeles and down on my life in general. I wasn't happy with the path I was on and I knew I needed to make changes. But I wasn't sure what I wanted to say or what I wanted the overarching theme to be and I think that's because I needed to reconnect with myself.
We talked about this in our last conversation together but I had an office job because, for years, I was torn between the need to make money in order to survive and wanting to be an artist. And honestly, for the longest time, I convinced myself that my approach was smart. But the fact of the matter is, it's very difficult to have a conventional career that pays a salary and has benefits and to also be a real artist, not someone who just plays for fun. I grew really frustrated with this truth and I developed a strong urge to resist conforming to the societal norms of a working 25 year old. I was figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be.
I started dating again. It had been over a year since I really put myself out there. I started going out and re-connecting with friends, I had become a hermit because I was always exhausted from work. I visited one of my best childhood friends, which helped me rediscover my youth. And eventually I quit my job and reclaimed my life. All of this (and more) happened as I wrote this album. I was rebuilding myself, reconnecting with my true self, and most importantly, standing up for my dreams in my personal and professional life.
OMG: Tell me about the concept for the album.
FW: 99¢ Dreams as a concept and album title were derived from feeling as if those around you thought your dreams were cheap and unattainable, but deep down, you knew better and were willing to fight for your worth. In love, in work and in life. Artist Doug Aitken has this photo of a neon sign that says "99¢ Dreams" and I came across it while we were writing the album. It was another one of those moments of 'I don't know why, but this makes me feel some sort of melancholic hope.' It wasn't until recently that I found out what 99¢ Dreams meant to other people, I only knew what it meant to me. It's funny because usually, I really like looking up definitions and looking into the intricacies of words, phrases and idioms. I think I waited because I didn't want my personal definition to be tainted. But turns out, 99¢ Dreams refers to how much your dreams are worth or setting your goals lower than your talents or capabilities allow. It can also mean "small change” and honestly, I feel them all.
OMG: What was the process of writing & recording the album like?
FW: After I recorded the self-titled EP, I reached out to Patrick Brown and said, "I don't know if you're up for this but I need to make an album. Are you, or anyone you know, interested?" So I sat down with him and Bobby Renz, my main producer, and said, "I need to make an album, I need it to be done in a reasonable amount of time, and I want to make music that's relatable, accessible, and still true to my original sound." And they were like, "Yes, awesome. Let's do this."
A few weeks later, we were at New Monkey Studio over in the Valley and we started sharing really raw ideas. Bobby brought in instrumental ideas, I brought in some a cappella vocal ideas, and we basically ended up jamming, simply to start the process. And honestly, I was nervous. I usually write alone or one-on-one with someone I've formed a relationship with, so being thrown into the studio with strangers was awesomely uncomfortable and unnatural for me. I think because of my past experiences at Berklee, I was full of self-doubt. I was accustomed to a very judgmental musical environment. But once I realized that everyone was there because they wanted to make music with me, I got over that shit and things were much more fluid and ideas started flowing. This process really helped me find confidence in myself and I think that shows in the overall composition of the album.
Bobby and I worked really closely throughout the writing process. We'd send things back and forth, I'd go up to San Francisco and we'd spend three days straight in Different Fur Studios pounding shit out. Like, literally sleeping in the studio. I also co-wrote a lot of songs with guitarist Matt Hogan. We'd have super casual songwriting sessions and some of the best work came out of those initial jams, like the tracks "99¢ Dreams", "Island" and "Los Angeles".
Ultimately, it took us a while to find the right sound for the angle that I wanted. I was constantly thinking, 'How can I make people dance and cry at the same time?' It took a few months before we all thought, 'Okay, this is sounding like an album.'
OMG: It sounds like you collaborated with a lot of other musicians for this project.
FW: Yeah! Bobby Renz is either co-producing or producing every song and he was a writer on most tracks. "Home" was initially written by Text Me writer Tim Vickers and I. Tim is also a writer on "Los Angeles." When we recorded "Home", Julian Harmon from Pop Etc (formerly The Morning Benders) was on drums and Jordan Blackmon, who plays with Toro Y Moi, was doing synthy/keys things. Patrick Brown got his hands in "To Feel".
OMG: Which musicians were you listening to while you were writing and recording?
FW: Before we went into the studio, Patrick wanted me to make a reference playlist. My playlist probably confused the fuck out of everyone at the time but it ended up making sense in the end. I knew going in that nothing I created was going to sound exactly like any of these. But regardless, these were the songs in my head, this is what inspired me: lots of Grizzly Bear, Empress Of, SZA, Frank Ocean and Rihanna. I swear it makes sense in my head.
OMG: What are you most looking forward to with the album release?
FW: Finally being able to share a full body of work with people. I've been wanting to write an album my whole life, so this is one of those milestones for me. I also can't wait to see what other opportunities and collaborations come as a result of putting more work out into the universe. Maybe that's strange but I can't wait for the next step.
OMG: What is next for you & Tvrquoise?
FW: Writing more, collaborating more, and playing shows! We finally have the live set together and I can't wait to start hitting the pavement with it. I just wanna travel the world, play music and write songs.
OMG: And what does it mean to you, as an artist, to finally have a full length album out?
FW: This is probably my ego speaking, but it's a form of validation, it's a right of passage. It's proof to myself that I can do it, that I can write and create a body of work. It also just means the world to me. I've cried happy tears several times in the last few months.