2021 music · Interview

Synthpop artist F!ONN on his new album ‘Desolate Disco’; stream his latest single now

F!ONN’s music: Spotify / Youtube

F!ONN, real name simply Fionn and pronounced ‘Fyun’, is a groovy 19-year-old from Ireland letting out his anxieties and observations through fun, snappy synthpop with a tight ear for hooks. While chart topping pop princesses like Madonna, Kylie and Perfume are some of his heroes, he holds the digitized weirdness of Charli and SOPHIE in high regard and often goes for the introspective in his lyrics. In fact, his single “Being Yourself (Is Overrated!)” pokes fun at the cliche advice of the main title, arguing that true openness about one’s identity can endanger rather than help certain people.

Later this August Fionn plans to drop his most accomplished music yet with the glitzy Desolate Disco. Seeing as I came to know him through a chance peek at his Blondie discord, I decided to ask him some questions; thus birthing the first-ever interview here at MAM! Stream Desolate Disco‘s single ‘Conformative’ below.

In just a flashy sentence, how would you describe your music?
Trashier than a bin bag full of Paris Hilton CD’s, and I mean that in the best possible way.

What were your biggest inspirations for the sound on this album? The singles have a glossier, fuller and (of course) dancier sound than before.
Daft Punk definitely inspired a lot of the sounds on the record, because of the way they re-contextualized old samples from disco, soul and soft-rock into super forward-thinking, futuristic music. I’ve been inspired by a lot of the O.G. early chicago house and garage house like Frankie Knuckles’ music, which I love for the lush melodies and dance beats. I was also vibing to the Pet Shop Boys’ 2013 album Electric, which is a fabulous blend of contemporary EDM with great hooks, lyrics and vocals.

I love dance music that is not solely created as functional, but also as enjoyable music in lyrics and composition, another task I wanted to fill when creating Desolate Disco. Roisin Machine by Roisin Murphy, also deserves a special mention because I liked the way her and the producers kind of played with the tropes of Dance music in a super creative and fun way and deconstructed them. Also, an icon of Ireland!

The title of Desolate Disco along with the blurred cover photo implies the classic ‘crying in the club’ feel that resonates with so many pop fans lately; could you elaborate on the lyrical themes?
The lyrical themes of Desolate Disco are split into three parts, marked by the interludes at the start of each act.
Act 1 – The Pop Show, consists mostly of upbeat pop songs with positive messages and represent my mind’s state before the pandemic. At the time, I was just about to turn 18, I was about to start college and although I was still acerbic and bitchy (my brain is just wired that way), I felt content.
Sorry We’re Closed is the second act and revolves around more introspective songs that discuss the self, directly tackle the pandemic, one’s place in the world and my own struggles with depression, which I have been transparent about in my previous work, but haven’t been so direct about.
The final act is called Freedom Punks, and its really talking about healing and learning to have fun again, while also dealing with the lingering bouts of pain and anguish when they happen. Its more sonically experimental and aggressive than the pop songs in the first act. I also sing a lot of the more socially critical songs in this act such as “Tik Tok Killed The Video Star”, a critique of music’s place in Gen Z society and “Ultraviolet”, a denouncement of modern party and club culture.

When and how exactly did you decide you were going to be a pop musician?
There wasn’t an exact moment really, but probably when I went to this festival in Merrion Square as a kid, where you were allowed go up on the stage and sing a song and I sang only the chorus of Umbrella by Rihanna for about 2 minutes straight.

What song do you think is your best work? If you were to summarize your music in five, which would those be?
It depends on the day, but one of my personal favourites is “Ordinateur” because I love how atmospheric and haunting the track turned out. I also think Being Yourself (Is Overrated!) and Not Invited are essentials though, as they are the songs that people get the most visceral, intense reactions from.

“Being Yourself (Is Overrated!)”; “Not Invited”; “Ordinateur”; “Eye For An Eye”; “Your Heart (ft Whitewoods)”; “Conformative”

Your sound evolved a lot since you started; and somewhat quickly. You have an ear for tightly structured pop music as well. Any advice for struggling or just-beginning musicians out there?
I think musicians who are starting out, should literally just start. When I was a child, making tracks entirely out of loops on GarageBand, I don’t think anyone thought I’d get good at making pop music. But, I just kind of absorbed what I’d learnt from listening to other great musicians and kept making music the best that I could. I think its also great to get to know a lot of bad and good people, and have tons of mad experiences with them that can give you good writing material.

Most F!ONN lyrics are quite personal or thoughtful, in contrast to plenty of pop artists. Do you think that pop music has an untapped potential for more serious lyrics as opposed to ‘fluff’? How do you feel about the fluff itself?
I don’t think there’s a need or a potential, I just do it because it’s my chosen way of self expression. Pop is about pleasing timbres and catchy hooks, and there’s a lot of music I like that is simple and fun like that. If you market let’s say an Ed Sheeran album as being an authentic, gripping slice of his own soul, with trashy low-brow lyrics, the general public will view it that way regardless of the actual merit of the album. Yet, if you market a Lady Gaga album as being trashy dance pop, but with Joni Mitchell level deep lyrics, the general public will view that album as its marketed too: trashy dance pop.

Your biggest inspiration in writing lyrics?
It usually starts with an interesting quote I’ve heard or a tiny tidbit of my daily life. In this particular album, which is more conceptual, there are a lot of critiques of the society and culture of Generation Z and the COVID 19 era, which I often feel disillusioned with. Conformative is about the way we as human’s constantly try to fit in with each other when a key part of maturity is learning that one can’t entirely change themselves. Its sort of a sequel to Being Yourself (Is Overrated!) in that sense, except its more direct rather than using irony as a lyrical device. [The upcoming] Tik Tok Killed The Video Star is a personal favourite of mine that touches on similar phenomena. The reduction of music to 15 second or shorter clips that are lip-synced by some of the most inane narcissists to ever grace the planet. I remember when musical.ly first came around, it blipped and quickly fell off everyone’s radar, but it really troubles me that Tik Tok seems to be a new normal of sorts for pop.

Where do you think you’ll take your music in the future? Do you think you’ll always focus on pop?
Well, I’m currently working on a score for an indie film, so I think that already encapsulates your question succinctly. But, I also think that I will work on creating some musical theatre too, possibly something in the vein of Jesus Christ Superstar, where its a suite of songs that form a complete narrative arc.

Any friends or other musicians from your area you’d like to recommend us?
Chris Cahill, also known by the alias Porridge who helped me with additional production on some of the songs. Also, he’s not a musician, he’s a comedian, but Patrick McDonnell proof-read a lot of my lyrics before I recorded them.

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