Eyedress is living with a clearer head these days. When the Filipino artist (born Idris Vicuña) became a dad almost three years ago, distancing himself from a super-stoned day-to-day was a logical move. For her, he wanted to be totally present, focused. His third album, Sensitive G, out November 16, exists in his current, generally weedless world of newfound clarity — except for one song, "Alone Time," premiering today.
Emulating the synthetic drums of a Hall and Oates number, surf-rock inspired guitar, and helium-high vocals recalling the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" could've made for a more buoyant pop song, but Vicuña's approach was more leisurely — it's sunny but subtle, with a slow, chill funk current.
Lyrically, though, it's about a rockier period, written about his ex-wife and their mutual distrust. Back then, he was smoking every half-hour. So today, when Vicuña performs "Alone Time," he's opening a time capsule. His life is starkly different — and happier — these days.
PAPER caught up with Vicuña to hear more about including "Alone Time," despite its being somewhat of a personal relic. He told us more about the forthcoming Eyedress album too, and how on he channeled his punk roots in venting about the political and social climate of Manila, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Let's talk about "Alone Time" first. Can you tell us about the making of that song?
That is the oldest song on the album. I actually made it in I think 2013. I was living in London, and I was with this imprint Abeano and they were under XL [Recordings], so I recorded that song in the XL studios in Notting Hill. At first it was just the guitar with a rough version of the melody, and a little bit of lyrics. I only finished it last year when I was working on the album, like late last year. It's not in relation to my current relationship, because I was married before. [The lyrics are] about her, my ex-wife, and just being paranoid and not trusting each other. It didn't really work out, so that's what the song is about — trust issues.
Performing "Alone Time" now, does it feel different? You're in a new stage of your life; you're a new dad, for one.
She's almost three now. It's definitely so different. Even performing it feels — it's just not who I am anymore. But the song is, I Like the song, so it's really tough to revisit those feelings. That was years ago. I think my voice was even higher, too. My voice is still high when I sing but I don't know if it's that good.
So it hasn't taken on a new meaning but instead is like revisiting?
Yeah, it's kind of just like going back in time.
How is everything now? How have you adjusted?
I've really adjusted. I've kind of quit all my vices. When I was starting out as a musician, in a lot of interviews I'd kind of glorify my drug use. But now I don't even do that stuff, so it's good, because now I'm just really focused on my family and making music and filming stuff. Before, I was really reckless, and it was just part of my daily routine — getting fucked up or being high all the time. Now, I can't really do any of that, because I need to be present, and I need to focus on all the things going on around me. My daughter is just — she starts running faster everyday. It's getting full on. She's dangerous. (Laughs) I always have to be aware; I can't be stoned, nothing like that. That's what I came from, and now that I've adjusted to being a dad, I've had a really clear head.
There are a lot of benefits to a clearer head — for your daughter, but for you personally, too.
Yeah. I've really been happy that I quit smoking. I'm not paranoid. I don't get sad. I used to get really emo, but now I don't even feel that way, because I'm always in the present and never feeling too much of anything when you're just sober.
When you say you were sad and high all the time, you mean only weed?
Yeah, because I would smoke like every 30 minutes. When I stopped, I noticed my anxiety got really bad. You know how everything is heightened when you smoke? I didn't realize all my mental health stuff was also being heightened.
The effects are different for everyone, and it depends on what kind of weed you're smoking and how much.
Yeah. It definitely does. I mean, it used to be just whatever. But now I have a daughter, so the high is different too. There's more things to worry about: Her falling down the stairs or hitting her head on something. That's more stressful than when you smoke and you don't have a kid.
Thinking about the rest of Sensitive G, were the other songs on there also written back then, or are some new?
Starting last year, I would make a new song every two to three months. But I only finished everything in May this year. My family went to the States without me, just family stuff, and I couldn't go because I had to do the album. So I only had about a month-and-a-half and I finished everything within that month that they were away. Now that they're back, I don't know, I don't really record too much when they're here, especially lately because I don't want to miss anything with my daughter now. She's becoming less of a baby every day. I finished the album in just a month — everything. I guess prior to that I was recording a lot of the music, and in that month is when I did all the vocals and all the finishing touches.
Would you say some of these songs reflect this new period of your life?
Yes, everything I've written apart from "Alone Time" is all referring to my current life.
What made you want to include "Alone Time," then?
It's just a good song; it was catchy. I never thought I'd put something out like that, but I don't know, I with songs, I put them through the test of time — and this one is still OK to me, so that's why I put it on there.
Your press notes mention a return to your punk roots, like when you had a Crass-style band while you were living in California as a teenager.
It was called The Liberal Underground. (Laughs) We had songs called "Patriotism is McCarthyism." I didn't know what any of that meant, because I was like 13 or something. But my friends were really cool; they were much older than me. I was only in 7th or 8th grade when I joined, and they already were finishing high school. They had a lot of opinions: They were vegan, they had all these crazy beliefs that, at the time, I didn't understand. I always thought they were cool because they believed in something they wanted to believe in, as to like, when you're in school, everyone has this kind of sheepish mentality. I guess this album I kind of revisit all the music that I grew up loving as a kid. Except there's no rap songs. I guess "PTSD" is kind of on a West Coast, G-funk kind of wave, but I don't know. I just take from everything I like.
What made you decide to revisit those influences?
It just made sense with my anger. I've been getting really angry lately. (Laughs) I've just been feeling fed up with where I live and the people I'm surrounded with. A lot of people talk shit, tweet me and stuff like that.
People in the Manila music scene?
Yeah. I'm just trying to be healthy and get my anger out in a positive way, rather than going out and fighting or something.
Do you think you've carried on some of that political messaging, too?
I guess I've always felt a way about how things go in the government and society. But I'm not, I don't feel like my opinions will make a difference.
Here, you can try so hard to make a difference, but it just doesn't — maybe it's opening people's minds a bit more, but I just put it out there because that's what I believe and that's how I feel about the way things are here. If it does change anything, that'd be great. The message is there for anyone who can relate to it.
I heard bits of that in "No Love in the City," and then there's "Toxic Masculinity."
I was so angry in that song. I did it in one take. I just freestyled; a lot of the times I freestyle. Even with "Alone Time," I didn't write any lyrics. I came up with the melody then I was like, alright, what kind of words can I put into this? And usually it's just what I feel at the time. But yeah, "No Love in the City," I was just really mad one day and I was yelling at myself in the studio. That's what that sounds like in reality. Then my family can hear it downstairs, and they're like, "Is he OK?" Then I come down and I'm like, "I was just making a song."
What are you referring to in the song? Politics in the Philippines? The Manila music scene?
Definitely. I guess I confront a lot of the hatred or misconceptions that people have about me. Poverty is the biggest issue here, and like I was saying how things seem to never change here, that's one thing, ever since I've lived here when I was 15. It's already 2018, so I've been here for eight years, almost 10. I think with any president — I've been here for about three different presidents already — they never come up with solutions to fix poverty and pollution, and those are the main issues here, apart from people not being educated enough to know that they're stuck in this way of life.
Education is really important, which sounds stupid coming from me, because I dropped out. I didn't do the school route; it just wasn't working for me. But as I grew older and now that I have a daughter, it's like, education is one of the most important things. Especially living in the third world where you see a lot of uneducated people having their opinions, and it just doesn't make sense because they're not really clued up on what the facts are.
You had access to more education than some, though — you moved to the U.S. as a kid, and lived in Arizona and California.
I had somewhat of a privileged life. I was born in the slums, but my family moved me to the states so I guess that's where my educational background comes from. That's definitely something that I think — I don't know, a lot of my fans who aren't still in the slums, I think their minds are being opened in my lyrics. Because now you can pick a lot of stuff up and find it online; if you do enough research, you can teach yourself. I guess I hope those lyrics will get people in a direction that will be beneficial for them.
Well, you have a president there, Duterte, who's especially problematic and misogynist...
He makes rape jokes. When I was a kid, I was raped. It really fucks me up that this guy is [president]. I can't do anything.
You are doing something, though.
I'm just saying what I feel. But I'm not gonna stand in his way, 'cause he's just gonna blow me up. But these words, we're free to have our opinions, so that's the good thing, I guess.
Do you think your anger or even just discouragement has changed since becoming a dad?
Yeah. When I made "No Love in the City," I was kind of getting into trouble, and I was on my way to probably just going to jail. So learning from my mistakes and having her has kind of put me into a place where I want to allow myself to express how I feel politically but I also need to pick my battles. I guess some things aren't worth getting into trouble for because she needs someone to be there for her, obviously. I have super political songs and it makes me feel like I want to go out and fuck shit up, but at the same time I have my daughter who I have to be there for and nothing bad can happen to me either, because she needs both of us.