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esther glitchy, No. 02

Get to know this pop-influenced singer-songwriter from California.

When I ask about her stage name, she tells me that it’s inspired by the The Bell Jar’s protagonist Esther Greenwood: “Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite poets. Glitchy was a word I chose because I tend to frequently dissociate and things rarely feel real to me. I would describe it as feeling like I'm a glitch in the system of life.” Her budding emotional potency as an artist-in-the-making is evident (“I love you too much to let you back in my life / God knows what's going on with my heart these days,” she emotes over the gentle lo-fi beat of forced catharsis, produced by zeekybeats--an Internet producer who's amassed more than 30,000 YouTube subscribers and who's crediting as producing over 400 SoundCloud tracks--and mixed and mastered by kid kazarie, a SoundCloud user who lists their geographic location as Little Rock, United States). Despite the relative smallness of her artistic footprint as of November 2018, esther glitchy's songs are already tonally distinct, fogged by a melancholy reminiscent of the mythology that surrounds the writer behind her stage name.

esther glitchy responded in early October to my post in r/BrockhamptonToThe post seeking interviewees. This particular Reddit thread exists in the vein of the KanyeToThe forum that connected the early members of BROCKHAMPTON, the self-described greatest and hardest working boyband in the world. The California-based seventeen-year-old has a small but promising SoundCloud profile, recorded all of the music she’s uploaded to the Internet from her phone, and belongs to an Internet-born girl group called Pheme. She peruses collaboration-oriented threads like r/BrockhamptonToThe “from time to time” [which is incidentally how she joined Pheme: “I responded to a post that Maia (the Kevin Abstract of our group) put out asking if some girls wanted to get together to start a female BROCKHAMPTON”]. The excitability of her interactions with me are endearingly teenagerish, and it’s heartbreaking to learn of her previous romantic ruins and brief psych ward stint (“My experience in the psych ward wasn't for long: I wasn't even in there for the whole 72 hour hold. But it was distressing. I still remember the sounds of people screaming, crying, and acting up. I missed my bed at home and hearing my siblings play and have fun”). The majority of her answers were given in between her school days as a high school senior. With a handful of Android-phone recorded songs of high school heartbreak to show for herself, here’s a look at esther glitchy.

Who are you?

I'm just a girl who sings songs about heartbreak and the pains of being in love. Not that I really believe in love at this point, but it sure is fun to sing about what I've been through.

Why do you think you find heartbreak fun to sing about? It’s not exactly a fun state of being.

I think heartbreak is fun to sing about because the more that I talk about the hurt I've been through, the less it ends up hurting me. I get so used to talking about what affects me through song that I end up feeling some kind of indifference about it.

What does your experience-derived creative process tend to look like?

I usually start with and return to a specific articulation that struck me at the time. I seem to find a way to make these events seem artful and creative in the end.

When you say that you don’t believe in love, do you mean that you fundamentally don’t think it exists (according to its “any cognitive content held as true” definition) or that you don’t actively encourage and affirm it for yourself (according to its “a vague idea in which some confidence is placed” definition)?

More the second definition. I do think it's out here, but only for other people. My experience with love has been idealization, then strong infatuation, then heartbreak. My idealized perception of love is separate from my experience with it, however. And my ideal is something that’s mutually positive and that stems from the desire to build something special with a person. To be the best version of yourself even without them constantly by your side.

So you’ve built a wall based on your heartbreak experiences. Which shields you from your ideal version of love, which is the prospect of supportive symbiosis.

Right. I feel like I'm protecting myself from everything that I feel is emotionally threatening by saying that I don't believe in love. Kind of like an actor practicing their lines over and over again in order to become their character.

Your first SoundCloud track was uploaded two months ago--when did you start making music?

I started making music about three years ago, during the transition from my freshman to sophomore year of high school. I don’t remember what those songs were about. I only found satisfaction with my own work and the courage to upload this year. I consider my first SoundCloud upload to be my first song.

What inspired it?

It was fairly spur-of-the-moment. I was listening to a beat on YouTube, and I started singing some random lines based on things going on in my life. At the time, I was coming to terms with an unhealthy and toxic relationship: going on and off of breaks, getting cheated on, being told all sorts of negative things, and being exploited for everything I could offer. It eventually broke me down. During the breakup, I used writing and music as a healthy coping mechanism. I needed something to rely on even if I was the one who found the strength to leave him.

I’m sorry you underwent such a toxic relationship, especially at such a young age. I’m glad that you found a constructive way of diffusing the toxicity--music is such a fundamentally human medium (made all the more accessible through Internet-based resources). And yet, not everyone uses music as an outlet. Where do you think your musical impulse comes from? Are any of your family members musicians?

My dad used to be a drummer in college, and he studied under a jazz musician back in the Philippines. There are probably plenty of musicians in my family, but I’m not really sure which instruments they played or what their specific experiences with music are. I don’t remember.

Was your dad studying music in college? Is he Filipino?

Surprisingly, no. My dad was studying nursing in college. Since he moved here, he's been working hard to become an RN. But yes, he is Filipino.

Is your mom also Filipino?

Yes. I wish I had more knowledge of my culture as a second-generation immigrant.

Did your parents meet in the Philippines?

Nope. They met approximately 20 years ago in America. They've since divorced.

I’m sorry to hear. I hope they’re both well. Where are they living now?

My dad is in the Bay Area and my mom is in Central California.

How do your parents feel about your musicmaking?

I'm thankful to have parents that are supportive of my music. I think they may see it as a way to connect with me since I'm usually closed off. Wow, it's rare for me to open my thoughts up like I am for this interview. My dad called me a couple weeks ago to tell me he listened to my music and liked it, and my mom has told me about how excited she was to hear my music.

Does your mom have any artistic inclinations?

I'm not sure actually. She might. I have a pretty bad memory.

Do you have any siblings?

Yes, I have two older siblings and two younger siblings. I'm sandwiched between brothers and sisters.

I see that "pop" is the first tag of all of your SoundCloud uploads. Are there any pop musicians that you particularly love or particularly hate?

I really love Joji, BROCKHAMPTON (if they count), Clairo, and Cuco. As for musicians I hate, I don't think there are any. I respect others too much to say I hate them. I can acknowledge that they put in hard work and do things that I probably wouldn't have the courage to do.

What sorts of things?

Like dancing in front of a lot of people while singing. I don’t have the courage or the ability. I'd get tired too fast.

Do you ever intend to branch into other genres besides pop?

I think I'll branch into other genres someday. I'm not too confident in my instrument playing ability, but I play violin, ukulele, and saxophone. I'm just not confident enough to try what I'd like to try, like jazz or indie rock.

When did you start playing those three instruments?

I started playing ukulele about three years ago, but I'm still not as consistent with it as I should be. As for violin and saxophone, I started a little over a year ago. I took an unexplained break from violin for several years and I regret it. It's one of my favorite instruments.

You’re still in high school, correct?

Sadly, yes. But I only have a few months to go. It gives me mixed emotions to think that despite the stress and sadness I face in high school, these could possibly be the best years of my life that I'll soon nostalgically look back on.

How do you balance musicmaking with high schooling?

I tend to record music when I have free time…which I usually don’t have given that I’m a high school senior. If I don't have homework to do or a football game to go to, I find time to write and record.

How have you made the music that you’ve made so far?

In terms of equipment, I'm severely limited as to what I can do. My computer broke down so I’ve been recording, mixing, and uploading all my music from my phone. It doesn’t have the best mic, but it does the job.

Impressive! iPhone, I’m guessing? Which apps have you used?

Oh, I wish I had an iPhone. Garageband receives a lot of hype from my fellow musician friends, and I’ve always wanted to test it. I'm stuck with my Android. I use an Audacity-mimicking DJ app. It could be better, but I make do with what I have.

Do you anticipate that your computer will be fixed soon? Which musicmaking programs do you have?

I have Audacity on my computer which helps me with basic mixing and mastering and all that jazz. It works wonders for me since the interface isn't too hard. I'm able to clean up my vocals and add effects like reverb. I unfortunately don’t anticipate that my computer will be fixed soon, which sucks, but it’s not stopping me.

Are there other specific pieces of equipment you hope to soon get?

A better microphone would definitely be amazing, but I'm not complaining about the one I have. If I had lots of money, I'd probably get soundproof foam for my room to turn it into a little studio.

What are you artistically up to now?

I joined Internet collective girl group Pheme a couple months ago. Over the months that we've all been friends, we've gotten really close. We’re located in different parts of the world, but it's comforting to know that I have friends in so many places. It's been the best of times with them.

Am I correct in assuming that the group is called Pheme because it’s the first syllable of the word female? [Editor's note: I've since discovered that Pheme means "rumor" in Greek and is also the origin of the English word "fame."]

If I recall correctly, it's a mix of that and the Greek mythology figure Pheme.

Who came up with the name, and how?

I believe [the group’s founder] Maia did. It was tough, we had lists of endless names to go through, but Pheme stuck with us.

How many members are there?

I believe there are 14 of us.

I look forward to witnessing Pheme's growth. Anyone who spends time on these musicmaking Reddit threads (and most artistic communities all across the Internet) will discover statistically that most people they encounter are people who identify as dudes. If your username and profile picture are neutral, or if you don’t outright specify that you don’t identify as a dude, you’re assumed to be a dude. Have you or any other Pheme members experienced much sexism online?

Oh yeah, for sure. We actually discuss a lot of the sexism and overall awful treatment we face as women daily. A few of us are women of color so we tend to discuss the racism and such that we face. It’s comforting to know that I'm not the only one going through this and that at least for now, I have people to support me.

It's great to hear that the members of Pheme have found one another and formed this supportive, creative community. Is there anything you’d like to say regarding sexism or racism, or both?

Mostly I’d like other young women of color struggling with sexism and racism to know that they aren't alone and that we’ve got each other's back. Yes, it's absolutely preposterous that we have to go through this, but it's not going to bring us all down forever. It's a minor setback to set us up to be stronger in the future. We are stronger than what others may think. I recommend checking out your local music and arts scene to support and connect with small artists. Many may be people of color who are spreading their culture in their own special way.

Is Pheme’s music available anywhere?

We haven’t uploaded anything yet, but we’re working on some, which is soon to come!

And are you working on any exclusively solo projects?

I’m working on a new EP. Aside from that, I'm working on a Joji cover with my friend Natalihn (who's also in Pheme).

Why does esther glitchy make music in the first place? What can listeners hope to gain from their esther glitchy listening experience?

I remember hearing “Thinkin Bout You” a couple years ago because my older brother listened to Frank Ocean a lot. I liked that song because of the strange feeling it invoked in me (which I’ve only really been able to understand now, at this point in my life). It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school, when I was going through a breakup, that I really connected with Frank Ocean’s music (through Blonde).

“Miscommunication happens, things may not always end up the same way, and life isn't so easy and linear” were my big takeaways from the album. Ever since, I’ve caught myself listening to “Seigfried,” “Nights,” and “Self Control” when things aren't so easy for a sense of, “This isn't the first time life has been like this. Just hold on and get a strong grip on something, alright?” After I was discharged from the psych ward, I remember looking at my phone, specifically my Frank Ocean wallpaper, and feeling a sense of pure calmness. Just from looking at him. It helped me realize that I want to make music for people like me to relate to. I want to give others the feelings I get when I listen to music by artists like Frank.

esther glitchy is on SoundCloud, Instagram, Twitter, Venmo, and CashApp.

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By Cloude