On her long-awaited debut album ‘The Ocean of Everything’, beguiling art-pop melodist Phia searches for home and finds her sound.
Luscious layers of harmonies, rambunctious vocal percussion and vivid pop sensibilities collide with raw and affecting lyricism to create a remarkably self-assured and genre-defying listening experience. Having just returned to her hometown of Melbourne after 5 years in Berlin, the 11-track LP will be released on Friday 26 August 2016 via Labelship.
Trained from a young age as a jazz virtuosa, Phia combines a formidable musical pedagogy with her passion for telling stories. “I grew up listening to Bill Evans and The Beatles, and both have had a significant influence on me,” she says.
In 2011 Phia relinquished a blossoming piano career in Melbourne and bought a one-way ticket to Berlin with her partner and collaborator, Joshua Teicher. This leap into the unknown led Phia and her songs around the world, where she honed her truly remarkable live show across hundreds of performances – from bars in Southern Italy, to fisherman’s villages in Iceland and major music festivals in Germany.
On ‘The Ocean of Everything’, Phia’s weaves a patchwork landscape of imagery, memories and reflections as she searched for her identity in her new home of Europe, which was also the home of her ancestors. The lush ‘So Far, So Close’ sees her tracing the steps of her grandparents through modern-day Berlin, and latter-day lullaby ‘Red Bicycles’ finds Phia creating an inventory of all the things, from the mundane to the sublime, which make up a life. Melodically and rhythmically complex, yet brimming with accessible pop hooks, Phia’s inspired arrangements border on the orchestral, revealing a luminous creative spark.
Woven through ‘The Ocean of Everything’ is the hypnotic sound of the African kalimba: an instrument made of wood and metal, and not much bigger than a postcard. An unusual accompaniment choice for a singer-songwriter, Phia picked up the kalimba in 2010 and never looked back. “I find the limitations of the instrument very empowering. When I played the piano, there was this temptation to put lots of complex and clever chords in my songs, but with the kalimba I’m forced to strip everything back and focus on what’s really important – lyrics and melody.”
On stage Phia commands an astounding solo show. Running her kalimba through effect pedals and loops, she layers intricate melody lines with vocal persussion and her distinctive voice. Word started to spread. Rolling Stone Germany stated they have “…great expectations for Phia’s debut album”, and Artrocker Magazine UK sang her praises, declaring, “From ‘Later with Jools [Holland]’ to Festival Hall, it is not difficult to imagine Phia playing them all.” Phia found time to appear on Germany’s TV Noir and Australia’s Spicks & Specks, amid near-constant touring.
When it came to find a producer for ‘The Ocean of Everything’, Phia looked no further than her partner Joshua Teicher – guitarist, composer and multi-instrumentalist. Having met almost 10 years earlier as students at the illustrious Victorian College of the Arts, the two had performed together in a number of bands back in Australia, but after moving to Berlin Phia’s musical project had been a completely solo affair. “I loved the anonymity of living in a new city, being a solo artist was so liberating”, she explains. “But once I was ready to start collaborating again, working with Josh was such an organic progression. He had been watching in the wings as I developed this entirely new sound for myself, and was able to manifest my vision for the album in an incredibly intuitive way.”
As their first experiment, the pair decked out an old WWII bunker in Kreuzberg, running Phia’s kalimba through a chain of guitar amps and utilising the natural reverb of the space. Their challenge was to capture the energy of Phia’s enrapturing, now trademark live sound. Astonishingly, some of the takes from these early demo sessions made it into many of the album’s final tracks, including debut single ‘Do You Ever’, a bouncy, explosive instant-classic about teenage love with a sing-along chorus.
Many subsequent hours were spent in one of the city’s most infamous recording studios, Funkhaus Berlin. Previously a state radio broadcasting complex, it’s now a half-used, half-abandoned studio in the factory district of former East Berlin. As days dissolved into long nights, the pair could be found back in their home studio, huddled over synths, casios and laptops as they crafted and recrafted the sound. “When he gets stuck into something, Josh has a relentless and uncompromising creativity. We worked together to create a vivid tapestry of sounds and samples, with Josh cutting things up and putting it all back together... He carried some of the live arrangements into completely new territory, but through it all he was always serving the integrity of the song”, she says.
The next step was the mixing and for this, Phia went big. “I sent an email to my dream mixing engineer: Eli Crews from the U.S, who has worked with Tune-Yards, Deerhoof, Dear Reader and many more… and it was such a thrill when he wrote back.”
‘The Ocean of Everything’ is an album of breathtaking beauty and joy, capturing Phia’s fascination and curiousity in the world around her and inside of her, with the pure sound of her kalimba enhanced by electric guitar lines, deep synth bass and beats. Don’t miss an incomparable and exciting new talent on the rise.
“Heartstrings' is bright, catchy as hell pop done with absolute surety from Phia." Double J
“[Heartstrings] is a bundle of joy.” Dom Alessio, Triple J
"Charming as hell." Gen Fricker, Triple J
- Rolling Stone Magazine (Germany) has “...great expectations for Phia’s debut album”.
- Featured in Artrocker’s (UK) top 6 acts of Focus Wales 2015. “International pick is Phia aka Sophia Exiner who comes from Melbourne (AUS) via Berlin. A live- looping frenzy of percussive hands, vocal beauty and the oddity that is the African kalimba. A lovely and clearly a very exportable proposition. From Later with Jools to the Festival Hall, it is not difficult to imagine Phia playing them all.”
- “Sophia Exiner is one of the most underrated of Australia's musical exports. Under her stage name Phia, Exiner creates lush, hypnotic pop music with beatboxing, a loop-pedal, a kalimba and silky smooth vocals reminiscent of Regina Spektor. Her latest single "Do You Ever?" is a perfect representation of her skills: a bouncy, explosive song about teenage love and "kissing in-between class," laden with the sorts of jerky beats and lush vocals that are bound to make it a hit." IndieShuffle (2013)
- “...Probably the most appealing thing Phia does on “Do You Ever?” is the way she keeps her cadence & pitch in a constant state of flux. Moving from quirky falsettos, deeper tones and back to her normal singing voice, it’s clear that keeping her music in the normal realm of what pop music is supposed to sound like, just isn’t in the cards for Phia. It’s for this simple reason why we think “Do You Ever?” will definitely catch on with listeners.” Hilly Dilly (2013)
- Sounds Australia: “Phia has been getting a lot of attention here in Berlin... and the room is currently 100% spellbound with her right now.”
- Named a highlight of the 2016 Sydney Road Street Party by The Age.
- Appearance on national television in Australia 2014 (Spicks & Specks) and Germany 2013 (TV Noir)
- Invited to Fusion Festival (Germany) 3 years in a row (2013, 2014, 2015)
- Berlin Festival 2015 (GER)
- Melt Festival 2015 (GER)
- Karneval der Kulturen 2015 (GER)
- Fete De La Musique 2015 (GER)
- First We Take Berlin 2014 (GER)
- Berlin Music Week 2013 (GER)
- Warsaw Music Week 2013 (POL)
- Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011 (AUS)
For management contact Kai-Uwe Müller at firstname.lastname@example.org,
for Australian and other inquiries contact Phia at email@example.com