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“It’s Complicated”: Eves Karydas On Self-Worth, Existing Online & Accidentally Writing A Pandemic Anthem

Casting our minds back to mid-2020 is a daunting prospect. For most of us, it’s a time we’d sooner forget, but for Eves Karydas it was a rare moment in which things were perfectly aligned.

The Cairns-born songstress admits that her breakthrough smash-hit ‘Complicated’ may not have worked so well had the release come at any other time, but dropping it in the middle of a pandemic, when shit really was “so fucking complicated” elevated it from little ditty to full-blown anthem, almost overnight.

It’s fitting that ‘Complicated’ opens Eves’ EP Reruns, a collection of six perfect, shimmery pop songs, each one refreshingly honest, and drenched in early-naughties, Aussie pop vibes. I caught up with Eves ahead of the release, where we talked all things life, love and Reruns – a title chosen to convey the feeling of being stuck, and which, somewhat ironically, will be the very thing that propels her forward.

MF: Congratulations on Reruns, I already know I’m going to be playing it obsessively for months. The release is so close now, how are you feeling?

EK: I’m feeling kind of relieved. It’s been such a long lead up, and I didn’t really know I was making an EP, like even when I dropped ‘Complicated’, and even ‘Get Me So High’. It wasn’t until the end of the year that I thought, maybe I should put these into a little collection of songs just ‘cause there was a pretty clear theme running through it?! Like, I don’t know! It’s weird! I’m excited. Covid has just kind of warped my brain.

MF: Right! I’m always interested to know what these few days are like around a release. You take something you’ve worked so hard on, and that is so personal to you, and you flip a switch and suddenly it doesn’t belong just to you anymore. Is that scary?

EK: It’s definitely not as exciting as a lot of people think it is, in that lead-up. Well for me personally, I think I just always overthink everything. Especially in the past, and I think over the last year, maybe just because of what’s happened in the world, huge parts of this job have disappeared, and I feel sort of detached from everything going on in my career. I feel way more chill about this than I ever have with a release before, which I think is really healthy!

MF: I feel like not having the usual lead up to a release now must be pretty tough – you’d normally have a lot of public interaction and play a lot of shows. Instead, you have to rely more heavily on social media to connect with people, which means you see their reactions in a really immediate and unfiltered way. How do you handle the trickier sides of that, and the never-ending stream of comments and opinions?

EK: Ohhhh, yeah, this has been a big point of discussion within my team, and even with artist friends of mine. And I’ve found it really interesting the way that Lorde came out and kind of just denounced being online, and then I think Lana Del Rey followed – not because Lorde did it, but you know – I think even Britney just did it for a bit as well? I think she’s back on now. But it is kind of frustrating because they’re obviously huge artists and their careers can survive whether they’re on there or not? So, it’s refreshing seeing them do that, but also frustrating because it’s like, oh I wish, I WISH I could do that. Especially during the pandemic, I don’t know how else anyone’s ever going to know that I’m putting music out if I’m not online. But my relationship with being online is VERY unhealthy. And it’s not that I’m obsessed with it, it’s that I’ve almost become afraid of being online, you know?

MF: Totally, I guess it’s kind of a necessary evil?

EK: Yeah! It’s such a new thing for me because I used to get really excited about reading comments and you know; people talk about that dopamine hit when you open Instagram and see the little notification thing. I’ve trained my eye to not even look at that, because I’m so scared of it.

MF: … that’s pretty fucking awful.

EK: It’s weird! I think it all stems from earlier in the year, I definitely started to notice a shift in the way I was being treated online. Especially by men, and it really kind of scarred me. And when I started to speak out, I was like, you can’t talk to women like this online. I would then get even worse comments!

MF: So, what were some of the comments you were getting?

EK: You know, over the years it would be comments like, rating you out of ten, or they would tag their friends and put like the squirt emoji, or the eggplant – I don’t know…

MF: Right, just being completely disgusting…

EK: Yeah yeah, but then it started to filter into like the DMs I was getting. People just being incredibly inappropriate. And then it turned into something even worse, where I was getting shamed by some men, you know saying things like “you don’t have to show skin just to sell yourself” or you know, “you don’t have to degrade yourself just to sell records” blah blah blah. And that to me was even worse because I was like, it’s literally not for you!

MF: And you can’t win! Billie Eilish spoke about this recently, she said, “we can sexualise ourselves; we just don’t want you to.” Something I admire in you is the way you do champion women feeling that freedom over their bodies and their image, and if we choose to be sexual then that’s our right. And in that, you always seem so confident, but do you ever have days where you don’t feel so great?

EK: Yeah, I do. I mean it feels weird to say that in this sort of sphere because I always try to be pretty positive. But I can’t like, my sense of self-worth has become this really kind of, complicated beast lately. Probably because so much of my job has turned online, seeing the comments and responses like that, and it’s really hard to block that out. Even though in my heart I’m so for like, women empowering themselves through embracing their bodies if they want to or not. But yeah, I have a lot of days where I question myself, and I’m like, am I crazy? (laughs)

MF: How do you get your head right on those days?

EK: The thing with self-worth that I have learnt, is that self-criticism is so aggressive, you have to be aggressive back in the positive sense. And it almost feels silly, but I write down all the good things I like about myself. But you almost have to go over it and over it aggressively just to make it neutral (laughs) But yeah, I think also just having good people around me, and people that believe in my vision and how I see myself. I think that’s the biggest thing of all.

MF: Let’s get into a bit of a deep dive on the music because I’m really excited having just heard the EP. You open it with ‘Complicated’, and what an incredible ride you’ve had with that song. What does it mean to you now?

EK: It was unexpected, the success of that! I always thought it was a really good song, but I couldn’t have planned for it taking on the new meaning that it did because of the lockdowns and the pandemic last year. And I’m like, I don’t know – IS that why it did so well? I don’t know! (laughs) But I think a lot of people did hear that on the radio and were like, “yeah things are fucking complicated.”

MF: I certainly did!

EK: (Laughs) No, I’m really proud of it! It’s really cool having something connect in a moment? Rather than, I think previous songs of mine that have done well weren’t really tied to a moment in history or like, I don’t know (laughs).

MF: I don’t imagine that happens very often!

EK: No! I think it’s interesting how art and music works, and I look at that sometimes and you look at why certain songs take off and it’s like, that couldn’t have taken off in any other year.

MF: The big theme in Reruns is a relationship that just isn’t working. Can you tell me a bit about your headspace when you were writing these songs?

EK: Well, I think mostly, the last few years have been what I call, growing pains? Sort of moving out of my early twenties, moving out of that idealistic age, where you think there are no consequences? When you’re in your early twenties you think the world, like, literally revolves around your age group. And you think it’s the most important age there is?

(Laughs) Growing out of that, I just had to reckon with a lot of parts of myself. There were things I did that I wasn’t super proud of, there were situations I definitely could have handled better. But then there were also a lot of moments where I just loved really hard, or I threw myself at someone in such a pure way, that it was just so big. And I don’t know, I think the whole EP is just a document of my growth, and feeling conflicted about who I am, addressing my mental health probably for the first time in my life. There are underlying themes of all the stuff, a lot of it’s addressed through love songs, but I like that it’s all rooted in this sense of like, who am I, how did I get to where I am right now, and like, (laughs) what can I change about myself to make my life a little easier.

MF: ‘Lemonade’ has my favourite lyric, which is “I keep throwing sugar your way, but we never make lemonade. Why’d I try so hard when you let the love get so sour?” Um, that’s my life (laughs). Are there moments for you when you know a relationship just isn’t serving you anymore?

EK: Yeah! Maybe I’m better at recognising that now than I was a few years ago. I used to cling on to things, I used to live in the past a lot? Especially then in my early twenties. My first record Summerskin was written about my first proper serious relationship, and I thought that was a forever thing, and then it didn’t work out. It’s funny because now I feel so detached from it that I can talk about it in a normal way. I’m not upset about it at all anymore, but there was a really long period of time where I just, I didn’t miss the relationship, I missed the feeling of it. I lived in the past and I hung on to things, and I used it to compare where I was at at the time, and people I was seeing at the time. And it wasn’t healthy! But now, I’m in a very wonderful relationship now, and I needed to go through all that I think to be able to be in this, and be where I am.

MF: I think that’s why I find ‘Cardboard Box’ particularly heartbreaking, because it really shows that a once-great love can end up seeming so small?

EK: It’s funny because I think people think it’s about something current and I’m like, no! (Laughs) I’m in a really good place now! I absolutely love that song, it’s one of my favourites on the EP. I think I just find looking back on those things with perspective really interesting, and I feel kind of proud of myself being able to look back on it and being able to write a song about it and turn it into something I really love. It’s a special song too because my brother’s playing on it! And he’s the one that talked me into playing guitar when I was younger so, I was like “yo, can you like, do some shredding on this?” (laughs) and he did, and I just absolutely love it! So yeah, it’s a really beautiful song and I haven’t really had a song like that in my career so far.

MF: It’s gorgeous, and you and Hauskey sound magical together. How did that collab happen?

EK: When I wrote it, he had a song that was going off on triple j, and I kept hearing his voice and I just wanted a different perspective on the song. So, I just hit him up on Instagram, I think…

MF: (laughs) Slid into the DMs?

EK: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Like super casual. (laughs) And we’ve never met, which is so funny.

MF: Still now?!

EK: No! Because every time like I had a trip to Sydney or something, it got cancelled because of the lockdown. It never really worked out.

MF: The sound of the EP to me was very reminiscent of Aussie pop in the early naughties, which really is the best in my opinion. Was that intentional?

EK: This EP didn’t have an overarching sonic palette when I was making it, because I didn’t really know I was making a body of work, like straight away? It just felt like a new era, and that new era for me was really tied to guitar which I hadn’t used in a very long time. I think there’s like a single guitar on Summerskin which is funny, but I think there’s guitar on every one of these songs. I don’t know! I was listening to like, Nelly Furtado (laughs), Kasey Musgraves, even early John Mayer. So yeah, there’s definitely some influence in that early naughties sound for sure.

Eves Karydas’ ‘Reruns’ EP is out now.

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