Who needs ‘reality’ when you can be like Phoebe Ryan and live your full Adult Swim, candy-colored cartoon fantasy? The singer shares the inspiration behind her wild new video, what she’s been up to in quarantine, and more.
“It’s just a fantasy,” sings Phoebe Ryan at the start of “Reality,” a song that puts the “dream” in dream-pop. In the new track, premiering May 29, Phoebe delivers an anthem for willful ignorance when it comes to affairs of the heart. “I think your phone is dead again / because when I write, you never read it / I’ve made a monster in my head / and all these lies is what I feed it.” With blisteringly honest lyrics and a kaleidoscopic beat, Phoebe has created a marvel of pop music. This song is as sobering as a slap to the face but as enchanting as a drunken Sunday afternoon.
One might feel a bit inebriated after viewing the video, an animated feature that makes an argument for Phoebe should get her own shown on Adult Swim. Plus, in an odd twist of fate, “Reality” is a dream come true for Phoebe. The artist behind this brightly colored and somewhat NSFW video is none other than Richie Brown, a multi-genre artist who has created videos for bands like CHEW, BRICK+MORTAR, and Ben Levin. “I had always wanted to do a video with Richie,” Phoebe tells HollywoodLife in an EXCLUSIVE interview, “because I’ve been a fan of his work for years. If any song on the album was going to be animated, I knew it would be ‘Reality.’ “
“‘Reality’ is about a time in my life where I was very dishonest with myself,” she said in a statement about the video, “trusting people who shouldn’t be trusted, and basically just living a lie because it was far less painful than the truth. I love the lyrics, they’re all straight from my dumb little heart, but I think the production of the song is what really hits me. It’s so upbeat and psychedelic, anthemic, bright, yet sorrowful.”
Phoebe talks about this dichotomy with HollywoodLife. She also reveals the song from At War With The Mystics (the 2006 Flaming Lips album that influenced “Reality) that she would cover, as well as what fans can expect when they get a copy of the dedicated zine she’s putting out with this new song.
HollywoodLife: The video for “Reality” looks like it’s the pilot for the next great Adult Swim show. Did you always want an animated video with the song?
I had always wanted to do a video with Richie Brown (@richiebrowntown) because I’ve been a fan of his work for years. If any song on the album was going to be animated, I knew it would be ‘Reality.’ It just lends itself to a vibe that’s more outside the box, more fantastical.
Speaking of which, what are some of your favorite cartoons/animated features? Have you been binge-watching anything during the shutdown?
I would say it all started with Beavis and Butthead before I was even old enough to understand any of the jokes. I remember being 5 years old and watching that with my brothers whenever our parents left us with a babysitter. I have a looong list of other favorites. I’m a sucker for Adult Swim and Seth MacFarlane. Big Mouth is one of the more recent ones that I think is amazing. But I haven’t been binge-watching anything lately. I spend most of my time playing video games.
“Reality” was inspired by The Flaming Lips’ At War With The Mystics. Your love for the band runs deep. Have you connected with the band? And, with ever artist doing bedroom covers during this time of COVID, which song from Mystics would you pick?
I’ve never connected with them, I’ve just admired from a distance for years. If I was going to cover a song from that album, it would probably be the “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” or “Mr. Ambulance Driver.”
Similarly, “Reality” reminds me of “Do You Realize?” which is this uplifting orchestration about how everyone you know someday will die. “Reality” also marries this wonderfully beachy, sunny production with some intensely sobering lyrics. Was there a moment when you thought about putting these lyrics to a more ‘serious’ sounding song, or was this clever dichotomy always the goal?
I love that song too! When we were working on Reality, I don’t think we had any intention one way or the other. Maybe Big Taste had that vibe in his mind, but the way we work, it feels like everything sort of just happens in a magic way. I also realize that I tend to write mostly sad songs, but my tone can be deceivingly happy. We just roll with it.
You’re also releasing a ‘zine with the song. Were/are you big into ‘zines during their heyday? What inspired this cool addition to the song?
I made my first zine last year for Valentine’s Day, and it was so much fun I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to make another one. My fans love them. We had so much artwork to use from Richie, it just made sense to create something that would be a visual extension of the video and the vibe of the song.
“Reality” is out now.