Do It Because You Can: An Interview with Skela

photos by  Archie Blu

photos by Archie Blu

New York native, Skela, has been incredibly busy this year. She has been working on a visual album entitled, Project 10. It features 10 songs and an accompanying 10 music videos. Skela filmed the videos for the album with three of her friends in New York City over a six-day period with a budget that was next to nonexistent. These videos have been released on a biweekly basis, all leading up to the grand finale video “Building You Up.”

I was able to chat with Skela about literature, self-discovery, and her upcoming tour — which features a show at Schubas on Saturday, February 16.

How would you say your music has changed since the release of your debut EP in 2017?

I don’t know that it has changed that much. I still have a really similar way of writing. I kind of use the music that I write to express myself, of course, but I always have the same references in mind — even if I am not necessarily talking about them. For the EP, I was very vocal about the inspiration being a lot of novels that I’ve read over the years.   I have been inspired by authors like Kerouac, Burroughs, Bukowski, and Billy the Kid. The Beat Generation is still one of my favorite literature eras. The thing is, I haven’t stopped reading those types of books. It’s interesting, because I don’t really talk about that anymore, because there is so much going on with the project and that sometimes the inspiration is a little bit more direct.

In terms of the writing process, it’s very similar to all of my music — the new and the old. It’s got the same references and it’s kind of written with a literature lens on everything. Even if they’re from real experiences, the way I see the world is definitely through a book. I feel like my brain is still the same, and hopefully, the music is as good as it was and is as good as it will be because it’s from the same person.

So you’ve talked about your writing process. For this album, did the concept for the videos play any part in your songwriting?

Yes and No. Whenever I write a song like I was saying, it’s through this lens of past experiences, or your imagination, so you kind of see this little music video play out in your head all the time. It’s very visual. So one did affect the other because it’s like this: What do I see? What does my real life look like? How do I turn this song that’s about my real life into something that is, of course, more stylized but still looks like real life? The music video concepts came after the songs, but I still think they affected one another — whether it came afterward or not.

Has your relationship with certain songs changed during/after the video making process?

It was so cathartic to make some of these music videos. It’s like you are trapped in this cocoon when you write a song and it’s just you who is listening to it and working on it. Then, when you are actually able to share it with people, you get to shed that old skin. You finally get to move on. It’s this unbelievable sense of closure. Especially for “I’m Not Hungry.” We shot it in this cemetery that I used to walk through every day to get to and from high school. I love that cemetery, and I think that cemeteries are just very beautiful and timeless. So, It was almost like I stepped back into that timezone of me being a teenager.  

Has your hometown contributed to your sound?

Of course! I’m from Queens, and it has everything and nothing to do with the music. I don’t look at New York as this magical place where artists flee to. You know? It’s just where I’m from. So, that obviously has an impact on everything that I do and everything that I approach in life. All of my experiences took place in Queens, and that might be very different from everyone’s idea of “New York City.” For me, it’s not necessarily a place for artists. It’s literally everything in the world I’ve ever known.  

If your new album was the musical lovechild between two artists who would they be?

That’s really hard. I feel like I don’t want to compliment myself — I’m probably too self-deprecating for this question. I feel like it’s a combination of The 1975, the writing style of Alex G, and probably Christina Aguilera — I learned how to sing by mimicking her vocals.

The music video for “Holy” recently dropped, which is a part of your visual album project. What story did you want to tell with the aesthetics of the video?

“Holy” is like a big bang — if you will. The whole idea of Project 10, which is revealed at the end, is that this entire process was a matter of telling my story. Everyone feels that the genres and the messages of the songs are so different, but that’s because I have many layers and I have many ways of seeing myself. “Holy” was about bringing it back home to be the person that I’ve worked on. It’s about becoming this strong, confident, female who has forged her own path, spearheaded her own project, and has learned to love herself. I wanted that to show through the video and send it off on a good note.

What are you hoping for your fans to take away from this album and the project as a whole?

I hope that they realize that you don’t need anyone to tell you what kind of person to be. The whole concept of Project 10 is: Do it because you can.

4_Skela by Archie Blu (@earthlycruelphotos).jpg

What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming tour?

I am probably most excited about being amongst like-minded people. I feel like anyone who listens to my music, by association, probably has something in common with me. All of the people I talk to, who reach out about the music, are so cool, so nice, and so smart. I wish we could always be in one place. I am excited for the shows to do that — to bring everyone together.

You’re very active in the feminist community, how has collaboration influenced your art?

In every way! Part of me being an adult, and an artist, was unlearning toxic patterns that were taught to me about myself. I grew up in an all-female household, with my mom and my sister, so I’ve always looked to females as friends. I learned to work with the people that love you and support you. It never hurts to be reminded that your true homies are literally standing right next to you.