When you’re an independent artist you have to make a lot of sacrifices for your art. You have to decide what means more to the project while trying to stick a really strict budget. For AYA YVES, live performance is where the heart of the project lives. 

The Byron Bay based artist has recently released her sophomore EP “serotonin & forget me nots” which was her long-awaited follow up to her 2021 debut EP “What We Look Like With The Light On”. This body of work was darker than its predecessor as it dealt with the raw emotions surrounding grief. Introspective, vulnerable and captivating, are just some of the words you could use to describe how powerful this collection of songs is. As a standalone body of work it’s genuinely magical, but it was also made (and deserves) to be experienced live. 

Currently on her first national tour, AYA YVES has taken a financial risk to bring her theatrical alt-pop show to life. By the time we chat she is halfway through the run of dates, and the reactions have been nothing but outstanding. With comparisons to Florence + The Machine, Maggie Rogers, and an early Joni Mitchell, the comment that keeps being made is “this deserves to be in arena’s and stadiums”. 

As she takes to the stage in Sydney at the Lansdowne Hotel, I immediately see these comparisons and agree. During the hour-long show she has you dancing, smiling, crying, swaying and jumping through a setlist of all originals from her two EP’s, one new track, and a cover of The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition”. She is accompanied by a band, a dancer, and an impressive lighting rig that immediately bring you into her sonical world. I found my mouth open for the majority of the set in awe of the raw talent she was showcasing. 

In-between the chaos of the tour, I had a chat with AYA YVES about the realities of being an independent artist on an ambitious tour like this one, as well as explored the world she wanted to create with “serotonin & forget me nots”  Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your new EP “serotonin & forget me nots” is out now, and it’s a beautifully vulnerable body of work that continues the bold introduction of your debut EP “What We Look Like With The Light On”. When you were working on this EP, were you already visioning how it would translate to the live stage, and just what it would exactly bring and feel to perform it?

AYA YVES: Vulnerable is always my goal – so thank you! Yeah, absolutely. The live aspect is the biggest piece of the puzzle for me, so it was really important for that to feel really solid. The opening track ‘vertigo’, I got my drummer Ethan to come into the studio and track the drums live because I really wanted to capture that energy. Even when we were writing the song I was saying to Pat & Sara (my co-writers) that it was going to the show opener so we were working towards something that felt right for that. 

TB: From playing the early dates on this tour already, what is something you’ve learnt about the show that you have already or are changing/adapting for the next couple of dates?

AY: I’ve learnt that dramatic sleeves can get caught on guitars, and that wireless mics are my best friend – we almost had a bit of an accident at our Black Bear show. I’ve also learnt that it is imperative to have an emergency sewing kit, and a backup outfit. The first show my zip completely broke 10 minutes before going out on stage and I had to get sewn in. 

TB: What song in the live show has surprised you with the audience’s reaction or connection to it? Or the way it feels when you perform it live?

AY: I think a good marker is the songs people want to film a bit of a snippet of – and when I look back at instagram stories the song that people film the most is ‘unfortunate fools’ – which is a bit of a surprise to me only because it wasn’t a single or anything. It’s one of mine and the band’s favourites to perform live, it feels so mystical and big and beautiful. 

TB: Your live show is a magical, theatrical and intimate experience that people have already described as, “this deserves to be in stadiums”. From attending gigs yourself, what are some shows you’ve attended that have inspired this show and how you approach performing?

AY: It’s honestly crazy to me that people say that, but also inspiring because I don’t want to let them down. I think every show I attend can teach me something – things I want to incorporate, or things I need to change about my own setup. Some big inspirations in a live space have been Biig Piig, Maggie Rogers, Florence & The Machine, Bon Iver and locally – Genesis Owusu. I love how he just steps into the theatrical space and doesn’t shy away from it. 

TB: Some independent artists are all about embracing technology to find ways to grow and find their audience, but in some ways you’re the anti 2023 popstar as you’ve gone back to finding people in a more hands on way. You’ve been going out and flyering your own show and talking to people to convince them to come. How have you found people have reacted to this style of personal pitch for a gig? Have you found much success in conversions through doing this?

AY: I want a t-shirt that says anti 2023 popstar now! Look, I think technology can play a big part and I’m not completely ignoring it – but I spend way too much time on my phone already – and a lot of the time it feels like I’m screaming into the abyss and it can make me feel like nobody cares. I just wanted to return an element of human connection to it because it’s easy to forget that behind ads for a new album, there’s a sensitive artist who’s spent all of their love and energy on making that body of work.

Honestly, people are really receptive to it. I think for every 100 flyers I hand out, there’s 1 person who is completely disinterested – and those odds are something I’m willing to take! It definitely pique’s people’s interest when there’s someone backing themselves so hard that they’re willing to talk to strangers about it. If you put yourself out there with a smile and explain why you’re doing what you’re doing – you’ll find that most people want to support you. People respect hard work. 

TB: Doing an approach like this is quite daunting, and facing rejection or disinterest face-to-face is quite confronting definitely when it’s about something very personal to you. So how do you make sure you look after yourself during these moments, and recharge after putting yourself out there like this?

AY: Honestly, most people have been super supportive and kind. There are always a few people who react in interesting ways, but I’ve spent years of my life working in sales and I used to work as a club promoter back when I lived in Canada. You just have to know it’s not personal, and at the end of the day if those people don’t come to my show – they’re the ones missing out. I do find the days after flyering I feel quite low on energy so I take some time to stay in, watch a movie and cuddle my cat & recharge. 

TB: Touring is expensive so what went into the decision making to go ahead with the production value the size it is? Were there any scale downs made? Or were there any things you were going to cut out financially but decided to make a loss on to create the show you want?

AY: I definitely had to pick and choose which shows I could afford to have the full band & dancers for – but regardless we worked really hard on making sure the show felt big & full regardless of the setup. When working on an indie budget you learn to be flexible. For example – I can’t have a lighting person at every show, so I write a more or less detailed brief depending on the venue capabilities for whoever has access to the lighting desk on the night. Sometimes it means that brief says ‘pink’ or ‘blue’ and sometimes it means I get to say ‘I want it to feel like a sunrise’. And look, it’s my first tour – if I break even at the end then that is a huge success!

TB: For the Sydney show on this tour you will be adding a dancer to the production with choreography performed between you and him. For you, what does this visual and artistic adaptation bring to the show?

AY: I’m so excited. I love having him on stage – he’s absolutely mesmerising. It adds another layer of emotion & expression which I think goes a really long way. The first time I saw Nick dance was on set for a music video of mine and I just knew I had to have him be part of the show. He also believes in what we’re doing with such ferocity – it’s so inspiring to have him around. 

TB: I was recently talking to VERITE about the realities of touring internationally as an independent artist, and she was explaining how if she wants to tour outside of America she needs to be realistic and probably start with a solo or duo stripped back tour first. Have you thought about how/if you could take a verison of this show on the road in different markets and introduce your music to a global audience in the live domain, or is that a luxury you can’t even entertain at the moment?

AY: It definitely is something I’ve been looking at and seeing what we could do. We’ve already toyed with different setups live for support slots – the one that feels the best without compromising too much is a trio, so once we start heading overseas that’s what I’ll be aiming for. I’m hoping to get us over to Europe next year!

TB: What legacy do you want the “serotonin & forget me nots” era to leave behind?

AY: I want people to know that grieving and healing is messy and beautiful all at the same time. That strength is something we all carry and can find when we need to. I also want people to know that we just put on a really damn cool show! We’ve worked hard with the band to shape the set in a way that we take you through the spectrum of emotions. Emotions are good. That’s the underlying legacy I think.


Thursday 25 May – UC HUB, Canberra

Saturday 27 May – The Leadbeater Hotel, Melbourne