Eyedress on Lighting up TikTok and His New Album “Mulholland Drive”
- Filipino post-punk artist Eyedress released his new album “Mulholland Drive” in August.
- His track “Jealous” has 100 million streams, 1 million videos on TikTok, and is RIAA gold-certified.
- Insider spoke to Eyedress about his stardom, new project, and his outlook on life.
Filipino multi-instrumentalist known under the moniker Eyedress has had a busy last few years, dictated in large part by the pace of the pandemic, becoming a father, and the thrill of TikTok.
Born in Makati, Philippines, Idris Vicuña is a musical journeyman. He has played in a variety of rock and crust-punk bands globally, infusing synthy, hip-hop flair into his formula.
His track “Jealous,” from his 2020 album “Let’s Skip to the Wedding,” became a TikTok sensation in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly among members of Gen Z. The song, recorded in Eyedress’ bedroom at the time, is an angsty rumination on solace, and it resonated with millions cooped up at home.
“Jealous” now has over a hundred million streams on Spotify, over a million videos using the track on TikTok, and is Recording Industry Association of America gold-certified.
“Something About You,” a bright, joyfully adventurous love song on his fourth and latest album “Mulholland Drive,” released in August, has also gone viral and is replicating “Jealous’s” success. For his 2 million TikTok followers, Eyedress has started doing “how-to” videos, sharing some secret sauce with the fans.
Across Eyedress’s new album, he croons in a whisper or low register, over hazy drums, distorted riffs or twisting guitar countermelodies, fluctuating stylistically between moody soul, energetic rock, and late-night eighties slow jams.
In his growing catalog, there’s something for everyone — from fans of psychedelic SoundCloud rap, to macabre moshers, and daydreaming lovers.
Insider spoke to Eyedress about what inspired the new album and the pieces that make up his kaleidoscopic sound.
It seems you’re always working on something, music videos included.
I mean, I kind of look up to Drake. It’s weird I don’t make that kind of music, but I kind of follow in their footsteps on how they are so constant with their releases and consistent. I always… saw a lot of my favorite bands kind of fall off and I never really wanted that to happen to me because I don’t know. It’s so weird. How could you just stop creating honest music? I don’t know.
Do you feel like now with the kind of music landscape and streaming services, there’s a bigger pressure to put out a lot of music all the time?
I’m always working. I’m always just recording. So for me, there’s no pressure really. But I know what you mean though. We do live in fast times. We consume everything so fast and people’s attention spans seem to be a lot shorter, but I don’t know. I feel like I’m also working at that same pace where my attention span is short and I get over things quickly. I put in effort to make something that’s going to be timeless.
Despite how fast the world is moving I’m not going to put out something that I’m going to regret. So I always try to keep that in mind because I don’t want to be no one hit wonder kind of guy. I want people look back on my music even 20, 50 years from now and they’re like, “Oh, this is so cool.” Because I mean, my music’s not that deep. There’s not too much behind it. It’s just really simple. But I feel like that’s what sticks anyways. A lot of my favorite songs growing up are really simple, two to three chords. So I just try to keep it in that same vein.
And what would you say were the things happening in your life and some of the themes that you were trying to get into on “Mulholland Drive”?
Well, there’s one song called “Brain Dead.” I made that during the stop Asian hate and Black Lives Matter movements. And I just felt as a person of color to speak up about these issues because I’m a socially aware artist. I’m not just in Lala land thinking that there’s no crazy thing going on. There’s so much crazy stuff going on. I try to inject that into my music and at the same time that album was really just about being happy, loving myself because it’s a milestone for me to be able to work with such artists that are on that record. And for me, it was just a happy album. I wanted to follow up my success with “Jealous,” and I just wanted to keep that momentum going without it being some like, “I’m trying to make more money.” So I worked really hard on the songs, but they’re just simple songs. Smoked a lot of weed and pressed record.
And the pandemic is pretty dark, so I wanted to make a bright record because it was like the future was looking pretty grim when I made all the songs. I have a baby, so I try to keep an overall positive outlook as lame as that sounds. But I have to do it because I don’t want my son to grow up into this dark depressing world.
A lot of my old stuff is pretty depressing. So this album I was like, “Well my girl loves me, and my son’s a ball of joy, why would I make any miserable songs?” Yeah. It’s, it’s just the timing of everything I just… it felt right.
For sure. And I wanted to ask you more generally how the pandemic has been for you and your family?
The pandemic is, I think collectively, it was really difficult for a lot of people. And a lot of the times I felt uncertain about every day, but luckily this is the one blessing that happened is that my songs started going viral during the pandemic. That kept me grounded and kept me feeling grateful. Because I know a lot of people are suffering during that time and I was, I mean I wasn’t living it up but I was okay. And now that everyone’s vaxed and shows are coming back, I’m feeling all of that is true. And world’s not ending anytime soon, but…
It had me focusing on being positive because overall it was a very negative experience for everybody. Everyone was out of work and couldn’t do much.
It just forced me to keep it real with myself. Having a baby it’s like being in the hospital during that time was so scary. We even had to wear masks. Even when my girl was giving birth, she had her mask on. They only let me in until she was just about to pop. I was worried my baby could get COVID.
What was your reaction when you saw your song “Jealous” explode on TikTok and rake in over a hundred million streams?
It made me want to cry. For so long in my life, I wanted some sort of moment like this, and I couldn’t have asked for it for a better time. And yeah, I just felt really grateful because I went through a lot before, I was just trying to always believe in myself. And I always felt like that one day something would happen as long as I kept trying. And when it happened, I didn’t even see it coming. And my friends were like, yeah, it’s going to get bigger. You’re going to get a gold plaque. And I’m like, yeah right. And then when that happened, I was like, what the fuck? That was my reaction, like I was super in my feelings.
It feels like pure bliss. It was better than any drug because it was real. I’m glad all the kids are connecting with my music because I’ve put in work for so long. I started working in the industry when I was 22. And I was learning a lot, like playing with bigger bands, not being a bigger band. I was trying to figure out how I could fit into this world. So I’m glad it all worked out because it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Because I would have been fucked because it didn’t happen that way.
And in some of your recent shows in the last few weeks or months, do you feel like there’s like a new extension of your base, of people that have found your music over the last year or two and now are coming out to your shows?
Yeah. There’s just way more people there. I remember I played Riotfest in Chicago. I couldn’t even see how many people were there. I was like, Jesus Christ. Like y’all are all watching this right now? I played the Roxy in LA and it sold out and fucking kids went crazy. They let me stage dive. And it’s crazy when you’re doing those things because I’m like a really negative person.
And I wanted to ask you about your musical ventures in Manila and about your inspirations at an early age. You were involved in different music scenes out there, too, between the US and the Philippines, what was that experience like?
I was born in the Philippines and then I moved to America when I was six. So I was in America basically until I was like 14, but before I left America, I was playing in bands in California. The first band I joined was like a crust punk band. And we covered like, Rudimentary, and Crass. And all our songs were like one minute and really fast. That was cool. But then I met these like indie kids and I was kind of like “you guys are weird and stuff.” So I started hanging out with them and they were making soft music, but it sounded really beautiful. A band that I joined was trying to do Modest Mouse-type stuff.
But then, moved to Manila and I was like 15, and I didn’t know anyone, but I met my best friend who became my bandmate on Myspace because I saw that he liked Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine.
And then ever since we’ve been in a band together and in Manila. I come from that band background, but my best friend put me onto like hip hop beats, weird left-field stuff, like Prefuse 73 and J Dilla and like DJ Shadow. I feel like it was the most futuristic thing. Because they’re like sampling old songs and playing synths on top of it, adding different drums, I just felt like that whole style of production was so different compared to playing in a band and doing everything on tape.
So that’s kind of how it started, I was like, how do I do this rock shit, but in that manner. So I would basically sample myself playing. And I think that’s like what Eyedress music is now. It’s like I’m approaching it from a hip-hop producer’s point of view, but making rock shit. Well not even rock because rock is so heavy. I think I have some heavy songs too, but I don’t ever want to sound rock, like a macho buff guy. I’m the skinny kids who are like, “I’m trying to figure out where I fit.”
That’s amazing. And how was performing in the Philippines?
My first band in the Philippines opened for Mac DeMarco in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Beforehand we were playing in the Philippines for free at bars. Once we did that show with Mac that was the first time I saw someone living my dream, like Mac was doing. And at the time Homeshake was his guitarist. So I also saw Homeshake leave Mac’s band and then pursue his own thing, which really motivated me to really do this. And when I was in Manila, I eventually got signed to a label in the UK called XL Recordings. And they flew me out to London and I was living out there for like a year or two. And that’s how I met King Krule and all those guys.
So that got me even more motivated to really do this because when they signed me, I was just taking over computer-made music. But once I started going to London, I started playing with these other bands who had full-on bands, like two drummers, three backup singers. I was like, how the fuck do I do that? Yeah. It took me a while. This shit took years.
Eventually, I moved to America in 2018, like all that stuff in London happened in like 2013, 2014. And then I got dropped by that label. So I made an album while I wasn’t signed. And that got me signed to the label I’m on right now, Lex Records.
What was your mindset like when you got signed to Lex Records and moved to the US?
That period where I wasn’t signed that like was really like a defining moment for me because I knew I had to do something. Because I was like, shit, I’m still going to be a musician even without a label. Once I got to America, I was already ready. When I got to America, I was playing everything. I was playing for like 500 bucks, I didn’t give a shit. When I moved to LA, it was the first time I lived on my own for real. So I started paying rent and I was sheesh, I can barely afford to live after I pay rent. And then eventually like two years later, that’s when “Jealous” started taking off.
That’s why I was really grateful when “Jealous” took off because I was in LA. Me and my girl, she was pregnant, we were living in a studio apartment. Thank you “Jealous,” and cool kids.
I wanted to ask you too about some of the people that you’ve worked with on the latest album, like Dâm-Funk, King Krule, and Vex Ruffin, and you mentioned they have been people that you’ve looked up to. How has it been collaborating with some of your favorite artists?
Well, say, the Vex Ruffin thing, we connected because he’s Filipino and he’s signed to a label that I’m a fan of. He’s signed to Stones Throw. We just, we got together for the Filipinos. We were like, “Yeah, let’s do this. All the Filipinos are going to be stoked.”
That’s what we were trying to lead, the example we’re trying to take, because I feel like a lot of Filipinos are actually against each other. So we wanted to represent a new kind of Filipino that isn’t trying to fucking destroy each other. And then the stuff with Dâm-Funk. He’s been following me on Twitter since I lived in the Philippines. And I guess when “Jealous: started blowing up, he was like, “It’s time. Brother, let’s go.” I was like, “Bro, I love you.”
It came to that right time and I’ve been looking up to Dâm and he’s always doing this nostalgic G-funk like me, keeping the funk alive. And I always waited for, hopefully, that I’d be able to work with him and that time came when we made “Keep it Real With You.” Now we’re trying to make a music video for that song.
And I’m curious too, in terms of the recording process for “Mulholland Drive,” were you producing everything or did you have some key collaborators?
So yeah the Dâm-Funk song, that was entirely produced by Dâm. I just sang, my girlfriend sings on it. The King Krule song is all produced by him. That album was basically carried by just the features and the guest producers. Because when I had thought of dropping this album, I only had seven songs that I made myself. So having all these other featured artists, they already had these songs, all I had to do was sing on it. So having them give me these instrumentals just made my life a lot easier and it made sense with my situation too because I was having a baby.
But now I’m collaborating more with other artists. They just make the instrumental. And I just sing, because that helps. And I’m also brushing up on my own shit. I’ve just been kind of re-planning my stuff. I’ve been buying gear.
Do you have a busy few months of touring ahead, or shows, or are you, back in the studio?
I’m back in the studio, because I declined a tour that was going to be from October to December. So yeah, I’m just working on the future because all I do is worry about how my son’s going to be living in the next five, 10 years.
Do you have an idea of what you want to embody on the next album?
“Mulholland Drive” sounds like all the bands I listened to growing up. So, I feel like I’m just revisiting because I feel a lot of those bands don’t even make this style of music anymore. So, I’m just trying to keep that alive.
All the shit I made, I was trying to sound like old stuff, because that to me, is the most timeless stuff. Now, a lot of the music we consume is about infidelity and being this demon.
I’m like, sheesh, I hope this is not what all the kids are like. I’m pretty sure there’s still people who want to get married and stuff, in the world. I just try to make the opposite of that because the funny thing is I consume all that music too.
Yeah, you can hear that range on your new album and in general, it seems like you genuinely make a lot of what you’ve enjoyed listening to.
Yeah, because a lot of my peers were purists and they’re like, “Oh we can only make this stuff.” Because that other shit is corny. I’m like, “What do you mean? I like this stuff too.” So I feel like, you know how the old head mentality is, “Oh I hate mumble rap.” But I like Playboy Carti, what are you talking about? I like it all, because I grew up on TRL, and I feel like the countdown always had a mixture of like different genres. So I feel like, I’m just trying to make everything I like in one album.