Up-and-coming alt-pop songstress Theia is a force to be reckoned with. Her bravely emotional songs are contrasted by a sparkly soundscape. It's bubblegum pop with meaning that doesn't come at the detriment of her fun-loving spirit.
Never one to shy away from stigmatized topics, Theia has explored self harm, mental health, and toxic relationships in her songs. Tracks like "Bad Idea" and "Bye Bye" have incredible lyrical depth, and avoid being self-pitying or pedagogic. But Theia's talent perhaps shines most brilliantly in her upbeat songs about self-confidence in the face of challenge, accomplishing the radical act loving yourself when it feels like no one else does. She is always inclusive and her careful consideration of the themes she covers gives her songs a ubiquitous relatability. She's the antidote to the falsity of the one-size-fits-all feminism present in quote-on-quote empowering pop songs. Theia's feminism is intersectional, and it's evident in her work.
Last week, for International Women's Day, Theia released a new music video for her song "Not Your Princess," a danceable jam about rejecting objectification. The video featured clips of nonbinary and femxle identifying individuals of all races, ages, shapes, and sizes rocking out to the infectious tune. It's a perfect manifestation of what Theia represents, a delightful mixture of social commentary and personal experience presented with plenty of vigor, in an almost participatory fashion.
Theia has the personal style and star presence of a budding celebrity, with her trendy yet expertly coordinated outfits and her colorful, 90s-esque shades, but she also has substance, and it's really her ability to fuse together personal experiences, cultural criticism, and universal issues that make her one to watch.
Can you think of an anecdote that sums up the main themes of "Not Your Princess"?
Ha ha, oh my, there are so many anecdotes I could refer to!!! Here’s one - I had a bunch of people contact me to tell me some Kiwi DJ was having a go at me on his Facebook page. To quote him “Theia can fuck right off. Everything that is wrong with music/millennials right now. Heard her interview on … and I wanted to punch the radio. I fear for my daughters. Yeesh." I’d never met the dude; had no idea who he was, but really - he fears for his daughters! C’mon. Anyway, his little rant sparked a tirade of abuse about me as an artist and a bunch of personal attacks too. My manager DM’d him and said, “Hey man, if I had daughters and they grew up to be like Theia, I’d be f’n proud! I am proud!” - He never wrote back. Anyway, I guess that pretty much sums up this song - “I AM NOT YOUR PRINCESS - STAY OUT OF MY BUSINESS”
How did you choose who would be featured in the video?
I wanted like-minded, kick-ass femxle-identifying/nb babes who are slaying in their own individual fields so I went through my Instagram and made a note of all the people who I admired and I started contacting them, asking them if they’d be keen to hear the song and then record themselves for the video, to release on International Women’s Day. Many of them came straight back to me, which was so encouraging. Some couldn’t do it for various reasons but I ended up with around 20 who could and what they’ve done is just so incredible and special. I’m so grateful that they gave their time and talent to the project. It’s so cool to see everyone really getting into the song and its message.
Where did you get the idea for "Not Your Princess"?
I wrote the song when I was in Sydney and feeling really motivated and encouraged by being in a new city and working with new people. I just let loose. It was very liberating. Most of the songs I’ve worked on in the past 12 months - songs like ‘Bye Bye’ and ‘Candy’ have all been pretty sassy, so it was just in keeping with the theme of my new EP, which is also called Not Your Princess and out on April 12.
How would you describe your musical style?
I often refer to it as alt-pop, because it’s definitely got a strong pop vibe, but it’s probably more on the alternative or edgy side of pop than the Top 40 commercial side. I love to layer harmonies, have extremely cutting lyrics and I love an in your face big bass. So it’s a mix of grit and gloss.
When was a time you felt most empowered?
After a few challenging years, in which I struggled to find my feet as an artist and in which I’ve had to deal with quite a bit of scrutiny (see the aforementioned story about the DJ), I feel like I’ve reached a point where I’m much stronger within myself. It’s been a steep learning curve and there have been times when I’ve felt like just giving up, but I’ve always managed to come back even stronger. So I actually feel more empowered right now, than I ever have. I have an amazing team around me, and those are the people I trust and rely on.
What would you tell your younger self?
I’d say, “Brace yourself it’s gonna be a wild ride; but you are strong and you are capable and you will be ok, babygirl!”
Who were your inspirations for "Not Your Princess"?
I’ve been listening to a lot of artists like Brooke Candy, Charli XCX, Princess Nokia, Tommy Genesis, so they’ve definitely influenced my vibe. They’re all very idiosyncratic and provocative in their own way. In terms of the video, I made the official video in my room - it’s me singing into a laptop and my phone DIY-style because I wanted it to be a bit of a play on the notion that the music business is glamorous. The truth is, I write most of my music in my bedroom and I don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a big budget video if I don’t want to or if I have to go into great debt to finish it. Then I had the idea to contact all the amazing babes who feature in the second one for International Women’s Day. I wanted them to also feel free to just film themselves doing their thing in their own spaces - so at home, at work, wherever they felt happy and comfortable.
Why do you think your voice is valuable to the music world?
Everyone’s voice is valuable in whatever area they work/exist/create/live in. But i do also think that if you have a platform such as music to reach greater numbers, and you feel comfortable using it, then you can help others. Last year I released a song called Bad Idea, which was all bout my experience with self harm. For a long time I didn’t want to release the song, because it felt too raw and also like I was giving too much of myself away. But I eventually did because I realized that if I had a song like that when I was younger, it would’ve been so comforting to me. Also, in a general sense, I think it’s refreshing to see artists /people who f*** with themselves and enjoy being in their own skin. The world can be a tough place and so I think being someone who puts themselves and their weirdness out there holds a lot of value to anyone struggling with their identity in both the music world and beyond.
Images used in collage via @theiaofficialxo