ieuan Thinks "VIRTUAL REALITY" Has Us Trapped in a Simulation [PREMIERE + Q&A]
We live in a crazy world at the moment. Between celebrity politicians and self-driving cars, sometimes it's hard to tell if everything happening around us is real or if we're living in some sort of wild simulation. Young electro-pop mastermind ieuan thinks we might be - and he's got just the music for the ride.
San Francisco-born and now London-based, this fresh singer/producer has been on the rise tackling topics like LGBTQ+ love, loss, religion and youthful angst via sultry, synth-drenched bangers that might be on the playlist of that exclusive, invite-only nightclub downtown. Having shared the stage with artists like Charlotte Lawrence and Elijah Daniels, and even finding himself playing events such as San Francisco Pride, ieaun is starting to make waves with pop fans globally.
Ahead of the release of his EP Childstar, ieuan sat down with Ones to Watch to exclusively premiere his latest single, "VIRTUAL REALITY," as well as talk Black Mirror, growing up gay, and Joe Biden.
OTW: Hey ieuan, thanks for sitting down with me.
ieuan: No problem. It's a nice break from making Frappuccinos. I'm working at the Harry Potter exhibition in North London right now to fill my time since I finished the EP.
OTW: Oh no way, I'm a huge Harry Potter nerd.
ieuan: Yeah, it's hard because I really, really loved it growing up, but when the music is on all day and people keep asking me where to buy butter beer it kind of leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
OTW: Haha, I totally understand that. But you're California born, right?
ieuan: Yes sir, I'm from San Francisco.
OTW: What had you make the move to London?
ieuan: Well, my whole family is English. My mom and dad are from the UK, and they're the only people in my entire family to not live here. And so we sort of had a bit of a childhood here - when I was little we spent a few years here before moving back to San Francisco. I just always wanted to come back, and I had the opportunity to study here for university so I've been in London about a year. Yeah.
OTW: Oh nice, what university are you studying at?
ieuan: Well it was University of East London. But I got kicked out.
OTW: Ohhhhhhh shit! What happened?
ieuan: Basically, everything started heating up as I moved here, I got proper management and started spending more time in sessions and meetings than going to class, and because I'm an international student they thought I was just trying to trying to get a visa. So they kicked me out. It wasn't because I was just like, too lazy to go, but I was spending my time making music instead of learning stuff I already know, if that make sense.
OTW: For sure, that makes a lot of sense to me.
ieuan: But it's quite funny to tell people I got kicked out of school, haha. I love doing it.
OTW: Well, since you got kicked out for doing music stuff, I suppose we should talk about your new track "VIRTUAL REALITY." Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for the track?
ieuan: Yeah. About a year ago, after I released my last mixtape Over the Garden Wall, I was kind of like, "Alright, where do I go from here?" At the time I was binge watching Black Mirror, like I think that shit is fantastic. I was really, really, really inspired by the perspective and obscurity behind each episode and how every one was different but they all have this underlying theme of "ah, technology is scary, ahhhh!" And so, I was going to the studio with this storyline I had in mind for the EP and I was like, "What goes better with the theme of dystopian technology than this world where everybody lives in VR instead of real life?" So yeah, it was really just like Black Mirror, and I was listening to a lot of electronic records at the time, so they both sort of came together to create that song.
OTW: Makes sense. What are some of the more unbelievable things you've seen happen in modern times that draw the comparison between your project and Black Mirror?
ieuan: Ummm, hmm. Oh my god! Here's one. I take the train a lot in London, I work an hour and a half away, so I'm on the train quite a bit. I will literally see parents on their phones and like all that shit while their kids are running around screaming. I saw this kid like hurt himself so badly and his mom just did not care. This girl was too busy watching Facebook videos and playing Candy Crush to notice that her child cut himself up. Like that is ridiculous. Black Mirror shit.
OTW: Damn, that's crazy. On an unrelated note, your publicist said that you're homies with Joe Biden?
ieuan: Oh my god yessssss!! I love.
OTW: I gotta know how that happened.
ieuan: My life is fucking ridiculous, let me tell you. I was at my boyfriend at the time's theater show on the East Coast, in Wilmington, DE, which is where Joe Biden is from. My boyfriend was always flexing like "yeah, I'm from the town where Joe Biden is from" and I was always like "yeah, whatever." And then I was at this play, and we invited a few of our friends from DC to come see it, so we were all there together. One of the girls was very quiet so I started talking to her, and I was like, "What's your name?" and she was like, "Maisie." And I said, "Oh, Maisie what?" and she was like, "Biden" and I was like *gasp!!!* She was like the dopest girl ever, and she invited us all to stay over at her grandpa's house that night. She was Joe Biden's granddaughter. It was the most surreal... if you weren't there, you wouldn't believe it. We roll up, and there's like security and a private lake and all that, and then we walk in and there's just Joe Biden sitting there in a black turtle neck. I really wanted him to be like "Hello, my fellow Americans!" and all that but the things he said really shook me. He was like "Hey guys, I bought you donuts and orange juice for the morning. Let me give you a house tour." He took us to the basement and the first thing I see is a Migos music video on a projector. Like bro, where the fuck where am I?
OTW: Black Mirror, man.
ieuan: Oh my god, you're so right. What if it's a simulation, and I'm making it all up? But yeah, it was absolutely insane. He was such a nice guy.
OTW: Well that's good, I like to hear that. So you mention that you were in Biden's hometown because you were visiting your boyfriend at the time. You've been a pretty outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, can you talk a little bit about how your sexuality and experiences thus far have affected your music?
ieuan: Yeah. Well, I came out when I was eleven.
OTW: Oh wow! Quite early.
ieuan: Yeah, so I was really, really young. I think because I came out so early - must've been like 2010 or something, it was a little bit before Born This Way by Lady Gaga came out - you didn't know many gay people.
OTW: Or didn't know you knew many gay people.
ieuan: Exactly. And like, I just had a really strange, gay childhood. I don't know many people who have had a gay childhood. It inspired me to put some of that strange energy into my songs. I'm really glad that nowadays kids can come out at whatever age they want and people are supportive. It was very, very weird at the time. It led to me sort of seeing a lot more than any other 11-year-old would. I just figured it out so early. I don't know, when I came to music I felt like it was a similar thing. This isn't going to make any sense, but whatever, ahaha.
OTW: All good! You've performed at some functions benefiting the community as well, like San Francisco Pride.
ieuan: Yeah, that was insane.
How do you think other LGBTQ+ musicians, or allies even, can do things like that to benefit the community?
ieuan: Well, I think it just depends what you're doing it for. Like for me, I don't sit down to write music and say "this is for x." I was just making sure that my music is a sonic projection of my personality. I am gay, and I am quite energetic, and the way the community responded to that ultimately sort of led to performing at pride being a very obvious decision. I think as long as you're not sacrificing the thing that makes you special, you will get to where you want to be.
OTW: For sure. Last question on this subject, I suppose. Both San Francisco and London have pretty iconic gay scenes. How do they compare?
ieuan: Haha, yes they do! They're very, very different. London is a lot more young. The gay scene is a lot more like 18-to-25-year-olds. Back in San Francisco I feel like it's a lot more mature. You'll see 50-year-old, married gay couples walking around going to art museums. It's two different scenes. Over here in London, you'll go out to Heaven or something and it's just packed with gay kids, but then in San Francisco it's all "let's go to the art museum!"
OTW: Well, back onto music - you just finished your Childstar EP, but you also released an album called TECHNICOLOUR Vol. 1?
ieuan: Yes sir.
OTW: That's a lot of content for one one year. Where do you find the inspiration?
ieuan: Um, well I think if I'm not creating like 24/7 I lose my mind. I'm a severe workaholic, I get that from my mum. I've just been listening to so much music, music from my childhood and albums that I never thought I'd listen to. It inspires me to like, literally never put the pen down, if that makes sense. I feel like I'm wasting my time if I'm not writing new music or producing or thinking about new visuals. That album was sort of a collection of the things I've been doing for the past three years.
OTW: Can we expect a Vol. 2 at some point?
ieuan: Oh absolutely. It depends if I'm not gonna sleep for another three years which I plan on doing anyways.
OTW: Well sweet, all the better for us. If you could form a supergroup with any artists living or dead, who would they be and what would you call yourselves.
ieuan: Haha, I think that may be the best question I've ever been asked. Oh my gosh. Okay. Me, Robyn, and Travis Scott, and we're gonna be called The Robosluts. That's my dream. We all use autotune, it's insane. I would be the leader of course.
OTW: The head slut?
ieuan: Yes, the head thot.
OTW: Excellent, haha. Well, last question - who are your Ones to Watch?
ieuan: The first one off the top of my head is Instupendo, he's sick. Must be 19 or 20. He makes this insane electronic-lullaby-dance-ambient music. It's really, really beautiful, and I literally put it on repeat for my Animal Crossing and Pokémon sessions. If you're trying to sleep and dream about some cool shit, you definitely have to put him on. Absolutely. There's also this boy called That Kid. I think his real name is Spencer. He makes this really sick gay, ecstasy-fueled dance pop. Those two are my go-tos right now. Oh! And I can't not mention my boy Jesse Saint John. He is a dream to work with. I don't think I've met anybody in the last five years who is as supportive and loving and caring as that person. And we've only met once, when we performed together in LA. He writes for other artists but his own music is just brilliant.
OTW: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.
ieuan: My pleasure. I hope this hasn't been too embarrassing for me!