Saturday, July 10, 2021

Indie Rock and TikTok: Fagan talks up his new single, ‘Seventeen’

Up and coming Merseyside indie rocker and TikTok star has fed fans another glimpse at future gigs with new single, ‘Seventeen’. Fagan has well and truly rode the TikTok wave with charming and humorous skill to reach out to fans of the indie genre. His progressive and self-effacing approach to self-promotion is an admirable skill that ought to be followed by new musicians.

With echoing similarities to the early Arctic Monkeys and The Sherlocks, Fagan is an obvious recommendation for any indie music lover.

 ‘Seventeen’ offers a 3 minute memory of being at the breach of youth again, staring back with a regretful lens at experiences that, once upon a time, would seem so simple.

To commemorate the release of Fagan’s new single, Music Is To Blame takes a look at the new promise of Merseyside, from Kevin Parker to TikTok to online festivals and everything in-between 

Your new song, ‘Seventeen’, touches upon how the lens of lost youth can mould or sour our present experiences, can you think of the last time this has happened to you?

It happens to me quite regularly but I try not to let it permeate my life. I think it’s very easy to fall into this kind of thinking when you start to approach your mid 20s. When I was around 23 I couldn’t stop focusing on the passage of time and loss of unlimited potential that youth offers. The ironic thing about being seventeen or eighteen is that you can never really appreciate it until it’s happened, but I think it’s ultimately an illusion that we were “happier” or “better off” at a certain age. Getting trapped within that mindset is really dangerous, and I think that kind of thinking leads to the exact kind of scenario the person wants to avoid.

What sort of music were you listening to when you were writing this song? Do you consider yourself to be the type of person that is heavily influenced by other artists when you are writing music?

Weirdly, I was listening to a Jason Derulo song when I wrote the verse to Seventeen. I don’t even like Jason Derulo, I just started trying to play along to the chords I could hear and then I wrote a melody over that. The chorus just came from nowhere. To be honest, I think that’s pretty indicative of how I write. It doesn’t matter what the influence is, it manifests through a Scouse/Northern indie lens that comes naturally to me. I would definitely consider myself to be heavily influenced by other artists when I’m writing, but I never try to replicate anyone else’s sound or style. I don’t see the point in doing something that’s already been done and this has held me back at times. I get a lot of feedback from playlist curators and blogs about my voice not suiting their genre, but I’ll never change the way I sing for commercial reasons because it would probably hinder the performance. In terms of writing heroes I think Lennon & McCartney, Joe Strummer, Kevin Parker, David Byrne, Alex Kapranos and David Bowie are all quite high on my list. I could go on but the list would be too long.

In a previous interview with Big Condo Radio, you talked about how you don’t really like sitting down and writing a song on a topic, that you prefer writing in a ‘flow state’. Is this something that has come naturally to you or is there anything you do to get yourself into that headspace? Was this the case for ‘Seventeen’?

I had a few years when I just didn’t want to write or make music, and trying to force it doesn’t work for me. I’d spent a few years recovering from extreme bouts of Depersonalisation/Derealisation disorder and after that all I wanted to do was go out with my mates drinking and play football, which probably wasn’t the most healthy thing in retrospect. Eventually, when I started exercising, eating well, and not taking my writing process too seriously, the music came flowing out of me. Ultimately though, getting into a flow state is the main reason I make music. I didn’t even know what it was until I listened to Blindboy talk about it on the Blindboy Podcast. It’s as close as we can get to the feeling of being a child and playing with toys just for the sake of it, without any societal expectations. I think Carl Jung always emphasised the importance of “playing” like a child in order to lead a healthy and fully integrated lifestyle. My fast track for getting into a flow state is going to my local bouldering gym and climbing, but I don’t know whether or not this helps with my songwriting.

How do you think your mindset to music and life more generally has changed since you were 17 years old?

I had no idea who I was at 17, but I thought I knew everything. Now I have an idea of who I am, and I know that I know nothing. Like the majority of people, I had a lot of latent unhealthy habits at the age of 17 that I’d learned as a child which took a few years to unlearn, and which I regularly fall back into if I don’t check in with myself. I look back now and cringe at a lot things I said and did but I’m also a quite forgiving of my cringey past. I’d say the biggest difference between my life now and my life at 17 is that I don’t take things very seriously any more, especially myself. I’m lucky enough to have had my ego battered a few times, and ironically come out the other side with much more self confidence and comfort than I had when I gave a shit what people thought of me. I spend a ridiculous amount of hours thinking about political and cultural issues but I don’t really speak about these things in my music or on social media in general, and I think that’s a big part of how I’ve changed. At 17 I had to let people know that I was a righteous person at every opportunity, but now I’m much more willing to let my voice be unheard during major cultural moments, because I’d probably be wrong anyway. 

With TikTok being one of your main sources of publicity, what sort of influence do you think TikTok has had on the industry as a whole?

I think TikTok is just as strange as every other social media platform that’s developed over the last decade. For me, it’s been an amazing tool to connect with genuine fans, which is something that I’ve really struggled with in the past. TikTok essentially cuts out the need for financial backing and a middle man, and allows the user to directly contact potential fans. The majority of people who follow me on TikTok are only there for my pisstakes, which is absolutely fine. But the 5% who become fans of my music and support me mean so much to me and I’m really grateful to have had some success on the platform. Despite all of this, I don’t use TikTok much myself. For me personally, it feels unhealthy to scroll through short clips for extended periods of time, so I don’t do it. But that’s just how it affects me personally and it definitely doesn’t apply to everyone who uses the platform for entertainment. 

Now that TikTok has captivated audiences with a new way to consume media, do you think it is a case of ‘adapt to survive’ for new artists and content creators trying to break into the industry?

Possibly. There’s always something new on the horizon. I have no doubt a lot of people think it’s quite cringey that I post comedy videos on TikTok but I couldn’t care less. For a while, I was reluctant to use it because I thought it would make me seem “uncool”. Then I remembered that I’m not cool, and everyone who knows me personally knows that all I do is joke around and take the piss out of myself, so why not extend that onto social media? I think TikTok is quite expendable in a way, and it’s a great way for content creators to connect with fans, but I don’t think it extends to every platform. My advice to a new artist is that you have to consider if what you’re doing on TikTok is for the right reasons. There are probably new artists who can find success without TikTok but that does seem to be increasingly hard. In a year it could be a dead platform, so it’s all too hard to predict. I’m just going to keep posting for the fun of it and keep making music that I love.

Because of lockdowns, we have seen a surge in live-streamed music events, most notably Glastonbury online, do you think we will see more of these events in the future and would you ever take part in one yourself?

I played at a few online festivals during the first lockdown and it was quite interesting and fun, but I don’t think they’re going to be as prevalent once restrictions are lifted. I think it’s possible that concurrent live streams will become much more common, alongside gigs with an actual audience present, but I don’t think live streamed gigs in themselves are particularly entertaining when you compare them to the real thing. I can’t wait to start gigging again, as my band are incredible. Originally, Fagan was going to be presented as a more of a band with me just writing everything, but then the pandemic happened and I kind of had to present everything as a solo artist. My other band members are Liam Markey on bass, Tim Jackson on drums, and Tom Dennett on synths/additional guitars, and we can’t wait to start gigging this summer.

Max Bover

@maximiillian299 @bover_max

Image: Fagan official ‘Seventeen’ track artwork (PRESS)

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