I Ya Toyah talks about new “I am the Fire” EP

Photo by Babiracki Images/Krzysztof Babiracki

I Ya Toyah is back with a new EP, I am the Fire (out April 5), and on April 11 will embark on a major tour with Orgy and Cold. The solo project of singer/songwriter/guitarist Ania Tarnowska, I Ya Toyah’s constantly evolving sound brings together heavy guitar and various electronic styles. For I am the Fire, she collaborated with Stabbing Westward’s Walter Flakus, who produced and mixed the recording. We’d previously interviewed I Ya Toyah around her Out Of Order EP but recently did a follow-up about the new release.

You’ve had a few EP releases since the last album. Is the EP your preferred format these days?

Ania Tarnowska: Well, I love EPs because they combine a smaller piece of work together without going full album. Kind of giving [an] introduction to where I’m at mentally and artistically in the given place and time. This being said, I will definitely have an album release coming up as well, but I can’t say anything else right now.

Is there anything you’d to say about the new EP in terms of how the making of it may have compared to previous releases? Or anything that sets it apart in your mind?

Ania Tarnowska: Definitely, yes. So the songs that I’ve been working on in the past year, they are all produced together with Walter Flakus of Stabbing Westward. It has been a huge honor for me to be able to work with my idol, because I admire hugely Walter and the whole band Stabbing Westward. So we’ve been working on this material together and I released the “Panic Room” single last year and then the “Dream Not To Dream” single [earlier this year]. And in between these two moments, I figured that, well, I have remixes for these songs and they are so good. One of them already came out, the “Panic Room” remix, but I thought to just present it in a slightly bigger format than singles itself. So I figured an EP would be a good idea at this point, especially since there is another song that I wanted to release around the springtime. Which is a single named “I am the Fire”. So I figured I’m going to make an EP that is called I Am the Fire, and then combine all those pieces together to represent where I’m at currently at this place and time.

You mentioned working with Walter from Stabbing Westward. Are there any particular ways the collaboration may have influenced your process or direction?

Ania Tarnowska: It’s very interesting that you ask that, because I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I don’t know if you personally noticed, but the music took a slightly different turn with just the two releases that I was able to share so far. It’s so true that it did influence my songwriting and the way I started putting those songs together in my studio. Very much. So when Walter and I started talking about that kind of collaboration, he expressed interest in working on the production on my future stuff, and well, of course I couldn’t be more happy. When I started writing material for that, it kind of shifted my mind from what I would do before into more alternative, a little more rock versus just more grungy electronic. So now you have both. There is stuff that has grungy electronics but also the guitar, and I guess a little more hooky choruses. I feel like all this together is just a little more hooky and more current, I would almost say.

Looking back a little bit, it was interesting when you did the Ghosts acoustic EP. What was that process like interpreting your music to that format?

Ania Tarnowska: So I always was a big believer that when you write a song from the ground up, before you dress it up in all the electronic music ornaments, the song by itself in the plainest form should already be presentable. This being said, I write my songs with just the piano or just the guitar when I first start scratching the ideas, and then I transfer them to my DAW and I start the production process, and then I add all the drums and all the ornamental stuff, the electronic music. But obviously, with the material that is on the Ghost EP, I did not have those stripped-down versions. I kind of took my very basic ideas and I started working in the studio. So it was very interesting to go back and kind of strip the songs down. It was a very soothing experience, honestly. I really liked doing that EP. I really liked working on that stuff, and I feel like I need to do more of the acoustic in the future just because it’s so soothing. Working on that little EP made me very happy. Just going back to the roots of each song and kind of connecting with lyrical meaning and melodies from the beginning. The result, I guess, is very different from what we can hear on my original versions of those songs, and it’s cool. I mean, that the song can have so many different faces.

Did your experience influence your later writing at all?

Ania Tarnowska: Probably. I feel like I definitely put more focus now after releasing this acoustic EP, I put a little more focus on my vocal performance in terms of making sure that it kind of shines. So instead of hiding my voice behind a bunch of different instruments, I want to kind of let it shine with better hook writing, with harmonies that are popping through all the instrumental parts. As far as actual composition and then transferring it to electronic music, I guess it’s probably still the way I’ve done things before, just because I’ve always liked layering a bunch of different things together, starting with piano and then guitar and a bunch of different drums and effects. So I guess I’m still very much in the same spot when it comes to that, but my choices when it comes to aesthetic selection of what needs to come first, what needs to have better translation to people’s ears, I think that changed and that I hope changed for the better.

Last time we talked about your live show. Do you still perform by yourself? Has your approach changed at all?

Ania Tarnowska: I still perform live by myself on stage, and I still love it. I still think that it was a brilliant idea to go that route, just because I purely enjoy it and it’s kind of cool to be able to do this kind of thing independently. As far as new material, which actually I’m going to introduce a lot of new songs on that tour, some of which will be the songs from the EP. And also there will be stuff that I haven’t even released yet. I’m going to release those things later and I’m going to play them live on the upcoming tour with Orgy and Cold. And performance wise, I guess I’m just working restlessly on my guitar skills. I want to be an even better guitar player. And other than that, I’m still playing two synthesizers. I’m still doing a little bit of piano, I’m still doing all the vocals and I have a pedal board which triggers a bunch of my different effects and loops. So that is still a very important part of my upcoming tour shows. And of course lights, my light show travels with me everywhere I go, and my background visuals as well. So the whole package comes on that tour and I can’t wait.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Ania Tarnowska: Well, I guess just to say thank you to everyone who’s been supportive of my work, of my music, who’s been streaming my music and watching the videos and going on my social media and commenting and interacting and connecting, going on my Bandcamp and pre-ordering the EP and streaming the singles. I’m just grateful for everyone who chooses to listen to my stuff and who chooses to stick around. Thank you so much.

Get I am the Fire and other I Ya Toyah music at iyatoyah.bandcamp.com.
See tour dates at www.iyatoyah.com/tour.