Interview: Froy on his debut single ‘Sideswipe’ and future music.
The past few years that Froy Gutierrez has spent working on MTV’s ‘Teen Wolf’ (and during the time he spent on Nickelodeon before that), he’s been planning a musical takeover. Revealing to us that he’s planned a world akin to that of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, with different characters who will be explored through different musical releases, it’s fair to say that Froy is one of the hardest working 20-year-olds we’ve ever met.
Coup De Main caught up with Froy in Los Angeles to discuss his upcoming musical releases, the importance of accurate representation of mental illness, and more…
It's not enough to just have a character with depression or to mention someone having bipolar disorder, if you're going to explore it then I feel like you should give it the gravity that it deserves as an issue.
COUP DE MAIN: What’s your earliest musical memory ever?
FROY GUTIERREZ: That's a good question, because when my mum would put me to bed, the only way she would get me to shut up, so I wasn't crying, was she'd always play different records from Enya, every night. I feel like that has to be my earliest memory, because I would literally not go to sleep unless Enya was playing. If I stayed awake throughout the whole record I would yell, 'Mum, mum, mum, can you play the thing back again?’
CDM: You must be so familiar with all of Enya's music then.
FROY: I am really familiar with it, but I know none of the lyrics. I know the tunes, I can tell you the track order, but it's also because she made little mix-tapes, so they are all jumbled and are not like Enya records. Some of the songs were a bit scary, so she didn't put those on.
CDM: How long have you been making your own music for?
FROY: I've been writing music since I was 11, but it was mainly just poetry. It took me a really long time to break out of the poetry format and break it into a song format, because it's just so different. I got into acting through poetry as well, I got into acting through Shakespeare because I took a Shakespeare class and I was like, ‘I guess I’ll do theatre too.’ So both of my passions kind of stem from poetry.
CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
FROY: Oh my gosh, there was this girl that I had a massive crush on in Elementary School, her name was Casey. She asked me to buy her a bear for Valentine's Day, so I bought it for her and I wrote her a song. I just wanted to make sure it was good, so I sang it in front of my parents, and they were like, ‘Maybe just give her the gift… Just work on the song a little bit.’ <laughs> The chorus was like, 'I love you baby,’ or something like that, and it just wasn't a smart idea, it wasn't smooth.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work? Do you still use poetry for the beginning of it?
FROY: I do. It’s weird because I will just have an experience and the way that I cope with it is that I'll go home and write it down and I'll write a poem. I would write a full poem, and sometimes most of it's pretty bad, but I'll highlight a couple lines that I think are pretty cool and I'm like, ‘This one really speaks to me at this moment in my life,’ then I'll kinda garble them together. Like the first song I released, ‘Sideswipe’, was a mix of-- The verses were written about feeling really angsty when I was 16, and then the chorus, which is a very repetitive, poppy chorus, I just came up with last year. I was having a very weird relationship with an older girl who would only see me at certain times, if she was with her friends she didn’t wanna hang out with me, so I was like, ‘Oh, alright, I'm going to make this into a funny little song.’
CDM: You’ve said on Twitter: “Getting my feels out in the studio is so great for my mental health I love music.” Have you found songwriting to be a cathartic experience?
FROY: Yes, it's like a therapy of its own kind. I have a song called 'We Make Art’ - I went into the studio for that and I was just bawling the whole time because I had a really difficult time expressing some of the things that were in the verses, I felt like they might have been a little too much. The guys that I work with that help me produce my tracks, John Wyatt and Stefan Lit, gave me a little group hug in the studio - it was really soft. It’s just generally very cathartic because it is like a therapy in itself and if you can find any kind of outlet to help you go through anything that you're going through, then it's generally a positive influence. Whether it's drawing, music, or acting, or whatever, it's kind of liberating. It’s like, ‘Here is a little capsule of where I was.’ It's empowering to be like, ‘Okay, I was here, but now I'm here.’ But at least I had the power to kind of go with myself and tell the story, you know, like that it’s okay.
CDM: Songwriting is cool, because you can look back and see your journey.
FROY: Definitely, I can see where I was and where I am depending on the songs I wrote that year. I've had songs that have been done and finalised and ready to go since I was 16, but I haven't put any out until this year and I'm 20 now. I've been really holding off on it for a long time, and now I'm thankful I haven't released it, but at times I wish I had released it, just so I could look back and think, ‘That’s where I was and this is now where I am.’ But it is like reading a book, it's like different chapters.
CDM: What was it about this year that felt like it was the right time to start releasing your music?
FROY: I'm such a perfectionist, that I came to a point where I realised I'm never gonna release anything if I just wait for my own approval, and people are just going to get fed up with waiting, so I just had to force myself to do it and I got such nerves the week that the song came out. The reaction has been so overwhelmingly positive and now I feel more empowered to release the next track and it’s just been such a good experience in that regard. But I'm such a perfectionist that if there's something off then it's not okay and I have to scrap it. I have a big issue with that.
CDM: Is ‘Sideswipe’ lifted from an upcoming release/EP?
FROY: It's more of a buzz single, it's more of just something that I put out while I was on tour, just so they had something, and by the time I was wrapping up the tour they knew all the lyrics and were singing it back to me which was so cool, but I mainly wanted to do it for that reason. <laughs>
CDM: In July you said, “Sorry I broke the old EP.”
FROY: I did. I had a series of songs written when I was 16 and by the time that I was ready to go, when I was done with my contract with MTV for ‘Teen Wolf’ and they were ready to be released, I just realised that I wasn't in the place anymore and it was not going to be authentic to put those out. So it just got to the point where I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve got to find some new producers and new writers and just kind of put our heads together, and just do something that feels more current and more authentic.’
CDM: About ‘Sideswipe’ you said that it’s “the fun calm before the storm,” and that “the storm is coming soon.” What can you tell us about the storm?!
FROY: So, Marvel has their own cinematic universe and I always find it so cool to see a Marvel movie and how it connects to other things, and I’m a big fan of high fantasy games like ‘World Of Warcraft’ - there are so many cultures and characters and it has its own sprawling little universe and I want to do that with my music too. So ‘Sideswipe’ is very much the boyband, it’s only 2 minutes and 30 seconds, it’s a very poppy track, and the ones that are coming are going to be more distinctive as related to their characters. I'm going to be putting out an EP for each character, so it's going to be really fun. They'll have their own aesthetics, their own dialects, their own way of speaking, their own visuals. As someone who was kind of raised in the acting field, I think of music and acting as being in the same little bubble, even though a lot of people in our world, they're so separated as industries which I always found so bizarre. When I was acting I was doing musical theatre and every movie that I ever watched had a really good song in it, whether it was just a soundtrack or it cut to a song, and every song has a personality and a character behind it.
CDM: I feel like a lot of artists, their brand can comes across as a character.
FROY: There’s a persona. If you think of the first thing that comes to your head when you think of a certain artist, there are so many elements, so it's definitely a thing that I think about. I just love the idea of having a dialogue between all my songs which are kind of back and forth.
CDM: How long have you been planning that for?
FROY: A while, I had to bite my tongue for so long.
CDM: I can imagine you drawing all these charts, as to how they relate.
FROY: Dude, you would not believe the number of notebooks I've burned through. I had so much time to sit on my hands and bite my tongue while I was on ‘Teen Wolf’ and while I was working on Nickelodeon - they didn't want me to do music which was totally understandable, so while that was all happening I kind of allowed myself to listen to music that I don't usually listen to and just become a bit of a student to the whole thing and just listened to everything and everyone. Now I am in the position where I want to make everything, I don't really care about genres, so it’s a really cool development to get to go through.
CDM: You teased a new song ‘USAye’ on your Instagram story recently. What’s it been like giving your fans little pieces of your upcoming music?
FROY: I'm so bad at keeping secrets. When I get excited about making something, my first instinct is to go to my family and friends, and my fans are friends to me, so I want to see all their reactions to it. But I just finished ‘USAye’ literally last week and we're gonna fine-tune it this weekend. But it felt really right and it has a different sound to it than the other tracks that we've been building, especially during the verses. It tackles a pretty heavy topic, just about the anxiety that kids my age feel when we are going to high school or going to college, and with all the recent school shootings, it’s always kind of in the back of your head, even if you're trying to block it out and not think about it and you're trying to be productive - there's always that thought.
CDM: You’ve also had listening parties where you performed new songs too. What has that experience been like?
FROY: It's been so bizarre. I don't really know how to explain it because it's one thing to perform in front of people, any song, so it’s nerve-racking! But it's a whole other thing to do your own music, and the first show I ever did in front of a live audience was in Paris in front of 900 people. <laughs> After that, nothing scares me! I just allowed myself to get lost in the music a little bit, and they were just so supportive and so loud, the screams were deafening and they were just clapping along, and by the time I got to the second concert the following week they were already singing the lyrics back to me. That they could even go on YouTube and decipher the lyrics through all the screams and then sing it back, it's very empowering, especially because they knew me through prior work so there's that concern of, ‘Well, is this gonna be good enough for you guys, and something that y’all are going to be proud of?’ It's different from a job as an actor where you are just reciting the lines that someone else has given you, obviously you can put your own spin on it, it has you in it, but it’s different when you are the one writing the lines. There's a lot more of yourself on the line for sure. Thankfully it's been a great reception.
CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
FROY: I would say the main difference is when you get that itch in the back of your head when you haven't listened to it for a little while and you want to hear it again and you just need to hear it again. Obviously, you could say that a great song connects with people, but there are songs that I don't really connect to that I’ll still go back to all the time. I would also say that it is important for the song that no matter what the production value is on it, or who's producing it, or what the sound is like, if you can strip it down to a piano and have it still resonate with people then I feel like that’s a great song. Like whether you put a piano on it, or every little synthesiser thing on it, every production element that you can attach to it, but it still has that same gravity to it, I think that’s important.
CDM: If F.R.O.Y. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
FROY: This is gonna be so bad. I would say, Funky Robotic Outlandish Young'un!
CDM: After playing Nolan on ‘Teen Wolf’, you’ve said that, “Representing a flawed character with the same mental illnesses as me was so important to me.” Do you think it’s important for film/television to showcase representation of mental illness? Especially for a show with a young audience, it helps them to understand aspects of themselves.
FROY: Yeah. Well, it's not even important just to represent mental illness in every facet, it's important to represent it accurately. That's what I think a lot of people get hung up on. It's not enough to just have a character with depression or to mention someone having bipolar disorder, if you're going to explore it then I feel like you should give it the gravity that it deserves as an issue. I feel like you should allow people that have those illnesses to be able to tell the story. Film and television is such an effective way to be able to communicate it because you can't have unreliable narrators in film and television, and you can use the actual medium through cinematography to explain the feeling of whatever the person is going through. There's this film ‘Melancholia’ with Kirsten Dunst, she's in a wedding and the whole movie is two hours, but you can't tell if the movie is over one week, or over one night, or 5 minutes, and she's constantly going back and forth from being in the ballroom to the bathroom and you can't really tell what the passage of time is like and you really feel her mental state through the way that the film is portrayed. Even in films like ‘Fight Club’, or a TV show like ‘Mr. Robot’ they use an unreliable narrator in a really great way to humanise people that you may not be able to connect with because of their mental illness. I think it's important to portray it responsibly, because there are some shows that do not do that. It can help people that are going through the same thing, and get them to climb out of wherever they are and seek the help that they need.
CDM: We saw on your Twitter that you are very excited about the new Pokémon game. Do you have a favourite Pokémon?
FROY: I always go back and forth between Gallade who's a fourth generation, and then Reuniclus who is fifth generation - it’s a psychic foetus who levitates and explodes people's brains, it’s pretty amazing.
Froy’s single ‘Sideswipe’ is out now - click here to purchase, or listen to it below…