Alt-rocker Troi Irons joins us at the famous Bourgious Pig in Hollywood, CA to discuss new and upcoming music, her transition from major label to D.I.Y. artist, and her thought on the pressures the music industry places on artists.
So you’re currently riding the highs of your latest single “Strangers.” Wanted to say congratulations! Also wanted to ask you, what inspired the lyrics and instrumental elements that you chose to include?
Troi Irons: From the lyrical standpoint, “Strangers” came from a place of frustration with some experiences that I recently had, which was a combination of racial angst and existentialism angst. Racially, the older I get the more I can’t unsee or unhear things that are just really not ok. When I was younger, I kind of grew up in this bubble. I was homeschooled, which is already a bubble in and of itself even though my parents tried to not make it a bubble. When I went to college, in a way I was still in a bubble because everything that we knew was primarily what we saw in tv and the news. It wasn’t until I got into the real world that I started to realize, ‘Oh! Maybe my parents weren’t being paranoid all that time. People really do still see you by the color of your skin and not by who you actually are.’
Troi: Yeah, right!?! So that was jarring for me to realize, and the older I get I feel like I have more experiences like that, especially with what I’m doing in the rock world. I mean, I respect anyone who’s doing what they’re doing, but then you have people like Yungblood who’s making kind of this reggae/hip-hop music and Spotify is like, ‘Yeah! We’re gonna put this on the rock charts!’ When I make something, people are like, ‘What is this?’ and I’m just like, ‘Well, it’s alternative and rock. It’s whatever you want to call it.’ *laughs* It’s in that vein, but people don’t know where to put it because of the other elements included I guess. I feel like an outsider, a ‘stranger’ if you will sometimes, and then one of my favorite books is The Stranger by Albert Camus, so I decided to combine both of those things for the song.
There’s so many facets to the song!
And how would you say that the songwriting and recording process for “Strangers” was similar or different than that of your past work?
Troi: I think the more that I go on in my music, the more independent I get in certain situations. The very first project that I released was called Turbulence, which was on a major label. I produced most of the stuff on there, but there were still songs that I didn’t even touch the production on. I guess I was trying to be more of a ‘nice’ person since I was just starting out. Now I’m not afraid to say, ‘Hmm. I don’t think that could work’ or take control of the song. I can say, ‘Here’s what I want’ when I’m laying down a line, and move on to building the core structure and the lyrics. I feel like “Strangers” is more my song than the ones in the pas, and the same with the rest of this body of work that I’ve been working on. It’s very much me and I’m directing how everything will be.
Cool! And speaking of your upcoming work, you have also been teasing some fun things on social media. Would you care to give us a little sneak peek as to what you’re working on and what we get to look forward to?
Troi: Yeah! So right now I’m working on a full-length album, finally. *laughs* The album is called Lost Angels, and I’ve been working on it for the past four years. I’m not really a fan of small bodies of work, I’m very much more a fan of full bodies of work as rather than putting out a single or an EP or something like that. I’m stoked to put the whole vision together and I’m planning to release it in August. The next single that I’ll be releasing is the title track, and that one I produced entirely. There will be videos and all kinds of promo for that later one.
Cool! And kind of staying in the theme of social media, do you feel that it’s made it easier or harder for independent artists to make a name for themselves nowadays?
Troi: I think it can work both ways. I think it makes it easier to brand yourself because it’s very easy to curate your feed or your image or your message that you’re trying to put out. Before, that was a little more difficult because it used to cost a lot of money, but now it’s pretty much free to brand yourself. Marketing wise, I think it makes it a little harder to stand out depending on what your skill set is. Like, my skill set is not in social media. I spend more of my time keeping up with art as opposed to keeping up with pop culture, so even things like captions are just so beyond me. *both laugh* But some people are really good at it! Like Halsey for example, she had a huge following before she even touched a microphone! So for some people it’s awesome.
It takes a very special person to have a natural finesse for social media I feel like. *laughs* It’s just always changing! Like, when you get used to doing one thing it’s like completely different the next day.
Troi: Yeah, all the updates just kill me sometimes. *laughs* But the fact is culture itself is always changing, so then what we see on social media is changing alongside it.
Everything’s changing, especially in music. Do you feel that social media kind of puts a pressure on artists to constantly have something going on or sharing specific sides of themselves to their audience?
Troi: I definitely think there can be that pressure, but at the same time it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to a popstar, then I would say there is a lot of pressure on you. But then again, you have huge people like Frank Ocean who recently started up an Instagram yet still doesn’t post everyday. And then you have people that like to post when they feel it’s something important to post about, you know? For me, my focus is the music and then also art, so I don’t really feel that pressure to always be posting.
I guess it could also depend on how you want to portray yourself as well.
Troi: Yeah. Some people really like to be all up in everyone’s faces. Like, if I became uber successful or whatever, I feel like I’m not the kind of person who would want the tabloids on them all the time. Some people like it because they want the attention, like, they’ll go out in Hollywood to be seen, but I just prefer to stay in my own little world. *laughs*
Sometimes that’s good though! We need our time to be alone! *laughs*
Troi: Oh yeah, I definitely agree!
So you were kind of already mentioning this a little bit with your preference to longer pieces of work, but the way the modern music industry right now is heavily based on singles and EP style releases. Why do you think that is?
Troi: I think more so than consumers wanting it that way, I think labels and artists are also like, ‘Oh! This is a way to save money and test the waters to see what’s working.’ It’s pretty much just throwing something at the wall to see what sticks because there’s not that huge funding on the front end. But I think when you release a full body of work, that’s when people start to pay attention. When you look at people that just pop up out of nowhere, it’s because there’s an identity and there’s a story that people gravitate towards. I feel like now more than ever people aren’t just like, ‘Oh wow this is a great song! I’m going to love this artist forever!’ Yeah it can be a good song, but if a song reaches the Spotify top of the charts and there’s no infrastructure or identity or story then it’s easy for people to move on to the next thing. I still feel that a full body of work is a telltale sign of a longstanding artist.
I definitely agree. I mean, that’s why one-hit wonders are a thing because people are, like you said, ‘Oh my God I love this song!’ but then it might take a little longer for the artist to get something new out or the listener just moves on to whatever is new.
Troi: Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff that can get in the way, it’s an evolution thing, survival of the fittest.
Right. So as a female musician, do you feel that women in the music industry need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to be successful? Or even specifically in the rock scene?
Troi: I’m sure there are people who feel like that or who have had crappy experiences like that, but in my personal experience and in what I see through my eyes, it really just depends on the person. I see the super sexy liberated ones that love to show off their bodies, I see the artsy ones like St. Vincent who like to wear suits and shit, I see the gay ones, the straight ones, just a bunch of different really awesome things from women. Right now I feel like it’s really diverse in a music sense and it’s so cool!
Yeah! It’s definitely a good change that’s been a long time coming.
Troi: Oh yeah definitely. Finally!
Yeah! So living in L.A. means there is an overabundance of music. Do you feel like there is some sort of competition between the local music scene?
Troi: I don’t really see too much competition. Maybe it’s the people that I’m around, but everyone seems to always be rooting for each other more than it seems like they did in the past. I also feel like since the rise of internet feminism, which I absolutely cannot stand, people are always like, ‘You can’t attack other women!’ That’s not what ‘feminism’ means, ‘feminism’ means ‘equality,’ but whatever, you do you. But then the upside of everybody misunderstanding what the term actually means is that everyone is more supportive and happy for each other’s success.
Definitely a good example of the bright side of constantly misunderstood definition.
Troi: Oh yeah, it could absolutely be a lot worse! *laughs*
And if you could choose three artists to go on your own world tour with, who would they be and what would you name your tour?
Troi: I would take Now Now, Nothing But Thieves, and Badflower on the tour. I have no idea what to name it though. I’m so bad at naming things unless it has a meaning or means something personal to me.
The ‘Something Personal Tour’ 2019. *both laugh*
Troi: Maybe! Or I would end up self-titling it depending on what work I would have out by then.
The best forms of inspiration do tend to come spontaneously. *laughs*
Troi: Right! If something is real and it hits me in the face then I would have a good name for it. Otherwise, I’m just really bad at naming, or even just having fun for that matter. *laughs* If it doesn’t come naturally to me then what can you do?
Very true. And speaking of fun, how do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Troi: I don’t have a personal life. Absolutely none. *laughs* I would like to have one at some point, but I’m just working so hard on music right now and wanting that to work out that everything else just doesn’t really matter to me at times. I was working on a music video, and it was at the point where I was pulling eight hour shifts at Starbucks, and then going to meet with the DP, and then trying to find some time to go to the gym, and then go to sleep and maybe get like four hours before I have to go do it all over again. I think there was even like two days where I didn’t even shower. *laughs* So yeah, no personal life. Maybe later.
It’s like, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ *laughs*
Troi: Oh God! I hope I don’t have to fucking wait until I’m dead. I really hope that I can sleep soon. *laughs*
You and me both! *laughs* If you could give your younger self advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far whether it be musically or personally, what advice would you give her?
Troi: I would tell her ‘don’t be nice.’ And I don’t mean ‘don’t be nice to people’ because kindness and love is the whole foundation to everything in this life, but more like ‘don’t let people take advantage of you being nice.’ I’m not afraid to say ‘no’ anymore, and I definitely don’t take anyone’s shit like I did in the past.
It really does take a toll on you though.
Troi: Bending to everyone’s will?
Yeah. I spent so much time trying to get people to like me, and now I’m just like ‘Fuck it! If you don’t like me then whatever!’ *laughs*
Troi: Yeah! They suck! *laughs*
And what do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Troi: As far as that aspect, I feel like it’s more up to them on what they want to take away. I go through my life and introspect and learn what I need to learn so I can put it in my music. What they get from me is what they get and they should be able to interpret that in whatever way they want.
Absolutely! And to end us off, what other big exciting things should we be expecting from you apart from the new music that you’ve been teasing?
Troi: Yeah! So apart from new music, the thing that I’m really excited about is the music video for “Lost Angels” because it’s my first time directing a music video. In my old videos I would build my idea, write out the treatments, do some mood board-ing, then I would pass it off to a director because I thought that these ‘experienced’ guys knew what they were doing, and then they would just fuck it all up and separate all of the metaphors to the point where I would have to spend extra money and extra time re-editing what they did to fix the shots. This time around, I wanted to be the one to work on the video for “Lost Angels.” I’m really excited about it!
Sometimes if we want something done right then we have to do it ourselves. *laughs*
Troi: For reals though! In the past I would think that I was doing too much because everyone was always like, ‘You have to pick one thing to do!’ Now I’m like, ‘Fuck that, man!’ Quentin Tarantino writes, directs, and produces his shit. All of the stuff that I really like is great because those people have their hands in their own stuff. Tyler The Creator was the first rap album that I was ever into, and it was one of the reasons why I started producing my own stuff. I came from a major label, so it’s been just invigorating to do the D.I.Y. thing.
D.I.Y.-ing is great though! And we can’t wait for all the fun stuff that’s going to be coming up!
Troi: Oh yeah, me too!
About Bourgeois Pig:
Hollywood’s lavish coffee lounge Bourgeois Pig has many great things going for it apart from their glorious beverage and baked goods menu (seriously, get their Bourgeois Latte). Not only do they have a great decor style comprised of gothic and alternative elements, but they’ve got a variety of seating ranging from bistro style tables to comfy couches to snuggle closely on to a fun Enchanted Tiki Room themed (at least in my mind) lounge area, there is plenty of space offered to fit anyone’s comfort preferences. They choose a dimmed light setup similar to that of trendy bars and have no qualms with playing their music loud, which combined with their late-night hours is a perfect place for some socializing. Lastly, it’s located to practically every activity in Hollywood from dancing the night away at a nightclub to catching an improv show at Upright Citizens Brigade to hiking in Bronson Canyon to stuffing your face with the many mouth-watering food options that L.A. has to offer. A definite must-visit for locals and visitor alike!