The Mixtape Of Mix Fenix: Why This Up-And-Coming Artist Doesn't Believe In Labelling Her Music
This Filipina musician thinks it's about time to get woke and break barriers with music.
Mix Fenix’s name alone is enough to make her sound like a rockstar. And as she reveals in this interview, this up-and-coming musician lives up to her name.
In the Philippines, the audience is spoilt for choice as there new bands and acts coming out almost every other month. There are also a number of bands that are made up of members of other more established bands, which, with the popularity of those individuals alone, bring the new bands attention, intentionally or otherwise.
Luckily, Filipino musicians are not too limited in the preconceived genres that the music business uses to describe types of music, and the scene is lucky to have such a fluidity about it that an act can go, if they wanted to, from rock to hip-hop, to even classical all in one 30-minute set.
To hear Mix Fenix is to hear all these different genres flow and meld into each other using both broken but beautifully synched harmonies and melodies.
At 22, she is now finishing up her university studies with the thesis on the Kalipayan Dance Troupe, a Filipino dance troupe with the distinction of being the only one to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in the United States back in the late ’50s — a time when most cultural dancers from Asia were not given a spotlight that large, if at all, especially ones from those little islands in the East.
In a quick sit-down interview, we asked Mix Fenix more about her music and how it all came about.
How did you get into music? What started your interest, and when did you start singing?
I imagine a lot of people answer this question like “I saw this one really cool band so I wanted to be like them”. Like, really inspirational stuff. But no, my story is kinda different.
Since I was as young as 2, my lola [grandmother] would take me alone with her to Australia to visit her brother and sisters. On one visit — I must have been 4 or 5 — I heard the song “Mmmbop” by Hanson. At a party on that same trip, someone played that same song and I sang while everyone gathered.
I think it was at that moment when it became a tradition that I sang at parties when my lola was there. It was great practice and a confidence booster. I am forever grateful that I knew that my family supported me even before I knew that singing would be what I want to do for the rest of my life. Encourage your kids to be creative, guys, it’ll be fine as long as you’re there to guide them.
How did you learn guitar?
In the 7th grade, we were required to bring guitars for our music class. I remember getting excited over it because Guitar Hero was such a big thing back then. The first thing our music teacher taught us was how to read notes, and I suppose after the first session, I already got the hang of it. I wrote my first song at 14 years old.
Did you get a teacher?
I did take voice lessons at Ryan Cayabyab’s [a famous Filipino songwriter and composer] singing school when I was 7. I think I only went twice, but I experienced singing with accompaniment for the first time; which taught me a little bit about the chemistry between two people in music.
I also kind of learned how to follow the notes. I couldn’t actually read them! But I sort of followed when to start singing higher and lower on cue.
And shortly after I started playing the guitar, my mom found Miss Lesley, who was a vocal coach. With her piano, she taught me how to warm up my voice and songs that I never would have imagined myself singing— like “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato.
At the end of the year, she organised a recital at the UP Abelardo Hall with her other students, and up to now, I consider that my first gig ever.
So, when did you know that music was going to be your “thing”?
I guess a part of me always knew. I didn’t take music seriously until I started college in MINT College. I only stayed for a year as a BSBA Marketing major, but it was that year when a batch of Music Business Management students was required to launch an artist, hence my “Mind Games” EP launch (which you can listen to on Spotify).
By that time, I already had notebooks filled with songs I’d written since I started playing so it was just a matter of organizing the launch and recording the EP. My experience at MINT really was a big step for me in life because I got to meet and work with amazing, talented people and got a glance of what’s really out there for me.
What’s your genre?
That is the toughest question I always face when it comes to my music career! I grew up to car rides with my mom who played RnB, my tito [uncle] who played alternative rock, and my tita [aunt] who played smooth electronic music. My lolo [grandfather], on the other hand, never played music in the car, but loved Frank Sinatra, and because of that, I do too. I soon got into hip-hop and pop in my adolescent years, but one genre that I will always have a soft spot for is Bossanova.
So I like to consider myself a melting pot of genres. Maybe “Mix” really is a suitable name for me. I mean, I’m not referring to ALL genres, but I can’t refer to a single genre, either.
Instead, I simply smile and say, “My genre is alternative.” What matters is that it’s music. It’s 2018! We don’t need to put a label on everything right away.
Do you still get nervous before performing?
Every time someone asks me if I’m nervous before a performance, I tell them no. But if anyone were to ask me if I was nervous before an exam… yes, it’s a solid yes, no doubt.
I guess what really keeps me together during my performances is my faith. I don’t consider myself a very religious person, but it is part of my pre-performance ritual to pray to God.
I wander off into a corner or maybe outside to breathe and to talk to Him in silence. My favourite thing to whisper to Him is: “Lord, I don’t need it to be a perfect performance. What I need is You on the stage with me.”
Then there are those magical moments on stage where I don’t even realize where I am, and something (or someone?) in my head tells me that I’m doing great. I’m not here to argue whether He is real or not; just know that He is and will always be real to me.
What are the songs that get your interest?
I love songs with stories! Sure, all songs have stories, but I’m talking about the songs that actually tell them like it is. Like this lyric from Paramore’s “Misery Business”:
“When I thought he was mine, she caught him by the mouth.
I waited eight long months, she finally set him free.
I told him I couldn’t lie, he was the only one for me.”
There are tons of songs that talk about one-sided love, but what made this song special was that Paramore showed the listeners how this sort of thing happens.
Writing lyrics isn’t just in how you sing it, it’s also in how you write it. Grammar is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to lyrics! You are making a piece of art, you might as well make sure it’s made like royalty. Own it!
This is why a lot of people consider their music as their “babies”. A part of them is in those songs, and they have the right to be proud (yet protective) of them.
What kind of music do you want to make (apart from good and famous etc)? Which songs do you wish you’d written?
I want to continue writing songs that will give the listeners an experience. In my upcoming album, “Exile” is a song about a married woman who is trying to deal with her husband’s affair.
Another song, “Slowly,” is about a girl lusting over a boy at a club, but doesn’t want to seem too easy, so she wants to take this relationship slowly. “I want to take you home with me, but it might be too soon, so just dance for me, boy. You know that I want you.”
The next big step for my songwriting is to break borders between people. I wish I’d thought of it earlier, but I want to write stories so that people understand other people on the same level. Oh, and I want to write songs in different Filipino dialects! We have 185 languages and dialects, guys! Time to get woke.
What’s the writing process like for you: Melodies first or words?
Melodies first! Sometimes I think of lyrics first, but that doesn’t go so well because I’m more of a singer than someone who plays instruments.
Where can we catch your gigs?
Wait until my album launch this October 2018!
In the meantime, take a listen to her 2014 EP Mind Games: