It seems an apt metaphor, given that Dizzy Fae and other young artists like her have come of age in the wake of the digital epoch, where a musical poet faced with questions about how to live her life must by necessity navigate an existence defined by a digital presence, and all the opportunities and dangers that that contains. Her lyrics confront anxieties that many young people face, most of them concerned with the fraught nature of relationships and independence, and what is “real” and what isn’t.
Her voice is both tool and toy in this existential exploration, a vessel she uses to communicate and then immediately blur the listener’s understanding of that communication. Decoding her lyrics and her intention is part of the fun, sifting through the filters and personas the aural version of deciphering what authenticity looks like in the age of the online profile. There are two distinct environments in Dizzy Fae’s mythology: the one she is building and the one she is responding to. Which is which is a matter for debate, even, you’re inclined to imagine, for the artist herself.
When I met Dizzy Fae, she was wearing a salmon-colored button-up dress emblazoned with hand-painted cats. She exuded an air of ethereal calm, uncomfortable with being the center of attention but at the same time seeming to be actively coming to terms with it. Our chat, once everyone else had emptied the room, was surprisingly frank, and I was surprised that she was from Minnesota—who says Midwesterners aren’t hip?
Above left: top by I Waited For You, jacket and shoes by Calvin Luo, jeans by KQK, earring by SVNR; Above right: turtleneck by Rag and Bone, bustier by Ricky King, pant by Nosense, boot by Okoko & Abel, earring by Pattaraphan.
So the album that I listened to, Free Form, is this recent?
It came out January last year, no wait, February. Sometime early last year, it was a mixtape. It was my first project.
How did that come about?
It’s kind of been worked up, so it’s a mixtape because those songs are all just collected. Those songs were made at different times, different places, different surroundings, environment, atmosphere, vibe, feeling, all of that, and it was all mashed into one thing which made it ‘freeform,’ and there never really was a ‘how did this come about,’ it just happened, and then we were like, ‘oh, we have a full product.’ I had two songs prior out in the world, and then I went on tour with those two songs and some random shit that was unfinished that I made in like a bedroom or some shit. My first tour was with Lizzo, it was her first headlining tour, which is very special because she’s blowing up now, and then things just started happening after that. The things that were happening before started to come to fruition.
I know what you mean by all of a sudden you have this fully-realized piece, you sit down and peck away at something and then all of a sudden you have this thing.
Yeah, and that’s how I like to work. Too much pressure on things, I don’t think you’ll get the most genuine authenticity of what your path is. Pressure isn’t really my thing.
It’s funny because I’m the opposite, I need pressure or nothing ever gets done. I thrive on a deadline, like, “I need this now!”
That’s some New York shit. I’m from Minnesota.
I have family there! Where are you from?
I grew up in the Twin Cities. I grew up in St. Paul and now I’m in Minneapolis.
Do you feel connected to…. what’s his name, the big one…
Oh that’s right, Prince is from Minnesota. I was thinking Bob Dylan. Oh yeah, shit. Actually your music kind of feels like Bob Dylan plus Prince. So do you feel connected to Prince?
Absolutely. I’m twenty now and I literally live in South Minneapolis, which is where he grew up. And so right now I feel closer to him than ever.
Above left: top by Junya Watanabe, pant by I Waited For You, shoe by Havva, earring by SVNR.
I just heard that they’re doing a documentary or a biopic about Prince, and I was wondering how a modern, young musician feels about all this nostalgia right now—I just saw a movie about Elton John. What is your opinion of this?
I’m always down to learn more about Prince, because he didn’t really share that much when he was with us, physically. I didn’t know there was going to be another project coming out about him.
I heard it on the actual radio, on an oldies station.
I wonder how that’s going to be positioned. With Prince, I know he only fucked with real ones, so I’m interested to see how they’re going to place it up, if people are going to talk about him, or tour his crib. So he lived in Chanhassen, and he has this park called Paisley Park connected to his place. I think they’re trying to turn his place into a museum.
I think they already have—I read a piece where you can tour the house. I read some kind of essay where the writer talked about going through his place and it’s very odd.
Yeah, I’m not into it.
I think it’s disrespectful and an invasion of privacy.
That was kind of the argument made in the essay, like what is the ethics of this.
That’s definitely something I’ve had conversations with people about. Like some of my friends I grew up with are like, ‘I can’t even be at Paisley right now,’ because you can feel it. If someone’s giving you something, that’s what you take, you don’t take what’s not given. And I think that’s what people are trying to do. But that’s what people do, though.
Do you feel that as a musician, sometimes?
I don’t feel that.
Yeah—I’m not huge. I’m sure big celebrities feel that with all the gossip and all that. I’m really training myself, self-care is my number one thing, if I’m okay with myself, I’ll be good with my surroundings.
Let’s circle back to your project. So I like to do little word games where I ask, in three words, how would you describe your music or vibe to someone who’s never heard it?
My vibe is authentic. It’s poised. And it’s…… that last one is tough, gotta make it worth it. Authentic, poised… Dizzy.
Okay, perfect. I love that. I was really interested in how you manipulated your voice in some of them, can you talk about that? It was startling.
You mean manipulated the pitch?
The pitch, yes. You went low and then another one where you went high, which I found really interesting.
I’m just trying to figure myself out. I think, I just really enjoy playing around with my self. I’ve always been, not weird, but it’s been kind of hard to figure out where my inspirations come from. I always thought that was a problem. There’s just no one I’m trying to be like or sound like. I draw inspiration from things and feelings, like one thing from a person or a feeling I get from listening to that person, and I think playing around with myself, it’s helping me inspire myself, because there are so many versions of us that are within us, and I think that playing with the pitch—I just like to do that with myself, I talk to myself a lot, so why not show that in my music, have multiple mes within me?
Do you feel like your music is just you talking to yourself?
Yeah, it’s really just everything out of my head. Everything in my head is coming out.
That makes sense. You seem particularly interested in fashion as well, I remember each song had a look.
Well, I grew up with wearing uniforms, and then I went to a performing arts conservatory high school, and I was just placed with people that naturally expressed themselves in different types of ways and around that time I started working a thrift store. It was my baby, for sure, it’s not there anymore, it was called ‘Savers.’ It was another way to express myself. I was always trying to figure out a way to express myself, how I know I can express myself, just always trying to dig deep. Fashion was something that helped me to dig deep without having to speak, you know? The expression of it was like, I can do whatever the fuck I want with what I wear, it’s my body—so really honing in on that. There are just a lot of elements of fashion that make up my identity.
I love that you say you can communicate without speaking. I was just talking about that, I have a friend who mentioned a comment I made in class, where I said everything is a costume. When you discuss clothing historically, you say ‘costume,’ ‘costume of the 1890s,’ or whatever, and I just loved that. Essentially everything is just a costume.
Everything is a costume. I love that, actually.
It’s just true. It communicates so much. I love that you said you worked at a thrift store—so what was that like? I’ve never worked in one but I might as well have.
Right? When I first started, I was like, I’m about to be poppin tags 24/7, I’m gonna know when the hottest things come and where they’re at, and I did get that, so that was a bonus and a plus and an upside, the downside I think was just the work of it. At a thrift store, everything is different. There’s a lot of cleaning up, people are messy in thrift stores, which is just part of a thrift store. The labor of it was not tight. I don’t think I was getting paid enough, but the clothing and what I got out of that experience—after I stopped working there I would go there and I just knew where all the good things were, so that was a big bonus. Yeah, it was really cool. There were a lot of things from working there. It gave me a better eye for going to thrift stores and vintage shops and knowing what I wanted. I got to really hone in on that and shape my vision a little bit better.
Do you still have things from that thrift store?
I got this from that thrift store.
The thing you’re wearing right now?
Yeah. Honestly, most of my closet is from that thrift store.
How long ago did it close?
Honestly, like a month or two ago. Pretty recent.
Now, how do you feel like fashion connects to your music? You mentioned surroundings and environments—do you feel like the outfit informs your performance in a way or maybe how you write? I don’t know if that’s a stretch.
I think when you walk out of your house—I usually, when I make music I go to the studio or I meet up with someone, it’s never in my own house unless I’m like writing, even then the environment always matters. I think with fashion, it’s like when you walk out of the house you have to feel a certain way, so I notice that what I’m wearing and how I look either complements or it completely has the mood I’m feeing. I think visually, with my music, it shows like, with the mixtape and the different songs, there’s variety, and that’s what I like to show. But I like to leave that to perspective, people can take what they want with it, when they see me and listen to my music. Because you know when you listen to someone and you’ve never seen what they look like and you’re like, oh, this is what they look like.
Do you think you’re going for that kind of? Like you’re almost trying to throw people for a loop with how you sound vs. how you look?
Because with the voice manipulation and all that it’s like, who is this?
Yeah, I used to not think I was that important. It’s fun. I used to think I wasn’t too important growing up, but then I got passionate about music. And with clothes—when I walk out in this cat dress, I definitely get eyes, and the Leo in me really loves that. It helps boost my confidence.
You were saying that you almost like to play with different versions of yourself. Do you feel like you have personas?
I did this play called ‘Misbehaving,’ when I was a senior in high school, it was a musical, and I remember the director was like, you’re not acting, you’re just playing another part of yourself, and that’s kind of taken me to where I’m at today, and how I go about living my life. I think it’s all just me, I think when I try to separate it and categorize it, it fucks me up in the head. I just try to be me. Sometimes me is tired, sometimes me is super extravagant, it’s just all these different things. I have different feelings, I don’t know if I have different personas. I think with my deep voice, that’s kind of a different persona—if any of it is a persona, it’s my deep voice, and we call her Fizzy Tang. But it’s just another part of me.
What kind of girl is Fizzy Tang? or is she a girl?
She, they, he, what, there, when, why, she’s okay with anything, she doesn’t give a fuck. She really don’t give a fuck. He don’t give a fuck. They don’t give a fuck. Like we said, it’s 2019, what the fuck is a gender?