By Molly Smith, Charlotte Hingley
Dystopian pop artist Pyra has a creative vision with one central ambition - advocacy for social change. Playfully curating a fictional world dense with symbolism, her enigmatic self-directed video for the track ‘so cold’ reveals a talent far exceeding the realm of sound.
As seen in her latest EP Fkn Bad pt.2, Pyra is paving the way for socially engaged artists.
Her sound emulates the style of early 2000s pop-princess Avril Lavinge with a twist of Evanescence-esque grunge. Alternatinating between thrashing melancholic guitars and overexposed vocals, there is an embedded sense of yearning for a brighter future for the youth of Thailand.
Pyra’s aesthetic is conceptual art. Combining her Thai heritage, futuristic notes of technology and features of video game modification, her attention to detail with creative direction underpins her ability to successfully create a storytelling narrative of the dystopian future she currently envisions in her native country.
Situated within the fictional realm of an ice kingdom, the visuals of ‘so cold’ perpetuate a beautiful nightmare. Tastefully curated and combining surreleast visual cues, Pyra plays with the natural elements of ice and fire to depict an environment that is elegantly grotesque, continuously teetering between light and darkness.
When Pyra joined me virtually from Bangkok early on a Monday morning, it was immediately apparent that my drowsiness could not compete with her electric aura. For a self-proclaimed dystopian pop artist whose muse is “the darkness”, Pyra’s joyfulness sits in stark contrast to the motifs driving her work. We indulged in several topics, the first being the current living conditions in Thailand.
Revealing that she has been locked indoors for two years, Pyra explains that her family has a lot of fear surrounding COVID-19. As of recent months Thailand extended tighter measures in a bid to control the rising cases. The album, written pre-COVID-19, prophesied the current pandemic with tracks titled ‘Yellow Fever’ and ‘Dystopia’ further adding to the allure of her content.
After asking about the reception of her previous LP Fkn Bad pt.1, Pyra explains that her lack of desire to engage on social media has meant that she is generally unaware of the album's feedback. “I've recently been minimizing my social media usage - I keep posting but not checking the comments for my mental health. I think whoever re-shares it likes it.”
Pyra’s nonchalant attitude concerning the opinions of others reiterates that her priorities are not bound to likeability. It becomes evident that this resilience is a product of the criticism she's received as an artist with a “pro-left agenda”. She light heartedly tells me her social media platforms have caught some unwanted attention in recent months: “My TikTok campaign left people feeling insulted… all of these topics are overly sensitive and there is always going to be a side that's opposing. When I'm pro-left, the pro-right come in and bash me, and this happens all the time.”
Although strongly set in her principles, Pyra admits that she is trying to find harmony between addressing the causes close to her and creating well-received content. She explains, “The stuff I speak about is really sensitive and I’m still finding the balance between how to make this work in my music and my art.”
Another important dimension to Pyra’s artistry is her visual content. She talks about the significant role of fantasy in her video concept for single “Paper Promises”, claiming it as an essential tool to inform and educate her audience. “These heavy visuals help sugar coat dark subjects in a fun way.”
Pyra’s talent as a visual curator is equally as meticulous as her sound. She tells me that, “Everything that appears in my videos and artwork needs to mean something.” The music video unfolds in computer game format as Pyra follows a trail of animated money until ‘Game Over’ is announced, alluding to the frustration she holds towards current governmental powers.
“The majority of people want to leave the country because the current government is pretty bad and is trying to keep their power forever. They don’t support the music industry... there is no future for art or artists.”
Her agenda for social change seems to transgress into all areas of her creative expression; this consistency reveals a powerful artistic consciousness allowing Pyra to communicate the issues closest to her. I hung up the call feeling grateful for the rawness of our conversation, and with a deeper appreciation for Pyra’s work by acknowledging the power of music as an agent to spread awareness and foster meaningful social change in a world so Fkn Bad.
Photography: KONGPHOB CHAIRATTANANGKUL