“I’m really excited for it to be out…my day to day stuff is just work, so I try to give myself a lot of time to celebrate, just appreciate what I’ve done. Honestly, it’s hard to find the time!” Luckily for us, Hong Kong-raised and Los Angeles-based artist Deb Fan was able to sit down and talk to me about her new EP Gemini Moon that drops today, what inspires her, and embracing what makes her unique.
Moving from Hong Kong to attend college in the United States, Fan grew up in a traditional Chinese household, where self-expression was suppressed and she was expected to fulfill a traditional woman’s role in society. Ever since she was a child, however, Fan knew she wanted to find an outlet for her creativity. Contrasting soft vocals with full and intense production, Deb Fan is playing by her own rules and re-engaging with her culture, making her an introspective and unique storyteller.
What does the songwriting process look like for you? Do you set aside specific times to work, or is it just when inspiration strikes you?
I definitely try to schedule some time for myself to write, but more and more so it’s become less like that. Its pretty sporadic and I definitely try to keep myself on a schedule but a lot of times, its just like most the stuff I actually truly like and want to finish, are stuff that comes to me on a whim.
You studied production engineering at Berklee. How has that influenced your style?
I feel like my art and stuff is very production heavy just because I love sounds. I’m also a sound designer, so it’s kinda just my, I don’t know, making sounds and just being in tune with soundscapes and stuff is definitely a big part of my artistry.
Throughout Gemini Moon, you explore the ideas of duality and self-expression. When you were growing up, did you find yourself struggling with who you wanted to be and how society expected you to be?
I don’t necessarily find it difficult to express myself. I mean now I’m in America where I see completely different viewpoints and I feel like I just didn’t have that big of a worldview and life back then was kind of just “go, go, go.” You don’t really question it. Partially I feel like the culture definitely suppresses a lot of that expressivity that I wanna fight for now, but at the same time I feel like I’m also taking bits and pieces of my culture and what I value from it and bringing it to the table to make who I am now.
When you first moved to the United States, did you find yourself experiencing any culture shock?
At first, not really, I mean just being an immigrant and everything I had to assimilate hard. I’m pretty adaptable, I’ve adapted to so much, like in the US, I’ve moved around so many times. Its crazy how free it is here! It’s crazy how everyone is so uniquely themselves and it definitely makes me want to embrace my individuality. I think now that I’m older and I’m just really thinking about where I came from and who I am, its coming to a point where I find myself contradicting a lot of my own opinions. It’s hard, its an ongoing process.
As someone who was born and raised in a traditional Chinese household, do you feel that the younger generations in Hong Kong are starting to speak out more and push back against traditional cultural values?
I think that with the people I grew up with, not a lot of people are going the route that I am, you know? There are very little artists from the high school that I went to. I think me and only like 2 other people came out from my school, went to America and wanted to pursue their artistry. I feel like most of the people went the conventional route, which I mean, I’m still half-conventional I guess [laughs]. I have a corporate job, but a lot of people are comfortable with what they grew up with and the culture that I grew up in isn’t necessarily….its not like not expressive, I think they are expressing it in a very different way but at the same time adhering to a lot of their culture standards, but I guess having been integrated into American culture for so long that I kind of have to find a blend between the both of them. With the younger generations, I feel like to a certain extent, we’re all finding ourselves like more and more as generations come.
The production of your music is very cinematic and with the video for “Run My Mind” being inspired by director Wong Kar Wai, do you find that you are often inspired by film?
Definitely! The way that he plays with contrast in his movies is pretty insane. There’s so many little nuances in his films. I do derive a lot of inspiration from cinema, especially dark cinema because a lot of the dark cinema underlines light themes. For example, his film In The Mood For Love, even though a lot of the shots are really dark and heavy contrast, in the end of it all, the theme, it hits your heart, it’s really moving. Moody, but at the same time, its also a lighter topic, its about love. My etherealness stems from a lot of cinema. Even through my music you can kind of hear that its pretty cinematic. It’s big production like you would hear in films
If you ever got the opportunity, would you write music for a film? If you could work with your dream director, who would it be?
Definitely Wong Kar Wai and the directors at Marvel. I think if I were to ever do a film, I would love to do a feature film that isn’t so artsy, just something that you can create actual songs to. I’m not a film scorer, but I would love to, like its always been my dream job ever since I was a kid or at Berklee, I wanted to make music for film. That’ll happen one day for sure! Maybe after this artist thing, who knows? [laughs]
What other genres of music are you interested in incorporating into your sound?
The first music that I’ve listened to that I discovered on my own is 70s blues, rock, and psychedelia. It’s very immersive and that’s why my music sounds the way it is now. It kind of sounds like Physical Graffiti mixed with neo-soul and hyper pop. One thing that I really do want to get into, I really want to tap into hip-hop, but in the way I would interpret it, because I didn’t grow up in America where hip-hop was born. I definitely want to make it authentically me. I do want to try trap drums because right now I think my drums in the production sound really rocky, like garage type drums, but I would definitely want to try trap. I do actually have a song that has a trap beat, but for some reason it fits within the aesthetic, I don’t know, I guess it makes sense to me!
I’ve been experimenting so much its crazy, I feel like a lot of artists when they first start off, they pigeon hole themselves into one type of genre and I mean, its great to love that genre and explore more and more of that genre but at the end of the day, we are artists, we’re free of boundaries, we want to explore and I feel like a lot of artist these days, I can’t even define their genre, and I can’t really define mine either. It’s crazy and I love it!
When you started out, did you ever feel that pressure to define yourself with a specific image, genre, etc?
I go back and forth about it a lot, its very contradicting for me, because sometimes I’m like “the sky’s the limit” but other times I’m being pulled in so many different directions. But I think what really matters is just making things authentically you no matter what. I started making music in 2018 and I was going pretty crazy with what I thought was trendy. I tried to own a lot of different genres and make them my own to be what I thought that genre should sound like. I was making rock trap, and I was pigeon holing myself into making that type of sound, which I guess is modern rock, and I realized I could so many other things. I love so many other things and so I took a break from making music. And then when I dived back into it, I was like “fuck it” lets just make music, like throwing paint on the canvas and seeing what sticks. Once I really started channeling into that, that’s when I started feeling like everything was becoming a lot more cohesive to me. You have to understand that when you throw things together, it’s not always going to work the first time, you just have to keep trying, and don’t chase trends.
Your lyrics are incredibly honest and personal. Is it hard for you to be so open with your feelings, or do you find it to be therapeutic?
It’s honestly still kind of hard for me to do that. A lot of the songs that are on the EP, I’ve written in my own time in my bedroom and then sometimes I bring it over to a producer. It really just depends on what kind of song you’re making because sometimes I have to be really close with my producer to be able to write something that I think is really authentically me because I feel like when I’m being authentically me, that’s me being vulnerable and that’s me being honest with everyone around me. It’s not easy. I grew up on the Internet, I was alone and when I started releasing music at first, sharing that to the public, I didn’t think of it, cause I’m just like “Who cares? No ones really gonna listen to it.” But its definitely starting to get to a point where people are saying my lyrics back to me, and I’m like “Hold on, wait now I feel weird. People are listening, how do I feel about that?” It’s something I think about daily now.
Are you open to collaborating with other artists? Who are your dream collabs?
It really just depends on what type of artist the other person is. I love a lot of different art; I love indie art, I love pop, I love all types of art. I think what really makes me connect with the music is if I know the person a lot. If I know the person and I really want to know about their artistry, their process, how they grew up, that’s what makes me really connect with the art more. Sometimes, if I really like the music they send me and they want me to feature on it, then that’s amazing and I would definitely hop on, but it were someone I knew and loved, then I would love to get into a session with them. That’s usually how I like making music; a dedicated time to sit down and write and collaborate and make something great together because I feel that’s where most of the good art comes from.
Man, I love Teezo Touchdown, which is crazy cause I feel like our sounds are very different. His story, the way that he presents his projects and his mind, he has so many creative ideas and he’s really doing it to such a professional level. I’m sure he doesn’t have like a million dollar budget. People who are able to get scrappy with it just because they love it and I just see that and I’m just getting chills talking about it! Obviously I would love to collab with SZA. I don’t think she’s taking collaborations at this point [laughs]. Maybe one day.
Is there a message you would like listeners walk away with after hearing Gemini Moon?
I’m expecting people to say it’s confusing with the vibe I give off cause I give off really hard vibes I guess? But at the same time, I want people to take it and be like “Oh wait, she’s like a real human being, because at the end of the day, everyone has a persona that they have on Instagram, and that’s all people see. But I feel like when they listen to my music, they get thrown off a little bit. I don’t know, I guess, under every tough exterior, there’s always a soft crab [laughs]. My entire EP is very vulnerable and it shows the soft side of me and I love how the production “masks” it a little bit because that’s my life. Life is full of contradictions. When you see a person, people are so quick to judge who they are as a character because they see it, but at the end of the day, people aren’t just that, there’s a flipside to it, and that’s what makes people whole.
What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
I really want to make a summer hit! And I want to travel a lot, I was thinking about traveling back to Hong Kong this year. Just really getting inspired and really be in tune again with myself outside of America. Also, I want to do more video shoots. There’s so many things! I really want to start thinking about potentially an album, who knows? I’m just making music [laughs].
Gemini Moon is now out on all streaming platforms.
Credit: Featured Images: Valeria Rios (@val.ok), Notorious Noise