In the video for her new single “Wilinout,” premiering today on NYLON, Brooklyn-based R&B priestess IYVES traverses a depopulated dustscape, communing with the desert terrain and its glitter-specked residents. It’s a fittingly expansive visual for her music, which is near-cosmic in its spaciousness. Lush synth palettes courtesy of producer Luca Buccellati (Tei Shi, Yellerkin) imbue her husky vocals with a celestial ethereality, like Jessie Ware in zero gravity, or a spacebound Sade. We chatted with IYVES about crafting her swoon-worthy sound, Southwestern influences, and returning to her soul roots.
You first released music under the name of HɅNɅH. Why the change?
Over the past year, I was working on a lot of new material and came to what will be my EP. I felt like I was ready to make a new name for what this project has evolved into. It felt right to change the name and have a new beginning for this music. I was tossing around a bunch of different names, and IYVES kept coming back to me.
You’re originally from Boulder, CO. How did you make it to Brooklyn?
I went to school in Boston and graduated and decided to stay on the East Coast and continue with my community here. I actually went to Berklee College of Music, so I knew music was going to be in my future. I studied performance there. I took a bunch of business classes and did some music therapy, but ultimately, I knew that being a musician and a songwriter was what I ultimately wanted.
When you started off, were you producing and recording yourself, or did you learn through collaboration?
As far as songwriting goes, I’ve always started with that. Production-wise, I wasn’t always there and it’s still a work in progress for me, so I’ve linked up with people over time, like instrumentalists, guitar players, and producers who do more of the electronic stuff. It’s always been a collaborative process for me bringing my visions to life.
More recently, you’ve been working with Luca Buccellati. How did you two cross paths?
Luca and I have actually been good friends for a long time. Before we went to Berklee, we did a summer camp together there when we were in high school, and in college we were in similar circles. We kind of linked up more in the sense of friends, which turned into a more creative producer-artist relationship. We were testing the waters around the time he started working with Tei Shi.
In your press photos, music videos, and album artwork, you combine a variety of distinct aesthetics. What ties it all together?
IYVES is very much me. In photos I have this crazy, curly hair, which is my way of exuding individuality and exuding my pure self. As far as the artwork’s concerned, I am very influenced by the Southwest. The scenery, the mountains, and the landscape have really influenced my work, like the geological shapes on the single artworks. I essentially lived in the mountains, going skiing and hiking with friends, so it was kind of ingrained in me. Moving away, it becomes a more highlighted thing, like a longing for these places when you’re not around. The artist that I worked with does a mix of African and Southwest Native influences, and I’m really attracted to that kind of aesthetic, a mix of organic and somehow artificial.
Ever since you started putting out music as IYVES, you’ve really ignited the blogosphere, especially heavyweight tastemakers like Pigeons & Planes and Stereogum. Do you follow music blogs?
I love how the blogs are early to pick up on newcomers, so you can find music that’s buzzy within the Internet, but not quite yet in other places. I love SoundCloud. I think that’s a great way to find these undiscovered artists. I also find people on Spotify. I always stumble upon new people one way or another, like constant discovery.
As an artist, what’s your take on streaming services?
Honestly, I think Spotify’s pretty good. I think eventually, you can make some money off of it, but it’s also this give-and-take, where it allows us artists to be listened to on a greater scale. People across the world can hear your music, and I think that in yourself is a huge, special thing. You have to be very creative to make a career and income out of it, but I think it’s an amazing tool. It’s so cool that people in Hungary or Poland or wherever are listening to my music.
Who are you listening to right now?
I’ve been a little ADD recently. For whatever reason, maybe because winter’s around the corner, I’m kind of going back to my roots with Bon Iver. I swear I’m not totally depressed! I’ve been really into the new Tame Impala album, and Braids has been someone I’ve really gotten into recently. I saw her play at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, and she’s a really phenomenal artist. She’s one of the highlights of my playlists these days.
You mentioned that you’ve got an EP in the works. What’s up next for IYVES?
I’m planning on releasing it in the very near future. It’s a collection of works that I’ve been working really hard on, and it’s time that I set it free. What’s next is making more music and continuing to evolve and become the writer that I hope to become. I’m experimenting with new sounds as of recently and trying to dabble in making the vocals more upfront. Lianne La Havas is an artist I really love, and I’m trying to go back to that kind of soul in the vocals. I definitely want to play more shows in the next month or two. We’ll see where it all goes.