Phum Viphurit is your new school soul

Phum Viphurit is your new school soul

“I want to write something that’s kind of meaningful to me and not just out there so I can tour.”

Photos by Renzo Navarro

 

Phum Viphurit is holding a lemon when I enter his holding room for our interview. Before I can even think to ask, he welcomes me in with the widest smile and a handshake, saying something along the lines of “I don’t know why I have a lemon” before settling down onto the couch beside me. It’s in that moment that I get it. So this is the Phum appeal.

Phum’s greeting was a totally random thing to walk into, but not at all unexpected. The self-described “songbird/ t-shirt collector” is known for his sunshine-y, awkward persona that’s turned into his trademark. Ever since his song Lover Boy and its accompanying music video went viral, fans have pinned the title to him — one can even argue that the term is now synonymous to his ‘90s-lanky tall boy-film aesthetic.  

Take me away, sunray: Phum is a self-described songbird/t-shirt collector who’s known for his sunshine-y, awkward persona.

Today he’s in a Journey band tee (probably vintage) paired with elephant pants (Thailand reppin’) and low top Chuck 70s (from his collection). It’s a few hours before Phum is scheduled to hit the stage for his co-headlining Karpos Live Mix 10 show alongside IV of Spades, and he’s using this time to chill out with his girlfriend Helen.  

It’s then that I bring up his hectic touring schedule, which took the 24-year-old indie pop/bedroom funk singer-songwriter all over the world this past year, and ask him how he was able to fit in an EP release in between. To my surprise, he tells me that he’s had way too much time.

The new EP, called “Bangkok Balter Club,” took Phum two years to finish, mostly because he didn’t want it to seem inauthentic. “I’ve just been coming to soak in everything in because I want to write something that’s kind of meaningful to me and not just out there so I can tour,” he says.  Originally, he mentions, it was supposed to be a nine-track album, but he eventually decided to stick to four songs that he felt deeply connected to. 

 

“I want to write something that’s kind of meaningful to me and not just out there so I can tour.”

 

Phum tells me that the EP title is an ode to British band Bombay Bicycle Club, and is named so because it’s all about his experiences and growth in the Thai capital. Written from his grandma’s home, “Bangkok Balter Club” is “more on the rhythmic side, more upbeat than the last [album],” which is why he decided to use the word “balter” after coming across it online. 

“[It] means to dance, kind of like without any skill or, you know, just do it out of the joy of dancing and that expression. I thought it was a really beautiful word,” he explains. “And,” he lets out a little chuckle, “that’s exactly how I dance.”

Snack time: Having no formal music background, Phum’s approach to songwriting is narrative-based, and he usually has a hand in creating his music videos.

Though he’s now pursuing music full time, bits of his film school background occasionally seep into his work. Having no formal music background, his approach to songwriting is narrative-based, and he usually has a hand in creating his music videos. 

We got to see more of his art skills recently, which so happened because Helen (who usually works on the art for his stuff) was too busy to work on the album art for his new EP. Phum ended up sketching and conceptualizing everything himself, and he’s pretty proud of the result: “a gathering of all these different emotions or characters, going on an adventure in Bangkok.” 

If you look closely, you’ll notice which characters represent each song. “You can see the Lover Boy guy with the hat,” he says of the first character. “And then there’s the sun, which is Softly Spoken. There’s this alien purple lady, she’s from Pluto. She’s a Plutonian. And then the giraffe is from Hello, Anxiety. They’re all riding this, like, warped tuk-tuk together in Bangkok.”

 

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I drew this print for you, it’s true. Soon.

A post shared by Phum V. (@phumviphurit) on

During the course of our conversation, Phum tosses the lemon back and forth between his hands, unconsciously fidgeting with it as he thinks about his answers. While he’s aware that he has quite a following in the country (there are multiple PH-based fan pages dedicated to him, some fans even lined up as early as 2 p.m. for tonight’s show), it seems that Phum still stays humble. 

As we prepare to head outside for the shoot, the road manager tells him to wait for the guard. “Oh I get security?” he jokes, with a slightly surprised look on his face. Later on as we’re shooting, I overhear him ask, “Will they even recognize me?”

And even though he’s pretty tall, Phum could very well be someone you’d meet at a gig in Quezon City on a Friday night, or even someone who’d watch tonight’s show. It’s little details like these that make the Thai-born, New Zealand-raised singer-songwriter seem so relatable, especially to Filipino fans. 

When I mention this observation, he says he’s always happy to represent Southeast Asia. Personally though, he doesn’t really look at where the artists he’s listening to are from. Case in point: he discovered dream pop artist Mellow Fellow without even knowing he was from the Philippines. 

Keep me company: “Bangkok Balter Club” is all about Phum’s experiences in Bangkok.

As for his co-headliners, he tells me that he’d started listening to IV of Spades two years ago. “After Where Have You Been My Disco, when there were still four people in the band,” he recalls. “I was really into that because I thought ‘Aww these guys are so fresh.’ And now it’s awesome to play the same show as them.”

Nowadays, Phum’s been listening to a lot of music from the early 2000s. “I don’t know why, I’m just in that mood where I’m feeling nostalgic,” he says, also pointing to how these songs have strong melodies that stick with you until now. On his playlist are artists like Gwen Stefani, Missy Elliott, and the Black Eyed Peas. “It’s nice to study and go back to listen to those things.”

And while he doesn’t think that the next album (“hopefully a full length this time”) will sound anything like Gwen Stefani, he’s taking things as they go, mostly just glad that he gets to do what he’s doing, touring the world and making music.

As the interview comes to a close, I ask him if there’s anything he wants people to take away from his music. In keeping with the feel-good nature of his songs, he genuinely hopes that they just enjoy it.

“I don’t wish for anything else, nothing less, nothing more,” he remarks, smiling. “I hope they enjoy listening to it, I hope they have fun covering the songs or whatever you choose. However you interpret it, I hope you have a good time.”

Stream “Bangkok Balter Club” on Spotify. Follow Phum on Instagram

Photos by RENZO NAVARRO
Produced by BEA AMADOR
Sittings by GABY GLORIA, GIAN NICDAO, and FIEL ESTRELLA
Special thanks to KARPOS LIVE
Tags:
#arts #cover #feature #music #profile

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