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.”