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INTERVIEW_: Flexing All His Creativity, YouTube Sensation Phum Viphurit

I came across Phum Viphurit when YouTube omnisciently recommended I watch the music video for "Long Gone" from his new album Manchild released by Thai label, Rat Records. I was instantly blown away by the lush guitar work and vocals that feel like a summer day spent on the beach in the company of your lover. I reached out and below is the lovely conversation we had.

Thando Mlambo: Hi Phum, thank you for agreeing to speak with me, where are you speaking to me from today? What has brought you to that place? Phum Viphurit: I am speaking to you from Bangkok, Thailand, the city where I was born and raised as a very young child. I am currently an undergraduate here, majoring my passion for film in film school. I write and perform my original music under the artist name of Phum Viphurit.

TM: What is an average day for you; what are your daily rituals? Tell us a little bit about your film program. PV: I'm currently interning at a fashion magazine, all other times, I usually am at college, whether its the lecture class or out in the field shooting projects. I like to keep active and keep my creative juices flowing otherwise I feel dull and numb.

TM: What kind of music do you make? How long have you been making music? PV: I wrote my first song at the age of 18 using the acoustic guitar I still use for shows to this day. A lot of people will describe my sound as indie/alternative-folk, which I partially agree with. I personally do not listen to that much folk but because of my love for the acoustic guitar sound and the sweet[ness] of open chords, I can see why a lot of my music is categorized in that genre.

TM: Tell us about your new video for “Long Gone.” Who directed and wrote the script for it? Who is your elusive love-interest in the video? What about the aesthetic choices, what inspired them? PV: Long Gone is a project for which I wrote the song, directed and edited the video. At the time I was binge watching a lot of cheesy late 90’s-early 2000’s Thai music videos and decided to create a parody/homage video to this unique style/aesthetic of our entertainment history. We shot it at my university campus in one day where the sun was burning hot, we were all pretty burnt. The girl in the video was actually one of the first music fans when I first launched my career here [in Bangkok]. I invited her as my guest of honor to play a fangirl in the music video who suddenly meets the artist of her dreams who appears before her eyes as if from the cassette tape.

TM: Can you tell us a little bit about the music scene that you’re involved in... What most excites you about the Bangkok scene? What is perhaps a downer? PV: Bangkok has an incredibly active music scene, usually with weekly gigs at a diverse range of venues with very different vibes. However, for international artists like myself, there are still limited opportunities to perform and really connect to a crowd who have the same level of appreciation of international genres and sounds. [That is] not to say that these people do not exist, but there is a disadvantage for international artists here, as the majority of Thai people will consume Thai content first. So my goal has been to change that attitude and to make the scene more universal by reaching out to an international audience and spreading my vibes all over.

TM: What role do you play in the creation of your music? Writing, composing, producing, instrumentation, etc.? Which areas would you like to get more involved in? PV: I do everything hahaha. I start off by making a rough demo from my dorm room, then I will send it along to my producer at the label. After that I will go into the studio to co-produce and record most of the parts for all of my tracks myself. I am also usually always involved in the creation of my music videos too because I’d feel guilty as a film student if I did not flex my creativity in that way.

TM: Tell us about your new album Manchild. What inspired it? How long have you been working on it? PV: Manchild took 2 years to finish and it's like my own little diary that I [have] decided to allow people to peek at. All of the songs are stories, experiences and pieces of conflict and confusion of my transition from my life in New Zealand, to Thailand between the ages of 19-21.

TM: What is your favorite track on the album, and why? PV: My personal favorite has to be Long Gone because I was simply having fun with it, and made the song with no objective whatsoever. It has gone viral in China, and has become my most successful track internationally. It's amazing what you can do when you don’t expect anything, and just remember what it’s like just to have true, genuine fun with music.

TM: Which three artists, dead or alive would you love to collaborate with? PV: Mac Demarco, Roosevelt and probably Rhye. These guys makes soulful music that it not necessary soul, but still connects with me on a spiritual level that I cannot really describe in words. To work with them would be so surreal.

TM: In Taiye Selasi’s TEDtalk, “Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local,” she does away with nationality and zeros-in on the concept of locality as a maker of identity. Selasi understands the stress that comes with a question like “where are you from” being Nigerian and Ghanaian but having grown up and lived in Italy, Germany and the US. She therefore proposes a three-step test to finding where you are a local: the three "R’s": rituals, relationships, restrictions. With that in mind, share your top 10 songs from where you are a local. PV: These songs are from all the world because I don't listen to a lot of Thai songs, but somehow I feel at home whenever I listen to them. A bit random but here you go:

1. Got To Be Real by Cheryl Lynn 2. Plastic Love by Maria Takeuchi (竹内 まりや) 3. Sunburnt Through the Glass by PREP 4. South Of The River by Tom Misch 5. Wander With Me by Tom Misch (feat. Carmody) 6. Ur Life One Night by Unknown Mortal Orchestra 7. Can't Keep Checking My Phone by Unknown Mortal Orchestra 8. Bedroom by Litany 9. Alaska by Maggie Rogers 10. Dog Years by Maggie Rogers

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Find Phum Viphurit’s album Manchild on Spotify and iTunes!


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