Killer Female Talent Spotlight: Flower Boy 卓颖贤

Image: Flower Boy 颖贤 by Yin Yue Chan.

Author: Melody Menu

Welcome to the Killer Female Talent Spotlight: a fortnightly column dedicated to shining a greater light on female and gender non-conforming artists in the music industry.

Anxious and ambient, Flower Boy 卓颖贤’s soundscapes are affecting in the extreme. Atmospheric beats and sharp snare are pieced together to form visceral and unrelenting electronica, overlaid with Flower Boy 卓颖贤’s raw and emotive lyrics. The Sydney-based DJ’s debut EP FASCI(N)ATION is an electrical storm of love and yearning; a product of her classical background combined with a glassy, precise production style.

Ahead of her EP launch, Flower Boy 卓颖贤 guides us through the sonic journey of the EP, from utilising music as a form of emotional expression; how she identifies with in-between spaces; and the influence of the local electronic music scene.

How did Flower Boy 颖贤 take shape?

I think Flower Boy 卓颖贤 is really just a culmination of thoughts, feelings, and experiences I’ve had throughout my life that I’d previously never really known how to express. Being a relatively private person, the idea of sharing intimate parts of myself to more than just a select few is quite daunting, but Flower Boy 卓颖贤 has allowed me to do it in an abstract sort of way, so that I still feel secure about not having everything out in the open, while also not keeping everything bottled up… and through Flower Boy 卓颖贤 I’ve really managed to open up and become a lot more honest about my feelings.

I’d say the growth of Flower Boy 卓颖贤’s identity/aesthetic has been quite organic; there was never a set plan or path I had in mind, I just knew it was something that I wanted to do.

Tell us a little about the FASCI(N)ATION EP.

I’d say this EP basically encapsulates a certain time in my life. My music is essentially a very public yet hard-to-understand diary and FASCI(N)ATION is just another chapter in it. The title comes from the word ‘fasciation’, referring to when plants (usually flowers) grow in a mutated manner, which can be caused by a number of factors. Sometimes fasciated plants become more desirable than the original plant itself, and so it gets propagated, which was a concept that interested me and that I wanted to play with.

How has your classical training informed Flower Boy 颖贤?

I think it’s definitely influenced how I listen to music – I really struggle with anything that lacks interest, especially if it lacks melodic/harmonic change. And so as a result I wouldn’t really be able to write anything that isn’t melodically or harmonically interesting to me. I’ve also caught myself a few times thinking about harmonic movement between melodic lines and the bass, which is perhaps a more direct influence. And, of course, there’s all the basic knowledge of key signatures and harmony which I’m definitely appreciative of.

How do concepts of identity and heritage influence your music?

There’s often a lot of discussion on identity and how people identify, and while I do identify as Chinese, as Lebanese, as Australian, it gets tiring sometimes. I often feel like the price that comes with identifying as something that isn’t immediately visible to others, whether it be a culture, or gender, or sexuality, is that you almost have to give proof to society that you are worthy of that identity. I think that has a lot to do with my decision to attach ‘卓颖贤’ to the end of Flower Boy. It really began as a statement of my identity.

That being said, I also have a certain affinity to non-places, like airports, because in many ways, I identify with the feeling of being displaced just as much as I identify with any of my cultures. A lot of my music comes from that feeling of being stuck between (sometimes unwelcoming) worlds – I really think that I’m potentially more influenced by lack of identity than anything else.

What does the name Flower Boy 颖贤 mean to you?

The Chinese characters are actually my Chinese name. I’d previously had a few different Chinese names, but none of them felt like they fit right… This one was gifted to me by a lovely soothsayer and the instant he gave it to me I really felt a connection to it, and so now it’s mine. The pinyin of the characters is ‘zhuō yǐng xián’, though if you’re really curious on how to say it you can put it into google translate and it’ll read it to you!

The ‘Flower Boy’ came about because I’d made my first track and wanted a moniker so I basically just scrolled through Facebook until I found something that I liked the sound of.

What do you love about the local electronic music scene?

My favourite thing would be that there’s a really diverse range of sounds in Sydney, which definitely gave me more confidence in sharing whatever genre of music it is that I make. Also, most of the people involved are just really lovely and supportive and will come to your shows, even if you don’t think what you’re doing is good enough for them. I think both of those aspects are super important in cultivating a good and interesting scene, and keeping it alive.

You’ve been mentoring as part of ‘All Girl Electronic’ – how important are programs such as these to you?

It’s funny because I actually felt too intimidated to apply for ‘All Girl Electronic’ a couple years ago, so it’s nice that I still get the chance to be involved somehow! I think programs like A.G.E are so important on so many levels. Firstly, it’s so important to be encouraging and giving women/non-binary folk the opportunity to make music in a supportive environment where they can also connect with like-minded people and create their own support networks. I feel like I don’t really need to go into a lot of detail about the gender imbalance in the music industry, but as a result of that, it’s incredibly important to have people you can approach and ask questions, who also understand the struggles/fears of being in certain spaces. Additionally, I personally find it easier to learn from someone than from youtube tutorials, or by trial and error, though that can lead to happy accidents!

As well as that, a lot of art scenes, whether it be music or writing, can be extremely intimidating and overwhelming spaces to be in for people who are new or aren’t that familiar with the people involved. There’s definitely a lot of ‘perceived coolness’ of artists, and the desire to fit in or impress can add to the pressure of being in those spaces. Programs like A.G.E can help make production and being part of ‘the scene’ a lot more accessible, which overall benefits everyone!

Flower Boy 卓颖贤 will launch her debut EP FASCI(N)ATION at Freda’s on Thursday July 5 with special guests Gas & Kilimi. Tickets here.

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