We caught up with Phum Viphurit backstage at Karpos Live Mix 10
As I listen to the playback of my quick chat with Phum Viphurit backstage at the tenth and final Karpos Live show of the year, I come to a realization: this may very well be the first time that I haven’t cringed at myself post-interview. There's something disarmingly easy about talking to the 24-year-old musician, in a way that reminds of the unaffected strums and unguarded honesty that draw people to his songs.
By all accounts, he's the same guy we see onstage, the same fella who posts on the ‘gram. Despite going through the motions of flight to sound check to interview to show, he's got a glint in his eye and talks us through his favorite vintage tees, his numerous encounters with adobo. There's little room for pretense––and perhaps that's what Phum Viphurit's charm is all about. That genuine energy that radiates off his person and his music, that makes one think that this guy is just like the rest of us, throwing caution to the wind and playing things by ear (albeit literally, in his case).
Ahead, a play-by-play of our conversation with Phum Viphurit, where he talks anything and everything from the collab of his dreams to his Dancing Queen grandmom.
On Manila, Adobo and Sharing a Stage with the Spades
Welcome back to the Philippines. When did you fly in?
I came in yesterday evening and went straight to the hotel, so I haven’t really seen anything. I feel it’s like that every time, we don’t really get to see much.
Oh yeah? Will you have the time to explore later on, though?
Maybe after tonight? I wanna get some street food, like legitimate Filipino street food. That would be nice. I really crave that.
Speaking of food, what was the last meal you had?
Um, I had a burger just now? (laughs). Last night, we had adobo.
How’d you find that? Was it your first time to try it?
I had some in the States when I went just a few weeks ago. But I think that was the more Americanized adobo, but here, it was more dry and crispy. But in the States, it was more like a soup dish. So I was like, what is the proper adobo? Is it supposed to be soupy?
I’m pretty sure there are different versions of it.
Depending on the region you’re in or something like that?
Yeah. I’m sure there’s some Thai food like that, too.
You first played in Manila last year. How does it feel to be back?
It feels surreal. This will be my third time within the length of a year, basically? Because I came in November last year for All of the Noise, then in May this year for Summer Noise. Now I’m here in November! So three times in a year, that’s a lot of times to visit one country and I’m super grateful to be here.
Is there a particular song you’re excited to perform for your Filipino fans tonight?
Usually everyone here sings along pretty loudly, so I’m excited to see with the older songs, if they’ll sing along.
You’re playing back-to-back with IV of Spades tonight. Have you heard of them in the past? Like their music?
I’ve heard of them before, yeah. I came across their music on YouTube about two years ago. It was Where Have You Been, My Disco?, back when there were four people. And yeah, I’m a fan! I’ve kept up with their latest releases. I hope to say hi sometime later.
On Bangkok Balter Club, Collabs and Side-Stepping Rent
Congratulations on releasing Bangkok Balter Club in September. What sets this EP apart from the stuff you’ve released in the past?
Thank you very much, thank you. I guess the approach is different: I used to write with the acoustic guitar, but now I play the electric guitar a lot more so there’s naturally a shift in the sound. It’s a lot more, I guess, upbeat? The tempo is a bit different, and also the story’s a bit more mature as I’ve grown myself.
If you could compare your newest EP to a film; which would it be?
To one film? Or to multiple?
Alright, you can go and name multiple, then.
For one, it has a lot of Little Miss Sunshine in it. Have you guys seen Little Miss Sunshine? It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. I love family films––but not like peachy rated family films. Like family films that deal with dark humor, with very real issues. I feel like [in my EP] I talk about a lot of those things and that’s what I’ve been doing these past couple of years.
Cool. You mentioned on your Instagram post that you wrote all the songs off your new EP in your grandma’s home in Bangkok. You guys are pretty close, huh?
I guess we are, yeah! I think when I tell that to foreigners, especially in the West, they’re like “Oh my god, you still live with your grandma?”. But I guess in Asia it’s very common to live in a family home, because it’s a different culture. You don’t grow up and move out [right away]. And I mean… it’s a nice house!
So you can’t really complain, can you?
Yeah, and you don’t have to pay rent! And she always makes me a cup of Milo every morning.
If you had to dedicate one song to your grandma. what would it be?
Any song? (laughs) I’d probably be a real troll about it. Not something super sweet. Maybe something like Dancing Queen?
You also collaborated with NIKI and 88rising recently. Is there any other artist in the world you’d like to collab with?
So many. I really would love to work with The Whitest Boy Alive. This guy called Erlend Øye is part of the band Kings of Convenience, and he started his own band called The Whitest Boy Alive. I would love to work on a track with them. One day!
If not that, then maybe someone like Mac DeMarco. I speak of him everywhere I go so that one day he’ll realize that I’ve just spoken so much about him.
And that you’re just waiting for that opportunity to finally happen.
So he’ll know I’m legit, like a true fan. Either those two, or something really outside of my genre.
On Childhood Dreams, Bangkok and a Billy Ray Shirt That Money Can't Buy
Did you always know that you wanted to pursue music or take up a degree in film?
Probably film earlier than music. Music kind of came along later as the opportunities came. I just did it for fun and I just really enjoyed playing music with people. I always thought I wanted to work in media. I’m really interested in film. One day I might be a creative at an ad agency or direct my own film, work on sets. Being a musician was at least fourth on my list of jobs that I wanted.
Your Insta bio says that you collect t-shirts. Do you have a favorite?
I do, yeah. Just one? It’s so hard for me to choose.
Okay, you can select several if you want to.
Okay, I can pick two. I found this really rare Billy Ray Cyrus shirt. It’s from the ‘80s, when his song Achy Breaky Heart was released. I remember that really well because when I was in middle school in New Zealand they used to make me line dance to that song. It’s a really funny memory. When I bought it, he blew up with that song with Lil Nas X so everyone was like, “Where’d you find that shirt? Let me buy it off you for like, a crazy amount of money!”. I’m like, nah. I found this.
I also just got a new Star Wars shirt. It’s from the 2000s, from the first movie. I’m gonna wear it tonight, so you guys are gonna see that one.
Cool, you’re a Star Wars fan?
I am, but not a huge fan. But I like to collect stuff from my childhood.
Speaking of favorites, you moved from New Zealand to Bangkok a few years back. What are your favorite places in Bangkok?
Places with live music are pretty nice. There’s a few really cool hidden jazz bars. There’s a district called Bang Rak, and it’s full of galleries and close to the oldest train station in Thailand. And yeah, there’s a real magic about it. When people think of Bangkok, they think of nightlife and Khao San, which is very touristy. If you’re not into that, you should find somewhere more quiet, a little more artsy.
One last question. We’re at the end of 2019. What are the things you’re looking forward to in 2020?
In 2020? I haven’t really thought about 2020 yet. I’m just like, okay, how many more shows do I have this month? How much time do I have to sleep?
Isn’t that what we all think about?
Yeah, it’s what everyone thinks about! Hopefully I’m gonna take a bit of a holiday––like a legitimate holiday where I don’t have to play music. To really clear my head and recollect the memories I’ve had, write them in a record. To really craft a sound that is distinct to me. That’s my next goal. Then yeah, lots of touring after that, if people are still into it. If not… it’s fine (laughs).
Photography Cessi Treñas & Celina Cruz
Art Alexandra Lara
Special thanks to Karpos Live