In the 21st century, musicians have had a spike in creative and distributional freedom by being able to download software at the click of a mouse and share their tunes with millions in seconds. Zak Cannon sits down with Aeon Fux to discuss her world of creation, adoration of “creepy-crawlies”, and overcoming gender expectations.
Music used to be a small handful of predictable genres. In the early 2000s, there was Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Electronic, Rap, Hip Hop, and of course Alternative. “Alternative” was the rock-inspired genre that hosted names like Fiona Apple, Florence and the Machine, and Vampire Weekend. Now, the genre of alternative has evolved into hundreds of mini-genres like folktronica, post-dubstep, and nintendocore.
Aeon Fux is riding the wave of new age definition by creating her own beats, writing her own lyrics, and independently publishing her own music online (under the genre “doom soul”). Elytra, the 23 year-old behind Aeon Fux, grew up surrounded by choir, flute sessions, and her middle school marching band in Washington. After acquiring a taste for metal, she decided she wanted to make music of her own. Drawing vocal inspiration from legends like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and Edith Piaf, Aeon Fux created a very particular sound that has since reverberated with thousands of devoted listeners. She dazzled bloggers in 2013 after posting a solemn cover of “Two of Hearts” by Stacey Q, gaining over 100,000 notes on Tumblr and causing an influx of interest in her instrument of choice, the omnichord. In fact, so many bloggers asked about her captivating instrument, Olivia changed the name of her blog to “IT’S AN OMNICHORD”. People were clearly taken by Aeon Fux’s attire, mystery, and ultimately, her wicked beats.
In her latest release titled “Exuvium”, Elytra drones, “I’ve given up this body/To become something new/How long have I been dreaming/That I will turn into/Something so beautiful and strange/Something you can’t explain/Something without a name”. This idea of rebirth continues even into the name of the track- exuvium is the biological term used to describe the exoskeleton left behind after molting. But what does Aeon Fux have to shed? “Navigating this space presenting as a woman, specifically a fat black one, has been very interesting. Image does play a huge part in music, though I don’t think it should take as much precedence as it does. I’ve found that I receive much more attention when prescribed to an image of hyperfemininity, and I think there’s a preconceived notion of ‘toughness’ surrounding me due to a lot of stereotypes about black women. I like to remind people that softness and sweetness can and should be associated with us. Some people don’t really take me seriously I think, because I’m perceived as a female solo artist.” Aeon Fux doesn’t only transcend musical genre, she also defies gender stereotypes. But this shedding of expectation isn’t an easy one. “I’ve had guys send their numbers to my booking email because they ‘thought I was cute’ and it’s super silly! Like, this isn’t okcupid.” In an industry dominated by men, Aeon Fux refuses to be placed into a box that restricts her creative freedom.
Science has been a huge factor in the lyrical and instrumental composition of Aeon Fux’s tunes. “Science is a huge passion of mine, and I originally came to school to major in environmental studies with an emphasis is entomology and parasitology. I often feel like I can relate to organisms that might be considered ‘creepy-crawlies’ more than I can to people, and those themes are evident in my writing process.” Fux shares that her affinity to things that are a bit strange are rooted in her own expression. “I’ve recently come to define myself as non-binary, but I am read as cisgender and I still often present myself in a hyper-feminine fashion. For a long time I denied myself any form of expressing my gender in a way that was non-conforming out of fear, or thinking I ‘already have enough to deal with’, but I’ve learned that in expressing myself this way it doesn’t take away from who I am, it adds to it.”
Aeon Fux is rising through the tiers of the industry in a time when both massive musical freedom is allowed via the internet but restricted by corporate patronage. “Being able to release music independently and having so much creative freedom has really shaped my overall introduction to the music industry. I started putting my music online because of the intense anxiety I experienced performing live, and it really helped! I’ve had a lot of fellow musicians express their anxieties about playing live and really the only way to get over it is practice. I don’t think I’d be booking shows if it wasn’t for my online presence.” Despite the ease of access technology has lent to musicians, there are still obstacles Generation X must overcome. “I think that DIY musicians and spaces are extremely cool and important, but it’s like, people don’t want to pay artists anymore. Artists have always relied on patronage and I feel like nowadays it’s painted as a privilege. Artists are required to be well versed in grant writing, and often have to ‘prove’ their worth before there is mention of getting paid. Like, yes the arts are our passion, but we’re also putting a lot of time, effort, and our own money into what we produce and I would like that to be recognized the way it is in other fields. There’s also such a huge disparity between artists who have ‘made it’ and those who haven’t. Like, what defines ‘making it’ and who is defining the worth of art?”
Aeon Fux represents the generation of change- the generation of freedom. She defines herself on her own terms and creates the music she wants to, unadulterated my labels and management. To conclude our interview, I asked Aeon Fux what she would say to young musicians wanting to make music of their own. “If you truly feel in your heart that you have something to offer to the world with your passion, never give up on it. There will be times when it feels like no one is listening, and you will question yourself. But remember that if you believe in yourself, there will always be someone in your corner rooting for you, and pushing you to continue. You won’t be a master of your craft immediately; that comes from hard work, time, and determination that only you can put in. Just stick with it and you will see results.”