Erika Sirola: Free and Fluid

Feeling restless but happy simultaneously, Finnish-Canadian multi-hyphenate artist Erika Sirola returns to London, locked in the album-making process. Fresh off the release of her new EP, ‘THE FOUR FACES,‘ Sirola opens the gates, laying out her inspirations, contemplations, and passions. 

Talking to Erika Sirola and understanding her inner workings, she quickly embodies the epitome of a creative, expressive person, free from society-set standards, eager to learn and inhibit her true identity without disregarding her past decisions. 

When asked what components make an Erika Sirola record, she answers honestly, detailing a progressive, not resentful, look at things done to stay afloat in the pop world. Sirola refers to her previous work as “beautiful and raw timestamps to an individual’s evolution and self-discovery.” 

Answer by answer, Erika Sirola unveils insightful details and mental habits developed into full freedom of self-craft and moldability. After constant relocations between Canada, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, London and her hometown of Helsinki, Sirola questions what it means to be your most authentic self. 

In her new EP, ‘THE FOUR FACES,’ Sirola focuses on identity, with Carl Jung’s theories on four archetypes as the center point. Each song represents one archetype, and the tracks are also accompanied by a mystical collection of self-designed jewelry and clothing. 

In the case of ‘THE FOUR FACES,’ Erika Siola found herself working on multiple projects at once, expressing this concept in more mediums. “It’s very fun to spiral” is Sirola’s response to her commitment to embracing the depth and complexity of the topic. 

The cover art of ‘THE FOUR FACES’ shows Sirola in silver armour, tying together her argument on identity. She elaborates on how wearing armor symbolizes the false sense of power in connection to society and all the different facades and masks we ought to play.

If there is one thing to take away from this interview and Erika Sirola’s words, it is to embrace who you are, don’t be scared to change or change your mind, don’t get lost in your personal silver armour, and let your spirit fly and be free from outside noise.  

What would you say are the most important components of a Erika Sirola record?

Looking at my discography thus far my answer would be ‘respectful to the time it was created in and who I was when I created it’. What I mean by this is a huge part of me now would want to go and change everything about my past work because I’m sonically and artistically and aesthetically very different. I also know that younger me made decisions in songwriting that were very influenced by fear of what I thought I had to make to stay afloat in the pop world. But to leave that work untouched, release it anyway and have them exist the way I intended to be at the time is a beautiful and raw timestamp to an individual’s evolution and self-discovery. Simply put, the most important component is fluidity or change. Or perhaps there are no specific components at all. In ‘THE FOUR FACES’ EP, each song is a character. They’re all different worlds yet concern the self, that’s what I find interesting.

(My upcoming album is very swampy and ritualistic so i’d say important components for that are topography, foley and vocal manipulation)

What was the first outlet for your creativity when growing up?

I drew all the time as a kid but leaned more to songwriting around 8 years old. I’m a very emotional person but in a very solitudinous way – so when I had heavy waves of any negative emotion which I would bottle up around others I found a lot of release when I wrote a song about these feelings. I was very dramatic about it too. I think the idea initially came about when my friend and I entered into a school competition where I rewrote the lyrics to ‘My heart will go on’. Downhill from there. ha

Over the years, you travelled between Canada, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, and your hometown of Helsinki. Could you pin point what habits and traits you developed up in each city, if any?

Well, I picked up every habit, trait, aesthetic, persona, lifestyle I could – dropped them and then picked them up again. My identity would essentially switch in every city I was in depending on my circle and environment. Every city became its own separate timeline of ‘me’. When I left L.A that timeline would pause and 6 months later when I’d return the timeline would pick-up from where I left. None of them felt inauthentic, I think I just enjoyed being a sponge, or a mirror. And maybe that’s the one thing I developed – freedom in self craft and moldability. I’m just a product of my environment, and if my environment is constantly in flux then so am i. The more I travelled the more experimental I wanted to be, the more freeing everything felt and I think that heavily shows up more and more in my work.

In terms of your style, in what city were you the most comfortable in being your authentic self?

Well that’s the thing. Authentic self? What is that? Would me as a child be the most authentic? When I remained still unaffected by society and my environment? Yet even at birth I carry centuries worth of innate qualities in my collective unconscious. I can’t be ‘a self’ by myself and there are remarkable things about me that I have no understanding as to why they ‘are’. Is self then more like one’s soul? Spirit? The metaphysical? Maybe the more we strip off personas and ideas of ourselves that society places on us the closer we get to accessing ‘our selves’ and maybe that means you have freedom to be and do whatever. I think the glowing white orb of ‘self’ has wonderful incomprehensible reasons for making me think and behave in peculiar and magical ways, and the only way for me to be authentic is to allow all that peculiarity through without societal expectations obstructing it.

But to answer your question -I’d say when I lived in Berlin I felt the most at ease with being whatever and living however.

Could you please explain how your new EP takes inspiration from Carl Jung’s psychology?

Mid-pandemic I became quite interested in understanding individuation and my fingers fell on Carl Jung’s books. Though outdated I immediately loved his ideas of archetypes and general analysis on psychodynamics. I guess his theories impacted me to such a great extent that it felt right to make these concepts a centerpoint in grouping songs together. Thus ‘THE FOUR FACES’ in all its unnecessary depth was woven together. Each song represents one of the four ‘main’ archetypes: the persona (THERE WAS A BOY), the shadow (BERNADETTE), the anima/animus (GOLDEN GIRL) and the self (A CHILD). In my eyes they function like playing cards, these four archetypes exist in everyone and we use some of these cards more than others – the ideal would be to have a full hand of everything used in a balanced manner but this is rarely the case. The production, melodies and lyrics of each song are very interwoven into how I view the archetype. For example the song representing ‘the shadow’ takes on a personified form in the character of a woman named Bernadette. She is dark and alluring so naturally I wanted the production to be a rhythmic and melancholic jazz moment.

On this project you explore themes of identity, when do you feel the most confident and most ‘yourself’?

Often alone and in nature – the more inhospitable the better. A few months ago I was in a motorhome in the desert alone for a while and I felt very confident and the ‘myself’ i’ve ever felt. Whatever that means – free and unattached I guess? It was really special.

The release of ‘THE FOUR FACES’ will be accompanied by a mystical collection of your self-designed jewellery and clothing, how did the idea come about of launching this collection in the first place?

Yeeeees i’m soo excited! Behold! Mystical madness! I love love love the art that is clothing – it’s just the richest thing. The endless expression! The distress, the rips, the stains, the mending and reworking in this modern world of new and plastic and perfection. Biggest ew to fast fashion. I started upcycling my second hand finds way back in highschool and gradually transitioned to making my own pieces from second hand fabrics. It was freeing –

getting to decide exactly what you’d like to look like. Yes please. I’m also an antique/trinket hoarder so that plays into this a lot too. I was gifted a sewing machine in 2023. I went to an antique market in Detroit and bought my first spoon ring after which I started collecting antique cutlery from everywhere and making my own. It was perfect armour. With the combination of this jewellery and clothing it very naturally became an extension of the music world I had just made as well. I had already imagined the characters and built a visual world for them, why not make their worlds wearable as well?

Would you say sometimes you require more mediums such as fashion and design to fully express a concept like the one of ‘THE FOUR FACES’?

Oh always. I think any concept only benefits from reaching more mediums. It breathes more life into it. I’m designing a chair collection for my album.
The EP concerns a heavy topic, many will say it’s unnecessarily deep. But that makes it so much more fun. It’s very fun to spiral. There are benefits to depth and complexity. There are huge benefits to working simultaneously on different mediums. They all trigger and alter each other. Why wouldn’t I build a world if I can? My favourite artist projects growing up were the ones that had ridiculous depth and meaning and visuals and easter eggs to them. Even if they didn’t, I’d hypothesise on potential hidden layers.

How do you approach the process of making a song having such a creative mind? What comes first?

It always just lands back on fluidity. I know that sounds vague but by that I mean practising things like free flow writing, improvisation in melodies, glossolalia with lyrics/vocals, bad hand eyes closed drawing, new toys with no instructions – putting yourself into a space of unfiltered creative vomit. Incredible things will happen and you won’t understand how.

My current process in making songs is often initially visually inspired. Like the album I’m making is hugely just me wanting to make songs that sound like fantastical topography – like what I think bogs and hills and caves sound like to trolls and goblins. I go on splice and search for some incredibly random foley which I completely screw up on ableton with plugins that I don’t understand. Then I build and build on it with the same technique. Lastly I improvise vocal melodies using either free flow lyrics or then glossolalia. I’ll keep spitting till they sound right, and for some unexplainable reason they always click at some point. Sometimes the lyrics accidentally make perfect sense and I sit there aghast, most of the time they aren’t actual words and then I just decide whether I keep them in or find replacements.

What is the message behind wearing armour on the cover art of ‘THE FOUR FACES?

Armour is protection, it’s useful but it is also deceitful. It is confidence but it is also a mask, a false sense of power. It hides whoever is inside it, it feels safe and one can often refuse to exit or remove it. These days we have and wear so many faces, we walk into so many situations with a full suit of armour, hiding who we are underneath or perhaps just playing a part we think we ought to play. We are told who ought to be and so we mask accordingly. So many get lost in these faces, these masks and armour suppressing who is underneath to the point of forgetting. Never getting to explore or discover who lurks

underneath. This is the core of understanding and/or altering identity. You have many faces, many playing cards that make up you – but don’t get lost underneath them, don’t get stuck in that armour.

What was your biggest driving force behind returning to Helsinki?

No driving force technically, just the pandemic. Hah. I did however want to leave Los Angeles anyway and I didn’t actually ‘reside’ anywhere. Just couch and airbnb hopping. I got a call from my mother telling me to come home, so I did. I just didn’t know it’d be for that long. It really messed things up.

Why did you decide to set up your own record label? Was this decision influenced by your previous experiences with record labels?

It was about damn time. Way too tired of the misalignment of power. Yes it was mainly influenced by my previous experiences but also inspired by other artists. I’m going to sign myself to it five times. I named it The Gate Was Open cause it certainly is. The mechanics of the music industry is the most gatekept thing i’ve ever come across. When you go on my website and the gate looks closed and padlocked, that’s the point. Just try to press on the gate and it’ll open. What they sell you is an illusion, the gate is always open. Thank you, internet.

Referring to ‘GOLDEN GIRL,’ how did you reach and find the balance of your inner femininity and masculinity?

I’m not sure I have…That song is a very direct commentary on my own struggle. Though I’ve gotten a lot better at standing my ground, I’m still very avoidant of aggression to the point of losing sight of its benefits – often becoming very passive and drowning as a consequence. But when it comes to the balance of anima/animus – I grew up in a household with a mother who exhibits strong animus and father with strong anima. Anima is usually related to the emotional, empathetic, and sensitive aspects, while Animus is related to the active, intellectual, exploring side of the personality – stereotypical to traditional gender roles, outdated yes. Jung did say his ideas are malleable and meant to be evolved. These definitions should by no means be perceived as literally describing certain characteristics, but that these images serve as symbols. Anyway It seemingly put me in a strange place… sometimes I deny my strengths and give my power to the opposite sex instead.

Could you explain how you connected each track with a specific item of clothing?

Each track has a corresponding collection of clothing somewhat related to topography. The jewellery being thick silver ‘armour’ relates to the whole concept of the EP. ‘THERE WAS A BOY’ has an apocalyptic feeling to the sound and meaning of the song- thus I connected my ‘sand dunes’ collection of lightweight ‘sand’ coloured clothing to the world that this song lives in. ‘BERNADETTE’ is a space of darkness and life. I wanted a world where mother earth is witchy and angry, thus I connected my ‘volcano’ collection of heavy volcanic looks to this song. ‘GOLDEN GIRL’ encompasses drowning and desperation due to an imbalance in the psyche. A ‘shipwreck’ collection of distressed but elegant garments seemed fitting to depict the world that song lives in. ‘A CHILD’ is a song of peace and

reflection, perhaps slightly bittersweet and thus very centred in forestry – I created ‘the meadows’ collection of earthy tones and elvin fabrics to depict its world.

What will be on your agenda after the release of ‘THE FOUR FACES’?

Agenda = as much out as quickly as i can. I’m very determined to catch up to my own artistry in terms of output. I have some wonderful remixes coming up of this EP by some of my favourite collaborators, followed by some more single releases that my executive producer Minna Koivisto and I are finishing up in an entirely different sonic world. Then as i’ve mentioned earlier, i’ve got my big debut album coming round the corner that is also my debut as a producer. Veeery excited for it! You can expect it to be just as all-encompassing as this EP is, if not more.

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Photographer: Morrigan Rawson

Words: Karolina Kramplova