For local poet and singer-songwriter Vivien Yap, finding her “creative sweet spot” took years of work, culminating in a book of poems and now, her debut EP.

“Every time I write a poem or put out a piece of music, I’m throwing out a net shaped like me into the world,” said the 24-year-old. “It’ll catch whoever fits and I’ll do it again, and again, and again until I build my own little kingdom.”

“I’ve struggled with crippling loneliness for most of my life that I’m finally realising that music and writing is perhaps my lifeline out, and perhaps, it’ll be someone else’s lifeline too.”

Image: Facebook | Vivian Yap, Fabian Loo

Released on Friday (Jul 12), the five-track EP, Fables, is now available on major streaming platforms. Produced by Bani Hidir (LEW, Joie Tan, 53A), the EP echoes the makings of a classic volume of fairy tales.

“Fairy tales were my day one, I grew up reading them and they’ve become a big part of what influences me as a writer and a musician. For this EP, I really wanted to put out something that would pull listeners into the entire EP listening experience like how a book pulls readers into its pages,” said Vivien in a press release.

“The idea was to re-package these songs that were so personal and painful to me into something magical and out of this world.”

Illustrated by local artist Esther Lim, the artwork for Fables pulls away from the quirky, whimsical motifs of Vivien’s previous singles, Part II and Everything Stays.

Navigating literature vs music

Speaking to Popspoken, Vivien reflected on the parallels between the launch of her book Can You Hear Me Now? last October and this week’s musical release.

“I’m actually in a different headspace now than I was in last year. When I put out my book, I was navigating the literary scene alone and there was definitely a lot of defiance and stubborn self-assurance.”

“Despite all of this and how alone I felt, I came out very inspired because I realised how empowering it was to trust myself. The book launch was such a great and warm event and I’d give anything to relive it again.”

“With music this time round, I’m definitely more comfortable navigating the release in a sense that I know the things I have to do, working with Bani (producer) really took away all my insecurities and I really got to flex my creative arm without being bummed out about my musical shortcomings.”

Fables cover artwork by Esther Lim

She spoke out, however, against the “number chase” in the music scene, even within the relatively smaller market of Singapore.

“I hate the number chase — streams, playlisting, getting shows. Quantifying something I love so dearly is incredibly toxic to me, but with releasing music, it’s inevitable. The struggle is always there,” said Vivien.

“Both the book and my EP, however, I’ve enjoyed creating tremendously. I’ve enjoyed working with everyone involved in my book and my music and I’ve made some really good friends in the process.”

Image: Instagram | @buttlicks

“Peak fangirl season”

While the EP dwells soundly in a sombre and bittersweet mood, Vivien’s current jams could not be more different.

“Currently I’m really into DNCE,” said Vivien of the Joe Jonas-led pop band. “I’ve always been into them, you just caught me at peak fangirl season. I think their music is so infectious.”

“Definitely also into Billie Eillish and Nao. I think I’m a closet clubber, I love music that slaps hard and gets people up on their feet. For local musicians, as I wrote the songs for the EP, I loved a lot of Jamie Wong’s music, but when production rolled around, I was listening to a lot of Sezairi and B-Quartet.”

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well would ya look at that? my ep is out now, link’s in my bio.

A post shared by Vivien Yap (@buttlicks) on

She cites Orla Gartland, The Lumineers, Sara Barellies and even Katy Perry’s older catalogue as inspirations for their lyricism and catchy toplines.

“I’m also a big fan of movie soundtracks — so like the Pacific Rim soundtrack or the soundtrack for Grand Budapest Hotel, they’re great source material for production work and generally amazing music to get lost in,” she said.

“I just love music and whatever feelings or moods songs can evoke in me. I definitely want to make music like DNCE one day, and you know, go ham on stage. But for this EP and its concept, I had to limit myself to create something that was coherent to a genre.”

Coming up next…

With two releases in under a year, what’s next for Vivien?

“Hopefully a holiday! Honestly, I wanted to chill out big time since I put both a book and an EP out back to back on top of juggling all my work.”

Vivien has also been chosen as speaker at this year’s [email protected], happening Sept 14 at the *SCAPE Ground Theatre. Themed Future of Us, more details about the youth-curated event will be announced soon.

“I’m so inspired to just create more music and put out more songs that I’ve stashed away,” she said. “So definitely look forward to more music, more collaborations, weirder ideas!”

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Header image: Facebook | Vivian Yap, Fabian Loo

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