Whether he’s just sitting on his couch with close friends or crafting psychedelic indie-pop as Chiiild’s frontman, Yonatan Ayal believes that fluid dialogue is the key to an amazing piece of art.
“Faith is all about that exchange of energy,” Yonatan told me. “When you haven’t seen somebody for two weeks, and then you finally meet up and show them what you’ve been working on. There’s an exchange there that sustains you until the next time.” So after a year filled with isolated days and lonely nights, the question remains: How can Chiiild tap further into that exchange? How deeply can music resonate?
Yonatan described Chiiild’s 2020 debut EP, Synthetic Soul, as more of a declaration of arrival, a mission statement for what the band had to offer. But the raw emotion within that mission statement was palpable. The opulent guitars of “Pirouette” ushered in feelings of reflective nostalgia, while the swirling ambiance of “Easy on Yourself” helped us all feel at ease in our collective stagnance. The height of the pandemic had numbed our senses, and Synthetic Soul seemed to bring them back to life.
Yonatan recognized this and watched as listeners connected with Chiiild’s music in a profound way. So he got back to work with all that in mind. “There’s a responsibility now,” Yonatan said. “Oh, this song spoke to you and got you out of a situation? Well, now I need to think about how to channel that or communicate that.”
On “Gone,” Chiiild’s polished new single, which dropped this morning, that emotive dialogue has never felt so tangible. “With ‘Gone,’ I think people will see themselves in it,” Yonatan said. “We all feel the same things, we all want to feel understood and know we’re not alone in our feelings.”
Prior to your work with Chiiild, you were already pretty established in California’s music industry. You’re a songwriter, a producer, and were actively crafting music for others. When did you decide to hone in on your own thing?
My comfort zone is my unhappy place. I had never pursued being an artist and finding my voice or finding my language. I never subject myself to that kind of scrutiny or judgment. It was always like “make a beat” and let the other person tap into their own emotions and express them.
In the end, no one’s gonna talk about the beat. They’re gonna talk about the song or the emotion. So I reached a place where my ideas were getting compromised or watered down. So I was just like f**k it, let’s just do this. The only reason why it didn’t happen earlier was out of fear of being judged.
What was the difference you noticed when you started on Chiiild?
Being an artist is a whole other thing. You reveal so much of yourself to the world, and then people will just be like, “Yeah, that was cool whatever.”
There’s a newfound vulnerability to it.
Absolutely. So it just took a while to be like f**k it. As much success as I had before, it’s a different type of success now. I get to walk into every room as myself and not have to compromise or pander to anyone. That’s the whole thing; that’s the goal of life. I make my own mistakes, and I like that. It’s challenging, and I’m here for it.
In the Synthetic Soul documentary, you mentioned that you felt you were “at the start of things.” Do you still feel that way?
I definitely feel like I’m still at the start of certain things. People don’t fully know what I have to offer yet, because I haven’t offered it yet. A lot of people got to see us find our footing, but now I’m starting to understand myself more. But that’s what happens when you invest; you build that momentum with yourself. You spend enough time just being you, and you start loving yourself pretty quickly.
So how has your vision for Chiiild changed then over the last year?
The ambition has grown a lot. It went from, “Oh this will be cool. We’ll travel around, eat food and play music for people.” But now those people have names.
Tell me more about that in regards to your creative process with Chiiild.
Our old songs kind of found their form at random over long periods of time. But with these new songs, if you read just the lyrics, you can read all the way through [that] it’s just a conversation. I’m saying how I feel to you [who’s]’s sitting across from me. Whereas on the first record, I was more just talking about myself in a way.
It sounds like this communication between you and the listener is really important to you. Where does that come from?
My upbringing. I was always the uniter of different people and groups, and being from Canada you learn about so many different cultures. I love someone like Bob Marley who was able to unite the entire world. It’s really magical when you can find that thing that everyone agrees is cool [and] that isn’t chasing anything. I think that’s what we need. That’s my responsibility. The deeper I dig, I realize that’s just what I am.
What does that mean in regards to the new album?
This album is more honest. It was done without interruption. Synthetic Soul was done after touring, which changed the bullseye, and [when performing it] I felt like I wanted to talk to everybody that was there, but I felt like I didn’t have enough of that. So I wanted to get even more honest, even more dynamic. Give the music more energy.
I feel like that shift is evident in songs like “Gone.”
When I take that to a live setting, I want to transform that into something really emotional. “Gone” is about trying to make this relationship work, but I find myself fumbling the words. There’s something nice in knowing that you’re not alone in that feeling.
I also felt with this new record it was my responsibility to reflect on the times of this past year. There’s a song called “Hold on Till We Get There,” which I feel really encapsulates how I feel about everything that happened.
What has this past year been like for you, personally? How has it impacted you?
It’s made me really grateful for the people that are around. It forces you to take a second and think and dive into what you want for your future. It felt like an intermission when the pandemic hit, and we started seeing all the things that were happening. And from my personal experience, like, what I thought mattered didn’t, and… I just wanted to build a simple and enjoyable life with the people I care about.
What matters to you now?
Just trying to be a better person and creator than I was yesterday and just trying to take the weight off other people. That’s my responsibility. If you’re friends with me, what I like to do is try to take the weight off, so you can relax.
I feel that’s directly communicated in Chiiild’s music, as well.
Because we’re the same people making all of it. We don’t have to worry about creating consistency. [Be]cause it’s the same cooks in the kitchen. We try to just be as true as possible to a feeling. This is gonna sound stupid, but if a song feels like a musical, well I’m not gonna add trap drums to that; that’s silly to me. I just want to make this thing the best that it can be. So in the end, we have something that sounds authentic.
Chiiild – Gone (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com