Launching into orbit | Yasmin Kuymizakis

Singer-songwriter, sound designer and founding member of the Malta Women in Sound Network Yasmin Kuymizakis speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about shaking off her previous musical alter-ego Yews to make way for Joon - a more upbeat twist on her ethereal soundscapes, and which has scored her a spot on the cult US indie label Italians Do It Better, with the fresh single ‘E.T.’ now available to stream

Yasmin Kuymizakis, aka Joon, will be releasing a full-length album in June. Photo by Heba Shibani
Yasmin Kuymizakis, aka Joon, will be releasing a full-length album in June. Photo by Heba Shibani

You’ve been operating under Yews for quite some time, but your new musical alter ego is Joon. Why did you opt for this transition, and how would you describe the shift in sound and approach?

I had been meaning to change Yews for a few years… I guess I grew out of it. When I found out I will be starting fresh with a record label I figured it’s perfect timing. With Joon I am evolving my music towards a more direct, fun and dancey direction.

Could you talk a little bit about your – or to be more precise, Joon’s – debut single ‘E.T.’? What are the main influences you’ve brought to bear, and can we expect future music that’s in a similar vein from Joon in the near future?

‘E.T.’ was written around three years ago, when [DJ and musician] Danjeli approached me to perform at one of his annual Christmastime ‘Pudina’ parties at Liquid Club, San Gwann. I produced a new set that would complement the venue (as my previous work sure wouldn’t have!). I genuinely can’t remember my influences for this. I was just focused on creating tracks that will work in a club setting and had quite a tight deadline!

‘E.T.’ was the first one I wrote. I felt very ‘light’ while producing this whole set, it was a fun and refreshing process. I let go and allowed myself to go crazy vocally, screaming and all. The same goes for the production side of things: I wasn’t afraid to experiment. Interestingly enough, people seem to love the bassline on this one, even though it’s a loop with only three notes. My final stage was getting some feedback from trusted ears, a couple of production/mixing ideas bounced off by James Baldacchino (of seesawsounds) and lovely backing vocals from Martha Vassallo (from local duo Keepsake).

You can definitely expect more of this style in my album coming out in late June. I am also re-working some old Yews tracks for it!

What does being signed on the Italians Do It Better label mean for you? How did you attract their attention, and how do you hope they will help shape your sound and outreach efforts?

I genuinely didn’t expect to become part of their family. The label roster includes bands that I’ve been listening to for many years such as Chromatics, Desire, Glass Candy, Julee Cruise, among others. My mind is blown.

It all happened very, very quickly. I had sent them the track ‘E.T.’ with a lo-fi music video I made with my friend Michael Azzopardi and they simply loved it! They released it a week and half later. It definitely got more reach than I could ever get on my own.

You are also the founder of the Malta Women in Sound Network. What are its main aims, and why did you feel it was necessary to create such an entity?

The Malta Sound Women Network aims to bring like-minded women together, to share knowledge and skills in music and sound technology, sonic arts, production, audio-

electronics.

There are various reasons [fellow musician] Jess Rymer and I decided to start MSWN. We’ve both experienced being outnumbered by our male counterparts in music technology courses. This can become very exhausting over time. A women-only professional space can offer respite and even act as an antidote to the phenomenon.

Also, access to professional bodies and forums can often be more difficult for women due to the often surprising levels of sexism and the general lack of awareness around inclusivity. Moreover, most sound technology spaces are male dominated, making them intimidating to women entering those spaces for the first time. We want to create a safe, collaborative space where we can share our experiences, learn from each other and support one another.

Joon’s debut single ‘E.T.’ is now available on all major streaming platforms
Joon’s debut single ‘E.T.’ is now available on all major streaming platforms

How would you describe the local music scene? What would you change about it, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its after-effects?

I think the local music scene is pretty good for Malta’s size! People are very nice, encouraging and we have plenty of talent. Perhaps what I would change is more openness to a more experimental sound and quirky bands? I love watching weird free-spirited artists with their own unique identity. There aren’t so many of these artists here nor as much support for them as I have come across abroad. In light of COVID-19, I love that artists are writing more, going online to perform. Friends who usually find it hard to make music because of their busy lifestyles are managing to do so now! I hope people find time for their passions even after this is all over, that we stay positive and come out of this as better people.

What’s next for you?

I will direct another music video to come out with my album and plan a tour when this pandemic is over.

For more information and updates about Joon, log on to: https://www.facebook.com/joon.songs/

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