21-year-old Minneapolis-based musician Dizzy Fae has been in the news a lot recently, from interviews in British Vogue to nods in the New York Times. She performed a headlining set at World Pride this year, and dropped her second mixtape, No GMO, in June. Fae attributes its title to the experience of emerging from childhood, and the self-discovery that comes with that. The project resides somewhere between the kingdoms of alt R&B, electronica, and dance pop, but far be it from Fae to categorize — definition dulls the real.
Before heading off on her first international tour later this month, Fae is gifting the Twin Cities with an opportunity to step inside her mind. This Thursday, Oct. 3, Red Bull Presents: Dizzyland will celebrate the artists who have influenced Fae throughout her career, with performances from DJ Suzi Analogue, Junglepussy, Tei Shi, and more. It’s the first time Fae herself has performed in Minnesota in over a year, she told me, and she hopes it will be a space for individuals to genuinely connect with one another. All Fae asks in return is for guests to be themselves. Here’s our full conversation below.
How does your upbringing influence your music today?
I grew up in St. Paul and I had a big family. I wasn’t really allowed to dip from my crib to kick it and stuff, so I really became an individual in a crowd of a bunch of people. I shared a room with like two people at a time, so I think that’s really influenced my individuality. With my music I’m very intuitive and gut-guided. I do what feels good, and it really shows in my two mixtapes that I put out. I really had to explore who I was living in a house with a bunch of people.
I listened to a lot of Prince, a lot of the ’80s, some ’90s hits, but right now I’m going back in time and really figuring out what I like to hear. I’ve been digging deep into Al Green and [the like].
The music I grew up with is coming up now, and it matters more. I live alone and I create and fill my own space. Music is a big part of that, but some days I don’t listen to music at all.
Has refusing to categorize your music been liberating?
The first question a lot of musicians get is, “What kind of music do you make?” That’s the one question I get the most. When I get into the studio, I don’t think, “I’m trying to make something R&B today,” or “I’m trying to make something that’s rock.” It’s just like, “Hey, can we use that synth and can we try this and can we go at this BPM.” It’s not as simple as genre. The question of genre is like marking what box your ethnicity is. Categorizing yourself is early-2000s. We’re moving forward from that.
And that’s easier when labels aren’t necessary for getting music out into the world.
Yeah, exactly. You either like something or you don’t, and you can’t always describe why. No one sees the world through your eyes or you heart, so it’s all about perspective. I think that’s what should guide us instead of genre.
I understand that it’s comforting to have categories, or to understand something because someone else said that’s what it is. But let’s be real, we don’t really know anything. There’s just so many things that we don’t know.
Can you talk about the process behind your latest No GMO mixtape?
I was going through a bunch of big changes in my life. I had to move out of my mom’s crib and I got my own place. That in itself is a whole change. I hate to say “adulting,” but it’s that kind of vibe. There’s just so many new priorities and responsibilities. I think that my attention and discipline was more forward for making No GMO. Free Form (2018) was exactly like it’s title. [With] No GMO, there’s more intention behind it and more discipline. I don’t think how I made the music was different, I just went with how I felt, but my feelings have been different. It’s still me, though. Free Form was like being on the river, and No GMO is like stepping off the river with a map.
No GMO means something you don’t know you need until you have it. I grew up in a household where my mom was taking care of seven people. At most of our meals we were excited to get a dollar burger from McDonald’s, that was a special night. So I grew up not eating the best and once I got older, I realized that you are what you eat, not only physically, but also mentally. You are how much you sleep at night, you are how much you eat, how much you move your body, and you are who you want to be. That’s what No GMO represents to me.
Making this mixtape outside of where you grew up for the first time, there’s also that sense of taking charge of who you want to be.
Exactly. I had to find my own crib and I had to take on these responsibilities. It was definitely like, “Okay, put your shoes on your feet and put them on the right way. Keep walking.”
Tell us a bit about who you collaborated with on No GMO.
On No GMO I worked with Psymun, Alec Ness, this artist named falls — he’s originally from the UK and moved to Minnesota — and then Sir Dylan [of Hello Yello] and Hayley [Briasco], who’s actually an amazing producer and guitarist for Clairo. It was cool because every song was made in a different place. I really just go with the flow; if I like the song then I’m going to keep it, there’s no ifs or buts. “After Hours,” one of the songs on No GMO, was actually the longest time I’ve kept a song. I had five different versions of it.
I’ve embraced the fact that I am consistently inconsistent — with the way I look, the way I sound, and who I am. I used to think that was an identity crisis, but now I know that’s just literally who I am. I think that’s really important for other people to see that, to know that you don’t have to be the same in everything, you just have to walk in as who you are. That’s how I make music; I go in with who I am and let my creative genius, the one that’s listening to my [consciousness] every day, take the wheel.
Is there a certain feeling you get when you know a song is complete?
It’s literally like euphoria. It’s like ecstasy. I think that’s one of my favorite feelings. Another one of my favorite feelings is getting off stage after a show. It’s the most present that I am naturally. I don’t know how to explain that feeling, it’s a very special one.
How do you cultivate your spontaneity while under the pressures of the music industry?
Lately what’s been helping me is trying to be the most present I can be. I notice that when I am present and recognize that right now is now and that’s all that matters, I don’t think about the music industry. There’s things that hit me here and there — like the algorithm of Instagram, or feeling like I’m just being watched and not supported, but I go back to this place where I can think, “What I’m doing is sitting down talking to you, and that’s all that matters right now.”
And that’s freeing?
Yes, and that’s really something I’m trying to practice. I hope other people get that when they listen to my music or watch me perform.
What is it about living in Minnesota that gives you energy?
The space I get. I love to travel and come back here as a place to get rejuvenated and to clear my pallet. It’s never failed me after going on a tour or going out for two weeks to New York — this has always been a cleanser for me. There’s something really special here, though honestly the answer to that question is going to always evolve. The older I get the more I appreciate everything in Minnesota. We have so much greenery. I was about to compare it to other places, but I’m not even going to do that. I don’t think we should take that for granted. And that gives me energy to know I’m in a special place. It’s kinda like my first love.
Speaking of traveling, you performed at World Pride this year, what was that like?
That was an experience. It was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and I performed on the day. There was a double rainbow outside. I performed in the basement of this hotel, it was so cool. I had some dancers with me who killed it. As a Queer POC woman, it fills me up being surrounded by a bunch of open, good people. I danced all night. The people at the club had to kick me and my dancers out. Like, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” That’s definitely what I’m trying to do with the show Dizzyland.
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I’m so excited to be performing a headlining set at #WorldPride this year in NYC!!! 🥺💖 Another reason this year is so special, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots!! No worries if you don’t know what that is, cause I just learned about it too and I wanna share about it’s impact! 💞 It’s crazy to think that in the 60’s (not that fucking long ago) people were still tripping about any queerness and the gay community. June 28th,1969 a riot broke out at Stonewall Inn (a well known queer bar) cause police came in trying to arrest and fine people for “queer activities and such” so everyone was fed up cause it wasn’t anything new to get picked on for being gay. People then set the bar on fire and rioted while the police were hiding from getting fucked up. Even after that night, police still regularly harassed people, charging them with “homosexual relations” & “non-gender appropriate clothing” like wtf… but all the riots sparked the formation of The Gay Liberation Front (the first group to publicly advocate for gay rights) which turned into marches, and a year later NYC had the world’s first Gay Pride Parade!! In 2016 Obama made Stonewall Inn (where the riots took place) a national monument! 🥰 Happy Pride y’all ♥️🧡💛💚💙💜
So let’s talk about Dizzyland.
Dizzyland is really just a step into my mind. Dizzyland is where the grass is green, and flowers laugh and it’s bright colors. Dizzyland is a safe space for everyone and anyone. It is a place where you come as yourself and you can only be yourself. It is a space where you are completely accepted. Dizzyland is a place where you can move your body how you want to move it. I want it to be a space where, any time someone talks about it later there’s a smile on their face remembering a story or genuine conversation they had with someone they didn’t even know lived in Minnesota.
For me personally, I’m such a homebody, and I know in Minnesota you can be just a little isolated, just in your 9-to-5 or whatever you do, and then winter comes and it’s like, “Do I really want to go outside?” Dizzyland came from a place where I just want people to come and be the most present that can be in presence of other people being present, as a present from me to you.
We have some cool DJs from a collective called Discwoman. One is Shyboi, a really cool artist from Jamaica who now lives in New York City. They play house and dancehall music. Then we have Suzi Analogue. I met her when she was on tour with Princess Nokia, and she ended up doing a remix to my song “Booty 3000” that’s on my project Free Form. She actually finished that in a van while on tour with Sylvan Esso. She’s so cool.
And then we have Junglepussy. She’s a Jamaican rapper from New York City. She loves Trade Joe, just like me. She has a really cool style and is a charismatic performer, so I’m excited for that. Another person we have is Tei Shi. I met her a few years ago at the Varsity Theater when she opened up for Years & Years. She recently was on Blood Orange’s last album. The song that she was on also had Diddy on it. She’s like that. I’ve always been a fan of her, so it’s crazy to have her in my little world.
Another artist we have is Sudan Archives. She plays violin, very soulful sounds, and she’s releasing her new album on Stones Throw in November. I’ve been listening to her for a while and I’ve never seen her live so I’m really excited. I don’t know if she’s ever performed in Minnesota, so it’s about to super tight.
And then we have myself. I haven’t played a show in Minnesota for over a year. The times I have performed headlining shows, the energy was just unmatched. I was like, “How did you guys even come out of the woodwork? Who are any of you?” The fact that that was the crowd I had in Minnesota, my hometown — I think that’s what pushed me further and further to create something like Dizzyland. I hope that everyone there has genuine conversations, because we don’t have those anymore. And genuine dancing. It’s just going to be amazing.
In listening to both of your mixtapes, I notice a lot of lyrics focused on a divide between inner and outer worlds, especially on songs like “Inner Witches.” Do you find yourself inspired by that gap in perception, and what does it mean to have an inner witch?
I blame my astrology, truly. My moon sign is Cancer and my sun sign is Leo. I’ve always been fond of the idea that no one really knows you. People only know what you give them. That’s also why I use the name Dizzy Fae and not my real name. I like to be reminded that people don’t know me. I think that plays a part in the lyrics that I write too. [When I recorded] “Inner Witches” — I remember that day I came to the studio with Psymun. I was just like, “I’m sorry I’m having a really bad day, so let me spit all the s–t I don’t like.” I don’t like being in large crowds unless we’re dancing…like everything in that song is like, “You might not know me but here are some facts, some fun facts.” They still stand true to this day.
I think everyone has an inner witch in them. That’s just manifestation at its purest form. I’m a high believer in manifestation, and that’s what that means to me.
Do you try to manifest things through music?
Yes, because I write these things down and then I have to keep singing them into existence. When I have other people singing them back to me at shows or by their lonesome, or singing in a car with their friends — that’s why I try to be positive in my music. Even if it’s something that doesn’t feel the most positive, the beat will be positive and you’ll still dance. Even if it’s a song about heartbreak. Because it really is all about manifestation — anything you put into the world, you’re going to get back.
Dizzyland takes place Thursday, October 3 at the Muse Event Center. Tickets and info here.