Falling in and out of love was hard enough before Instagram. Social media creates a minefield of mind games. Only the most joyous mo-ments are captured. Cameos from strangers inspire jealousy.
These agonies supply the subtext for Lena Fayre’s new darkwave pop EP, Is There Only One? The question in the title is rhetorical. Fayre, who just turned 19, knew that she wasn’t the only woman in her ex-boyfriend’s life but was nonetheless devastated when her first real love affair disintegrated late last year.
“Instagram was a big part of my relationship with this person,” the Manhattan Beach–raised Fayre says, at a café close to her Echo Park home. The temperature threatens to reach triple digits but Fayre wears entirely black: a leather jacket with a skeletal hand on the cuff, cloth shorts, even dark bangs.
“He’d do things like be at my apartment and post closeups of my cat and things in my apartment, and she would ‘like’ the pictures, not knowing that he’s at my place.”
The EP’s five songs chronicle the emotional vicissitudes familiar to anyone grappling with romantic loss: sadness, regret, bitterness and, finally, a shaky truce. The final track, “Serenity,” reflects the eventual understanding she arrived at — even a tentative friendship with her ex.
Recorded with Noah Georgeson (Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom), the record validates comparisons of Fayre to Lana Del Rey, Banks and Lorde by websites such as Vice’s Noisey. Rolling Stone hailed Fayre last year as an “Artist You Need to Know.” Despite being un-signed, her videos routinely clock well into six and even seven figures on YouTube.
Even though she’s been in studios since age 12, Fayre will be the first to tell you that she’s still evolving as an artist. Yet there’s clearly an electric, clock-stopping quality to her voice. Whether in an interview or on record, she comes off as raw and honest. That unfiltered aesthetic also extended to her album cover.
“My ex posted a photo of her with the caption: ‘#TBT, I Love You,’ and I saw that and said, ‘This is the cover,’” Fayre says. “I called her up and asked for her permission. I didn’t want to put my face on the cover because that’s not what the music is about. She’s an artist, so she was like, ‘Whatever people want to do, however they want to represent me, I’m cool with it. I want to contribute to the conversation.’”
This all would have been inconceivable a generation ago. Fayre’s ex and his new girlfriend live in Virginia. Her relationship with him would have ended and, inevitably, her memories would be rooted in fading photos and maybe some old letters. But social media obliterates distance, warps perception, creates constant reminders.
Fayre’s insistence on including the foibles of technology in her music not only lends the music an intensely modern feel but also offers a commentary on the murkiness of a new, disorienting culture.
“Love can be stupid. Love can be fake. Feelings can be deceiving,” Fayre says. “How I felt about that person was temporary. It’s confusing.”
But the confusion makes for something interesting. The most boring art usually comes from those who claim to have the answers. Fayre’s songwriting and voice are strong, but the music stands out because of its ability to transmit feelings of ambiguity, doubt and hemorrhaging honesty.
“This all happened and it was horrible for me, but it was beautiful and I want to communicate that story,” Fayre says. “I want to show this in full form … all the sides of it … and be as real as I can get with this situation.”
An L.A. native, L.A. Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com, follow him on Twitter and also check out his archives.