Hold almost any Hollywood actor up to a Klieg light and you’ll find an aspiring rock star. Johnny Depp arrived here hoping to be the next Keith Richards and wound up the pirate son of the Rolling Stones guitarist in a Disney film. From Kiefer Sutherland to Scarlett Johannson, Russell Crowe to Jared Leto, the history of actors turned musicians is as lengthy and undistinguished as a Shia LaBeouf freestyle.
Miya Folick’s arc is rarer: a theater school–trained actress at NYU and USC who spent a couple of years dragging herself to auditions until she realized that her career path was all wrong.
“I didn’t care and had a bad attitude about it,” Folick says with a laugh, eating vegetables and noodles at a ramen shop near her Little Tokyo abode.
The cover of Folick’s excellent Terrible Records–released EP, this month’s Give It to Me, offers a window into her dramatic past. Adorned in a form-fitting, calf-length black dress, she poses in a triptych, alternately bowed and upright. Her left arm is outstretched; her hair pixieish and jet black. She fixates a severe and riveting stare on the camera, perfectly matching the sullen, grungelike aggression of the record. It’s reminiscent of The Breeders and PJ Harvey, with a Joni Mitchell cover tossed into the pyre.
“I didn’t want to be involved in bad [film and TV] projects, and maybe I was a bit pretentious, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Folick says about her acting stint.
“I woke up one morning and realized I spent all my time writing songs that I didn’t share with anyone, and going to auditions that I didn’t prepare for. In my car on the way to the audition, I’d write lyrics in my head and not think about the audition. So I was like, ‘I’m not gonna do this anymore, I’m going to play music’ — and never went to another audition.”
Forming a band was more difficult. Raised in Santa Ana, she attended a high school among mostly Presbyterians who listened to pop punk and emo.
“One of my classmates once told me I was half Japanese and half normal,” she says in an aside. “And it was a friend of mine. So it was one of those moments where I was like, oh, I’m not like you.”
Her mother is the daughter of a Japanese Buddhist minister. Her father, who is Russian-Italian, converted to the faith and served as the president of the Buddhist church that Folick attended as a child.
While studying at USC, Folick started working at the music venues on campus, which led to her picking up the guitar. After graduation, she fruitlessly sought out collaborators by attending shows, hoping to meet someone who could play. Eventually, she filled out a Tinder profile that said, “Looking for a band.” Her future bassist responded and eventually helped put together the current lineup.
Give It to Me marks a stark departure from a debut EP that leaned more toward Lana Del Rey–style torch ballads. This is Folick’s first project written with the band, with most lyrics coming via stream-of-consciousness improvisation. It figures to be the first of many interesting career shifts. Maybe she’ll even act again.
“I’m exploring more produced electronic beats made in Ableton and using more synthesizers. That’s what I’ve always wanted to make, and I think rock music is something I needed,” Folick says. “I’m always going to make music that suits my mood. If I want to be loud, if I wanna scream, I’ll do that. I just want to make bodies of music that take you on a journey and surprise you — and surprise you again.”
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