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Head in the Clouds 2023 Q&A: Thai artist Phum Viphurit discusses building connections and festival atmospheres

Phum Viphurit sits on a teal couch, resting his leg on his knee. The singer-songwriter of “The Greng Jai Piece” will perform at Head in the Clouds this Saturday. (Courtesy of Ashok Kumar)

By Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon

Aug. 4, 2023 3:06 p.m.

This post was updated Aug. 6 at 6:13 p.m.

Phum Viphurit is experiencing festival-induced déjà vu.

Known for his single “Lover Boy,” the Thai singer-songwriter is part of the Head in the Clouds music festival’s Saturday lineup. Viphurit was previously a guest artist on both Head in the Clouds albums and was slated to perform in Jakarta for the 2020 festival before it was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following his upcoming Head in the Clouds debut, the indie-pop artist will kick off his North American tour later this month.

Viphurit spoke with the Daily Bruin’s Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon about developing his sound, “The Greng Jai Piece” tour and the United States festival atmosphere.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

[Related: Head in the Clouds 2023 Q&A: Artist Lyn Lapid talks upcoming debut at Head in the Clouds music festival]

Daily Bruin: How would you describe yourself as a musician? What impact are you trying to have with your releases?

Phum Viphurit: As much as I try to deny it, it’s (music’s) a part of me. I feel like it’s the only thing I’m good at, the only thing I’m capable of expressing truly. I feel like I say more in my music than I do in my daily conversations with people. I was born very timid and shy socially, but through music, I’ve been able to travel and somehow connect to people.

In terms of what my music is about, the latest album that I’ve done is a lot about being Thai, but also feeling like a third-culture kid – not really belonging. So I play a lot with the themes within not only Thai culture, but Eastern culture as well, from my own third-culture kid perspective. I hope it (my music) resonates with people.

DB: Other than singing, you’re also involved with the lyrics and production of several of your songs. What made you want to be involved in all of these components?

PV: I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to making work. Before that, I always had a vision of how my work would turn out, but I didn’t really know how to execute all these things. These tools, really, I picked up and took a lot of online courses during COVID, so I could do the production, the arranging, more properly. It’s always been something I wanted to do. It’s a bit more tiring, for sure, especially when (in) today’s age there’s a pressure to put out more stuff on a constant basis, but I like this pace that I’m working on. It feels like a crafted piece of work that I am proud of.

[Related: Re:SET 2023: Steve Lacy and openers serenade the sunset on day 1 at Rose Bowl]

DB: You recently completed “The Greng Jai Piece” tour in Asia and Oceania. How do you expect the Los Angeles festival atmosphere to compare and what are you looking forward to?

PV: With festivals, you always want to do some when you’re on tour because maybe half the crowd or even less are there to see you, but the rest of people are seeing you for the first time. It’s a chance to communicate your vibe or what you got to total new faces. I’m excited for the opportunity, always.

To be amongst the other artists and get to catch their sets – if we have a brief conversation, it’s also a nice way to make real connections. Nowadays, you only contact people through Instagram or email and it’s nice, but it also feels so distant. I’m looking forward to those two aspects the most.

DB: Shifting towards your audience, the comments on your music mention finding comfort in your sound. How do you feel about this fanbase that you’ve garnered?

PV: I’m grateful that it’s been a really organic connection. I’m so grateful. I feel like everybody who comes to the shows is always very polite. I’m not sure if they’re being polite because they might sense that I’m a bit polite. I always feel like it’s a two-way communication at these shows that I play. I miss the crowd in the states because when the songs are fun, everybody’s dancing, making noise. When the songs are a bit more intimate, everyone’s super attentive to the music.

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Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon
Cobo Cordon is the 2023-2024 music | fine arts editor. She was previously an Arts reporter. She is also a second-year student from northern Virginia.
Cobo Cordon is the 2023-2024 music | fine arts editor. She was previously an Arts reporter. She is also a second-year student from northern Virginia.
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