Powfu is remarkably laid back for a man who has been riding high in the Top 10 of the UK singles chart for months, but that is very much his thing. Supremely assured, marching to the beat of his own drum and pursuing his own lo-fi vision, Powfu is ready to take his chilled out vibes global.
Even if you might not have realised you’ll definitely have heard Powfu’s music at some point in the last year. Whether it’s on the smash hit Beabadoobee featuring viral banger ‘Death Bed’, or in the wildly creative online ether of Youtube or TikTok, his very modern hybrid sound has been everywhere. As he speaks to us from his lockdown bedroom retreat in his native Canada, “hanging out with my girlfriend and just playing video games,” Powfu is taking his rise very much in his stride. “I want to have another song blow up like ‘Death Bed’ did, but I don’t feel any pressure,” says the man born Isaiah Faber. “I’m not nervous about it. I’m just chilling and making music like I always do.”
The way he’s always been making music was born from an early introduction. “My dad was in a punk rock band called Faber Drive,” he explains. “So, when I was 2 years old, he taught me to play the drums, and I would practice every day for half an hour. That was my introduction. When I was 11, I got sick of the drums, and I started playing guitar more. About 16 or 17, I started making my own music on the computer. I would just write stupid songs. They were mostly garbage, but I kept working on it and started releasing stuff on SoundCloud, and it went from there.”
Powfu has come up in a time when it’s never been easier for all manner of different artists to find an audience and use different platforms to forge a community. In this case, Youtube and Soundcloud have allowed Powfu to experiment and hone his craft and his sound while growing a hugely loyal audience. The music that he makes fits the homegrown nature of this operation. “I make lo-fi hip hop with a punkish element,” he says. “I’m mixing punk music with hip-hop. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of punk rock – Simple Plan, Yellowcard, Blink 182. Those are my two favourite genres. I’m blessed to be able to do that. I just try and do whatever sounds good. I just think if I were to listen to this, I would hope other people would listen to it.”
His approach is a magpie-like sensibility to spot a beat or a sound or a melody and run with it, forging it into something beautifully simple but hugely effective. That’s what he did with ‘Death Bed’. A song that was around a long time before he found the Beabadoobee sample, which became the secret sauce to take it to the next level. “It’s pretty crazy to me. It’s awesome seeing it blow up,” he says. The song is so different from what most other people are making and it’s kind of the definition of lo-fi hip-hop for me. It’s cool seeing it blow up because more people are going to listen to lo-fi. It’s an intro to the genre. It’s inspiring.”
After clearing the sample with Beabadoobee’s label Dirty Hit and exchanging DM’s, there’s a hope that at some point the two can perform the song together, but for now Powfu is resolutely sticking to his vision of doing things out on his own. He’s now on a major record label, and everyone knows his name, but that doesn’t matter. He’s going to do things his way. “Doing everything on my own is my favourite part of it,” he says. “I’m able to just wake up, sit at my desk and write lyrics and record vocals. It’s easier for me to concentrate that way. My fans can relate to that. It makes it more personal if it’s just myself in my bedroom doing it.”
Right now, Powfu is working at home on another EP which he hopes to release soon. For him and his music, the EP format fits better than the traditional album. “Albums aren’t really my favourite thing to do because I feel like a lot of songs don’t get listened to,” he explains. “I want all my songs to be recognised so I try to keep things short so people won’t get bored listening to it halfway through.”
Powfu is an artist that defies convention and has no regard for the “rules”. He represents a new wave who are embracing a different way of reaching audiences and harnessing the creative possibilities of platforms like TikTok in a positive and energising way. His next EP promises to be something a bit special. “It’s a little bit of everything,” he says confidently.
Taken from the June issue of Dork. Powfu’s new EP ‘poems of the past’ is out now.
Words: Martyn Young