FOQL’s vehicle of self-exploration

On her latest album, Wehikuł, Polish artist FOQL lays open her creative process and casts a dim view on material consumerism.

As someone who is vocal about her disdain for the fame-fuelled music industry, FOQL feels like a perfect addition to Jon K and Elle Andrews’ emergent beacon for modern misfit music, MAL Recordings. Released on September 9 and premiering live on October 15 at Unsound in Krakow, Wehikuł is an uncompromising and highly personal work from a fiercely independent, socially-minded artist in a constant state of evolution.

A tireless supporter of grassroots communities, FOQL (real name Justyna Banaszczyk) co-founded Poland’s first ever community radio station, Radio Kapitał, and she co-runs the label Pointless Geometry alongside Darek Pietraszewski, where they release experimental music by local artists on cassette and VHS. Her solo work spans theatre music, film scores and sound installations, and some of her previous releases, like Dumpster Diving Know-How for CGI Records, fused together industrial with hints of ambient, acid and IDM. Her Bandcamp profile is a good place to start in navigating the tangled catalogue of her work, with many physical-only releases now available digitally (although you absolutely won’t find her work on Spotify).

Wehikuł (vehicle in English) is an introspective album that steers clear of the dancefloor. Ambient opener ‘Myrrh’ twinkles with staccato glass and chime notes. Cackles of laughter pervade the throbbing industrial of ‘Twoj Mozg’ whilst horn synths on ‘Escapist Dubbb Machine’ send shockwaves through its sparse percussion, landing somewhere between peaceful and provocative.

Ahead of its release, Banaszczyk took a moment to answer some questions about Wehikuł and its underlying themes.

What are some of the narratives that piece together Wehikuł?

For me, the music on Wehikuł is like a portal. It’s a really personal album, and I mostly wrote it for my own emancipation. Many people might say you should release music for others to listen to, but for a while now I’ve treated composing as a form of personal development: a dialogue with my own beliefs, an evolution of said beliefs, and a way of recording my emotional states throughout their various stages. 

In recent years, I have begun to abandon any doubts about the meaning of composing and have simply focused on using sound as a vehicle to travel through space, irrespective of how others might perceive it. I would say that now my work records the mental journey from the first idea, through various internal struggles, up until the final release — each track containing small emotional narratives that explore my struggles, failures and victories. 

I don’t like this nihilistic approach to the world and to ourselves that is represented by many contemporary artists. I believe we can do better. I believe creative practice can lead to greater self-awareness and care for everyone and everything around us. 

I’ve heard that you actively try to contradict your musical identity. What does that involve and was there anything creatively or production-wise that you wanted to avoid when making Wehikuł?

I change my approach pretty much every day, to be honest. Sometimes I do things the other way round to help my brain find new paths, which usually gives interesting results. I would say the only constant is that I don’t work from home. I have to go out and walk my dog to the studio. It gives me space and peace of mind. In terms of what I wanted to avoid, I avoided improvisation and focused more on composition. I also worked much more on the computer than in recent years.

What does it take for you to like your own music or to feel happy with it? Does it have to be doing
something completely different to what you’ve previously made?

I think the hardest stage of creation is deciding when something is ready. This moment always gives me tremendous satisfaction. I often find the creative process difficult; I tend to give up easily. It’s really easy to lose yourself in completely unnecessary perfectionism. 

Reconciling with the fact that something is good enough is the most joyous moment for me because of the release it brings. I’d say that it’s a good practice in general, worth bringing to all other walks of life.

You’ve mentioned that art in market terms is disgusting. What do you mean by, ‘art in market terms’ and why do you find it disgusting?

What I meant was art that is a mirror for the aspirations and dreams of many people, and which leads to hierarchies, ego trips, elitism, class bias and being removed from reality. I don’t like influencers and artists who act as though they’re advertising banners. And I actually find it pretty disgusting that in the wake of global disasters, we still fall for this constant pursuit of fashion, clothes and objects. It’s disgusting that we live at a time when you can’t say, ‘No, that’s stupid and harmful,’ just because it’s luxurious and desirable.

I understand that everyone is free to do what they want but, if we want to be serious about saving this planet, this has to change. We need to start doing what needs to be done and forget about our material desires. Some people say these are radical beliefs — that’s not the case. Someone made you believe that these are radical beliefs. Someone made you believe that our survival as a species on this planet is bad business.

What could be a solution to all of this? Could it be to have more opportunities for people to question the value of something from an early age, like at school?

Oh for sure! We need so much more discussion about empathy and the value of community in mainstream discourse. Maybe that’s what we lack in modern culture. Maybe we should put more value in doing everything on a smaller scale: local gigs, small venues, community radio, growing food in your region etc.

How important is it for you to release your music with people like Jon and Elle who share similar values to you in terms of being independent from the bullshit of art for profit, hype and social media?

It’s fundamental. That’s the root of all satisfaction and meaning, and you make amazing bonds in the process. This is the vehicle that can lead us to different dimensions.

Wehikuł is out September 9 via MAL Recordings.

Photography by Michał Szufla. Edit by Sandra Mikołajczyk.