“I’m very much in the figuring-it out stage of my life,” admits CARYS, a 22-year-old rising popstar, as she sips her coffee over our early-morning Zoom call. She’s currently reflecting on her upcoming music and her latest single ‘No More.’ “This really felt like the first time I hit something where I was like, ‘Yes, this feels like me. This is what I want to do.”
CARYS—the stage name of Canadian actress, Aviva Mongillo—has been skyrocketing to success with her angsty, dark pop anthems. ‘No More’ is her first single of the year, hot off 2019’s hit single and TikTok favourite, ‘Princesses Don’t Cry,’ which has surpassed 40 million plays on Spotify. As I speak to CARYS, her magnetic energy is infectious (even though she’s just woken up) so it’s no wonder that she’s been able to captivate listeners with her vulnerable lyrics about heartbreak and finding self-worth.
When people are stuck in an unfulfilling relationship, they tend to do one of these things: either stay for fear of being alone, or know their worth and leave. For CARYS, it was the latter, and the situation inspired ‘No More.’ “[In the relationship I] was lonely and thought lesser of myself—I just accepted it for what it was,” she explains. “I was like, ‘I know this isn’t really what I want, but it’s something.’ Then there just came a time where I was like, ‘I cannot settle for this crap anymore. I am awesome by myself and I don’t need somebody to complete me.’”
“IT DIDN’T EVER FEEL LIKE IT REALLY
ENCOMPASSED EVERY PART OF ME”
The latest drop is raw and emotive, but less gritty than her earlier work as she’s working to introduce some lighter themes in her music. “I want it to still be sad, but I want to write something with more of an empowering ending or with more of a positive takeaway from it,” she shares on her strong—but brief—career thus far. “As much as that dark alternative music was me, it didn’t ever feel like it really encompassed every part of me.”
CARYS considers herself a “lyric rewriter” and always edits a few lines, but ‘No More’ just flowed when she wrote it in the studio with Ryan Stewart and Gavin Brown. “When we wrote the part ‘You’re not somebody I want to lean on no more,’ which is the pre-chorus area, everything else just fell into that,” she tells me, explaining how it was highly unusual that it was written in one session. “Our brains just knew what to put. It felt like we didn’t write it. It felt like it was there, and we just were finding the little pieces to put in it.” Perhaps that’s because the track is basically a sequel to her 2019 debut, ‘Bad Boy,’ which CARYS says she essentially reframed, creating a “full-circle moment.”
“‘Bad Boy’ was about ‘Oh, I can’t believe you hurt me, I’m coming after you!’” she shares with a brief laugh. “Then ‘No More’ was like, ‘No. You know what? I don’t need this. I don’t need to be worried about this or waste my energy on this person because, in reality, they’re just not good for me.’” It’s this growth and self-realisation that enabled CARYS to not only grow as a person, but also evolve and transform her music.
CARYS’ music lays in a sweet spot between being pop enough that it’s not too sad, but still emotive so it has you feeling something. It only makes sense that her music is “really a fusion of this dark, sad girl coming out of it into fun pop [that’s] trying to put the shiny on the dark stuff.” She cites her inspirations as MUNA and Dagny but was obsessed with Avril Lavigne’s emo-pop and Taylor Swift’s hopeless romantic songwriting growing up. “I think it makes sense that the music I want to make is part edgy, part really sincere and lovely,” she says. “I think we found, especially, with ‘No More,’ and with the other music we’re making, we found that middle ground that feels my own squishy lane in between.”
This “squishy lane” CARYS found comes from a place of being a hopeless romantic and having deep, extreme emotions. “When my heart is broken, it feels like it’s broken tenfold,” she explains. “Everything is the end of the world and simultaneously the best thing ever.” It’s this mix of emotions that brings an interesting dichotomy to the bassline of her songs and the powerful lyrics. “There’s still a cynicism to the music, but not in a bad way—in the way of just [that] I’m a very sassy and, as I said, an anxious person. So, there’s rose-tinted anxiety, but in a positive light. It’s truly sincere. My sincere feelings about things but coming out of those things in a positive way.” This positive and empowering direction will lead her new songs and her debut EP that’s dropping (hopefully) later this year. CARYS’ pop ballads are a dark, twisted pop fantasy and we can’t see what she has coming down the pipeline for us to create TikTok dances to.