Alex Fichera fronts Psychic Agency, an R&B, Philly-based band. Fichera, who studies at Drexel, writes and produces for the group.
Recently, his new single, “Film Grain,” was featured in ASCAP’s New Music Friday Spotify playlist. PW caught up with Fichera to talk about his career and new music.
Talk a little about how it all began. When did you first become interested in music?
I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. Whether it be sifting through my dad’s record collection or hearing my parents play anything from the Smiths to Brazilian bossa nova during a long car ride, I was always exposing myself to something new.
My playing career began a bit later when I picked up guitar in high school and formed a band with a few of my closest friends. That was where I got acclimated to live performance and we were able to go into a recording studio to track a few songs that I had written. Once I got my first taste of studio experience I knew that was where I wanted to be, so I got a laptop and some beginner-level recording equipment to start tracking my own music. Since then, I started attending Drexel University for music industry where I’ve been honing my skill set and producing for various different artists.
How did Psychic Agency come about?
Psychic Agency started when I got to Drexel and began writing songs in a more r&b/indie pop realm and experimenting with production. It really started out as a trial and error process where I had yet to learn a lot of the techniques that I know now, but I still wanted to let my creativity flow and improve my skill set. I ended up with a 15 track album that I titled “Blush,” and I had two of my incredible musician friends, Alex Parmet and Malek Blalock, record guitar and bass respectively. We got a full band together, and our first show was our album release party. We’ve been building from that energy ever since, playing at places like Milkboy and the Pharmacy.
How would you describe the Philly music scene? As a producer, do you see a lot of talent in the city that you’re excited to work with?
The Philly music scene is incredible. I’m mostly involved in the DIY house show scene where it’s generally college students running shows out of their basements and working together to promote a community. Before the pandemic, I ran a house venue called Jabba’s Palace where we’ve had local bands play, like Godcaster, who went on to perform at Union Transfer, as well as touring bands from as far as Vermont and South Carolina. This has allowed me to connect with artists that I’ve gotten a chance to produce. The Polychromatics and Yeet are two psychedelic bands that have played at my house that I’ve gone on to produce EPs for, and Dante Robinson is an alternative folk artist who has an upcoming EP that I produced. It’s great to be able to throw myself into a community and have the power to do my best to create a space that I’d want to participate in, which is one that’s diverse, accepting, and full of talented individuals.
How has the pandemic and all of the closures and restrictions impacted you? How have you spent your time during this period of self-isolation?
The pandemic changed the world as we know it, and specifically the music industry where I operate. I talked a little bit about how my first release, “Blush,” was done mostly by myself, well, since then I released an EP that was more a collaborative process with my bandmates. We recorded live in Drexel’s studios and were able to go in a more jazzy direction because of the talent level of all of my bandmates.
With the pandemic, that wasn’t possible, so I had to somewhat revert to my previous methods when producing “Film Grain.” In a way, those restrictions were able to breed creativity and I was able to create my most straightforward pop tune, and probably my favorite song to date. Instead of focusing on the interplay between musicians, I was programing synths and focusing on sound design, which is one of my favorite aspects of producing.
The pandemic has also influenced how I spend my day-to-day life. For the first month or two, I turned myself into a machine, cranking out a full EP of new material, but since then I’ve lost almost all motivation to write songs. Luckily I’ve found motivation by interning at Cambridge Sound Studios and by taking on freelance production and mixing/mastering projects, which have kept me busy and rejuvenated some of my love for being creative. Aside from that, I’ve been keeping in contact with friends, going on the occasional hike or picnic, and doing everything I can to keep myself sane and afloat during insane times.
How have your fans responded to “Film Grain”?
Luckily, the reception to “Film Grain” has been better than any of my previous releases. Maybe it’s because everyone is holed up in their homes and more willing to give up-and-coming artists a shot, or maybe it’s because of the quality of the music, or maybe it’s the playlist/blog placements that I’ve able to acquire, but this song has gotten the best reaction from both a streaming numbers perspective, and a personal feedback perspective of any of my works. I’m extremely grateful for that and it makes me want to keep on rolling.
What’s ahead for you – once the pandemic passes and things, hopefully, get back to normal?
Once the pandemic passes, I’m not expecting things to go “back to normal.” I think we are going to have a new normal and everyone is going to have to keep adapting to whatever the world throws at us. What that new normal is, I’m not really sure, but what I do know is that I’m going to keep writing songs, producing music, and putting my work out there into the world.
What are the best ways for people to stay up-to-date with what you’re doing?
People can stay up to date on what I’m doing by following Psychic Agency on Spotify and @psychicagency on Instagram to acquaint themselves with my released music and be the first ones to hear when my new singles/EP release in the coming months. Instagram is also where people can inquire about my production, mixing, or mastering work. My bandcamp, psychicagency.bandcamp.com, is also a great place where people can buy my music and support directly. I don’t think I have to tell people that this pandemic has negatively affected every creative’s ability to make money, so anything helps. Plus, I’m always working on something, so there will be a steady stream of content for everyone to enjoy.