Chris Sunfield ’s new single, “Bicycle Girl,” uniquely intertwines existential themes with a playful tone, inspired by his own reflective journey and philosophers like Søren Kierkegaard. The song is a departure from his more direct existential explorations in previous tracks, opting instead for a light-hearted approach that mirrors Kierkegaard’s own life story.
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The music video complements this by being deliberately carefree and humorous, capturing the essence of the song’s free-spirited ‘Bicycle Girl’ character. Chris Sunfield reflects on his personal experiences, noting how his intense focus on intellectual pursuits often overshadowed his romantic life, a theme subtly woven into the song’s narrative.
Despite his varied musical styles, from pop punk to chamber pop, Chris emphasizes the primacy of the song itself in his creative process. Looking forward, he plans to explore slower, more ambient and experimental styles, considering offering his pop songs to other artists due to a desire for a style more fitting his age and future direction. His upcoming EP, featuring songs better suited for female artists, reflects this new journey, although its release date remains uncertain.
Read the full interview below.
“Bicycle Girl” playfully delves into existential themes, weaving in references to various philosophers and thinkers. How did some of their ideas shape the song, and was there a personal experience that sparked its creation?
I had some traumatic things happen in my youth, and I became very curious and reflective to cope with that. “Why am I here?” “Why do people die?” “How do I live authentically?” Three of my other songs, “Begin,” “Tomorrow’s Here,” and “Anton,” really hit people over the head with existential themes. I decided to tone it down and poke fun at myself with “Bicycle Girl.” Then there’s Søren Kierkegaard – a 19th century existential philosopher who broke off a wedding engagement, because his ‘melancholy’ made him unsuitable for marriage. I like to think that the over-thinking narrator in the song is Kierkegaard, and he finally allowed himself to be taken with the Bicycle Girl.
How do you think the music video reflects the themes of “Bicycle Girl”? Specifically, how did you conceptualize the representation of the character and setting to complement the song’s essence?
The song is pretty tongue-in-cheek to begin with. So, how do I pad it with existentialism and still make it entertaining? Well, get it right out in the open and in your face. The video does the same. The video doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s carefree, and the outtakes augment that. The Bicycle Girl character is carefree too. She tries to get into Heidegger and Sartre, but she’s just ‘meh.’
In your process of writing “Bicycle Girl,” did you have a specific intention in mind for the impact or message you hoped the song would convey to listeners?
In terms of messaging, one regret that I have in my life is that I focused far too long on intellectual pursuits, and for the most part, avoided romantic relationships. I got a PhD, I published scientific research, etc. When other people were having date nights, I was doing predictive modeling. I’d bring academic research over to girlfriends’ houses on the weekend. I couldn’t let go. I’m in a happy place in my life, but I wonder how different things would have been if I had put down the books and approached more Bicycle Girls (as a metaphor). Launching a later-life music career, in general, is one example of my trying to achieve balance.
When it comes to crafting music in different genres, do you find yourself adapting your songwriting process or approach, or do you tend to follow a consistent creative method regardless of the genre you’re exploring?
I wish to God I was consistent in terms of genre. It would certainly help with marketing and streaming algorithms. I’ve done pop punk with “Don’t Kill Me,” chamber pop with string quartets for “Anton,” and “Eclipse.” I collaborated with a hip hop artist on the song “Predator.” “Are We in Love” got an explicit lyrics warning. My Spotify Wrapped last year classed my listeners as Nomads. I’m all over the place and so are they! Ultimately, I believe that the song is the star. I’m just a conduit. Once I have a basic song idea, I have to take it to its logical conclusion, regardless of genre. I’d be doing it a disservice if I didn’t.
You mentioned upcoming changes in your music, including slower tempos, a shift towards minimalism, ambient styles, and a blend of dream pop and post/experimental rock. What inspired this transition to explore a different sound?
I’ve actually been writing accessible pop music and more progressive stuff simultaneously for many years. I have over 700 mp3s of music ideas – some of which were burned from tapes I made in high school in the early 1980s. I have things that are 30 years old that are more like “Genesis” and “Yes.” I just decided to ‘go pop’ for my first few years as an indie artist, because I wanted to do justice to that first.
Why are you interested in offering your pop songs to other artists? How do you imagine these compositions evolving when interpreted by different performers?
One reason for getting other artists to record future pop songs of mine is my age. There, I said it. I won’t reveal my age, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable doing twee pop at this point in my life. Some of my friends are scratching their heads too. I honestly think the combination of who I am, right now, and the future styles I’m exploring are going to speak to and engage future listeners more deeply than what I’m doing now. As far as artist interpretation, I really don’t have an opinion on what people do with the compositions. I’ll always have my vision of them, regardless.
Could you share more about the upcoming EP? What can we expect in terms of the narrative and style, and do you have an estimated release date for this project?
I have four songs that, once I’d written them, I realized they weren’t meant for me as the lead artist. It took me a while to realize that women should be singing them – both the lyrics and the music. I wish I could explain myself better, but I think it’ll be more self-evident when the EP comes out. It’ll be a while, as I need help finding the right featured artists. I’m still doing the instrumentation. There’s no release date. But, there’s a fifth song not on the EP that will be out in early spring, 2024. And before that, I have two rockier singles of my own out in January and February.
Watch the official music video for “Bicycle Girl” here:
Listen to the song below: