Paging Through ‘can opener’s notebook’ with Vylet Pony

Last month, Anthony Fantano reacted to a song by Vylet Pony in a New Music Friday stream. Viewers were quick to dismiss the My Little Pony-inspired track before it even started because of its album artwork — messages like “uh oh” and “pony what now” poured into the chat. But as the 7-minute epic “i’ve still got something to teach you” played out, judgment soon became awe: “the pony song slaps srry not srry,” “this actually kinda slaps ngl,” and “i unironically kind of like this.”

Admittedly, I reacted in a similar way when I recently found Vylet’s music — I was quick to wonder how the hell a My Little Pony fan album (Vylet’s newest release, can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer) had made its way to the top of the 2022 chart on Rate Your Music. But with limited residual knowledge of the show in tow, I gave it a listen and I was blown away.

Drawing upon everything from hyperpop to prog and influences like Porter Robinson and underscores, can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer is the best-sounding album I’ve heard this year. This album really has something for everypony (I’m sorry) — defiant, EDM-infused bangers (“the yak song”), shimmery ambient checkpoints (“fisher’s landing”), and upbeat tracks that flawlessly emulate happiness (“good grief!” and “dream library / time water / mayflower notebook”).

With a distinctly aquatic sound, the atmosphere of can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer reflects the story of Can Opener, Vylet’s original character who struggles to balance their passions for music and marine biology. Through the vessel of Can Opener, the album navigates the murky waters of topics like art block, burnout, and finding solace in interests.

Despite not having seen an episode of My Little Pony in almost ten years, this album hit home for me — I saw bits and pieces of myself in almost every song. And as Vylet explained during our interview, that’s exactly what she wants their music to do.

Equipped with one of the best albums of the year, Vylet Pony is ready to make people question their presumptions about music. And after my own presumptions were challenged by this album, I was eager to learn more about the artist behind it (who wouldn’t be?). This week, I spoke with Vylet via email about can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer, its inspirations, and the perceived boundary that keeps people from listening to fandom music.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Illustration by Eden, logo design by Emta

Ringtone Magazine: On your Bandcamp page, you describe Can Opener, who stars in the story behind can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer. Can you tell us more about Can Opener and how their story draws upon your own experiences?

Vylet: Coming to terms with autism and ADHD was the big driving force in giving Can Opener life. But Canni is actually my oldest OC. Originally they were named “Vy Scratch” and were supposed to be a sort of evil version of Vinyl Scratch or something. They were the first OC I designed circa 2013 and I quickly threw away the design in favor of newer ideas that would eventually become Vylet. So in tandem with really coming to understand neurodivergence, it was a desire to revive a childlike whimsicality as well, juxtaposing the other stuff I wanted to write about against those things. All of this spawned because my partner, Eden — who did all the art for this album too — drew fanart of the character. I was digging through old photos and was like, “Haha look at my old stupid OC,” and then Eden drew really cute fanart of it and something sparked inside of me like, “Ok, wait, that’s awesome.”

Despite telling such a niche story, this album really hit home with me and a lot of other listeners. How do you create a balance between your own characters, canon MLP lore, and more general, thematic lyrics to make your music appeal to a wider audience?

Everything made by us as a species is relatable in some way to someone. I think that’s just naturally how things will work out. Honestly, it’s not all that different from how a cherry picked MLP episode could apply to someone. If you go in vulnerable and open enough, you’ll resonate with something in even a children’s show, as an adult. Besides, everyone experiences burnout. It's a universal thing. I think just not a lot of people decide to write about it!

A lot of listeners have been saying that this album’s instrumentals remind them of various game soundtracks — are there any games or other media that inspired the sound of can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer?

Definitely the top ones would be Undertale/Deltarune, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, and Chrono Trigger.

The can opener's notebook: fish whisperer album cover / illustration by Eden

Visuals seem to be a massive part of your music, and I love the can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer album cover. Would you mind breaking down the album cover and explaining who’s who? Is there anything else about this album’s visuals that we should know about?

Going clockwise from Canni, Yona is a yak and is one of the few canon MLP characters to make an appearance in the story. She’s a sort of yak friendship ambassador to the ponies, a diplomat. She helps to maintain the relationship of both countries and she makes very close acquaintance with Canni. The other two characters are Astro and Vylet, who are dating each other back in Equestria. The idea is that Vylet and Canni used to date and are both musicians. However, they break up when Canni has to move to Yakyakistan. This leaves Canni kinda in a weird spot, and the way they distantly perceive Vylet and Astro’s relationship reveals the inner turmoil they actually have with love and self confidence and stuff like that.

A theme throughout your music (and especially in your newest album) that I love is just embracing your own interests. Has this been a big theme in your life as well?

This is an oversimplification, but I kinda grew up in a lot of toxic spaces that, in turn, made me pretty toxic for a very long time. Not only did I have this tendency to wanna shut people down for liking something that I didn't like, but I was also treated the same way. It's exhausting and it makes you feel like you have to look over your shoulder to do anything. In order to work on myself and spread a more positive message in light of it, I started really gravitating towards the thought of encouraging people to really be their harmless selves. I feel like I'm making up for lost time for myself and also hoping that I can help people also steer clear from such bleak attitudes.

In your eyes, what does it take for a piece of the MLP canon to be compelling enough to transform it into a full song or album?

Juxtaposition. If you can juxtapose something with cute, frolicking horses meaningfully with something in the “real” world, then there’s something profoundly emotional and vulnerable about that. I said this in another interview before, but it’s like, well damn, if these cute little creatures also have existential problems, maybe it really is something we can all get through together.

Between your newest album’s feature on the front page of Rate Your Music and a track’s appearance on Anthony Fantano’s stream, recently, a lot of non-MLP fans have been acclaiming your work. Do you ever see your music acting as a bridge between the MLP fandom and the general music scene?

Yes. That was always the goal. Originally back in 2012 or so, my original goal was to try and get fandom music onto Monstercat. I started inching close to that goal, actually, and then eventually realized I didn’t actually want to be involved with Monstercat. So my gaze shifted to trying to get more people outside the fandom to recognize and enjoy fandom music. My biggest hope is to get people to be like, “Oh god I hate this so much but also I love this so much I don’t know what to do.” I just want to make people have a lot of cognitive dissonance about it because I feel like good art is supposed to do that.

Finally, for readers who aren’t familiar with this scene, what other artists would you recommend?

I really like artists like Zizkil, eksoka, TCB, Namii, loophoof, and HayTea in the fandom. Together they make lots of solid EDM and have a lot of cool ideas to show everyone.

Illustration by Eden, logo design by Emta

Find Vylet Pony’s newest album, can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer on Bandcamp here or on Spotify here! (Trust me, you’re going to want to give this album a shot.)

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