Photos: Justin Shin/Getty Images, Just Kidding Limited, Justin Shin/Getty Images, Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Miu Miu, Frank Hoensch/Redferns
Get To Know The Many Sounds Of Asian Pop: From The Philippines' BGYO To Hong Kong's Tyson Yoshi & Thai Singer Phum Viphurit
While many are likely familiar with big names in K-pop such as BTS, BLACKPINK and NCT 127, the Asian content has a plethora of equally exciting pop acts. Read on for 10 artists from China, Japan, Vietnam and beyond who are worthy of checking out.
In recent years, the music industry has made strides when it comes to giving artists of Asian descent a platform. At this year's Oscars, "Naatu Naatu" from the film RRR became the first Indian-Telugu language song to win Best Original Song. At Coachella, Diljit Dosanjh made history as the first South Asian artist to perform in Punjabi; BLACKPINK became the first-ever K-pop group to headline the iconic music festival.
Such achievements have been a long time coming. Asian musicians have long struggled in mainstream entertainment, often encountering stereotyping, exoticism and othering. Some studies have suggested that East Asian performers face more discrimination over their music-making, with many considering their style as less expressive than caucasian acts. And while much work has been done to change these views, more needs to be done.
Asian artists around the world have been responsible for some of the most exciting and eclectic music being released today. While many are likely familiar with names in K-pop such as BTS, BLACKPINK and rapper Jackson Wang, there are many other underrated pop artists from across Asia. From Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Japan to Vietnam, below are 10 artists worthy of checking out.
Car, The Garden
Since his debut in 2013, South Korean singer/songwriter Car, The Garden has been winning the hearts of audiences with his husky, soulful voice and feel-good songs. After releasing an EP and several singles under his previous stage name Mayson the Soul, the singer changed his name to Car, The Garden, which is an interpretation of his real name (his last name Cha is a homonym of "car" and his first name "Jung-won'' means garden).
His original songs can be heard on Korean television series and international films. "Romantic Sunday," which he wrote for the hit 2021 K-rom com series "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha," similarly evokes feelings of being cheerful, happy and carefree. His latest single, "Home Sweet Home," was written for the acclaimed Canadian film Riceboy Sleeps, about a South Korean single mom who leaves her life behind for the Canadian suburbs to give her son a better life.
Chinese singer Lexie Liu has long been crossing cultural boundaries. Known for blending elements of electro-pop, cyberpunk, hip-hop and rock in her music, Liu also sings in English, Mandarin and Spanish. Liu incorporated Spanish into her debut studio album, The Happy Star, after hearing one of her songs on the Spanish Netflix series "Elite."
As an independent artist, Liu’s career could have ended up much differently. At 17, she placed fourth on the South Korean reality competition series "K-pop Star 5." Ultimately, she decided to leave behind a chance at becoming a K-pop idol for more freedom to write and produce her own songs.
Today, her cool girl and edgy style has moved beyond music. She’s since also become a darling in the fashion world, modeling and working with brands including Miu Miu, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
While idol groups are popular in Japan and Korea, BGYO have been redefining what it means to be a boy band in the Philippines. The five member boy group was formed in 2018 after the Philippine commercial broadcast network ABS-CBN launched its Star Hunt Academy, a program meant to introduce Filipino talent to the international market. After training in a program similar to the K-pop trainee system in South Korea, BGYO made its official debut in 2021.
Dubbed the "Aces of P-pop," the group’s name is an acronym for "Becoming the change, Going further, You and I, Originally Filipino." The quintet mix elements of pop and R&B, and attribute their music and style to their Filipino roots. BGYO's lyrics focus on social issues relevant to youth such as self-love, empowerment and hope. Their debut single "The Light" made the group the fifth Filipino artist ever to appear on the Billboard Next Big Sound chart, debuting at No. 2. BGYO capped off their debut year with more than 10 million streams on Spotify and 12 million views on YouTube.
So!YoON!, born Hwang So-yoon, is an alt-pop singer, songwriter and guitarist known for her powerful, raspy vocals. Before embarking on a solo career, she founded the band SE SO NEON at the age 18 — which became one of South Korea’s most acclaimed indie groups for their blend of rock riffs, R&B sounds and airy synths.
Earlier this year, So!YoON! released her sophomore studio album Episode1: Love which explores themes of love, desire and self-reflection. Lead single"Smoke Sprite" features BTS rapper RM. Set over the grainy wash of grungy guitars, the sensual song follows two lovers calling out to one another in the gap between dreams and reality. The track is effortlessly cool, and perfectly describes So!YoON!’s unique sound and style.
PRETZELLE is a Thai pop girl group that’s quickly taking the T-pop genre into the international market. The quartet's name is inspired by the infinity shape of the pretzel because it symbolizes happiness and enjoyment.
This past January, PRETZELLE released the assertive and confident love song "U R MINE," which sees members fiercely devoted to a romantic partner and not wanting outside competition for their affection. Members Inc, Ice, Aumaim and Grace all took part in the writing process, and enlisted Shin BongWon (known for working on "Ditto" by the K-pop group NewJeans) to mix the song. The song has since received more than 161 million streams overall on streaming platforms including YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify and TikTok.
Since its debut in 2020, PRETZELLE’s music has also appeared on a number of original soundtracks, including the Thai TV drama "Love Revolution" and the Korean animation "Teteru." The group have also found a solid fanbase, fondly called Twist.
The frontwoman of the indie Korean rock band the Volunteers is also a singer/songwriter whose voice you may have heard on K-drama soundtracks. Baek Yerin's original ballad, "Here I am Again," was featured in "Crash Landing on You" and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard K-pop Hot 100 chart. Known for her sweet and delicate vocals, Baek is credited with composing the majority of her songs, often touching on real life experiences.
She first debuted with major South Korean label JYP Entertainment as part of the duo 15& with singer Jamie (also known as Park Ji-min), and formed her own independent label, Blue Vinyl, in 2019. The 25-year-old writes in Korean and English, citing Amy Winehouse, Oasis and Rage Against The Machine as some of her biggest influences. Yerin has also written for artists including Chungha, Soyou and Yeonsoo.
Thai Indie singer/songwriter Phum Viphurit first rose to international fame in 2018 with the breezy summer song "Lover Boy," and has since garnered a loyal fanbase in his home country as well as South Korea, India, Japan and Hong Kong. Viphurit writes in English and blends elements of surf-rock, pop and neo-soul into his guitar riffs and melodies.
The 27-year-old moved to New Zealand at age 9, and then moved back to Thailand for university. Viphurit reached viral fame for his original and cover songs on YouTube, and signed to the indie label Rats Records. While Viphurit’s songs are often uplifting (such as 2022's "Welcome Change"), he has also been open about his own mental health struggles in songs like 2019’s "Hello Anxiety."
Fans of the "Full House" TV franchise may recognize Sexy Zone, the Japanese boy band that made a brief appearance on "Fuller House" in 2018. Yet Sexy Zone has been an active group since 2011, releasing eight studio albums and numerous No. 1 hits in Japan.
With a name inspired by Michael Jackson’s "sexiness" and bright and colorful concepts, Sexy Zone’s music can surely be compared to the catchy bubblegum pop hits often heard in K-pop. The members’ eye-catching costumes, synchronized choreography and charming personalities have helped the group garner a loyal fanbase, dubbed the Sexy Lovers.
Tyson Yoshi, born Ben Ching Tsun Yin, is one of Hong Kong’s best known hip-hop artists, amassing more than 46 million views on YouTube and more than 247,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, with streams from more than 100 countries. While ballads have often dominated the Hong Kong music scene, Yoshi represents a new kind of contemporary artist in his home city. His music melds elements of trap, pop, hip-hop and R&B, while he sings in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
While Hong Kong society has typically favored more conservative styles and appearances, Yoshi stands out for his bleached colorful hair and tattoos. He's developed a fanbase for singing about wanting to be understood and tackling stereotypes, such as in "I Don’t Smoke & I Don’t Drink." When he started dabbling in songwriting in university, he took inspiration from artists including Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber and pop-punk bands Sum 41 and Simple Plan.
MIN first gained popularity as part of the dance and music group St.31, eventually becoming one of Vietnam’s top female soloists. She found success with her 2017 mid-tempo pop single "Có em chờ" with rapper MR.A. Later that year, her EDM-inspired track "Ghen" featuring ERIK from the V-pop boy band MONSTAR.
MIN’s profile continued to grow internationally after Vietnamese-American singer Thuy asked her to sing Vietnamese lyrics on a remix of her viral single "girls like me don’t cry." On collaborating with MIN, Thuy wrote on YouTube that it’s "so important to me to show two badass Vietnamese women from opposite ends of the globe TOGETHER."
Celebrate AAPI Month 2023 With A Genre-Spanning Playlist Featuring BLACKPINK, Yaeji, Olivia Rodrigo & More
Photo: Timothy Norris/Getty Images
Listen: Celebrate AAPI Month 2021 With This Playlist Featuring Artists Of Asian & Pacific Islander Descent
While the AAPI experience is far more vast than four letters can hold, AAPI Heritage Month provides ample opportunity to explore the infinite reaches of what Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander art can be—and this playlist can be your soundtrack
The experience of being Asian-American and/or of Pacific Islander descent cannot be contained in a word, phrase or corporate slogan. Each universe contains innumerable micro-universes; under a microscope, even more realms of identity and feeling emerge.
That said, it is incumbent on each of us to recognize and appreciate the contributions of AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) artists, even though the dialogue and introspection the term entails is astronomically larger than four letters can hold.
GRAMMY.com is proud to curate a playlist for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021. Uncontained by genre or racial identity within the Asian and Pacific Islander diasporas, the result is a sonic tour through wildly divergent genres: pop, jazz, classical and beyond. We've also compiled quotes from artists as well as Recording Academy staffers who self-identify as AAPI.
The aim of this playlist is not to artificially string together artists based on their appearance or perceived racial descent; rather, it is to demonstrate how artists within the AAPI world have enriched more styles of music than we can count.
Picks From Recording Academy Staff Members Of AAPI Descent
Kobukuro — "Winding Road"
Golden — "Hate Everything"
Lee Hong Gi — "Still"
"I love that this month gives us an additional platform to celebrate the APIDA community. The Asian American experience is filled with a lot of complexity and richness, so I'm grateful we've been able to shed some light on that through food, music and art, history, advocacy, and a heightened sense of community. Always excited to keep the energy going beyond this month!" —Taylor Kimiko Saucedo, Project Manager of Ticketing and Event Operations, Production Department
BTS — "Butter"
Stray Kids — "Back Door"
Eric Nam — "Honestly"
Radwimps — "Nandemonaiya"
Pierre Fitz — "T'lah Berubah"
Gabe Bondoc — "Filler"
"I'm so appreciative of our community and all those who support it, in and out of this month. My Philippine culture has always been a part of me, and while I always try to bring it out in everything that I do, this month I feel more welcomed to show it! During this month, I'd also love to encourage everyone to support local Asian businesses; not only have they been affected by COVID, but also the Asian injustice acts happening throughout the world." —Thea Marvic A. Domingo, Executive Office Coordinator
Rina Sawayama — "Bad Friend"
Mitski — "Your Best American Girl"
Yuna — "Dance Like Nobody's Watching"
H.E.R. — "Focus"
Suzuki Saint — "Sunday"
Japanese Breakfast — "Be Sweet"
"To be honest, I am used to AAPI Month being ignored by non-AAPI entities, so it's been a little strange to see so much about it this year. I'm getting promotional emails from companies highlighting AAPI-owned products, etc. I have a feeling the increased celebration of AAPI month is unfortunately tied to the rise in hate crimes targeting AAPI people, and so I have mixed feelings about it—not about the month itself, but about non-AAPI folks suddenly acknowledging it when they haven't before." —Jane Kim, Coordinator
Crush + Pink Sweat$ — "I Wanna Be Yours"
DPR Live — "Cheese & Wine"
Phum Viphurit — "Lover Boy"
NIKI — "Indigo"
Rich Brian — "Kids"
"I'm glad that many people have been promoting Asian American culture this month! From the food and languages to more serious issues such as discrimination and #StopAsianHate, it's been an enlightening few weeks." —Chris Chhoeun, Accountant, Business Affairs
Quotes From Artists Of AAPI Descent
Joey Alexander — "Under The Sun"
"While it's often customary in Asian culture to remain silent when faced with adversity, it is encouraging to see how all the Asian communities have banded together to speak out against the violence that's been inflicted on our elders, brothers and sisters, not just recently but systematically because of how we look. I am hopeful for a future of harmony where there is an open dialogue about our cultural differences and how as humans, we are all seeking peace, happiness and prosperity." —Joey Alexander
Read: Joey Alexander On The Primacy Of The Blues, Building Tunes To Last & His New Single, "Under The Sun"
Vijay Iyer Trio — "Children of Flint"
"It's not that any particular album is political, but at almost any moment in my musical life, I'm listening to what's happening outside and that is informing what I do, why I do it and with whom I do it. And for whom I do it. The first two pieces on the album [2021's Uneasy] are probably the most 'political.' But it's more like each of them was serving a specific purpose—serving a specific cause. And by serving, I mean literally serving. Trying to support an existing movement on the ground." —Vijay Iyer, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021
Bhi Bhiman — "Magic Carpet Ride"
"I'm happy to see it. I think it's important for the younger generation of kids—Asian kids, but maybe more importantly, non-Asian kids—to see that we are just a normal part of the country. We don't need special sections for our movies on Netflix or a temporary showcase on corporate retail websites. We just wish to be treated with the same respect as our European-American counterparts in real-life situations. We want to be judged on the content of our character, not the color of our skin. But there are some strong stereotypes in America about Asians, and in my case, Indians. My parents are from Sri Lanka, which floats on the edge of the Indian subcontinent. As a musician, I'm often on the wrong end of conscious and unconscious bias, unfortunately. The plight of the perpetual foreigner is that our superpower is invisibility in plain sight. It can be challenging, especially when I know I am one of the best out there at what I do. But I love seeing people embracing their heritage and culture and having pride in it. I see the world changing and stereotypes fading away, which is good news for the next generation." —Bhi Bhiman
Yo-Yo Ma — "Amazing Grace (Prelude)"
"I value the perspective that time can give as well as different disciplines. We can look at ourselves biologically. If we look at ourselves genetically, the huge chasms in racial-ethnic differences become minuscule." —Yo-Yo Ma, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021
Jihye Lee — "Struggle Gives You Strength"
"I sincerely appreciate the many organizations celebrating AAPI Month. I am thrilled to see some of the Asian musicians getting special exposure, including myself. I am beyond thankful for the support. Although I am aware all the actions come from genuine intention, I still want to be seen just as a composer. I hear the name Toshiko Akiyoshi as a comparison just because of my ethnicity. Even though I have tremendous respect toward her, I don't think it's my music that reminds them of Toshiko but my look—and I am not even Japanese. Maybe people want to name the same skin color of musicians they know as a nice and kind gesture, just like I hear 'Ni hao' on the street—and I am not Chinese. I am an Asian female composer, but when it comes to music, I wish my music to be heard without any preconception and wish to have AAPI support focused on our works—not on being Asian itself. We are in the middle of making changes, and I hope these efforts lead us to a world that doesn't need the word AAPI." —Jihye Lee
Jen Shyu — "Lament for Breonna Taylor"
"I'm an artist who really embraces my ancestry. I go deep into it. That's my path. But I know how frustrating it must be for other Asian artists who people might expect that of them. They just want to make music, you know? It's just being the other. I've never let it stop me because I'm so hard-headed. I just go forward." —Jen Shyu, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021.
Tomoko Omura — "Revenge of the Rabbit"
"They're stories you can relate to, those folk tales. They've been told for a long time for reasons, right? Because we're humans at the end. Those children's folk songs and folk tales have lived so long because the messages are strong. I think it's a great way to connect us as humans." —Tomoko Omura, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021.
Min Xiao-Fen — "Annica (Impermanence)"
"This world is small, you know? People should be open-minded." —Min Xiao-Fen, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021.
More Artist Picks By Recording Academy Staff
Jay Som — "Tenderness"
Mxmtoon — "Creep"
Tyler Shaw — "North Star"
Steve Aoki feat. BTS — "Waste It On Me"
TOKiMONSTA — "Bibimbap"
Giraffage feat. Japanese Breakfast — "Maybes"
RayRay — "Outer Space"
Yaeji — "Raingurl"
Peggy Gou — "It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)"
"As a person of color myself, I know the struggle of feeling foreign or being 'othered' in my own home country. Yes, I am of two lineages, but I am as equally American as I am Mexican. I feel the plight of my AAPI brothers, sisters and nonbinary friends during this difficult, scary time. And while we are celebrating AAPI artists and cultures all month long, we must keep the conversation going all year long. #AAPIAllYear." —John Ochoa, Managing Editor of GRAMMY.com
Raveena — "Tweety"
Hayley Kiyoko — "Found My Friends"
—Jenn Velez, Editor of GRAMMY.com
ZHU ft. Yuna — "Sky Is Crying"
TOKiMONSTA ft. Yuna — "Don't Call Me"
Lastlings — "No Time"
Yaeji — "WAKING UP DOWN"
—Ana Monroy Yglesias, Editor of GRAMMY.com
ZHU Talks New Rave-Ready Album DREAMLAND 2021, Being Inspired By Hyphy Music & Asian Americans Finally Being Heard
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Everything We Know About The 'Barbie' Soundtrack: New Dua Lipa Song, Release Date, Artist Lineup, All The 'Barbie' Songs & More
Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, Gayle, Haim, and — surprisingly — Ryan Gosling also feature on the soundtrack to 'Barbie' — the buzzy, plasticine summer flick.
When the second Barbie teaser landed like a hydrogen bomb made of memes, the world got the first inkling this would be a very musical movie.
That was by way of the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun," rendered chopped and screwed and vaguely menacing. ("Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun!" the heavily altered Boys intone, over and over and over.) Now, it's clear that the sunny '60s hit was just, ahem, the tip of the iceberg.
As Rolling Stone reports, the Barbie soundtrack — known as Barbie The Album — will be a veritable toybox of the biggest pop stars today. Those are: Ava Max, Charli XCX, Dominic Fike, Dua Lipa, FIFTY FIFTY, GAYLE, HAIM, Ice Spice, Kali, Karol G, Khalid, Lizzo, Nicki Minaj, PinkPantheress, Ryan Gosling (!), Tame Impala, and the Kid Laroi.
That's not even all of them — more artists will be announced closer to Barbie The Album's release date, on July 21. (That's also the day the film drops.) Until then, read on for everything we could find about the Barbie soundtrack… so far.
Mark Ronson Is The Executive Music Producer
The seven-time GRAMMY-winning record producer and songwriter, who's worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to Paul McCartney to Adele, is at the helm. "This Ken helped make a whole soundtrack," Ronson tweeted, acknowledging his involvement.
The Soundtrack Contains 17 Songs
That's as per Apple Music, which details the lion's share of the tracklist. (Tracks six and 11 are TBD). Check it out for very Barbie song titles like Lizzo's "Pink," Ryan Gosling's "I'm Just Ken" and Dominic Fike's "Hey Blondie." And…
Barbie Girls, In A Barbie World
…yes, you read that right: Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice will team up with Aqua to perform "Barbie World" — a new version of the classic "Barbie Girl" song, which appears in the official trailer.
Dua Lipa's "Dance The Night" Is A Contender For The Centerpiece
On May 25, Dua Lipa dropped the official music video for "Dance the Night." (The three-time GRAMMY winner also plays Mermaid Barbie in the film.)
Aside from her 2022 collaborative track with Megan Thee Stallion, "Sweetest Pie," Lipa's been quiet since the Future Nostalgia era; "Dance the Night" captures the magic of hits like "Levitating" and cements her as the post-pandemic disco queen.
Something Is Happening With Lady Gaga
The official Barbie Twitter account seemingly confirmed rumors of Lady Gaga's involvement when they tweeted eye emojis at Gaga's promise of "something exciting." Wait and see, we suppose.
No Beach Boys Tunes Are Known To Be On The Soundtrack — Yet
It remains to be seen whether "Fun, Fun, Fun" will simply be a trailer song or play some key part in the film proper. With a catalog literally filled to the brim with beach-getaway bangers, they could play a key role in Barbie's musical world. Again: wait and see.
Nicki Minaj Is Here For A Very Good Reason
As Rolling Stone points out: what is Nicki Minaj's most famous persona? You guessed it. Expect the Harajuku Barbie to loom large on the soundtrack — and perhaps, at least spiritually, in the film.
Keep checking back as more details about the Barbie soundtrack come to light!
Met Gala 2023: All The Artists & Celebrities Who Served Fierce Looks & Hot Fashion On The Red Carpet, From Rihanna To Dua Lipa To Billie Eilish To Bad Bunny To Cardi B To Doja Cat & More
Photo: HECTOR MATA/AFP via Getty Images
GRAMMY Rewind: Faith Hill Graciously Thanks Her Supporters After 'Breathe' Wins Best Country Album In 2001
After winning Best Country Album for 'Breathe' — one of her three wins at the 2001 GRAMMYs — Faith Hill delivered a heartfelt speech thanking her family for helping her achieve her dreams, and her team for making that dream a reality.
When Dolly Parton, flanked by Brad Paisley, handed Faith Hill her GRAMMY for Best Country Album in 2001 — for her classic 1999 album Breathe — it felt like a passing of the torch.*
The first words out of an awestruck Hill's mouth, to Parton: "Wow! And coming from you, thank you so much. I just admire you so much."
Hill went on to deliver a heartfelt speech, in which she thanked her parents for helping facilitate her music dreams and expressed how long and hard her journey to the GRAMMYs stage was.
Breathe helped Hill take home three GRAMMYs that night — the others being Best Female Country Vocal Performance ("Breathe") and Best Country Collaboration With Vocals ("Let's Make Love," with three-time GRAMMY-winning husband Tim McGraw.)
Check out the throwback to Y2K-era country music history above, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
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Photo: Alexandra Waespi
Arlo Parks On How Patience, Film & Falling In Love Molded 'My Soft Machine'
Arlo Parks has never shied away from vulnerability. Upon the release of her new album 'My Soft Machine,' the GRAMMY-nominated artist shared what’s fueled her creativity since her 2021 critically acclaimed debut.
A line from Joanna Hogg’s 2019 drama The Souvenir has threaded itself through Arlo Parks’ consciousness: "We don't want to just see life played out as is. We want to see life as it is experienced, within this soft machine."
The phrase was so resonant that it inspired the title of Parks' second studio album: My Soft Machine. "That’s exactly what this record is to me — the world through my eyes, through the prism of my brain, how what I feel passes through my skin and body," she told GRAMMY.com.
Though she’s intent on practicing patience, the British alternative artist has never been one to fall into passivity. A poet at heart, Parks beads delicate details like strings of jewels — first on her pair of promising 2019 EPs, and then with her acclaimed debut, 2021's Collapsed in Sunbeams. The lustrous album shone like treasure, earning GRAMMY nominations for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album in 2022.
Praised for its candor and discussions of mental health, Collapsed in Sunbeams proved that Parks knows how to put memories to music in a way that catches the light. My Soft Machine continues this reflective pattern: it’s a kaleidoscope into Parks’ soul, laced with serendipity, solace, and color. The album title evokes an unusual polarity of both gentleness and automation, yet the record is anything but mechanical. Out May 26, My Soft Machine tingles with earnesty and warmth to the point of ache, bearing its honesty like a handwritten letter to a loved one.
Considering the album’s often weighty subject matter, it might come as a surprise that Parks describes its loose creative process as filled with more "silliness" than ever before. But the easy-fitting, experimental side of the record mirrors Parks’ approach to life and music: she has a gift for finding optimism in darkness.
Parks got introspective, sharing with GRAMMY.com how travel and self-care positively manifest in her life — and how My Soft Machine filled her with a sense of purpose.
What headspace were you in when you were working on My Soft Machine? How did your approach compare with making Collapsed in Sunbeams?
I was in an emotionally heightened headspace. I had a lot I needed to put down, untangle and understand about myself. I needed to really examine what I was carrying with me through the world.
The approach was a lot more collaborative and loose than Collapsed in Sunbeams. There was a lot of jamming, of bringing in singular players like David Longstreth, of changing my mind and sculpting songs over months. There was a lot more silliness and an experimental quality to the whole My Soft Machine making process.
What did you learn about yourself while working on My Soft Machine?
I learnt that writing and music are truly at the core of who I am — when I have a day off I’m driving and listening to NTS (Radio) or I’m sitting down and brainstorming a script or a novel — what I do is truly who I am. I think I also learnt that I’m quite an intuitive, impatient creator. It really served me to have patience and wait for the songs to reveal themselves.
You use mentions of color so beautifully and precisely throughout your music. What colors or aesthetics do you associate with My Soft Machine versus Collapsed in Sunbeams? If you had to make a moodboard for My Soft Machine, what would it look like?
It would have a lot of moody purples, inky night sky blues, the green of ferns, the fuchsia of bougainvillea in spring in Silverlake. There would be the dancing scene from "Happy Together" by Wong Kar Wai, the image "Broadway (Joy)" from 2001 by Justine Kurland, the skate bowl in Paranoid Park, my lover’s eyes in dusk light, the smell of trodden down roses, and the sting of road rash when you fall off a bike as a kid.
I was struck by My Soft Machine’s experimental, outgoing production, especially in "Devotion." What inspired this album’s sounds? What sort of textures do you look for in tracks?
The palette was quite simply "songs and sounds that I’ve always loved" — everything from "Last Splash" by the Breeders to the Dijon record to "Come On You Slags" by Aphex Twin to BLACK METAL by Dean Blunt to "I Bet on Losing Dogs" by Mitski. I think I’m drawn to crunchy textures, textures that make me shiver or put my hand over my heart because I’m reeling, textures that serve the story.
Performance artist Marina Abramović said great art is disturbing, and in a past interview, you equated this disturbance with change. How has working on My Soft Machine helped you view your life or the world in a different way?
I think it filled me with a sense of purpose; I felt so driven and rooted and settled in my own identity. It made me believe in serendipity, in the fact that imagination really is magic and that the ability to put difficult, nebulous words into something concrete is the biggest blessing I will ever receive.
What was it like working with Phoebe Bridgers for "Pegasus"? What do you look for in collaborators?
Phoebe is such a generous soul. She creates for the love of it, she’s so intelligent and funny and kind. I think I just look for kind people who understand me and why I do what I do.
What’s your ideal environment for creative work? How does travel impact your creativity, and what places are your favorite to revisit?
I love to work in a home — dogs running around, tape machines and obscure percussion instruments, tea, and someone’s sweater left on the couch. It has to feel lived in and warm.
Travel definitely opens me up; returning to somewhere like Tokyo or New York or New Zealand just makes me excited about the world and creative possibility. I just love to talk to people and understand their rituals and their musical subcultures. Traveling makes me more empathetic.
How do you feel you’ve changed since releasing Collapsed in Sunbeams? What have you learned that you wish your younger self had known?
I’ve become more assertive and more trusting in the ebb and flow of my ability to make cool things. I’ve learnt to really treasure time spent in water, with friends, having little dinner parties and watching silly shows. I wish my younger self would have known that dreams do come true but that to whom much is given, much will be expected.
You’ve been very open about how touring has impacted your mental health. How have you learned to prioritize self care? After your Instagram announcement, what was it like seeing other musicians reach out and share words of support?
I’ve learned to prioritize self care by really listening to myself, understanding where I feel most calm and carving out more time to do it. Setting aside time to camp or to go to the Korean Spa or brush burs out of my dogs fur or hang out with my girlfriend.
I felt so held when other people reached out saying "hey I feel the same" — I didn’t know what to expect and I got nothing but kindness.
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