Hey guys, how has this year been for you so far?
NIKI: It’s been awesome, there’s just this unspoken wave of hope in the air. I think everyone’s just more hopeful. Change is upon us and obviously that doesn’t mean we should just not wear our masks and not social distance but I do think with vaccinations being available… there’s hope.
How was last year for you? There was the pandemic of course, and a surge of anti-Asian hate crimes throughout the US with a real widespread atmosphere of fear and anxiety around that - but all three of you released amazing tracks in 2020 and didn’t let it stop you. How did everything that was going on impact your music?
Rich Brian: I think it’s definitely been a tragedy of a year, even last year of 2020 Asian hate was happening and it’s definitely crazy, just hearing my mom calling me and being like “don’t go out, don’t go to studio sessions, just stay home”. It’s a crazy thing that I didn’t think I would experience in my life. Just being an Asian artist, personally, it definitely pushes me harder to continue to do what I do best, which is make art that inspires people, and make art that tells a story and makes people feel powerful. I love making things that make me feel powerful and make other people, especially people that also look like me, feel represented and like they can be in their own skin.
How does your Indonesian heritage inspire your music?
NIKI: It’s kind of a domino effect because it affects my perspective, my point of view, my world-view, how I see and perceive things. Just my whole experience moving from Indo, and coming to the US - I mean my world was turned upside down and I just had to relearn things and adapt to things. I think growing up Indonesian indirectly affects my music in how I perceive the world and how I take it in if that makes sense. I’m sure that’s a really abstract answer but that’s the best answer I can give you.
How do you think your sounds have evolved since moving to California?
Warren Hue: Moving to California, it’s a new experience, it’s a new environment. Meeting new people, seeing new faces, just experiencing new things in general motivates me to write about a lot of other things, more interesting things maybe, because it’s such a different environment. I’m writing more about LA in general too, the city, the views... I’ve been making music surrounding vibes a lot and that’s really important with my music, just having that atmospheric feel to it. It’s just a feel-good thing. LA is a wild place, you’re experiencing new things everyday and that goes into the music.
Congratulations on your new single - “California”! Take us through the production process
NIKI: This one was pretty cool because it was a pandemic song and we did it all remotely and separately. That was super awesome because prior to this we had our first and second collaborative albums Head in the Clouds, and for those ones you were able to get in the studio with other people and start a song from scratch that way. This one we kind of just separately wrote our parts and then it all came together at the very end, and everyone was like “cool, cool, cool”. That’s just kind of how it went and it was super fun. It was liberating - sometimes when you’re in the room with a lot of people there are a lot of opinions and mental barriers to break through, but I personally find writing alone to be the most seamless and least amount of pressure so this song came together pretty fast. It’s the perfect balance of it being collaborative but also still very independent and with our own personal flavours and colours.
The song talks about making it in California, and all the highs and lows that come with that. What are the greatest costs of success and fame that you’ve personally experienced?
Rich Brian: I think at first when you’re young, you still have this big dream of making it and you want to be successful and you want to do all these things. All you’re thinking about is “what’s next? What can I do that’s bigger than what I’m doing now?” That can be really tricky because you’re going to start doing things that are really big, and you’re going to forget that you’re at a place that you’ve always wanted to be since you were like twelve or thirteen. When your mind is thinking about the next thing all the time, it kind of makes you think “am I going to ever feel fulfilled? Am I just going to continue to chase this vapour of an infinity of dreams?” When you continue to go down that route I think it definitely takes a toll on you. That’s something that I’ve experienced and it’s made me change my perspective on things a lot. It kind of gave me a way healthier perspective on my work life balance because now the way I look at it is: I love what I do, and if I get bigger then that’s great but my focus is not only to get bigger and bigger. My focus is on maintaining what I do and maintaining my life that’s outside of it because indirectly it does help with the music that I make. Living my life on the outside definitely helps inspire the art that I do. But yeah, I think that’s the cost of success and fame or whatever you call it. It can definitely take a toll on you mentally and that’s something that people don’t really talk about enough. I think it’s not always about being the biggest, it’s definitely also about just being the happiest.
NIKI: Yeah, I think for me, this job - I mean it goes without saying it’s highly highly performative, or performance-based, and so I think sometimes the line between personal and professional gets blurry because you are the product and you are the business. I think that sometimes can be extremely confusing and taxing but above all, I think this is what you originally signed up to do so you’ve got to kind of take the lows with the highs. As Brian said though, it’s not really talked about enough because it’s like “oh, woe is me!” , “ok famous person, shut up.” But I do think the amount of mental pressure and consistent executive decision making that artists go through everyday is a lot. Especially if you’re young and growing, it can be really grueling. So I think I’ve learned over the years to just have a lot more compassion and empathy for people and not be so quick to judge, like if someone makes a mistake online or whatever. People are going through things that you don’t see.