Interview

Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama is an artist for right now. Seamlessly navigating a music and modelling career as well as a fast growing social media presence, her music is influenced by the changing world around her, with the lyrics to her recent track ‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’ drawing on digitally-induced struggles from URL to IRL. But Rina hasn’t let Instagram icons or the Twitter trolls get the better of her, instead she uses them to her advantage, living by the mantra of “create not consume”. And create she has, with her debut EP coming out next month and a selection of killer pop singles already attracting a growing fanbase, including this month’s infectious ‘Alterlife’. Watch out world, Rina is coming for you.

Rina, you’re somewhat of a creative polymath, which career path came most naturally?

I want to say music but I’m pretty sure my Asian shutter-happy parents were training the inner model in me since birth!

Who or what would you say has influenced your music the most over the years?

Utada Hikaru, computer games and Beyonce.

How do you think your style has evolved in London?

Seeing as I’ve always lived here (except for three years studying in Cambridge) I’m not sure it’s changed much because of the city, but it’s definitely changed since entering the fashion industry. Luckily I get to borrow a lot of cool clothes and attend shows that I feel really inspired by in many ways.

How do you find being Japanese has affected your music? Or how the industry perceives you?

I grew up listening to J-pop of the 90s and also the old songs my family used to sing in karaoke (Southern All Stars, SMAP, Yamaguchi Momoe, Ishikawa Sayuri etc), but being East Asian in the Western record industry where there’s hardly any precedent is difficult because people can’t immediately see what kind of artist I can become. The phrase “she’s the next so and so” is used often in music but for me I don’t know who that is because I’m not aspiring to be anyone but myself.

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In your opinion do you think that female Asian musicians are still underrepresented in pop music?

Yes, and by that I mean that it’s quite rare that you see an female artist that the industry hasn’t superimposed an Asian stereotype onto. Mitski is an exception- I stand by her because I can relate to her music, personality and music videos, and she’s so vocal about issues that affect us. Yukimi from Little Dragon is rad and also Kiko Mizuhara, though not a musician, is representing a side of Japanese femininity that the world hasn’t really seen yet.

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And finally, what creative project is up next for you?

My debut EP is out in late October, and my live show is 2nd November at the Pickle Factory in London.

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