On International Women’s Day I Skype-called up-and-coming pop artist, Viiq to chat about her new releases and what life has been like making music in Berlin during her semester abroad. In an industry like music that’s so male-dominated, it’s even more crucial that women support women, and so there’s nothing better than getting to spend International Women’s Day chatting with a female artist as friendly and supportive as Viiq (as soon as we got off the call, she sent me links to all her friends I should consider interviewing and cool shows to attend). Also, did I mention her music is fantastic? Her tracks Asylum and Parasite are beyond-catchy and I can’t wait to see what other music she has in store to release in the coming months.
What have you discovered about the music scene in Berlin that’s surprised you?
I’ve always been someone who relies on structure and music theory when writing and I feel like in Berlin, it’s not as valued here, so I’ve sort of just been experimenting with yelling and talking over the track and producing my own stuff. And I’ve really, really loved it—I never thought I would, but I do.
Have you enjoyed living in Berlin? I’ve heard mixed reviews.
It’s definitely for—like, my Dad and my brothers came—and I realized then—my brothers are twelve—there’s not much for a twelve-year-old to do, but once you’re of age, the clubs here are fun and the music scene is amazing. People here are like really weird and creative; it feels like the East Village.
I’ve sort of just been experimenting with yelling and talking over the track and producing my own stuff. And I’ve really, really loved it—I never thought I would, but I do.”
An East Village where everyone speaks German! Do you try and speak German on the streets?
I always try and they always know I’m from—everyone speaks English here, so I’ll be like “hallo! Ich habe…” And they’ll be like “yes? What do you need?”
Haha, I love it. So, I’m a huge fan of your track Asylum; what was the inspiration behind it?
It was actually a school project and we had to work with people, so I messaged Jack one day and he was like “yeah!” And we were really excited, and went to his apartment, and we were messing around on the thing trying to create a little melody, and then we were deciding on the topic, and we were both talking about past relationships we’d had, and we both had exes who went to mental institutions for one reason or another, so we were like “why don’t we write about that?” It turned out being one of the best things we released.
I would say it was collaborative all the way through. We sort off—I don’t know much about beats but I was there for it and I would like—he’s really good at picking up on things when I say I want it to go like “eh eh eh” and he’s like “oh I know what you’re talking about! That’s this plugin” and I’m like “great.” And we both came up with the topic; I think I initially came up with the verses and chorus itself, but the idea was collaborative—I’d say the whole thing was collaborative.
We both had exes who went to mental institutions for one reason or another, so we were like ‘why don’t we write about that?’ It turned out being one of the best things we released.”
What’s your usual songwriting process like?
I was always into poetry when I was younger, so I try to start it out like a poem. I’ll have a melody separate and then try to mix the melody into the topline I wrote. If it comes together both at once, that’s great, otherwise I have to do it separately.
Is there an area you think might be fun to work in the music industry outside of being an artist?
At first I thought I just wanted to be an artist, but I’m really, really liking the idea of writing for others now that I’ve seen—like, you know alum have done that and I’ve seen inside the industry a bit and it’s a very viable career path and financially stable if you get to a certain point. And I love to write.
I think—I mean, I’m Asian—so my Mom, my Asian mother was like “piano or violin” so I think I was like five or six when I had my first piano lesson. And I wouldn’t really include that as the start of my music or anything, but I did that for a while and after that I went onto classical music and then did classical singing. And then around age eleven maybe, I was like, I want to do something else, I’m just not really connecting to this, but I like it. So, I joined this like band program called Rock It and I did that for a bit, I did rock music, I played keys in some bands, I sang in some. And then I got into jazz in high school, and now I’m here and I like pop.
How did you come to the realization of what you want your sound to be?
I feel like I haven’t even done that yet. I have no idea. I know I like certain sounds, and I try to imitate them, but I have no idea like what my sound is really. I just try to let things flow naturally and I want my own sound to come out naturally; like I don’t have it pinpointed in my brain as something. But that leaves me open to explore new genres and stuff, which is fun.
That’s interesting! How did you get started writing for other people?
I went to Grammy camp like Junior year and that was the first time I cowrote. Like I always thought I could never write with other people, like I’m too shy, like I could never show people my process, it’s too weird; but then I realized most people have a really similar process to me and no one’s judging you. And once I got to Clive, I started working with other people. I don’t know if you heard Toxic, but that was a reworked cover kind of, and then Asylum, and yeah.
Looking back, what would be your advice to your younger self?
Don’t be so afraid of technology. I feel like if I were less afraid of like learning my loop peddle and learning my different DAWs I think I would be more ahead now. I wish I did more of that when I was younger.
Yeah technology can be scary, haha.
My god, yeah, every time I touch something, I feel like I break it!
“I want my own sound to come out naturally; like I don’t have it pinpointed in my brain as something. But that leaves me open to explore new genres and stuff, which is fun.”
What does feminism mean to you?
On International Women’s Day! Happy Women’s Day! What does feminism mean to me… equality is the first word that comes to mind. I don’t like the—you know—I think you can go too little and too much of anything you do, so it’s very important you keep in mind the ideal of feminism is equality. That’s where the fights are; that’s where men start being like “oh well this and that.” Like no, the purpose of it is not to offend you, it has nothing to do with you, it’s about us, and our equality. So, I’d say equality is the word.