This was a tricky interview in more ways than one. First off, my subject was on the road, between dates at the Cardiff Globe and Bristol Louisiana, using her manager Natasha’s phone, with mobile reception poor and sound drifting in and out, me calling back at one point after we were cut off (yeah, I know, probably my fault).
I also had a dilemma in how I should address my interviewee. A bit like when I spoke to Rosy Bones from Goat Girl (not convinced that’s her real name), Fish from Marillion (should I call him that, or Derek?),CP Lee and PP Arnold (Pat in the latter case, of course), The Reverend, of The Makers’ fame (I went for plain Jon), J. Willgoose Esq. of Public Service Broadcasting, and … erm, Beans on Toast (going for Jay both times).
But how about Beatrice Kristi Laus, the artist behind Beabadoobee? Beatrice? Bea? Kristi? I certainly wasn’t going to attempt her stage name. I’d need a few drinks first. As it turned out, I chickened out of using any name, and that felt wrong. But for the sake of the interview, let’s go for Kristi.
It was my 17-year-old daughter who introduced me to her music, showing me videos of ‘Disappear’ and ‘If You Want To’ from earlier this year. And here, I quickly realised, was a talent, one that’s not gone unnoticed in music industry circles of late, judging by several prestigious plaudits for her recorded work so far.
Not as if Brit nominations usually make me sit up and take notice. But the proof’s in the product and I was impressed by what I heard, not least more recent tracks like ‘She Plays Bass’, seeing something I saw in a few ‘80s and ‘90s indie outfits I coveted, such as The Sundays and The Cardigans, as is the case on sparkling Pavement frontman tribute, ‘I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus’.
The morning I tracked this talented 19-year-old Filipino-British indie singer-songwriter down, she was eight gigs into a 20-venue Dirty Hit Records showcase tour also featuring label-mates No Rome and Oscar Lang, the latter also part of her band.
Kristi had just learned she’d narrowly missing out on the 2020 Brit Rising Star award, formerly known as the Critics’ Choice – past winners including Adele, Ellie Goulding, Florence and the Machine, Rag’n’Bone Man, Sam Fender and Sam Smith. But while Kristi and fellow nominee Joy Crookes lost out to Celeste, my interview was far from dispirited.
“I was just glad to be a nominee, and to be named along with two incredibly strong women. I’m so grateful for that. I didn’t expect to be nominated so early in my career. And Celeste is amazing.”
My youngest daughter is also a fan of Joy Crookes, seeing her live not long ago at Manchester’s Deaf Institute, and she’s another great talent.
“Ah, she’s amazing!”
And what a year it’s been for Kristi, also named on the NME’s list of ‘Essential New Artists’ in the first month of 2019, alongside the likes of Billie Eilish. Another impressive accolade.
“Yeah, it’s super-surreal! I didn’t make music to deal with this sort of thing, and I’m so incredibly grateful.”
You’ve not hung around either. There have been three studio albums, two extended plays and eight singles since 2018. That’s some going, isn’t it?
“It’s insane. I write a lot, and continuously release … I can’t help that! It’s part of me. I write music to organise my brain a bit. So there’ll be lots of that for a while.”
How would you class your own development over that period? How would you compare, for example, laidback, lo-fi debut single ‘Coffee’ with the later, grungier ‘I Wish I was Stephen Malkmus’?
“Yeah, I’m very proud of all that – the songs from Patched Up and from Space Cadet kind of show the growth I’ve had as an artist. And I want to reflect that in my (next) album. I think everyone expects me to follow this grungey path, and I do want to make really loud, grungier songs, but at the same time I still want to keep that stripped-back acoustic sound. The new album’s going to be a real mixture. But I’ve basically had a different phase for every EP release.”
Looking back to the early recordings, you seemed more akin to the likes of Dodie, not least on early, more mellow tracks like 2017 Karen O cover ‘The Moon Song’ and 2018’s ‘Susie May’ and ‘Dance With Me’, but perhaps there’s always been a more indie, harder spark in there.
“Yeah, I’ve always loved the bands I love now. I was very Daniel Johnston-inspired.”
Well, there’s the thing. As a teen, I gather you listened to indie bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Alex G, Karen O and Florist. But who put you on to Pavement? And what’s your excuse for knowing cool music by the likes of Elliott Smith, Pixies and Sonic Youth, bands – let’s face it – way beyond your years?
“My parents had very different taste to me. My Mum introduced me to The Cranberries, The Cardigans, Suzanne Vega, and all those amazing artists. But I had to find my way through the sub-pop category, and my boyfriend’s brother’s pretty cool and showed me Pavement. My boyfriend’s Dad was in a band too. Yeah, all big fans of good music.”
Funny you should mention two of those artists. Listening to a few of your songs yesterday, I felt I could hear a little of The Sundays and The Cardigans – and Sundays’ singer Harriet Wheeler was a big influence on The Cardigans’ Nina Persson, so that takes things full circle really – and on ‘She Plays Bass’ there’s that kind of breathy, Suzanne Vega quality …
“Oh! Really? Ah, that’s nice. A few days ago, I was listening to Suzanne Vega a lot and I think she’s amazing. I love her voice, and if f I had to choose who I wanted to sound like, it would be her.”
I make myself sound even older to Kristi there, letting on that I saw her hero play Glastonbury back in 1987, some 13 years before she was born.
“Wow! Did she play ‘Tom’s Diner’, a capella? Insane!”
I seem to recall she did. Perfect festival fare.
Meanwhile, Kristi has fans of her own among established acts, and we soon get on to label-mates The 1975, an outfit with whom she’s set to tour early in February, on the UK leg of their Music for Cars tour.
You’ve been mutual fans for a while, haven’t you?
“Yeah, it’s crazy, and a bit terrifying! But I’m very excited about that.”
But right now, it’s about their own live shows, with Kristi’s band topping the bill, out on the road with label-mates No Rome and Oscar Lang.
“Yeah, and this tour’s been insane. I get to watch them every night, I love their music, and it’s sick, because we’re all mates. It’s super-comfortable and every night we have a little party.”
Ever get to hang out with label-mates Wolf Alice?
“I’ve not had a chance to meet them yet, but really want to. Hopefully the day will come very soon.”
According to the vital statistics, Beabadoobee had attracted more than 36 million accumulative streams on Spotify up to August. Impressive, and yet – I suggest, tongue firmly in cheek – isn’t that worth about £25 in royalties?
“Ha! I don’t even know! I’m just happy that people give a shit about my music!”
Kristi was born in Iloilo City in the Philippines, emigrating with her parents at the age of three.
I’m guessing you were too young to remember your formative years overseas.
“I do a bit. I used to visit every year.”
Are there still lots of proud family out there following your career?
“Oh, I’ve got family everywhere, so when I did my US tour with Clairo there were a bunch of family there that I’d never met before who came to watch me. I was like, ‘I don’t know who you are, but … sick!’ They were like my third cousins.”
I haven’t mentioned the Clairo link yet, have I. The stage name of lauded US singer-songwriter Claire E. Cottrill – two years Kristi’s senior – invited her to join a 30-date Immunity American tour this September, those dates complemented by Kristi’s first ever international headline show, a sell-out at New York’s Chelsea Music Hall. Another highlight of an amazing year.
But now she’s back on home ground, or at least she will be when this current tour’s out of the way. And home’s been London for much of her life, hasn’t it?
“I grew up in Camden and I’ve just moved to Harrow. Yeah, London’s my home.”
Would you say there were Filipino influences in your music?
“Oh yeah, I grew up with all that.”
Was there a lot of music playing around the house in those formative years?
“My Mum would sometimes play The Itchyworms, a really cool band from the Philippines, and had her own music taste. She had this OPM (original Pinoy music) CD she put on every morning, with those melodies amazing and just so memorable.”
Apparently, Kristi, who finished her schooling as a sixth-former at Hammersmith Academy, spent seven years learning to play the violin, before getting her first guitar second-hand at the age of 17, teaching herself via YouTube tutorials.
Do you still pick up the violin now and again?
“Oh man, I wish! It’s been a few years and I’ve genuinely forgotten how to play.”
Is that right that the film, Juno and its soundtrack was a major inspiration on you setting out on this career path?
“Oh, 100 per cent. Kimya Dawson is one of my biggest inspirations, although I’m yet to find a tattoo that reminds me of her! She’s amazing. I loved that loud and grungey Moldy Peaches stuff, but also her laidback stuff, like on Juno. That inspired me a lot and I wanted to do the same thing.”
How old when you first saw that film?
“I think I was about 14 or 15. That was like a pinnacle part of my adolescence … just wanting to be Juno.”
Without the aspects of the pregnancy, I guess?
“Oh yeah, yeah! Not like that, ha!”
That might be something you want to try yourself in the near future – not the pregnancy, maybe, but composing film soundtracks?
“Oh yeah! That would be one of my goals.”
Was it a thrill to perform at Abbey Road Studios as part of the Brit Rising Star shortlist process?
“Ah, dude, that was insane! I’ve got every Beatles album on cassette.”
Now there’s a quote I wouldn’t have expected to hear a couple of years ago. Cassettes clearly are back in vogue. I really must get those old tapes of mine out of the garage, see if they’ve survived 25 or so years in most cases without being played. Anyway, carry on, Kristi.
“Oh, that was crazy, and in the studio where they recorded most of their songs. There’s this picture of Ringo and Paul standing by the stairs … ah, that was the best!”
Did you get a chance to do the time-honoured thing and go over the crossing while you were there?
“Well, I used to live around there, but remember asking my Dad to go there, just to look at it. Cool!”
There was more of that, but again I lost her down the line for a while, and time was against us now. So I moved on.
Incidentally, since our conversation, I’ve learned that Kristi’s live debut, in 2017, was as a support act in Guildford, my hometown, so I’m guessing it was at Boileroom. On that occasion she borrowed Oscar Lang’s band, the two friends trading songs, with accompaniment. And along the way, Kristi has certainly built a huge, dedicated Gen-Z fan base with her winning output of confessional bedroom pop songs and DIY aesthetic.
That first release, ‘Coffee’, from September 2017 – the first song she wrote on her guitar – has attracted more than 300,000 YouTube views, and also proved the catalyst for Dirty Hits Records’ interest. Has her label been really supportive?
“Very supportive. It’s very much a family atmosphere. It’s been great.”
That initial single was followed by the release of debut EP Lice in March 2018 and debut album Patched Up that December. And a year on, she’s clearly still on a high, loving it all. What have been the best live shows and venues you’ve played so far?
“Well, Brighton was one of my favourite shows I’ve played on this tour. That was at Patterns. And then there was Cambridge (Portland Arms). That was super-cool. I guess the UK’s different because it feels more like home, especially when I’m touring with my mates.”
Earlier this year, she released her second album, Loveworm, followed by an acoustic version in July, Loveworm (Bedroom Sessions). And now there’s that next record on its way.
“Yeah, I’m currently writing an album, which should be out sometime next year. I want to spend some time on it. I’ll be recording a lot at the beginning of next year.”
Her five-track Space Cadet EP has certainly made an impression since its release in October, just after the Clairo US tour, including ‘She Plays Bass’ and her ‘Stephen Malkmus tribute. In fact, she also made it on to the cover of the NME at the end of that month.
And now she’s finishing this landmark year back on the road, the 20-date Dirty Hit Records showcase tour moving on tomorrow (Thursday, December 19th) to Gorilla in Manchester (upgraded from the nearby Deaf Institute), before a sold-out London finale at The Dome, Tufnell Park (Friday, December 20th).
So how about after that – what will she be doing for Christmas?
“I’ll probably chill with my family, just taking a little break, hanging out with friends too.”
Also on the bill with Beabadoobee on the Dirty Hits winter 2019 tour are:
No Rome: the most recent self-produced single, ‘Talk Nice’, is seen as a firm statement of intent from this 22-year-old Filipino artist, following his acclaimed Crying in the Prettiest Places EP, which saw him amass a staggering 100 million streams globally. His publicists tell us, “No Rome confidently manages to distil a hugely eclectic range of influences, from production genius J Dilla to shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive to irresistible pop melodies – cleverly juxtaposing high-end, contemporary pop production with a raw guitar sound. Having recently played to several thousand people in his hometown of Manila and support flooding in from the likes of The Guardian, NME and The Fader to name just a few, No Rome is firmly establishing himself as one of the most exciting, talented new breed of pop stars.”
Oscar Lang: this 18-year-old Londoner recently released his self-produced Bops etc. EP, his first music of 2019 and his debut release with Dirty Hit, who tell us, “Having already worked on a string of acclaimed releases from friends and fellow up-and-comers, including label mate Beabadoobee and Norway’s talented Girl in Red, Oscar is carving out a reputation as the songwriter and producer pushing bedroom pop to exciting new heights: a budding Brian Wilson for Gen-Z. His self-released 2018 records Teenage Hurt and Silk set the tone for his solo work – spanning lilting psych hooks to dreamy washes of guitar to punchy millennial lyricism; drawing in hundreds of thousands of listeners in the process.”
Dirty Hit 2019 tour, remaining dates: Manchester Gorilla (Thursday, December 19th); London Dome (Friday, December 20th). For ticket details and more about her label, head to www.dirtyhit.co.uk or check out the label’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter links. And for the latest from Beabadoobee, you can also check her out via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Pingback: Bea Kristi delivers her ‘Care’ package – back in touch with Beabadoobee | writewyattuk