“I don’t think 2008 would know what to do with me,” says Suzi Wu, and she’s probably right. 2008 was the year of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” and Flo Rida’s “Low.” It was a year in which the divide between the underground and the mainstream was vast and music was still easy to categorize aside from a few obvious outliers like Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.” Things are different now.
In 2018, artists move fluidly through genres, the mainstream is easily excited by subcultures, and a strong personality can catapult an artist into the spotlight. 19-year-old London artist Suzi Wu is here for it. “Being a child in the 2000s was a bit like being in a desert filled with billboards,” she says. “The ad-men created culture, not the children. So it was breath of fresh air to see that perhaps my generation had a scene and a dance and a style away from all of that.”
Wu’s got a sound and a style that’s hard to stick with a label or contextualize with comparisons, but within the first few seconds of her “Taken Care Of” video, you can feel the electricity. The music is catchy and upbeat, but it’s presented with a raw edge. Unlike the bounty of clean, spacious pop that’s been thriving since Lorde’s introduction, Wu embraces a more crude and disorderly approach.
Read our interview with Suzi Wu below, and check out her four-song Teenage Witch EP here.
First off, can you introduce yourself? Who are you, where are you from?
I’m a 19 year old female from the future trying to make America cyber-punk again. I’m currently residing in North London. My mission is ongoing.
I saw your music referred to as “wonk-rock.” I don’t think I’ve ever even heard that term before. What is wonk rock? Is that what you consider your music?
I was asking myself the same question! I don’t dislike it though. I’ve heard the term described as a new kind of punk. I like to think I make electronic grunge but I don’t consider what categories my music fits in to most of the time. That’s for the suits. I’ve been lucky to be working in a decade where soundscapes and genres are so malleable that no one seems to able to pin it all down yet.
Your music reminds me of the ’90s for some reason. You’re only 19, right? Did the ’90s have an impact on you?
I’ve always liked the British culture of the ’90s. I liked the Manchester rave scene, the Hacienda, Y2k2 fashion. Although I was born in the death rattle of the rave scene there was re-birth in London when I was around 14. My older sister took me to squats, I liked the style of the people. Bucket hats, long braids and sweatpants. Being a child in the 2000s was a bit like being in a desert filled with billboards, the ad-men created culture, not the children. So it was breath of fresh air to see that perhaps my generation had a scene and a dance and a style away from all of that.
I like to think I make electronic grunge but I don’t consider what categories my music fits in to most of the time. That’s for the suits.
What current music do you listen to, if any?
I listen to tons of current music. I’m very interested in psych-rock like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segal. They have this sound that is kind of surf-rock for people who surf solar waves. I also love hip-hop, at the moment I’m obsessed with Kool A.D’s “Jungle Fever” featuring Angel Haze. They rap over this trippy old school house beat, it’s mad. So all sorts really.
Your EP is called Teenage Witch. Where did that title come from?
I was reading Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men series to my mum, who was very ill at the time and Simon Hanslemann’s Megahex comic to myself. Both were very different but for the theme of witches. I related to the young women in both books. They were alone but not lonely and they weren’t taking anyone’s shit. I think not taking anyone’s shit is a type of magic. Witches for me are ultimately about self-love.
You have a kind of in-your-face, punk energy. Is that part of your personality, or something you reserve for music?
Punk has always been a part of me and it leaks into every facet of my life, I just have too much energy and I’m far too hot-headed. I respect only the freakiest of freaks because they are the life and soul of the party and they love me for what I am. That’s what punk is, in its essence: a tribe of belonging for those who look in from the outside.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I watch a lot of cartoons, I make things with friends who I’m in a sort of unofficial art collective with, I party. But whatever I’m doing, I write.
What’s it like making and releasing music in 2018?
I feel blessed I didn’t arrive a decade earlier. I don’t think 2008 would know what to do with me.