Beabadoobee makes music that is just as fun to listen to as it is to say her stage name. The 19-year-old Filipino-British artist Bea Kristi is, aesthetically, your IRL Ramona Flowers — but you can forget about her being your manic pixie dream girl; there are plenty of weird, complex, and hilarious quips at the ready from the blue-haired artist to throw you for a loop. I caught up with Kristi just hours before she made her U.S. debut, and mere minutes into our conversation, we were cross-legged facing each other on a velvet couch at the Chelsea Music Hall in New York City, off on a tangent about what number Suzuki book we made it to in adolescent violin studies, as well as debating between spurts of laughter which celebrities we think manage their own social media accounts. ("I DMed Kim Gordon, and she hasn't answered. I DMed Kimya Dawson, Can we do something for the Moldy Peaches? And she answers... I don't think Tom Hanks knows how to use his Instagram because I've DMed him a shit-ton, and he hasn't answered.")
With her soon-to-arrive Space Cadet EP and future debut album, she wants to continue to make fans mosh, get a little soft and emo, and everything in between. "Kimya Dawson does The Moldy Peaches so well; she fucking screams and shouts and makes, like, loud music, but then she goes back, and she does that whole Juno soundtrack. I want to do that type of shit," she says. "I want songs [to go from], Oh my god I want to cry to this at a campfire to Oh I want to kill someone."
Read the conversation, below, which has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photo by Jordan Curtis Hughes
When did you start playing music?
I was always interested in music, and I was always obsessed with music. I always wrote songs, but I just never knew an instrument I can play with. But I started playing guitar at 17, and that's when I wrote "Coffee." But I used to play the violin; I was that stereotypical Asian girl that just played the violin and was obsessed with it.
How did you become inspired to make music in the indie rock soundscape?
It was just me and my acoustic guitar, but I had all these kinds of inspirations in music. I was so obsessed with The Moldy Peaches. I really wanted to just have a band, and go crazy and just rock out and shit. But I didn't have that, and I think once I signed [to Dirty Hit], so much opportunity came to me.
I just got signed after I released "Coffee." I did "The Moon Song" and then I did my first EP Lies. I was still around that folky, very Simon and Garfunkel-inspired, Elliot Smith-esque. I'm still obsessed with them, but I was like, I kind of want to move on to explore new sounds. And I was obsessed with music from the '90s... Sonic Youth, obviously Pavement...
Have you heard the new Kim Gordon music?
Oh literally, and I have no one who I can talk to about it [with]. How sick is that song that just has singing, just like weird shit in the background? I literally just want to just replicate it and do a song exactly like that because it's so sick. She's amazing. I remember someone got really rude to me because I wrote a song called "She Plays Bass," and they were like, "Why would you write a song about bass? It's like such a random instrument, and no one gives a shit about bass." And I went on their Instagram account, and they have like a shit-ton of Sonic Youth stuff. I'm like, Do you know that the lead singer plays bass?
beabadoobee - She Plays Bass www.youtube.com
Tell me about your upcoming EP Space Cadet. Have you announced it yet?
Not really, but people know about it. I kind of say it here and there on a live show and then I guess like for [interviews], but I never properly said the name Space Cadet. I think it's just somehow gotten there... but I did something really stupid, I took a picture of my friend Louis, and in the background was the name of the EP with all the songs. Like, checklists of what we've done with the songs...
You leaked yourself.
I leaked everything. I left it for an hour, and everyone's like, "Yo this is sick, thanks for that." And I'm like, What? I DMed every fan account, like Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. I should've just left it because it's out there now. Like, fuck that.
What inspired the name Space Cadet?
Space Cadet means, like, when you don't necessarily fit into anything, and you're just a bit confused and bewildered and just very strange. I was going through weird period of my time in my life where I was finding myself and getting comfortable with the fact that I'm not like... [people] would usually like make fun of me or get rude to me about what I do to myself cause I'm very manic; I do things impulsively. Then I came to the realization, well that's just who I am, and I'm comfortable with like; if I want to cut my hair short and I want to shave the sides of my hair, I will. If I want to change what I'm wearing, I will. And I got comfortable with that. I was like fuck it, I'm a fucking space cadet. No one can give me shit about it. [Laughing], I'm not trying to be like, Oh my god, I'm so different and quirky, it's just what I feel. I was just very angry, and then I think all the songs in it really represent that and everything's about space, to be honest. Every single song has a space reference, because [it was at the time] of the Area 51 bullshit.
How have you enjoyed your time with Dirty Hit?
It's sick. I hear all these stories from other artists about different labels, and I'm just like, Wow. I never knew shit existed because I was always in a position where I could do everything I want and make the music I want and just chill and not give a shit. That's the thing with [Dirty Hit]. I remember when I first signed to them, one thing that kind of stood out was the fact that I felt very comfortable in their office. They were in West London, I [went] to school in West London, all my friends [are] in West London. Like they were super chill, super safe. Jamie [Oborne] is actually such a mate. He's like another father figure in my life; all they want to do is just take care of me and want the best for me. My second headliner, they let me project a Pavement set, and for [another] I projected a Sonic Youth set. And, I projected movies and shit as a support act. So instead of getting a support act, it would just be a Tom Hanks movie. They let me do that.
How has it been to finally be solely focused on your music now that you finished school?
It's very scary. I think I haven't really spoken about this in an interview because it's always kind of, Say the positive side, where it's like, Oh it's great, it's fucking sick, I can just chill. But right now, I am terrified... I am generally just fucking shitting myself because I am so... I like staying in my room. I know my surroundings, I'm very comfortable in London, [this is my] first time away from home for so long, not seeing my parents and my brother, and it's just very strange and very overwhelming.
There are good points, and there are also bad points, because at times you just kind of want to like breathe and just be like, Okay, I want to appreciate everything for a second, so I can get back onto it. But it's kind of like, Oh my god, oh my god, fuck fuck fuck fuck. Like the first thing I do when I leave school, is do a tour with Clairo. In the U.S.! And I'm just like, Fuck. Okay. But you know, I'll get there, I'll be comfortable by the end of two months, I'll be fine.
How are you feeling about this first show in the States?
I'm shitting myself. No, the thing is, I'm used to London kids, and London kids are like so wild. London kids fucking bash their heads with each other. I love this energy. Like we just vibe on this energy, and we just fuck shit up, and now I'm in New York, and no one's going to know me. I want them to jump. I want people to fuck shit up.
I mean hopefully, people will know me and know the words. I'm just very curious and interested 'cause I fuck up a lot on stage, and in London, kids love it. They're just like, Haha, she's a fuck up. I'm just trying my best.
Were you a fan of Clairo before you booked the tour?
Yes! I remember [being] like 17 and on SoundCloud, I was obsessed with that song, "bubble gum." I never really liked modern artists. I still didn't really listen to modern... that sounds so cringe. I'm not trying to be cringe, please don't think I'm cringe [laughing]. But I don't know how to make that sound not cringe.... I can't not listen to Pavement and listen to something now, because I'll enjoy the music now, but like I'm still going to go back home and listen to Pavement on the way home.
You've just put out a song referencing Pavement, "I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus." Tell me a little bit about the choice to put that in the song title.
It's the most honest title I've ever written. Man, I wish I was Stephen Malkmus. I mean the song is about Stephen Malkmus, there's a bit where it's like, "I sit at home and cried to Pavement." But yeah, I love him and want to be him, and he tweeted me, which makes me feel strange. He was like, "This trips me out." That's all he said. And I was like, Oh my god, he knows I exist.
Beabadoobee - I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus www.youtube.com
Since you started releasing music, you've been super transparent about your own mental health. Why did you decide to be so open with your fans?
I was always comfortable talking about my mental state because I've had pretty shitty mental health since I was really young because of external factors, internal factors. I've just been so used to talking about it to numbers of counselors that I just say it how it is. I guess there are pros and cons to that. I've think I've just become so numbed with it. And at the same time, fans know that I basically go through the same shit and like I feel crap as much as they do. It's also a security thing because the more I say it, the more people know, and the more it is that they understand.
How are your plans for an album coming along?
I'm like writing an album, but I want to make this the best thing I release; everything that I love in one big boring album. It will be a mixture of completely stripped-back and completely grunge rock fucking mosh anthems and ones I record in a fucking park or some shit. Just everything. I write a lot, so I think it's going to be a bit of a long album.
In writing Space Cadet and your album, what have you learned about yourself?
That I am very picky. I'm very particular, and I need to stop making songs that sound like songs already from the '90s because I keep doing that. I would play a song like, This is sick, and I play it [again], and I'm like, That sounds like a Foo Fighters song. And then you'd listen to the Foo Fighters song, and I'm just like, This is exactly the same. I'll just whack a capo on, I'll be fine [laughing].
Some artists are just so ingrained in us. It's hard to separate yourself from those albums that built you.
Legit like, if I hadn't known Elliot Smith or Daniel Johnson, I'd be fucked.
Space Cadet is set for October 18 release via Dirty Hit.