Eleven months ago, London-based artist Raissa, a 23-year-old singer, songwriter, producer, and visual artist, seemingly popped out of nowhere with the release of her dreamy bedroom-pop track ‘BULLYING BOYS’ alongside a captivating, anime-inspired music video on YouTube. A trilingual talent wielding an irresistible electro-pop sound and matching kawaii aesthetic, Raissa succinctly demonstrated her star-power potential and global appeal. But it was only after moving to London to study cultural criticism at the capital’s Central St Martin’s College that she realized creating music and visuals, which had for a long time been her passion and side-hustle, should ultimately come to the fore. Since ‘BULLYING BOYS’, Raissa has continued to impress with her apt use of spacey instrumentals, swirling synths, and effortlessly angelic vocals, catching the attention of Mark Ronson’s label, Zelig Records, which went on to release her infectious hit ‘GO FAST BABY’ and latest single ‘CROWDED’. Her debut EP HEROGIRL (named after her alter-ego and own record label) is on the way, and if you can’t tell, we’re a little excited for it.
First things first, what was 2020 like for you?
That’s a hard one to answer – on a personal level it’s been both really good and bad so it’s confusing, I think a lot of people feel strange about this year. But I also feel lucky!
Who are some of your influences?
Sufjan Stevens is a really big one, so is Lady Gaga. I also find a lot of inspiration thematically and melodically from Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Prince and Bowie. Lyrically and visually, it tends to be sci-fi and fantasy movies that fire me up the most, dialogue between two people both in fiction and reality is fascinating to me and often drives the way I write my songs.
How did you land on your unique sound?
I think by staying true to myself and my quirks and isms, refining what was already there with people I trust and feel good making music with. I think even after this EP, “my sound” is going to be a more defined thing, it’ll be growth from what I have coming out right now, it’ll be bigger, better, and more special I think!
You’ve had an international upbringing, living in Beijing, Sydney, and Kuala Lumpur while growing up. Has this influenced you as an artist and individual today?
I think growing up in so many different cultures and my parents having grown up amongst different cultures themselves has made me pretty good at understanding others, and therefore myself. I’m comfortable in lots of scenarios while remaining exactly as I am/who I am. I think that has made me a better writer, or at least a more unique one. George R.R Martin once said that people are more like us than they are unlike us and I think that’s very true. My upbringing definitely made that clear to me anyways.
You’ve described how sci-fi, fantasy, and more specifically Miyazaki movies influence your sounds and visuals. Can you tell me a bit about how this became integral to your work?
There was a high school teacher at my school that would come to my house in the morning when I was 6 to help me learn how to read because I really struggled with it and was behind a lot of my classmates. His name was Patrick and he gave my parents a CD of Princess Mononoke for me to watch, and it was an earth-shattering movie for me, I became obsessed with Miyazaki from then on and got my parents to buy me all the box sets, they became THE animated movies of my childhood and I still watch them to this day. His heroines are were extremely relatable to me and made me feel like I could be brave and capable even if I was afraid or unsure, that caring about things and staying up for them was important. That’s what my art is all about, that’s why HEROGIRL exists.
What do you most want to express through your music?
That Big feelings are good, beautiful things that we mustn’t be afraid of; that the world is a better place when we love ourselves enough to hold the hands of others, to love and be loved in return, to fight for valuable things, with care in our hearts. So in short: Vulnerability, hope, bravery and adventure.
How important is gaining commercial success vs fulfilling your creative aspirations to you?
I think they can coexist! I think people respond to someone who is true to themselves and works hard to make them feel like there is room for them, to make them feel a part of something. That’s what I aim to do creatively and I think that’s a wide-reaching way of doing things, only time will tell.
And finally… Anything exciting coming up?
I have a stripped version of ‘CROWDED’ coming out soon with a cool little visual I shot recently with my friend Clyde Munroe, who’s a sick director, and some more songs and visuals before the EP drops in full soon! A single from the EP, ‘SHADES ON’, will be out on January 22nd.