One of my favourite EP’s of recent times is UK based pop musician SATU’s Growing Up EP. She has been releasing music over the last few years and I have only become more and more of a fan or her, so it was exciting to get the chance to do this interview! Thank you to Sinead for answering all my questions so thoughtfully!
AQ: I discovered your music through your Instagram which I seem to remember Laurence Philomene shared. You are an illustrator as well as a musician. I love your illustrations! Do you enjoy working in different artistic genres? Which came first for you or have they developed alongside one another?
SATU: Thanks so much! I would have to say the drawing part came first, I've been doing it for as long as I remember and both my parents are artists - so maybe that was unavoidable, haha. But also, I definitely think once I started making music it became more of a package deal. I think combining the two was an important level-up for my musical ~identity~, if that makes sense. I love how cover art and music videos can have such an influence on how a song might be received by an audience, and I put a lot of thought into that side of it when creating my own. When I started out I would get frustrated with how my songs came out because I'm a perfectionist (and also impatient), but having control over the aesthetic through illustrating the cover art etc. allowed me to build on the stories in my music. Music videos are something I've been obsessed with forever, I think they might be my favourite art form. I first started making them with my childhood friend Sophie years ago, (and still do) and I'd get so excited to finish a song so that she could plan a video for it. We'd spend a day filming somewhere in our little town, dressing up, dancing around, lip-syncing. It’s really cool being able to collaborate like that with someone you know so well. I also LOVE the video Laurence made for my song Honey, I think the softness in their style was perfect for capturing the shy sweet vibe of the song. I've been a big fan of their work for years so it was a dream to work with someone I really admire! I've been delving into directing my own videos more recently, and I feel like it's really helping me strengthen the narrative of a song when I can dream up a whole visual world around it.
AQ: Your lyrics are fascinating. They tell vivid and emotional stories. How does a song begin for you?
SATU: That's so lovely to hear! I think writing lyrics might be my favourite part of the process, so it makes me really happy when people pay attention to them, haha. A lot of the time I'll start a song just by playing around until I find a bassline or vocal melody that I like the sound of, and build on that - but more recently I've been keeping a note on my phone that I'll add ideas to when I'm out and about, anything from poetry fragments to memories to sensations that I might want to interpret in a song. I hate getting writers block so I take care not to let myself forget if I think of something that could be really good! Sometimes I'll get a random lyric going round my head in the middle of the night, and I'll have to get up and make a note or a voice memo of it before I can get back to sleep.
AQ: Can you tell me a bit about how you make your music? Are there particular programmes you create your beats on or do you use analogue instruments? It has an analogue sound but is also very futuristic. What is your recording process like?
SATU: I use Logic! Mainly because I learned the basics of that programme at college while studying Music Tech, and then I would stay after class and experiment with it on my own until I started getting a sound that I wanted. I actually wish I could use analogue synths and stuff like that but I get really easily overwhelmed by cables and machines and stuff for some reason, so over time I've realised that I don't have to do that and it’s just as valid to create everything through software. When I'm composing I just use a laptop and headphones, I've never even splashed out on a MIDI keyboard, ha. I technically can't really play the keyboard so it never felt super necessary to buy one? Although its fiddly and annoying, I just use the typing keyboard on my laptop and program in all the melodies and drum beats that way. My vocal recording process has developed a bit more over the years though; I used to just sing into the mic on my earphones, but now I've upgraded to a Shure sm7b and a little interface. I think its important for me to have a very simple recording/composing setup because it allows me to focus more on fine-tuning the details in the song.
AQ: Could you share some of your favourite books, movies, musical influences and/or artworks?
SATU: There are so many! I love David Lynch, and am definitely heavily influenced by his brand of uncomfortable-yet-sultry surrealism in my own creative work. The top three films that come to mind are Whisper of the Heart, Pretty in Pink, and Submarine. I've watched them all countless times and I don't think I'll ever get bored of them. My taste is pretty disjointed, like, I could watch 80s high school movies all day every day, but I also have the Alien boxset and love every instalment in the series a lot. When I was younger I used to read a lot, for a while almost exclusively graphic novels - one of my favourites was Dame Darcy's Meat Cake anthology, I love her drawing style and sense of humour. Anything by Tove Jansson will also forever have a place in my heart, my favourite book of hers is Moominvalley in November because it has a melancholy about it that is so familiar and nostalgic, and out of all the books is probably the most quiet and sad. I remember my dad reading the Moomin books to me when I was little but I also think they are beautiful books however old you are.
Music-wise: I think if I'm being strict with myself, my single all-time top musical influence would have to be Patrick Wolf. He was my first real role model in music. I saw him perform by chance at a record store with my mum when I was 12, and I was just totally transfixed. He cried while singing one of his songs, and before that I don't think I had never witnessed such a real-time emotional connection between music and musician - I actually 'taught myself to sing' by singing along to my Patrick Wolf CD collection, his voice is so sublime and I just wanted to be him haha. That was really the moment I knew I wanted to make music, and he's still one of my absolute heroes. I also ADORE boybands, so obviously BTS have to be mentioned – it’s been amazing watching them gain success and recognition worldwide over the last few years, they deserve so much! Pop music in general really fascinates me and I love listening out for all the details in the production, it inspires me a lot and I can't resist the slickness of it all.
AQ: Your Instagram has a very pink and kawaii aesthetic but there’s a darkness to the cuteness and a fairy-tale element which I also like. Does this inform your art at all? What ideas interest you?
SATU: Oh yes, that connection/juxtaposition is definitely very important in anything I make. Whether it’s a film or a song or a painting, I'm most drawn to something if it has an element of innocence or sweetness combined with something more abrasive and dark. I think it's just a part of my personality really, and shows itself in the objects and clothes I surround myself with. I'm very drawn to certain visual things without really knowing why, like my obsession with pink - I have no idea when or how it started, but it almost makes me physically uncomfortable if my space doesn't look the way I want it to. I like working with themes of immersion and dream worlds, in my music as well as my artwork - throughout my time at art school I've been playing with ideas around the psyche, alternate realities, and the use of stories and characters to manifest emotions, or symbolise more private/secret sides to my personality.
AQ: Do you have any favourite artists and/or zines and festivals/galleries you have worked with?
SATU: I remember in 2015, Aether Magazine put some of my illustrations in their third issue, with an interview and everything; which was probably the first time anyone had showed a genuine interest in my work like that, and it was so sweet and exciting. I'm always pleasantly surprised when someone has followed my work for a long time, and the editor, Mia Sakai, is super cool and lovely – it’s really inspiring to see how far her magazine has come over just a few years! Last December I was also lucky enough to be invited to sell some prints at the launch of issue 12, which is really the only time I've ever sold my art at an event, and it was a really chill and fun atmosphere.
AQ: What’s next for SATU?
SATU: Well, short-term, I have a couple of music videos in the pipeline for songs on my recent EP that I'm really excited to share someday soon. Once I'm done with my final year of uni I want to put a lot more effort into performing regularly, because it’s something I really enjoy doing, even as a very introverted person - I also feel like it’s an important way for me to connect with other creatives. Longer-term, I've given myself the task of gradually compiling and revisiting about two albums' worth of my old songs that I'm planning to re-record and release online once they feel 'finished' to me. A lot of those songs I made when I was around 16, and they still need a lot of work. Some of them used to be on the internet and obviously I'm a perfectionist so I've since deleted most of them - and then I was really surprised when a couple of people messaged me saying they really connected with one of those songs, and asked why it wasn't around anymore. That made me realise it would be a shame to never revisit all those old songs and just leave them on a hard drive forever, so I gave myself this project to try and give myself closure on all the music I semi-abandoned, as well as finally letting some very raw emotional material be heard in a way I can be proud of.