Vancouver Indie Pop Artist Sad China recently talked to ai love music via email about her musical journey, her inspiration, and the release of her latest single e “ILYIMY”. “ilyimy” is the first single and title track from Sad China’s debut full-length album, which is set for release next week (October 22). What inspired Sad China to write this song during the pandemic? And what can listeners expect when listening to the song? Find out below!
Make sure to listen to Sad China’s latest single down below. Let me know what you think!
First of all, please introduce yourself! How did you get into music?
Hi friends, I’m Sad China (they/she), a queer nonbinary settler immigrant on ancestral homelands of Katzie, Kwantlen, Matsqui, and Semiahmoo Nations, colonially known as “Langley, British Columbia”. I moved out to unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Sto:lo, and Tsleil-Waututh lands (“Vancouver”) at 17 and wrote my survivor anthem “Ocean Girl” after experiencing ongoing harm as a Chinese woman-presenting artist in the arts, music, and nightlife scene.
Despite being targeted by abusers, I released my dream-pop debut EP in 2016. Hard-hitting “Community?” calls out this cold, capitalist, colonial world, whereas “Can You Understand Me?” conveys contemporary teen angst, having grown up as a racialized immigrant in an individualistic Eurocentric suburb. Fun fact: a frontman of a local punk band deleted our Soundcloud when I refused to sleep with him. He still makes money from his music – so do all abusers, in every city.
What has your musical journey been like?
From school choirs to YouTube covers After moving out, I experienced the lowest lows, but also amazing highs – all of which led me to write my album with experimental electronic artist Kerub, and the phenomenal artists featured on ilyimy (2021). When I first started making music, older cis men in the industry used me to satisfy their urge for fetishization and violence, while telling me I had no talent or skills. Older (often white) women tokenized me in our “friendships”, then cast me aside when I was harmed by their friends, instead of providing comfort or support.
As a survivor, I pay for counseling and seek tangible and emotional support from the community to live, even though I don’t always show it on my Instagram or TikTok. Making music with loved ones has been the biggest part of my healing journey, and vice versa. I can’t regret anything. I’m so grateful to the talented musicians I’ve met and work with now, who see me, not just my assigned gender x race.
What musical genres and artists influence you and your music?
Charli XCX, Yu Su, Tamia, Avril Lavigne, Metric. Stars were big for me in high school. In 2017, Emily Haines released Choir of the Mind, reaffirming my beliefs I wrote into “Is It That Bad?” the year before. Queer and trans artists inspire me, like Arca, Kunt Pills, and of course, my talented friends pseudo-antigone and Kerub, who show me what belonging without ulterior motives really feels like. When I feel safe and respected, that’s when I can make music that heals us all.
How has 2021 been for you so far?
It’s been a ride, especially after my ex and I broke up (twice). The pandemic changed all of us and everything we knew, and we need time and space to process what happened. We said goodbye to loved ones and rose up against oppressive forces. I’m still fighting the voice in my head that tells me I don’t deserve to rest. We all deserve rest unconditionally so that we can do our sacred work another day.
2021 taught me that sustainability and genuine connection are 2 things fundamental to all living organisms that we, as humans, took for granted pre-pandemic, but it’s never too late to create a healthier and more fulfilled path for ourselves. Or so I tell myself every time I veer off. Emotionally, I feel like I’m either doing really well or really badly, there’s no in-between. Every day is unpredictable yet feels the same. Purgatory.
Let’s talk about your latest single “ILYIMY”. What is it about?
There’s a nostalgia for when we were young, what we wore back then, the music we thought was cool, the stuff we were only beginning to process as kids. It all seems just as important as what’s happening right now – these past couple of years feel like a continuation of what we were feeling and experiencing back then. I think that’s why so many zillennial and Gen Z artists are making hyper pop music right now, including me.
“ilyimy” is a mixture of wanting to rejoin society, dance, and touch my friends’ faces, sung to an unsettling bassline that conveys our global underlying anxiety. It’s also about stalking our friends and exes on social media, grasping at this perverse, capitalist form of connecting.
What inspired you to write it?
The pandemic, self-imposed isolation quickly became reflex, and gripping social anxiety when we went out to buy groceries. Not being able to visit our families or friends, and only seeing their faces or hearing their voices through a glass screen. Holding onto hope for the day when we get to meet again, so we can heal and cry and hug and live.
What was the production of the song like?
For “ilyimy”, Kerub and I Facetimed starting from February, and we created a Google doc of all our song references and inspo, and cool music and art we wanted to share with each other, my storyline, and what I wanted to convey through the album. They sent me a beat pack literally a week after we started collaborating ’cause they’re a Capricorn sun. I have 2 Cap placements in my first house, so we got each other right away. Also, we’re both really cool, funny, and nice. I would listen to everything and write down notes in the same Google doc.
We did this once a week until June. Then we met up physically twice, hanging out in the backyard at my previous place in Strathcona, ’cause we’re social distancing, before spending time together at Monarch Studios. They ended up co-producing 7 of the tracks on the album with me, including our Nelly Furtado cover!
Kerub’s the best producer I’ve ever worked with, and I know we’ll make so much music together FOREVER!!! They’re releasing an EP in November so stay tuned. Kerub’s EP is an interrogation of queer longing, grief, and the goodbyes that come with relocation, drawing inspiration from pop music, experimental club, and deliriously using Twitter at 2 am. Follow their socials so you can listen first!
You have a new album coming out next month. Could you tell us a little about it?
ilyimy feels like raving in our outdoor PJs, pursuing a whirlwind quarantine romance, stumbling in the forest after eating edibles, touching up our face to smile for cyberspace, praying to the moon, and all the other things we did to get through this time. It’s my journal entries and Voice Memos written into hyper pop, R&B, and pop music.
What do you want listeners to listen for in your music?
I want all saddies worldwide to listen for Kerub’s unique and complex production, I Am Omo’s beautiful beats on “Bless.bliss” ft. Khamisa & Adewolf, and “nbl” ft. yukari*, and my stapled-together heart. Working with Kerub after eating bentos from Fujiya Foods helped restore faith in my ability to belong.
Same with Olivia Quan’s mixing: she listened to me without question when I asked her to do all the weird stuff – she really got me. Caveman Masters AKA Eugene Chong’s hour-long phone call with me to understand how I wanted him to master the album. Zoom seshes with desire process, Khamisa, Adewolf, JERRYCHERRY, and yukari*, then finally hanging out in the studio, masked-up of course. pseudo-antigone provided me with an incisive instrumental to lay the groundwork for “Mt. unPleasant”.
I can’t wait for you to hear desire process’s angelic and apocalyptic harp (YES AN ACTUAL HARP) in “all good things (come to an end)”, with Josh Eastman mixing it to my particular perfectionist liking at Helm Studios. I couldn’t have done this without every single one of you. ILY and IMY.
Any future plans?
Western Canada and Mexico City tour in 2022 with my BFF Kerub, and hopefully all our friends wanna open for Sad China x Kerub!!! Plus I’m dropping a video for “hum人n” so follow me on socials to keep in touch <3
Make sure to check out Sad China at the following: