The Long Beach R&B singer discusses her latest EP with Popdust, touching on how she's grown and how her sound has grown along with her.
dear april, ily isn't SATICA's first project, but it feels like a beginning.
SATICA's been putting in the work for a few years, releasing her debut EP Drippin' back in 2017, writing for the likes of K-Pop star Tiffany Young, and collaborating with fellow up-and-comers Shawn Wasabi and Rell the Soundbender. Her sound centers on a gentle and adept R&B, infusing a unique swagger into the genre. The Long Beach singer's new EP is a small, gorgeous revelation, a clear maturation of her sound. On dear april, ily, SATICA takes time to meditate on love—the ways, places, and people she loves, and how that love spills out into the world outside.
In just under fifteen minutes, the charisma of "Take a Walk" and the fearful plea "Son of a Gun" show how SATICA both reflects on the past that made her and contemplates the future she's walking into.
Just in time for dear april, ily's release, Popdust got the chance to speak to SATICA about her inspirations, her growth, and what she values now.
There's a deeply personal vibe to the songwriting and the sound of dear april, ily, maybe more than anything you've released before. What was in your mind when you first started going to the studio for this EP?
I think over time, my "why?" for making music changed. It went from, "I'm making fun pop music with my friends" to, "If I don't write about this, I'm going to go fucking crazy." Don't get me wrong, I'm still having fun making music with my friends, but I've gone through so many waves of growth. I think this time around it was super important not just to make good music, but to make music that shows my perspectives on life, love, and everything in between. I take pride in my writing abilities, and what was most fulfilling about these songs was that they had relevance, substance, and weight in my personal life. There's a very specific euphoric feeling that you get after you make a song that feeds/aligns with your passion/mind/soul, and every single song on this EP gave me this feeling.
dear april, ily's production is especially exciting, in the way it pushes the sound you've established to its experimental limit. How do you want this project to hit a listener?
I don't know why this question made me so happy. I've been sitting on these songs for a while and have made so much in between that I forget that people are still getting to know me through my previous work. Because I am a writer for not only myself, it forces me to be versatile and experiment more with my sound and my overall abilities as a musician. I often end up listening with a different ear than the average listener, so when I come across a song that seems like it could be predictable but ends up going a different direction, it's total ear candy. That's what I wanted for this project, both in production and writing. There's a beautiful freedom that you have when you get to be the one telling the story. I needed people to understand that I'm more than just some girl that likes to make music. I have a complex mind, I have stories I have to tell, I'm multidimensional, and I have a depth that I can only express through music. I want people to listen to it and get the same feeling.
The project has a warmth in its relationship to the idea of home, especially on "Ode to LBC." How do you find the spaces you grew up in show up in your music, emotionally or in your sonic influences?
Long Beach City is so rich in culture, not only with the diversity in people but in the history of music and overall lifestyle. I grew up in a rough neighborhood, but it was also 10 minutes away from the beach, people who live next to the water definitely have a different aura around them. We have Sublime, Snoop Dogg. Some of the best West Coast rappers represent LBC. There's a ridiculous amount of pride & charisma we have that I always carry with me both in life and in my music. Long Beach has a very chill, but also "I will also cut a bitch if you mess with me & mine" sort of vibe. Juxtaposition at its finest. People just move differently; it's hard to explain the lifestyle. People are just authentically them in LB; there's no motive.
What was it like when you moved to LA?
When I moved to LA, I realized how much my upbringing influenced my lyrics, what kind of cadence my ear gravitates towards, and just my overall demeanor. The landscape of LA is similar, but even the palm trees felt different than the ones at home. I found myself craving familiarity when life got too crazy, and I needed to run and grasp what I know, which is home.
This isn't your first time collaborating with Sakima (2017's "Dysfunctional" on Drippin'); what did you two want to bring to this new track together?
We wanted to make art that was sonically pleasing but also culture-shifting. As artists, that's what we aspire to do. We work very naturally together, and I had the privilege to work with him in real life. This particular song, I feel, carries a weight that is special compared to our other songs. The storytelling in this song is fictional, but the intention is to grasp the empathy of the situation. As a woman of color, daughter of refugees in America, there are things about me that Sakima can empathize with but never truly understand.
On the other hand, he's as an openly gay man in the music industry. He has perspectives that I can never truly understand. So what we can do is have conversations and tell our stories through music. That's what we want.
This EP deals explicitly with your understanding of love, but not only romantic: You explore self-love, familial love, love in the face of violence. What's been the most important part of documenting your journey with that word?
I think I've spent more time alone in this past year than I have in my whole life. I was the youngest of six kids in a three-bedroom apartment. Being alone was a luxury growing up. I've felt loneliness, but this past year has been such a period of growth and reflection. Through all the times I've spent being crazy in my head, I realize that love is such a motivating factor for so many things in life. Love is so f**king powerful, and anybody who disagrees, you shouldn't trust. Love, all types, becomes the motive for so many different purposes in life, in both negative and positive outcomes.
The most important part is realizing who is truly going to be there for me when I have nothing to offer them other than my spirit. Who will still appreciate me when I'm at my lows and my highs?. Those who stick around—friends, family, mentors, colleagues—that have no ulterior motives other than that they love you and want to support you are the ones that make all the hard stuff in life worth living through. This EP is taking the time to appreciate self-love, my support systems, love for people I want to represent and protect.
How do you feel you've grown—as an artist, and as a person—since Drippin' came out? How important has that been to what you write about?
I wrote most of Drippin' when my life experience was still very naive and sheltered. I was mature, but I was young, and it showed in my music. I had a brighter outlook on most things. Since then, I've learned so much about people, about my craft, and had a crash course of mid-twenties madness. I still have a bright outlook on life, but since my life experiences have widened, my perspectives have changed. What I felt was right or wrong has a lot more grey now. I questioned everything so I can find answers to the things that are important to me, not just now, but in the future as well. I'm still young and still have so much to learn, and I'm going to be ever-changing. The music is always going to reflect my experiences and fill the voids that are missing in my life. That's what writing and making music has been for me lately, filling the voids in my life that I can't really find anywhere else.
Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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