"I've actually never had a birthday party," yunè tells me. We catch up in mid-December, it's just a few weeks until Christmas and days until her birthday. “It's annoying because you get joint presents constantly,” she explains. "I was thinking of maybe arranging something. It's always been really small gatherings but I've never had an actual party for my birthday. It's the year to do it.”
A party is the least this Gen Z dance sensation deserves. 2022 saw yunè thrusted into the limelight with her sensational debut EP, ‘Bluff’ landing on plethora of end of year lists and earning an excitable buzz around her unique sonic perspective. Juxtaposing club-ready production emotionally-laden lyrics alluding to the anxiety that can surround a night out — delivered in pinku's distinctive breathy-yet-silvery tenor, 'Bluff' is as good of an introduction as any to yunè's bedroom-pop-meets-dance sound. She also added the role of remixer to her belt last year, reworking Biig Piig’s ‘FUN’ and even Charli XCX’s hit ‘Used to Know Me’.
Spending her free time making music and storing it on SoundCloud, she saw her listeners increase dramatically during the pandemic — treating her followers to a multitude of mixes, bootlegs and demos. She secured her first non-SoundCloud outing in July 2021, with a guest mix on Joy Orbison’s BBC Radio 1 residency. Raised in London pinku - whose name comes from a childhood nickname that means cloudy in Japanese paired with her love for the TV show Pingu - yunè found another break in featuring on Logic1000’s ‘What You Like’.
We caught up with yunè pinku at the end of last year to talk all things music, her ethos and working with Joy Orbison. Check out Q&A and her "cool vibes" mix below:
You're playing in Belgium next week right?
I am, yeah.
Have you played there before?
It must feel crazy to go from supporting Caribou there, to now headlining?
It's quite weird but I'm like: "Hey, at least I've been here before."
How do you feel 2022 went down for you?
It's been a mad one. It's quite funny as everything was so different this time last year and then, now, I'm going into my second project — but this time last year I hadn't released any music, really. It's been a nice year, it's been good.
I can't understand how you've got all this work done!
I have no life outside of music. I'm a bit weird though, because I'll do two months of working on something every day and then I'll do a month where I essentially just sleep. It is kind of like the book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation.
I read that apparently, you weren't into electronic music when growing up. Is this true?
Well, I thought all electronic music was trance. I'd only really experienced it in clubs, or really intense scenarios. During lockdown, I listened to more electronic music and realised that not all of it is the same and I also like to walk around to it. So after that, I realised I did actually like it after all.
Who were the artists that got you into electronic music?
Kelly Lee Owens is a big one. Ross From Friends is cool. There was also some music that I was listening to that I didn't really register as electronic — like Grimes etc, as I thought electronic music was just club stuff. That's like songwriting.
What was it about the clubbing environment that you didn't really like and do you like it now?
I'm not really good at crowded and loud scenarios, because also I've got an annoying thing that I can't get my voice above a certain volume — so trying to talk to people in clubs is a nightmare. I was actually talking to someone the other day and they were saying that they think the club has this dark energy, which is the thing that weirds me out as well. It was like some super hippy conversation where she was like: "because alcohol lowers your vibrations" and I was like "damn."
How would you describe this 'dark energy' in your terms?
I think it's just because it's a very severe form of people letting loose, where it's like a lot of weird stuff goes on. It's not obviously in every club, but I find the club energy in London right now a bit weird. It's not really about dancing or anything, it’s just kind of about going out. When I go out in other countries, I find it feels more like what clubbing was like, say, in the '90s; quite focused around music and dancing.
So would you say your music isn't aimed at a club environment?
I think that with the last EP, it was inspired by those online club things people were doing in COVID which had soundtracks playing. But I think the future stuff that is coming out is a bit more I guess listening based than dancing. But I don't necessarily think about the scenarios they fit in.
Can you tell me more about how you got to know Joy Orbison?
I think that was before I had released anything so my managers were like passing around the demos to a few people to see if anyone was interested in collaborating or something. He was one of the first people I did a session with and I think we just got along quite well as people and then we've just been working together ever since. He's been a big help to me in bits of navigation in terms of music industry stuff. But we have a few bits that we might do something with.
How do you feel now your debut EP 'Bluff' is out?
Yeah, it's very cool. I mean I have a bit of a weird thing that the minute I release something I'm sort of like "whatever, on to the next thing". But yeah it's really nice the way people have been very receptive to it. I've had some really nice messages over the last couple of months from people who either found it through live stuff or the other way around. It's been very nice, very heartwarming.
'Fai Fighter' is one of your latest singles, how come it is separate from the EP?
I made that song in the summer of this year. It was kind of funny because I was trying to come up with something because I want to start a new project. I kept trying to make music but none of it was doing what I wanted it to do. I remember I had one week where I was dying from hay fever and colds and all of that stuff but that was when I made 'Fai Fighter'. It was funny because I was like "oh my god I have the idea for a project now. I can see it." But yeah I made two tracks like that in a two-day period. It was like a lightbulb moment for me. I think the haziness of hay fever added something.
After having a lightbulb moment, what happens next?
I guess I usually put the instrumental together first before vocals and then I have a book full of phrases or little bits I've written and then I try and incorporate those into the lyrics of whatever song.
Can you talk me through first getting into making music?
Before I was working in music I was just making loads of noise, soundscapes that had no sort of narrative. I guess I wasn't conscious of when it became more formulated so it was just one day that I noticed that they had become songs. That same year I had random vocals that I would aim to get someone else to sing but then over lockdown, you couldn't find people so I just did the singing myself.
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It's been such a quick journey from lockdown to this.
It's very weird because I first started speaking with my managers during lockdown as it was just stuff I'd posted on SoundCloud for the purpose of storing them on there. Then that stuff on SoundCloud is the EP now.
Now you're remixing Charli XCX, how does that happen?
I don't even know. Someone on their team just got in contact. I originally thought it was a remix project so I was like, "oh they've selected me as one of the people on it". But I didn't realise until it came out that it was just a single remix. That was really cool. I really didn't expect to be doing a Charli XCX remix this year anyway.
What have been some of the other highlights of your career so far?
All the remixes I've done I really enjoyed making them. The Biig Piig one, the Charli one. Then Yeule did a remix of one of my songs and I went to see her gig a few weeks ago in London and it was really cool to actually see her perform it live because it was really interesting to see a song I'd written translated in a different way. And I've obviously never seen one of my songs performed because I'm doing it. The Pitchfork Paris show as well as that was just a show that I feel went really well and the reaction was really nice.
Do you prefer making music or performing?
I think because I'm a bit of a hermit making it is always really fun. I feel like the live and creation parts are opposite to the way I do them. I go from covered in spaghetti stains, half asleep making music to like being very polished. It's really funny. So I love the fact that nobody knows how greasy and gross I look when I'm making music.
Can you tell me what's to come in 2023?
There is another project coming in early spring which is what I've been doing all summer. I think it's a nice progression on from the music that's already out. It’s like a blend of ‘Fai Fighter' versus 'DC Rot'.
How did you make everything in summer?
I had a really busy summer but I definitely didn't catch any sunlight. I was just in dark studios for most of it. Which was alright. I was very pasty and covered in spaghetti stains. Really selling myself here. I've got crazy hair as well at the moment. I had a moment the other day where I was like "I'm going to jump on this copper hair trend". But didn't go to plan. Last time I dyed my hair I had really short hair so I'd forgotten that you need more quantity when you have more hair. So it's a bit all over the place. I can see when I fix it, it will look cool. Warmtumn vibes.
Can you tell me about the mix?
Just like cool vibes. Music that I'm listening to at the moment. Stuff that's kind of informing some of the music that I'm making. So yeah, inspiration.
Kiddy.Wav, YTP ‘Grab Dat Ass All Night ‘
Logic1000 ‘Your Love’
Elkka ‘Just Want To Love You’
Eartheater ‘Solid Liquid Gas’
yunè pinku ‘Fai Fighter’
Bing ‘As Ever’
Bailey Ibbs ‘Off The Lorry’
Maurizio, Carl Craig ‘Domina’
Julio Bashmore ‘Battle For Middle You’
Leon Vynehall ‘Sugar Slip’ (Hagan Remix)
Less-O ‘Behind Closed Doors’
Breaka ‘Want You’