Suzi Wu appears on this sweltering summer day in a baggy pinstripe suit, reminiscent of a different era in New York where she now plays. After her set, we discuss witches and cowboys and how, potentially, a lot more people are both than we typically think.
Hey, everyone! This is Alisa coming at you with Suzi Wu.
Can you just describe yourself and your sound in your own words for people who might just be discovering you?
I am a sort of tomboy coming out of London town. My sound is sort of a mixture between ’80s indie rock and, like, early hip hop, I would say.
Very cool. To talk about your recent work Teenage Witch and Error 404, we noticed a lot of witchy and supernatural imagery there. Could you talk about where you’re drawing that inspiration from?
I think, for me, I read a lot of comics and cartoons. I loved “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and such. It’s one of those things where you see this imaging of a woman with a certain amount of power, and, if you actually look back at witches in the old days, they were just women who knew a lot about medicine. So, they did midwifery and lived in houses by themselves without husbands. It was those women who got burned. So, I feel like it’s just me knowing there’s no way in hell that, back in the day, I wouldn’t be burned on the stake. I’m just too loud, and I can’t keep that inside myself. That’s why I have all that witchy imagery relating to the fact that there are still places on this Earth where I could be persecuted and have there be nothing I can do about it because that’s just who I am.
So, would you kind of consider yourself a witch in a way?
Definitely. I practice sometimes, but not too often. I did a moonlight spell for my sister’s break up the other day actually.
Did it work?
It made us feel better, so yeah. I think it really did.
That’s kind of what magic is, isn’t it?
It’s just belief.
On the topic of other imagery during your set, you mentioned it’s the “Year of Yeehaw.”
It IS the Year of Yeehaw.
So, did you start the Year of Yeehaw? How did it begin?
Oh God, no!
Well, I don’t know. You did have your music make clear cowboy references.
I feel like, for me, I wanted to do cowboy grime, and I wrote that song because, thinking about the grime artists in the UK, it is their land. It is their fucking land. You know, it is their land where they live. They are the law of the land, and, if they were a cowboy, it would be the law of the land. I don’t know. I feel like of course it’s coming through in trap. It’s the same message there and that is theirs to have. I’m just pleased it is coming through because it’s only going to resonate with people more.
Do you think there’s any tie then in the rise of cowboy and the rise of witch? Are those interconnected or are they different parts of your imagery?
I think they’re different, but I like to play characters. So, I never grew out of my dressing-up box. I think that every single day you should dress up how you’re feeling. You can be an astronaut. You can be the President of the United States–not this one. Every day you can do that and dress that if you want.
So, does your style change a lot day to day?
Yeah, definitely. It’s kind of hard to “build a brand” and shit when I just want to dress in every fucking way.
I feel that. Today, I was going to wear my WrestleMania shirt, but it got too hot, so we went full cherub.
I love that! WrestleMania? That’s sick.
Yeah, I thought it was a good find. My friend made fun of me for that, but he was wrong!
Yeah, man, that was wrong. I love that outfit. I gotta say, you people out here got some bombass clothes.
People really pull out their greatest outfits for shows like this. Have you seen any especially good outfits?
Loads of stuff. I saw this one guy who had a baseball jersey with his own band’s name on the back. That was cool.
Oh, that was Easy Life! We interviewed them as well.
Yeah, I also saw some guy with some sort of memorial t-shirt on, but it looks novelty somehow with a sort of celebrity on it. I really like novelty t-shirts, and that’s what America is. It’s like, built on novelty t-shirts. They just don’t have that shit in London.
Is there anyone else here at Gov Ball you’re excited to see?
Playboi Carti. I’m going to go off in the pit.
Hopefully, I’ll see you there then. That would be hilarious.
Yeah, definitely. I really want to see Steve Lacy as well. I love his song “Red.”
Have you listened to the new album at all?
I haven’t yet, but I definitely will. I don’t even know when he’s on actually. I’ll have to get myself prepared.
Okay, well, onto your albums, it seems like there’s a definite shift in style from Teenage Witch to Error 404. Can you explain that a bit?
I feel like I like to explore different styles, but I kind of want to blend the two in the future. I think it’s going to be interesting since they’re so different. For me, I wanted to discover what I wanted electronically with this EP. Then, the last one was more focused on my songwriting. So, together, I’m going to use them to create a blended mixture of both from now on. It should be cool.
So, you’re not trying to move away from the Teenage Witch era at all?
Oh no, definitely not. Yeah, I was definitely still just in an experimentation phase with this EP. Now, I think I know where I want to take it.
Do you have more music coming out soon then?
I do! I really want to release a single, and I’m meeting my guys to get on that.
And that’s going to be the combination of the two then?
Yeah, it should be. I’m very excited.
Onto a different note, I was able to catch your set earlier, and I noticed your visuals. There was some really cool stuff there. Where are you getting those graphics from?
So, me and my friend Pierce Gabriel make a lot of stuff together, we live together, and we come up with a lot of concepts together. A lot of the people that you see in those visuals are just my friends from London. We have a little art collective, and we just get up every day and make things and hang out around the city. So, I wanted to give people the wavy, wavy feeling that we have when we’re together.
I definitely picked up that vibe, but tell me more about this art collective.
It’s called Edge Lord 3000. Shout out Edge Lord! The guy who made my album art is in there. His name is Alan Goodman, ufokink on Instagram, and he’s made all my album covers so far. My sister does all my tattoos.
Wow, I didn’t know you had any tattoos.
Yeah, I got a few. She decides them all for me, so you’d have to ask her for the inspiration. I got a bat on one of my ankles and shit like that. The art collective does everything from tattooing, acting, everything.
How did it start? Were you in it from the beginning?
Yeah, we were all 18, and it was that time where people were moving to Uni. I had just dropped out and finally met people who were kind of just more my tribe. They are, like, very punk and very inclusive and awesome. So yeah, it’s just been awesome.
And you’re still quite a young artist. What has that process been like?
It’s made me think about myself a lot and who I am and what I want from things more than if I had just gone to do something else. I think that it’s something I’ve always wanted and sort of always known I would have as a career. It was less, “This might happen,” and more “This is something I am going to do.” So, it wasn’t that much to adjust to for me. The idea of being in the public eye is kind of in my mind now, and I see that with a lot of my friends. I think I’m handling it pretty well, but I do feel for bigger artists sometimes. I can imagine their lives must be more stressful than people realize.
Yeah, you can get up and go to the pit of Playboi Carti and rock that.
Exactly, I can go there and do what I want and be fine. Like, when I first came to New York, I went and sat in the park watching these Spanish bands dance to Trap. Then, I went to a meeting with my label and told them about it, and they were like, “Yeah, enjoy that while you can.” I was just like, “What the fuck does that mean? I don’t want that!”
So then, do you see yourself trying to get bigger? How do you balance that?
I don’t know. I think in London we’re quite lucky in the way that, even if you see someone you know, you don’t acknowledge them. You’re very polite to them and keep a distance. However, what I’m really out for is the respect of musicians. If everyone knew me and respected my sound that would be worth it all. That’s the bit of this that I really care about; the respect of those people who hear what I’m doing and like and care about it.
I also feel like you do have a fairly respectful fanbase, at least from what I’ve seen.
Who’s to say what will happen as you get bigger though?
Yeah, and that is the goal after all.
Definitely. Anyways, you’ve been to New York City a couple of times now, obviously. Do you have any particular weird memories in this city?
The first time I came here I really wanted someone to be rude to me because, like, you know, New York! So, I wanted someone to be rude to me. We were out on the streets and some guy was like, “Will you take my mixtape?” We were really late for something though, so we just said sorry and kept walking. Then, he just shouted, “Fuck you, bro!” And I was just like, “NEW YORK!!” I just screamed it as loud as I could. I was so happy. He was like, “what?” That was sick. Also, my favorite comic book store is here. Desert Island Comics! Go there!
While we’re on specific spots, are there any North London spots you’d recommend for your people at home?
Shoutout to Hampstead Heath. I had too many embarrassing teenage moments in it where I was, like, so drunk. Shoutout to the Roundhouse in Camden which taught me how to produce for free. What else? What else do I love? Yeah, just shoutout to all of it, the North, the East, the South, the West. I love it all.
It seems truly lovely. To wrap up, since we’re a student-run organization, could you give advice to people that age who are trying to follow their creative dreams?
Your degree is too expensive! Quit! Work on it yourself! You can do it by yourself. Just don’t go to Uni.
Well, you heard it here from Suzi Wu then. Drop out!
Drop out! You don’t need it.