There are a bunch of adjectives that you can use to describe Suzi Wu’s second EP, Error 404. Eclectic. Distinctive. Unpredictable. In many ways, the EP personifies an uneasy time period in with Wu composed the EP. An illness that afflicted both her parents and her own personal struggles created a four-track narrative that touches on genres from pop, hip-hop, and electronic music. Where pop music itself straddles the line to playing it safe, Wu chooses to extend her musical pallet and romanticize the simple things in her own unique way. We spoke to Wu about her newest EP and her journey of trials to her latest set of triumphs.
I saw in an Instagram story that you did that American crowds tend to be a bit livelier than overseas crowds. How did it feel playing Governor’s Ball in New York and did you notice the difference in energy there?
Suzi: I think it’s just warmer. You have less to do to win them over. In London, it really depends on how intoxicated they are. Where in America, I think they’re ready to just like, cheer. Get their dance on.
You wrote “Taken Care Of” when you were 15 and produced the Teenage Witch EP when you were 16-17. Through this process, you mentioned that you were finally making things that you were hearing in your head. With your musical journey, walk us through the beginnings and when you hit that realization. A lot of artists have that ‘A-Ha’ moment.
The process itself is ever changing. It’s definitely something that I’ve been working on since I was very young. To where I officially started my career around 16-17, I felt like I was having a creative career from five onward in my mind. It’s evolved a lot for me.
Getting the ‘A-Ha’ moment is..you know when you can feel it in your body when you’re going to be the most creative. You can never trust that you can put yourself in the right conditions to make it happen which can be really stressful. Sometimes you can get writer’s block for up to a year, for instance. The only thing that I can really say as a pinpoint is usually after a time of intense emotion I find it easy to write as opposed to during.
During the course of “Taken Care Of,” you say these lyrics, “Mama Papa love me/
I think so anyway.” I thought that was interesting listening to “Grim Reaper” off of Error 404 where you speak to your parents getting sick and the Derealization for you that followed. Did anything from Teenage Witch leak into Error 404 and how it changed you, especially with your parents’ sickness?
A lot of it came out in Error 404 instead of the Teenage Witch EP. It was what was actually was going on in my life. I think it was because I was having the aftereffects of everything and sort of feeling all the intense emotions and reflections of everything that happened. Yeah, I think when our bodies doesn’t allow us to face things in the moment, you need to compensate for that. Sometimes, it’s a delayed compensation. Much like a delayed reaction. A lot of Error 404 was about a shifting, changing world around me.
I like the composition of “Grim Reaper.” You start out in a rap cadence and then goes into a sing-songy way. There are many instances of pop that you hear that tends to be safe. You draw from all difference experiences and genres which is refreshing to hear. Error 404 saw you develop even more from the production aspect. How do you draw all these influences into the world of Suzi Wu and this EP?
I guess, for me, it feels natural. Like, I don’t feel like I’m forcing it or I have to make this with this. I just think that the best thing about pop is that it’s a formula. The thing about formulas is that it’s just a basic structure for anything that you want to put into it. You can literally put any sound into a pop formula as long as you have a hook and the right structure for it. So, why not play around? It’s actually a very exact science. You can take as many variables as you want as long as you stick to that formula.
With the title track, you explained that you turned to partying and then that lifestyle got really old. I’m just wondering, how did you come back to yourself? I think we all get lost time to time.
Everyone. Everyone has that, yeah. Yeah, I don’t know. It think it was me realizing – I had a lot of friends who were older as well. In London, I think it’s very easy to get sucked in. It’s ok if you have fun for a couple years. All of a sudden, you’ll get to a point where you’re like..I started to see some friends who were sober and had decided to go sober. Going down a path that lead to a good path. As opposed to seeing friends who were going down a path that just led to the same thing every day.
It was frightening to watch. It was then where I said, I had to choose what path I was going to take. Because everyday it could seep into banality and nothingness. It doesn’t feel like a huge, crazy decision where your life could slip through your fingers. I just wanted to be on the right path.
“Highway” is a single where you reference both William Blake and Wordsmith. With your lyricism, you’re able to make a highway morph into everyday things. The way you use this metaphor are very unique to you. Do you feel when you sit down and write lyrics, you have to make them in a way that stand out like this song?
Sometimes, I do. Definitely. I have a very big aversion to writing love songs, for example. I feel that pop is so smothered with them that it takes away from the entire feeling of what love is. For me, I’m really into beat poets like Allan Ginsburg. Virginia Wolfe as well. Their ability to have a rambling stream of consciousness. I like to try to pick phrases from that rambling stream of consciousness. They just seem unique because you haven’t sort of overthought them.
With Teenage Witch, you mentioned that you focused more on songwriting. With Error 404, not only is the songwriting strong, but you’ve built yourself up on production. You might be working on a full album soon. I hate asking artists, especially, when they have recently released something, “hey, are you working on an album?” Do you have any plans to go towards an album from the EP format?
I definitely do. What I’ve learned is like, taking care of my original demos. Taking the demos that I absolutely love in to collaborate, for me I feel, is better and more actual true to myself than letting other people take the wheel. If I’m going to make an album, it’ll be from demos I’ve made. Whether I’ll release one soon is another matter. When I do want to do it, I want it to be a very concise piece of art that makes sense all the way through. I want to wait until I have an entire project which is going to take a little while. In the meantime, I’m definitely going to be releasing stuff this summer.
When I watch the videos that you have, they have their own flavor to them. A storytelling aspect. Would you ever consider perhaps a short film narrative going into your music?
Oh, definitely! My creative partner, Pierce Wilson and I have definitely thought about going into other aspects in story. I wouldn’t do that until I felt like I could do it justice.