As the desire for instant gratification intensifies in consumers, so does the expectation for artists to meet this desire head-on. They must ‘do less’ or ‘do more’ in the split second of a scroll in order to exist in a cluttered digital environment. So how does one portray intimacy and authenticity, and articulate this in the space of a few seconds? This is the challenge faced by Sydney-based pop performer, Princi. As a second generation Australian of Korean descent, she is foreshadowed by a notoriously flawless K-Pop scene. This benchmark doesn’t scare her, although it does push her alt-pop proposition into overdrive. Princi aspires for commercial viability, but perfection isn’t easy to meet at eye level.
The flexibility that comes with a truly digital landscape is that artists can connect with fans via mechanisms beyond their songs. Musical ability is measured in tandem with aesthetics, values, and charisma. Artistry is much more than a commodity now, it’s a lifestyle. The pop world is changing. It’s not just about radio plays and streams anymore: it’s about patience, performance, and genuine fandom. Thankfully, Princi has this trifecta on lock.
Releasing music direct-to-consumer is really fascinating. Being able to engage in two way communication where your fans can talk directly to you means you don’t really need a label or the media. 88rising is an example of how an army of loyal fans can force the industry to pay attention.
They’re really a label for ‘today’ which is awesome. They’ve built a foundation based around everything we use today, rather than having to change a system. People in any kind of industry like to play it safe, but I feel audiences and the people know what’s up. I have faith in the fans.
The lines between underground and commercial are being blurred because of the internet. That would have played a big part in your whole entry to music right?
Absolutely, I’m so grateful for it all. The internet, Soundcloud, and Instagram are connecting me, and being able to mediate that has been really cool.
It’s really important that you’re leading a conversation about fetishisation in your song ‘Diaspora Doll’. What inspired you to write this song?
I knew CORIN was going to produce the track, and we had that conversation a lot. We started working on it a year ago, we’ve been good friends for quite a while. I knew I wanted to make a track that exactly spoke about it, using the relevance of my life as a touchstone to the feelings that I had. I felt like if we’re having that conversation between us, then surely a lot of other people would be too.
Did you have many Korean friends when you were growing up in Sydney?
There’s a huge Korean community in Sydney. I didn’t grow up directly in it but there are ways to experience it in fragments like KBBQ, the cultural centre, K-pop classes, or just being online. My Korean family is pretty much all in Korea, except for my mum. She’s pretty homesick and has always been homesick. I never knew being Korean could be a ‘thing’ until I went to a more multicultural high school which was awesome. I remember when people told me they loved K-Pop and I was like ‘Wow, you know what it is?’. It was probably the first sense of connection I felt to my cultural roots in the context of high school here.
I definitely remember K-Pop becoming a thing people were obsessed with. You’re more underground in comparison to other Korean acts like BTS and 2NE1 who have choreographed dancing and the whole commercial factor. Sonically and stylistically, I would liken you more to PC Music.
I will naturally go there, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Before ‘Diaspora Doll’ a lot of my clips were shot on iPhones, which I can’t really compare to a K-Pop video. I feel like I’m definitely leaning towards doing more choreography, and bigger production stuff.
Alt-pop always ends up becoming commercial at some point, as that is such a core function of pop. Looking at someone like Rina Sawayama as an example, you can definitely be both.
I feel that for sure. I see commercial as something with a big force behind it, but right now it’s just me and who I work with in terms of creation. I have no issues with being commercial. And I love Rina.
How do you think your music would be received overseas, particularly in the Asian music industry?
We go great together. It seems like a natural progression of where it’s heading and has been for a while. A lot of stuff that I’ve consumed has been from overseas, maybe similar to a lot of second-gens. With music, for instance, I was invited to tour Asia before Australia. I still haven’t toured Australia, but I played in Hong Kong, China and Korea last year, which were all life-changing experiences. People resonated with my music. The connection was deep, and I can’t wait to go back.
It also brings up an interesting point of warped cultural identity here. Why do we consume so much media from overseas? If there’s a sense of escapism in that, what are we running from? Whiteness? I’d like to carve out something that offers an alternative to that main narrative. There’s a habit here of erasing indigenous voices throughout history, law and media. It makes the stories we’re fed seem like straight-up falsities. While that made me feel disconnected from any place as a kid I’d like to find ways to bridge that rupture.
You filmed the ‘Diaspora Doll’ video clip overseas. How did it come about? I was quite impressed with the production, it looks expensive.
It was a matter with people connecting with the work of my sister and I who made the video. We had a chance meeting with the co-director who’s from China, and we met him at a festival here. He said he really loved the Princi stuff and said if we ever wanted to make a video one day, then let’s do one. I was going to China to tour so we decided to stay in Shanghai for a while and see if Kynan wanted to do this video. It turned out that he works at a film studio, and they film K-Pop videos there – it’s a really good studio. So they helped us out because they like what we do, and what he does.
So, tell us about your album. What can we expect?
The reception from ‘Diaspora Doll’ has fed me so much emotionally and spiritually because it connected me with people in a way that I have always wanted to. People have messaged me and told me they’ve had to share it with all their friends. It feels so good because sharing that message was the intention I had when I started writing it a year ago, and also when filming the video clip. To have that year of tension building up, releasing it feels great. I feel the same way about the album as a whole. I’m literally recording one of the final sessions today with the amazing ATRO, who I’m working with on a lot of the tracks. The blood, sweat, and tears are all coming together and I might just burst.
‘FYI’ by Princi will be out on August 28th.