Beabadoobee: ‘I make music for girls my age, boys my age, gays my age’
The 20-year-old Londoner is unashamedly in thrall to 1990s stars like The Cranberries
Beatrice Kristi aka Beabadoobee: ‘I’m glad to represent ethnic minorities who want to make music like this’
When Beatrice Kristi thinks back to her childhood, she remembers the traditional music her parents brought with them from the Philippines, the grit and noise of West London – and Dolores O’Riordan’s voice enveloping her in a golden glow.
“Oh my God . . . do I like The Cranberries?” gushes Kristi (20), who records and performs as Beabadoobee. “They are honestly one of the bands that inspire my music.
“My mum used to play them in the background of my childhood a lot. When I rediscovered them later on, it felt like a warm blanket. You know when something is so nostalgic it feels like a blanket? Dolores O’Riordan’s voice is amazing.”
She adored O’Riordan but the late singer was was never a role model. That honour goes to Miki Berenyi of Lush, whose mother is Japanese. Indie rock is overwhelmingly male and almost entirely white and, in Berenyi, Kristi recognised a trailblazer.
“I’m glad to represent ethnic minorities who want to make music like this,” says Kristi. “I always grew up wanting to find someone like me who played in a band and I didn’t find that until I found Lush. I feel I want to be that person for girls who were like me when I was 15.”
Kristi is about to release her debut album, Fake It Flowers, and it seems a foregone conclusion that it will be a huge hit. Signed to the same label as Wolf Alice and The 1975, her music is fizzy and catchy yet with a spine of pure titanium.
With attention comes negativity. I do have to grow a tough skin. Sometimes it does affect me really badly
She has, in particular, a knack for killer choruses. Take recent single Care, where jangling guitars build to a hook precision-tooled to set indie discos alight. The first time I heard it I thought I was back in Freakscene at Sir Henry’s in Cork in 1994. My second thought was that this would have been six years before Kristi was born. And then I felt so very old and crept away for a cry.
The kids, however, have been here first. In February Kristi scored a viral hit when Canadian rapper Powfu sampled her song Coffee on his single Death Bed (Coffee in Your Head). The original Coffee clocked up 300,000 views. Powfu’s take blew up on TikTok, clocking up 4.1 billion (yes, billion) plays in a month.
“I’m grateful for the position I’m in. I’m proud of my art,” she says. “I make music for girls my age, boys my age, gays my age to dance in their bedrooms to and to cry and to jam out to with their friends.”
There’s a slight edge in her voice. Because this is 2020 and nothing can be taken at face value – not even cracking indie anthems – there’s been a bit of a Beabadoobee backlash, especially in the UK. The essence of the critique, it would appear, is that her music is just repackaged nostalgia. It isn’t – but it’s an easy charge to level.
“Growing up I was never used to this much attention,” she says. “With attention comes negativity. I do have to grow a tough skin. Sometimes it does affect me really badly. I am honestly so proud of everything I have created. There’s a point at which I don’t give a s*** – especially about critics I don’t make music for.”
Kristi was born Beatrice Kristi Laus in Iloilo City, 500 miles south of Manila in the Philippines on June 3rd, 2000. This makes her two months younger than Britney Spears’s Oops! . . . I Did It Again and half a year late for S Club Seven’s debut LP. She was just three when the family moved to West London, where her parents work for the NHS.
“I went to a predominantly white school – all-girl and Catholic,” she says. “In terms of all-girl schools, you get the odd bitchiness and stuff. The snide comments. And I [also felt] isolated and alienated from everybody because I looked so different, and part of me hated that. Part of me wanted to be like those girls. I look back at that thought now and it cringes me out.”
Cranberries aside, one of Kristi’s favourite songs growing up was Sonic Youth’s cover of Superstar by The Carpenters. The track, which is exhilaratingly depressing, has a starring role in the 2007 dramedy Juno, about a young woman coming of age in a cruel and cynical world.
She was just seven at the time of the film’s release. But when she discovered it years later it struck a chord –particularly the folk soundtrack by Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches. “I remember thinking, ‘Holy s***, these songs are so simple. I think I can do this.’”
There’s definitely a glorification of past times – the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s. Those eras had some f***ed-up s***
Beabadoobee wears her Nineties influences with pride. Her 2019 single I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus is even named after the lead singer of slacker icons Pavement (she has since struck up a friendship with his teenage daughters). That said, she isn’t naive about the realities of the decade.
Yes, this was the heyday of Kurt Cobain in his oversized cardigan and of Kim Gordon singing Swimsuit Issue (the original #MeToo anthem). However, it was also the golden age of the cheeky chappie in his Union Jack trackie and of the lad mag. And let’s not forget that 2020 is the 25th anniversary of Blur’s The Great Escape – pop’s ultimate warning from history.
“There’s definitely a glorification of past times – the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s,” says Kristi. “Those eras had some f***ed-up s***.”
The biggest difference between then and now is, of course, social media. Kids 30 years ago had a lot to deal with: mass unemployment, the aftershock of the Cold War, an excess of flannel. But their youths weren’t mediated via Snapchat and Instagram.
“Young people today, we don’t have the naivety people had when they didn’t have the internet. We get fed everything through social media. In my own case, it really does affect my mental health. I know so much. You see all these pictures – all these horrible videos.”
Still, with her debut album imminent, she has a great deal about which to be optimistic. She in looking forward to the end of the pandemic and a return to touring. Ireland, she promises, will be top of her list.
“Every time I go there I have the best time,” she says. “Last year, I supported Mac DeMarco. After the gig, we went to a karaoke bar and I got a tattoo on my arm. Dublin is one my favourite places ever.”
Fake It Flowers is released Friday October 16