Wafia’s sound is tinged with a specific kind of magic that’s been missing from the world as of late, the kind you find dancing the night away in a room full of strangers.
The Australian synth pop surrealist has been making waves in the indie pop underground since releasing disco-tinged bass barrage “I’m Good”. Latest single “Pick Me” kicks off by way of lilting piano legato and becomes a snap-heavy ode to self-respect. Laced with a heavy R&B influence, the song was co-written with Chong the Nomad, GRAMMY-nominee John Hill and Caroline Ailin, one of the songwriters behind Dua Lipa’s smash “New Rules.”
The queer Iraqi-Syrian musician’s music was meant for a dance floor, her floaty voice playing with shattered beats and warbled instruments that wouldn’t feel out of place in a PC music rave. She cut her teeth onstage with solo shows and opening for infectious SoCal pop duo Electric Guest. With a forthcoming album and a new music landscape to contend with, we’re excited to see what she has in store post-quarantine.
We played a rapid-fire round of 15 questions with Wafia—read on to find out a bit more about her inspirations, creative blocks, quarantine hobbies, and the first thing she’s doing post-COVID.
Where are you quarantining?
Tell me three of your non-musical hobbies.
Baking, reading in the sun, working out.
Who are three musical inspirations as of late?
Kacey Musgraves, SZA & Bon Iver.
If you could describe “Pick Me” in three words, what would they be?
Feel-good, fun, honest.
How did you conceptualize the song?
I had come out of a bad relationship where my ex wanted a version of me that was less ambitious and very compliant. I couldn’t give that to him anymore, so we broke up. “I Pick Me” is a phrase that popped up a lot for me in conversation in talking about it with friends and then eventually in the session with Caroline Ailin, who wrote this song with me
How would you say “Pick Me” fits into your past work? How have you grown as an artist?
I think the production is really playful and the lyrics are confident, so it feels like a natural step in the right direction after “I’m Good”. I find that when I’m committed to growing as a person and going to therapy regularly is when I also feel the most growth as an artist and songwriter.
I see you worked with some varied co-writers genre-wise who worked for Portugal. The Man and Dua Lipa. What did they bring to the track?
Everyone brought so much fun to the song. John [Hill] is really great at overseeing everything and letting me know when the idea is worth chasing. I really admire his ability to see the macro in a song very quickly. This was definitely an idea I had banked for Caroline [Ailin] and I’m thankful that she was so down to write this song with me because it hit home for her too.
Why start the track with a vinyl scratch? I love that so much.
I can’t remember if it was John or Chong that put that part in but I never questioned it once I heard it. Felt so right!
What was the best show you’ve ever played and why?
Honestly, I love them all. The energy is always different. My last show in Melbourne Australia felt particularly special, I’d done a lot of work to get my live show to this point that I wanted to show my friends and my audience how much I’d grown and hopefully have them all be proud of me.
What was the worst?
I don’t dwell on those, haha.
How important is it now more than ever to have a global perspective as an artist and as a person?
I think it’s always important to see your work and self through the lens of other people and step outside of your bubble for perspective.
What other plans did you have for 2020 and how have they changed?
I’ve had to pivot on a few things like touring and adapting the music videos as well as change the way we are releasing the album, but we’re making it work with what we can control.
What do you miss the most about performing live?
Seeing a room full of people and feeling so unified with them. Also hugs after shows!
We’re all being forced to think outside the box during this pandemic. How has your creative process been affected?
I haven’t really been able to write songs in this period. I feel like that’s a part of myself I’ve yet to explore in this environment.
How do you think music will change after COVID-19?
I’m trying not to think about it. I can only mentally deal with this in the present.
First thing you’re doing post-quarantine?
Flying to Australia to hug my parents.
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photos / courtesy of the artist
story / E.R. Pulgar