Premiere: MUKI, Australia's pop princess, chats her grand return, I Know What I Like
In her first solo single since her debut EP - It Won't Hurt - last year, Australia's reigning PC pop princess is back with something new.
It's a while back to think about now, but it's hard to find an Australian pop musician from the last few years that have left quite a strong impression from the get-go as MUKI. Her 2017 debut single Sassaparilla welcomed a new force to the saccharine sweet PC pop world that has only grown exponentially since, bringing one of the year's strongest pop hooks together with a boundary-pushing production that had MUKI not just step ahead of the curve, but leap over it - with a flip too, most probably.
In the time since, MUKI has only grown and evolved. Her introductory four-track EP It Won't Hurt proved that she's not a one-trick pony, combining the aggressively sweet sounds of her debut single with moments that swerve between nostalgic 80s synth-pop brought forward into the future (Player) and high-tier, playful pop about not making out with your friends; while elsewhere, she's worked with Kilter, Nicole Millar, L D R U and others in a collaborative role, quickly becoming one of the country's most in-demand songwriters behind-the-scenes.
Now, however, MUKI's next chapter begins. With I Know What I Like - premiering on Pilerats today ahead of its greater release tomorrow - MUKI resumes her position as one of Australian pop's most creative and daring names, taking the saccharine sweet sounds of her early work and repositioning it into a quick-firing, high-energy banger. That distinct MUKI sound is still present - I Know What I Like is as cheeky and experimental as ever - but amongst the squeaks and bleeps, is a pop star just waiting on emerging and becoming the next big thing - if she's not already on her way there.
"I started writing I Know What I Like when I was in LA early last year. It was my first time in LA and I was experiencing so many new things. We organised the session to be in my Air BnB but we realised that no one had speakers, so we went to Walmart and bought pool speakers to write to. It was that day that we wrote the chorus, however it took a whole year before the rest of the song came together," she says on the song. "I tried rewriting it so many times, but it just wasn’t coming together. I wrote the rest of the song with Sam Sakr, who I have worked with on a bunch of other projects, and I told him I wanted it to be throw-back like Madonna's Holiday. We started writing and the rest of the song came out in three hours. This release is my first without any management, and it’s been an incredibly challenging but also rewarding experience as I was able to take the reins on every aspect of this release."
Dive into the track below alongside an interview with MUKI, where she details what she's been up to over the past year, and how she's looking ahead in 2020:
Hey! It’s been a year since you put out your debut EP It Won’t Hurt, but I know you haven’t exactly slowed down in the time since. What have you been up to?
Hey! Yes! I can’t believe it has been a year already since I released It Won’t Hurt! It flew by so fast it all feels like a blur. I spent so much of the last year writing and collaborating with other artists on their projects, going back and forth from LA a lot. I also have been working on new Muki music. :)
One of the big things you’ve been up to - and one of the things we’ve been talking about recently - is songwriting, working with Jessica Mauboy (on an ARIA #1 album, mind you), Slayyyter, The Veronicas and so on. Is this something you’ve been wanting to do for a while?
It wasn’t something I set out to do necessarily, I just really enjoyed the writing and collaborative process and it happened really naturally. I was incredibly lucky that I was allowed to be apart of some of the writing sessions I was put in at such an early stage of my career. I think one of the first sessions I actually did as a topliner was a The Veronicas session, so super lucky. I love talking with an artist, hearing their story, putting yourself in the artist's shoes and trying to write something from their perspective and turn it into a piece of art. It’s incredibly fun!
How is writing alongside other artists impacting your own work, or how you approach songwriting for yourself?
I find the songwriting process very therapeutic. It was really important for me to be able to write for other artists during that period of my life. I was going through a serious break-up and I was also changing the dynamic of the team around me and I wasn’t sure how to be ‘Muki’ and be vulnerable and write about those things yet. Writing for other artists gave me space to process what was going on in my own world. It gave me time to figure out what I wanted to say next as an artist and how I wanted to say it.
Also working with incredibly talented artists challenges you, and also makes you feel less alone. Sometimes being an artist can be so lonely particularly if you don’t have a manager, and I found comradery with other artists. I mean I was in incredible company having the privilege of working with Jess and Lisa from The Veronicas and Jessica Mauboy. I would always ask them questions about their journey and what they learnt as artists, and working with them has totally impacted how I approach songwriting but also how I approach my entire project.
I Know What I Like, your new single, has been quite a while in the making. Can you tell us about the track, how it was made, and what it is about?
I started this track on my first trip to LA in 2018. I had organised a session with an LA-based producer Mark Redito and Phebe Starr, and we decided to do the session in my Airbnb. But no one brought speakers, so we went to Walmart and bought pool speakers so we could play some things in the room, it was super DIY but we got the progression and the chorus on that day. I took the song back to Australia and tried to rewrite it so many times. It wasn’t until January 2019 (A WHOLE YEAR LATER!!) when I teamed up with local producer SAKR that the song really came together. SAKR and I wrote the verse, pre-chorus, and wrote in a bridge. The crazy thing was that it was such a chill casual three-hour session and pretty much the song started to make sense and all come together. The song is about when you first catch feelings for someone and you kind of go crazy. It doesn’t matter if you are so well put together (or a sass queen) a crush can quite literally turn you to mush. RELATABLE CONTENT IMO.
You’re quickly becoming quite a dynamite within the Australian pop realm, so it’s somewhat unsurprising to see a song like I Know What I Like heavily inspired by Madonna. What is it about musicians like Madonna - big, pop divas - that inspire you, and how does that affect your own music?
I think what I love about Madonna is that she is in total control of every creative aspect of her project, and I think that I learned early on in my artistic journey that I also like to be involved with every aspect of a release. I have been self-managed for a year now and it has been really cool to be apart of every aspect of this release. I feel like Madonna really owns who she is, and I feel like with this release I similarly have been able to really own every part of it. I also love that Madonna is strong, cute, feminine and masculine all at once, you can’t box her in at all. I think that’s something I have also been exploring with this next body of work.
What does 2020 and beyond hold for Muki, with her new single behind her?
Well! I am super excited because I will be in the UK/Sweden for the first 2 months of 2020 which will be fun! I am going over to write and collaborate over there. I have been to LA a lot but I haven’t really explored the UK or Sweden and so much of the pop music I love comes out of Scandanavia so I am really excited for that. I also have a collaboration coming out next year with The Veronicas and I am very excited for that. AND there is absolutely more Muki coming out in 2020 as well!
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