Sandy Hsu recorded her first studio EP in 2013 when she was just 15 years old. Describing the content of her songs being about suburban blues and her teenage daze, Sandy will be appearing at upcoming New Slang on Friday 1 July. We had a chat with Sandy and asked her about her plans for the next few months.
Firstly, we love the latest tunes up on your bandcamp! Have you got any plans for more releases this year?
Thank-you! Yes, the plan is to have a new EP out by the end of the year.
Can you tell us more about the EP ‘Suburbia?’ How did it come to be a part of the Top Arts exhibition at NGV?
Suburbia was created to be a part of my year 12 VCE visual art final. Basically, my final piece was an installation that was inspired by my teenage bedroom. The installation was this fully immersive, sonically and visually cohesive environment that was meant to make viewers feel like they were almost intruding in on someone’s personal space when they entered it. The EP was a very last minute addition, as I was just trying to find a new medium to explore my theme. It kind of made sense to create something in regards to sound, as I am a musician. Even though the EP was created to support the visual elements of my installation, it can also be separated and exist as a body of work on it’s own. Suburbia explores my personal experience of adolescence and my relationship with the growing up in the suburbs. It exists in its own world of imperfection and undone-ness, from both a lyrical and production standpoint. Lyrically, I discuss my feelings, other peoples feelings, my depression, anxieties, being hyper self aware, how I perceive others, how others perceive me, my gross internal conflict, my constant state of existentialism, my fear of having to let go of youth one day and all the mundanities of real life that accumulate to make it what it is. It’s just a hot wordy mess/the inside of my brain really. Sonically it’s really rough and low-fi, they’re all one shot takes. Suburbia is not meant to be perfect at all. It’s just meant to sound like background noise. Or a person sitting in their bedroom playing songs that they wrote, which is exactly what it is. Nothing about it is overcomplicated or elaborate, it’s just honest.
So I applied for TopArts, and sent in my individual finals – such as my paintings and photographs – separately. Again, the EP was a last minute addition to my application, just because I was certain that something like it would never be selected. But obviously I was wrong, ha ha. I think one of the reasons it was chosen to be a part of the TopArts exhibition was probably because it was such a different form of communication compared to anything else that they had received.
Who’s been some of your favourite acts to share the stage with so far in general?
When I did The Sad Girls Club Party: Songs To Sway To shows, I was super stoked to have Gummi Venus open for those gigs. Individually, I really love each member’s solo music projects. They’re all incredibly talented and kind females who are killing it in music right now. So them joining forces and forming the ultimate dream team had me over the moon.
When you’re not playing music, what other things do you enjoy doing with your time?
When I’m not playing music… I like to spend alone time making art, or thrifting and going to different op-shops, or visiting galleries on my own, or writing lists about all the shit I haven’t done and need to get done. I also enjoy spending time reading horoscopes, crying in the bathroom and being an emotional eater. Basically just being a recluse. But even during these activities, I find that I’m always listening to music, or writing music. Help I can’t escape.
We’re looking forward to see your upcoming set at New Slang! Can you tell us what we might be able to expect from your live performance?
Expect bad dad jokes and me probably forgetting the lyrics to my own songs. Ha ha ha… Please come.
How do you come up with your material? Care to take us through a typical songwriting process?
My material just comes from me living life… And being conscious of the emotions, experiences and thoughts that I feel and observe, and attempting to articulate that. I don’t know if there is a “typical songwriting process”, because in all honestly it’s different every time. I suppose there is the initial inspiration, which can literally be anything and everything. The rest just stems from there. Sometimes I have songs that are originally poems, which I added melody to. Sometimes there is a strong visual element, and I try to create the sound of the visual, or words that encapsulate it. Sometimes there’s just a concept or a word or a phrase in my mind, and I try to create something from there. Sometimes there’s just a melodic line going around in my head, or a guitar riff that will work it’s way into something. I’m being very broad about this because describing the process of writing a song is challenging as it is so ambiguous.
What kinds of things do you like writing songs about? What comes easiest to you?
I find my writing to be very visually descriptive and particular. That’s usually because the easiest thing that comes to me to write about are the things that I have experienced and observed. So that’s what I write about. Youth. Death. Mortality. Life. Existence. Insecurities. Doubts. Fears. Feeling sad. Real life. The things that keep me up at night. The conversation I overheard on the train. The colour of the sky. A painting I saw. Walking home alone. My relationship with my parents. My mental health. The smell of rain on asphalt. That feeling in winter when the morning air bites your nose. It all sounds so damn corny… But I guess I’m sensitive, and that kind of stuff just affects me.
Last question: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Maybe something you can share and pass on to other young bands trying to crack the music industry?
Recently I played a gig and a stranger in the crowd came up to me after my set and said, “please don’t stop writing the way that you do.” I really appreciated that, and it was a pleasant reminder that I didn’t realise needed, until they said it to me. Sometimes you get so caught up with feeling inadequate and shit about yourself and your art – at least I know I do – that you forget that you are the only person who can do it in that way that you do. And that’s cool, and that’s special.
Where can fans find out more about you and your upcoming shows?
I post event and gig updates on my Facebook page (facebook.com/SandyHsuOfficial), and sometimes on my other social media platforms too (Instagram: @SandyShoe). But if you really want to know the Real Me, Twitter might be your best bet (Twitter: @SandyHsu_). I think I’m hilarious.