"One label exec jokingly called me Rina Wagamama"
In an interview with NME, Japanese British singer Rina Sawayama discussed her latest track ‘STFU!’ in which she “rages against racist stereotypes”.
The London-based singer/songwriter grew up in England and has dealt with racial microaggressions her entire life.
Currently supporting Charli XCX, Sawayama recently told her crowd how she “found out one label exec jokingly called me Rina Wagamama. I was pursuing a deal with them, but you know, that’s gone.”
Now, the singer has hit back epically with her new single ‘STFU!’ in which she takes down racists. Layered above the thrashing metal riffs Sawayama aggressively sings “Have you ever thought about/taping your big fat mouth shut/’cause I have many times.”
In the music video, Sawayama is seen on a date who tells her, “so you’re a singer…I was quite surprised you sang in English!”
“Have you been to that Japanese place Wagamama’s?” he asks before saying, “you know what, I’m currently writing a fan-fiction piece but from the perspective of a little Japanese woman.”
When NME asked about her about “raging against racist stereotypes”, Sawayama replied, “it was super cathartic. I found the whole process amazing because the song came out really naturally, I wrote it at like 11am at home with [long-time collaborator] Clarence Clarity and the top line was pretty much finished in like two hours.
“It started as an interlude because we were like, ‘this is way too crazy, way too heavy’; but then we were like, ‘no – let’s just try to make this into proper song’.”
In terms of the video, the 29-year-old said, “This was a special one for me, definitely. I think there’s some songs where it really evokes a very strong visual when I’m writing it, so then I’m like ‘OK, let me just get this done as a storyboard [for the video]’.”
“I drew the storyboards for the music video on a plane journey on the way to some festival I was playing. The video was a co-direct so I was really hands on with bringing it to life and I’m so happy with how that song has played out from start to finish actually. It’s like literally exactly what I imagined, and better?”
Sawayama’s new album, which is due to be released next year, will draw inspiration from her experiences growing up as a Japanese woman.
“It’s basically my teenage years all shoved into one record,” she said. “The topic for me this time is about Japan, and the way I grew up looking at Japan from a Western angle, and how I perceive it now, and kind of understanding that relationship through the context of my family.”
“I was raised by a single mum and there’s like a lot family drama. And ultimately, it’s about finding the truth, or my truth, within all that kind of chaos.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Sawayama said western culture must change their attitudes towards Japanese culture.
“We can’t just normalise using Japan or Japanese culture in the way that we’ve been doing. We don’t have any respect for the people whether they’re living here or there. And that’s kind of like the broader message behind my album,” she said.