It’s an early Wednesday morning when I speak to Bea Kristi, the Philippines-born London-based 20-year-old bedroom pop singer famously know as Beabadoobee. When we last spoke, she demoed some of the new tracks on her upcoming debut album, Fake It Flowers, in a Zoom call with a handful of journos and Aussie artists at midnight London time.
Brimming with TikTokisms and hand gestures—I counted at least ten ‘Debby Ryans’—and a goofy energy and excitement delightfully akin to a kid on Christmas morning, she performed where it all began: in her bedroom at her parent’s home in West London. Surrounded by her boyfriend and musical partner, Soren, behind her in bed, Tom Hanks posters *everywhere* and an acoustic guitar on her lap, she was in her element and ready to perform. No global pandemic was going to stop her from doing what she loves best.
Over the hour, she chatted with local Aussie musicians about the struggles of creating music and an artist’s attachment to their artistry, having your music become TikTok-famous, her infectious love for red pandas (FYI, she has a dedicated red panda stan account called redpandadoobee) and her new album which she described as Avril Lavigne meets Alanis Morisette and The Cranberries.
Her debut LP Fake It Flowers comes after smashout EPs Pashed Out, Loveworm and Space Cadet, and years delivering heart-wrenching retro-inspired indie rock singles about her own coming of age story. Bea was born in Manila, Phillipines and moved to West London with her parents when she was three years old. Growing up on a healthy dose of original pinoy music, ’90s punk rock and The Beatles, her music is an amalgamation of musical flavours from before her time—she picked up a guitar at 17 after falling in love with the Juno soundtrack.
In 2017, when she was first writing music under her stage name, she wrote a cutesy little soft and simple song called “Coffee” and shared it on Soundcloud. Then, three years later, 21-year-old Canadian rapper Powfu sampled it into his own track, “death bed,” people started using it as the soundtrack to their “cringey rom-com” TikToks. Bea, who was just a shy teenager making music in her bedroom was now a household name among TikTok and an internet sensation.
But, with Fake It Flowers, Beabadoobee proves that she’s more than just your ‘90s loving indie guitarist with a viral song. She’s a banging songwriter with an album featuring her inner thoughts spread across the cutting room floor for your listening pleasure, and it sounds rebellious and effortlessly cool. Before even turning 21, Bea has written a whole entire album on her own, an achievement that’s a testament to our generation’s young creatives making music from the four walls of their bedroom.
In the lead up to the superb Fake it Flowers album, Syrup spoke to the 20-year-old “Care” singer about the struggle of being a creative and reopening past trauma whenever you perform, her love for Charlie Brown, why she’s so scared of TikTok and her infectious love for red pandas.
Editor’s note: she wants you to know that she’s “not a furry.”
Fake It Flowers definitely feels like a soundtrack to a coming of age movie in the ’00s, and I know you’re inspired by Alanis Morissette and other other artists. Is that the kind of vibe you were going for?
“I always strive to get that nostalgic feel from everyone and I want my music to show that but it kind of happened subconsciously,” admits Beabadoobee. “I feel like it’s because I always listen to that music and they inspire the way I write. I didn’t go out of my way to think about everything in a technical sense, like ‘yes, they do choruses like that.’ I feel like it just threaded its way quite naturally within the way I write my music and how I wrote Fake It Flowers.”
I know this is a really raw and personal account of a lot of things that you’ve gone through over the last year of touring. Can you tell me a little bit about what you mean when you describe every song as a different letter to someone about something you haven’t said?
“The whole idea behind the album is everything I was supposed to tell someone but couldn’t and that could have been from my perspective, or that could have been from someone else’s perspective,” Bea explains. “Mostly mine really. It’s just therapeutic writing it because I was getting things off my chest and managing to express it through that way. And yeah, that’s the whole thing behind Fake It Flowers.
“[“Charlie Brown”] is a really personal one and it’s about the ways one can distract themselves from bad situations,” she continued. “But you know that distraction isn’t necessarily the best one to do.”
“I have a [Charlie Brown] comic strip tattooed on my arm. And I think there’s something so pure about the comics and how that was the first introduction to mental health for people at that time, and how it’s okay to not be okay and the idea of togetherness with Snoopy and Charlie.”
Fake It Flowers talks about a lot of past trauma, and you’ve talked about how sometimes it’s very difficult to open up those wounds. How is it thinking about performing those songs live and reopening up those wounds to people that don’t really know [about them] and then expecting that you can just sing it and perform it?
“Well, that’s the thing like I don’t think I can play some of the songs,” Beabadoobee says. “Like, I can’t play “Bobby” live. I just can’t play some of the songs off that album, [Lice], because it would genuinely trigger me so much.”
“But there are so many other songs that talk about these issues, but just in a lighter sense, like “Emo Song” is kind of the in depth version of “Care,” she elaborated. “I think one day I’ll manage to separate the two and sometimes they do, but some of the songs I sing are really hard. I have to separate them enough to just enjoy playing live and performing it to people. And I feel like one day that will happen with some of the songs off this album and it’ll be okay.”
Is there a reason why “Sorry” and “Care” have been the singles for this album?
“I guess it was just I think they sound the sickest! I mean, I love every song on the album but I just love “Care” and “Sorry” a lot. I feel like they give the two different vibes: “Care” is me talking about sad shit but with really happy dancing music, and “Sorry” is me still talking about sad shit, but kind of in a sad, scary way. It’s the two sides.”
The closing song on the album, “Yoshimi Forest Magdalene,” features Beabadoobee screaming into the void, and “was the one I recorded live with my band. It’s like really wild and really stupid. And it sounds like so fucking distorted. It’s like, [Bea makes a screeching sound] the whole time.”
You’ve described Fake It Flowers as Alanis Morissette, The Cranberries and a bit Avril Lavigne, and I know the first guitar song you ever learned was “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer. You mentioned earlier how it sort of just came organically, but how have you been inspired by all of these artists growing up?
“They were always in the background of my childhood, so I guess the melodies always stuck to me,” she said. “They were like pop melodies but with quite grungy guitar riffs and portrayed in a really interesting way. And, yeah, it’s just, there’s something about the sound of it and the satisfaction of hearing the most perfect chord progression, or another chord change that just happens at the right bit.”
“And I love the airiness of the vocals and I guess, that’s what I tried to capture in Fake It Flowers, that still empowering message and sound sonically but yet, remaining the voice I’ve always had and a voice I’ve always sung with since “Coffee.” And that was just me and my guitar.”
Yeah, I feel sorry for you because you have this really great album coming out, and I feel like you have this legacy of “Coffee” tied to you. I know you’ve spoken about trying to break out of that before…
“It’s a weird one,” Beabadoobee thinks. “I feel like I really had no problem at the beginning when it was released, because I was just feeling so overwhelmed. I really didn’t expect that much attention. And now I’ve learned to appreciate it.It’s different to the music I’m releasing [but] it’s still people appreciating music and the fact that people in this society even give a shit about music is…”
“They’re still listening to me and they’re still listening to something I wrote even despite it being so different. They can click on that song and then find “Care” and they could hate it or they could love it, but it’s that curiosity that I really cling on with those people and just appreciating that they exist and they’re listening to it, and if that becomes a soundtrack to their really cringy TikTok, well so be it, you know [laughs].”
Well speaking of TikTok, I know you’re on TikTok and I can tell because I’ve seen you do the ‘Debby Ryan’ a bunch during our last Zoom call and this [tries to side point]…
“At the end of the day, as much as everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, you’re bringing the ’90s back, you just sound super ’90s,’ I am in fact a 20-year-old girl living in West London who was born in the year 2000, and it is like, you know, I am not old as shit,” Bea says, laughing. “But I mean I feel kind of old at times because I go on TikTok and actually don’t know how to use it and don’t understand some jokes and think, ‘Oh my god, I’m not as young as I thought.'”
What’s your TikTok For You page currently look like?
“I honestly don’t know what that is,” Beabadoobee says. “I honestly, I just scroll. I don’t follow anyone. But I get all these TikToks that just come and I follow about five people but before I followed these five people, it was just all these random videos I was just going on my feed. Is that the For You Page?”
Syrup: “That’s the For You Page. So it’s just like a random algorithm of stuff.”
Bea: “Yeah, well I really don’t know because I deleted the app because it scares me because it started making my phone go slower—oh no, I don’t want to cancel Tiktok, it’s fine… EVERYTHING’S GOOD.”
Syrup: “No, no, go on, this is great. Don’t be shy…”
Bea: “Yeah it made my phone go a bit slow and I got kind of scared cuz everyone’s really mean there. I posted a TikTok and was like, ‘why is everyone doing this like ‘recreating my makeup look’,’ everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God you’re so up your own ass,’ like what the fuck I’m like, I’m not I—why am I entitled? I’m genuinely just curious I just don’t know why?—yes, so that scared me. It was fun while it lasted. I think my TikToks were very simple TikToks, just my band chasing chickens. It was really wholesome and then someone has to go and fucking call me, ‘a fucking bitch,” and I’m like ‘all right, see ya.”
Getting back to the question I originally was going to ask before we dived into this little TikTok hole… This is the first album you’ve written, obviously, you’ve done singles and then you’ve worked on a few EPs. What’s it like writing more than six songs for one project?
“It was obviously a bit daunting but I feel like I’ve gathered so many songs,” she says. “I have a massive bank of songs after touring, plus all the songs that never really made it on the EP. I was like, ‘I’m ready for an album. I need to get shit off my chest, bro. I need to write this or else I’m gonna go insane.’ So I did.”
“It was kind of easy for me at the time because I just had this habit of just constantly writing songs. And I think after doing that, after finishing Fake It Flowers and the release after Fake It Flowers, I’m kind of in this really weird limbo, and I’m like, ‘oh my God, I have written a song in a while, fuck.’ I usually write like two a day. So it’s weird.”
It’s almost like you’re trying to find some new thing, to find and think, ‘well, what do I write about now?’
“Yeah, I’m just like, ‘right, give it to me,’” Bea jokes. “But I think I’m trying to learn to be much more open with my ideas and even getting help from my band. I did that for the next one after Fake It Flowers. Well, not the next record but the next release and I think that really helps when you’re struggling to write and it really broadens your ideas and you can find so many amazing things with that.”
“I think that’s what I was missing during Fake It Flowers but I’m glad that my first record is just me. I wrote all the songs in this bedroom.
You’re making all of this in your room. I know bedroom pop has been a thing for years, but it still seems so surreal, don’t you think?
“I feel like it’s always going to live on,” Beabadoobee says. “[Maybe] not sonically, but the idea of bedroom pop as a community and kids making things in their bedroom is always going to exist because I feel like that’s just so inspiring. You don’t need a massive studio. I mean, with Fake It Flowers, I did have a studio but to write an amazing song that you love, it just takes you and a room and maybe a guitar.”
How do you think bedroom pop is evolving during this period where people are forced into their bedrooms? You’ve said you’re not making as much music as you were during the touring days, which is creating a bit of a frenzy for you, but I’m curious how you think that’s changing for people?
“I feel like because of COVID, and everyone being isolated, it didn’t force us to be creative, it just made us much more curious,” Beabadoobee told Syrup. “I never really made demos on my laptop. When I used to make demos and write songs, I used to just record it straight away with my friend Oscar and his little bedroom.”
“[Being in lockdown] was the first time where I learned how to make really shitty demos and learn how to make really shitty videos on Final Cut [Pro] and even learn how to bake,” she reflects. “I feel like people really embraced that during lockdown and really got out there and just created some really cool things and videos that were made in lockdown. That’s the one good thing we’ve taken from this time: the seek for creativity, the need of that.”
I want to talk about your love for red pandas. I know you have an Instagram account and are a dedicated fan. Would you ever consider writing a song about them?
“Oh, yeah 100 percent,” Bea says, with more confidence than she’s answered anything else in her life. “Every record I release, there’s always gonna be a song like “Yoshimi Forest Magdalene.” Next one’s gonna have to be about red pandas.”
“Just like a really fun one at the end that probably doesn’t even make any sense and it’s probably kind of creepy and probably gets everyone to think I’m a furry. I’m not a furry.”
Syrup: This is the second time I’ve heard you say this.
Bea: [Shrieks] Yeah, it is bad. I’m not a furry though!
Beabadoobee’s debut album, Fake It Flowers, releases on Spotify and Apple Music on the 16th of October.