Father Koi on Hyperpop, TikTok and finding the headspace to create

Courtesy of Kara Lu ’22.

Dreamgirl” by Father Koi, also known as Kara Lu ’22, reached over 9,000 streams in 24 hours and has cumulatively reached nearly 60,000 at the time of writing this article. 

Originally from Queens, New York, Lu began writing songs around the age of 16. While she did not grow up in a particularly musical household, Lu spent the start of quarantine in 2020 traversing the steep learning curve of music production. Inspired by the Beatles and Mitski’s soft indie music, she released her first album, “Late Afternoon National Anthem,” in May 2020

The process of mixing and mastering her own album allowed Lu to see the album develop from incipient ideas to finished product. It provided her with a better understanding of the process to build upon in her later work. The making of “National Anthem” was marked by trial and error, and she has moments where she reflects on how she would have improved. However, the fear of putting imperfect things out into the world was far less paralyzing with the appeal of putting out relatable music that speaks to her listeners.

I got to sit down with Lu, masked and distanced, in an empty Rocky classroom to talk about her creative process. In terms of finding time to keep creating while being a full-time Vassar student, Lu expresses, “There are certain pockets of time where I tend to be more creative, like at night, and that’s the time when I can’t function and do school work. There’s a certain hour where my brain can’t do math, but after that I can find myself to write lyrics.” While school work of course consumes a lot of Lu’s creative time, night has become a harbor of creativity for Lu to express herself through her lyrics. In regards to the emotional preparation needed for songwriting, she adds, “There’s a certain stage in your emotional well-being where you can write lyrics. I find that if I’m too emotionally upset then I can’t write them, but if I’m not emotionally upset enough then it’s harder to write them.”

Lu’s latest single, “Dreamgirl,” takes a sharp left turn away from the softer indie pop sound she honed in “Late Afternoon National Anthem,” veering into the rising electronic and bouncing genre of hyperpop. She first thought of the lyrics in her electronic music production class, and she enjoyed the song so much that she wanted to develop it into a true hyperpop record. Lu turned to the internet for resources, looking for someone to help fill in the gaps in her own production skillset and knowledge. The song was produced, in true Gen Z fashion, in collaboration with a producer Lu discovered on TikTok. She describes, “[The producer @1sevarcher on Instagram] honestly took it to such another level. If you heard my original song…and then his, they’re totally different. I’m so grateful I got to collaborate with someone because this is my first time [doing so]—my last album was done all by myself.” This release of control would precipitate unprecedented levels of popularity, in addition to taking a lot of the hard technical processes of mixing music off her plate.

From adding riffs to speeding up the entire vocal track by 1.5 speed, “Dreamgirl” was transformed from a class project into an ethereal, rhythmic track that landed on Spotify’s hyperpop playlist. Lu cites Give decent advice but I never really take it/ If I look too hard inside my head I’m scared that I might break itas her favorite lyrics from the track. The relatability of failing to take the advice you give to others is a reflection of the artist’s desire to create music that resonates with others and deliver a message neatly packaged in words and sounds. 

Lu describes the process of releasing music as nonlinear. She doesn’t necessarily get deterred by the fear of putting content into the world, but genuinely enjoys seeing how others react to her music, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Through the success of “Dreamgirl,” Lu foresees possibly releasing a hyperpop EP and trying to release another single before the end of the semester. Overall, Lu says, “I feel like I can take a voice memo or write something down in my Notes app, and then I can just build on it whenever I feel like I have time to or feel the need to.” “Dreamgirl” is the hyperpop product of carefully constructed lyricism and open collaboration in production— the track leaves me excited to see what Lu will create next.

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