Step into the nostalgic world of Father Koi in new album

Image courtesy of Sonia Tsang.

Last Friday, avid fans of indie-hyperpop artist Father Koi were elated following the release of her sophomore album, “everything is a dream, but it is your dream.” Father Koi is the colorful musical persona of Kara Lu ’22, who just put out her first album since 2020. She describes it as written from her sophomore year up until right after she graduated Vassar, representing a varied collection of thoughts and realizations during that time period. The album is both musically and lyrically gorgeous, and fully encompasses the Father Koi ethos of nostalgia and vibrancy.

I first met Lu in the fall of 2021, when both of us were seeking momentary sanctuary in the kitchen of a raucous house party on Fulton Avenue. She had just played her first live show at Vassar as Father Koi, exhilarated and gracious towards everyone who shyly came up to her afterwards to emphasize the success of her set. From her popular online presence on Instagram and Tiktok (Lu has garnered over 800,000 likes on the latter platform) to her several hundred thousand streams on Spotify, Lu is an intimidating presence from afar. Yet up close, she is introspective and genuine, with an air of thoughtfulness that comes through in her music.

I asked Lu in advance of her latest album release about her experience at Vassar and how it has shaped her life and her career as a musician. She opened with a sentiment that most, if not all of us can relate to, which was that when she graduated, she was a drastically different person from when she first arrived at Vassar. “I had a lot of great experiences and a lot of learning experiences at Vassar,” Lu says. “Much of the content in this particular album details both types of experiences, and a few of the songs on it, like ‘Dreamgirl’ or ‘Feel for You,’ have references to my relationship with myself, which is something I learned to cultivate during my time at Vassar.”

It’s undeniable that the album embodies a distinct feeling of nostalgia, punctuated by glittery synths and Lu’s yearning lyrics. On “New Years,” she repeats “Everything I do, I do for you,” in a melancholy yet powerful chorus. The verse of “soft spot” progresses with, “This morning I woke and you weren’t next to me/ Did my hair and ate breakfast and said it was a nice dream/ Do you know, there’s still residual you in my sleep.” The songs on the album gush unexpressed feelings, and emphasize lost chances and the ones who got away. “If you were sitting beside here in my bed,” Lu sings in a sugary sweet melody on “bittersweet,” “Could I lay beside your pretty head?”

The nostalgic Father Koi universe that Lu has cultivated since her time at Vassar extends well past her music; Lu designs most of her own album covers, makes her own clothes and merchandise, creates popular online videos, and is hugely passionate about fashion. “I think I’ve always been very interested in color and styling things in unconventional ways,” says Lu. “I went through a phase where I only dressed like I was from the sixties, and now people tell me I dress like I’m from this ’90s magazine called FRUiTS.”

Listening to Father Koi is a journey into an immersive and colorful world where plastering every surface of your bedroom wall with posters, stickers and letters is the norm. (Fans lovingly compare her music to eating Fruit Loops.) “I love mementos, nostalgia, and creating things, and when you combine those things, I guess you get my universe,” Lu says. “I think everyone has a universe of their own, but mine is just more visible because of the way I like to have my things around me, whether they’re worn on my body or hung around my environment.”

“everything is a dream, but it is your dream” is an ode to being in touch with yourself and never letting anything–whether past lovers or college memories—be forgotten. When asked what advice she’d give to current Vassar students, Lu said with confidence: “Hang out with people you wouldn’t normally talk to. Push yourself to try new things and keep an open mind. Something important I recently learned seems like the most simple thing in the world: Figure out what you want and go from there. I didn’t know what I wanted for a while. I still kind of don’t, but at least I’m thinking about it more. Life isn’t linear, and neither is success.”

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