By Oliviero Zanalda
guccimei is a singer, songwriter, and producer from the Bay Area. Her sound is somewhere in the middle ground of electronic music and 90s R&B. guccimei grew up primarily in a Chinese-American household and finds inspiration from her early life experiences navigating identity politics as a Blasian girl as well as her father’s love of making music. She recorded her first song at seven years old and continues to find herself infatuated with the creative process of creating music. Her recent release, “Eyes On You” displays a matured evolution of her sound. She’s currently working on her debut EP, which will be self-produced and display her talents as a vocalist, producer, and engineer. I was able to hop on a call with guccimei and talk about her music, her inspirations, and her upcoming work.
Where did you grow up? Did it have an impact on your music, whether lyrically or sonically?
I’m originally from Honolulu, Hawaii but I grew up in a small town called Pleasanton in the East Bay. Even though I did most of my schooling in Pleasanton, I was very nomadic because of my parents’ divorce. I moved around a lot. I wouldn’t say that my upbringing affects the type of music I make. I’d say there were certain stages in my life where I was injected with certain sounds.
How did you get into music? Was there a specific person that inspired you to pursue music?
My earliest memory of music is Gospel music. Sade, Kenny G, and a lot of old-school stuff. Then there I listened to pop music, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, and a lot of early 2000s R&B. There was also a period when Pandora was popping, and this was the early stages of Pandora when they would promote underground artists. That introduced me to Phoenix and Crystal Castles. In middle school, I listened to a lot of rock music. I listened to the Strokes, Paramore, and Metro Station. I was also really into Soundcloud and Eight Tracks. They’re still running today but funding has gone down. Those were kind of my platforms for listening to music. But I grew up in such an eclectic environment. One of my good friends introduced me to dubstep, Skrillex when I was in 7th grade. My environment and the type of friends I had led to new doors.
I grew up playing the flute and piccolo. I did band for most of my life. My traditional musical pursuits ended in College, I just had a different focus. But from a young age, I enjoyed singing. I made my first song when I was seven years old. Growing up my dad was very into music, he was into producing and mixing. Every time we moved, he would recreate his at-home studio. I didn’t understand it at the time, all I cared about was whether we had a microphone. The first song I ever made was called “Playing in the Playground”, cause what else are you going to talk about when you’re seven years old? But it ended there for a while cause I was into band. Being a band kid really gave me a social life. At UC Berkeley, I studied Philosophy because I wanted to be in academia. I decided not to go down that path ‘cause I needed a break. I wanted to not focus on school and see what I naturally gravitated towards. My life kept circling back to music, but it wasn’t linear.
What inspires you to write a song? What does your creative process look like?
It happens to me rather than I go searching for ideas. I’ll pull out my phone, voice recording is my best friend. I’ll record an idea and go through my library of recordings later to build on something. A lot of what I do on the microphone is improvised. I’m really inspired by chords. I tend to make music by starting with a chord or lead line. My music is very vocal-driven, lots of vocal layering and stacking. I like to listen to other people’s songs mostly for song arrangement ideas.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Janet Jackson is definitely one of them. I love her. I think she’s a wonderful House music artist. The Velvet Rope is one of my favorite albums by her. I actually got to see her in concert. I saw her in June, it was amazing. I also love Tinashe. She’s independent now so the music she’s making is pushing her creativity. I love that she’s genre-bending and how she uses samples. She’s going into a really grey area genre-wise. Of course, Sade. When I don’t know what to listen to, I’ll listen to Sade. Neon Indian is major to me. I actually met him in person a couple of years ago in a club in San Francisco. He’s one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. He makes really groovy music now, but I’m into his older stuff. I also like Toro y Moi. I also met him at a nail salon in Berkeley. When I was attending UC Berkeley, I went there for a manicure and he was the only person in there. I looked around and was like “Does nobody know who this guy is?” I’m just standing there freaking out and none of the ladies there seemed to understand.
Is there anything or anyone who inspires you to keep making music? Whether that’s a parent or your fans?
It never is one person. I would say the dates I go on with men give me some good creative fuel for music. My ex-boyfriends have asked me if I make music about them. Potentially finding love with someone is powerful enough for me.
Favorite artist currently?
Kelela is definitely one of my favorites currently. Sam Gellaitry as well. I just saw him at a club this past weekend. I really love this band called Cut Copy. I really like Men I Trust as well.
Who’s your dream collab?
My dream collab is Azealia Banks. If I could get anybody, I would get her. Forget a feature, I would do whatever for her, whether that’s background vocals or me being in the room with her for emotional support, I would do whatever.
Do you have a path that you’ve thought out or are you just taking things as they come?
Definitely take things as they come. Anytime I put my mind to something and create a two-year plan or something, it never goes through. Nothing is ever according to what I want or according to my timeline.
I’m working towards making an EP. I already have a name for the EP and a theme.
Can you reveal the name or theme of the EP?
Woahhh. I think I’m gonna keep the name to myself. But the theme is about following the cycle of a relationship. 500 Days of Summer is the perfect comparison for my EP. “This is not a love story, this is a story about love” encapsulates the theme of my EP.