In Conversation With Beabadoobee: Journals, Breakups & TikTok FYPs

Tāmaki Makaurau

— November 1, 2022 —

Indie musician Bea Kristi Laus is cold. She only just found out today how to turn the heating on in her hotel room. The Aotearoa winter is cutting right to the bone, a shock to her system after roaring heatwaves in London. But on this September afternoon — her energy is enough to keep us both cosy.

Perhaps it’s classic cynicism, but there was something surprising in feeling such warmth from someone that’s adored by millions. Bea, or as she’s more belovedly known to the masses, Beabadoobee is simply put — a star. Her rise to fame came amidst TikTok's very own, a time uniquely immortalised as the beginning of the pandemic. ‘Coffee’, the first song she’d ever written, got remixed with a Powfu 2019 single, and it simply became one of those sounds on the app. Such a cultural artefact that, play one chord, and it’ll get people talking about their attempts at virality with it.

Two years onwards from that first taste of fame and much has changed. She’s won an NME Award, toured with fellow indie it-girl Clairo and has just released her sophomore album Beatopia. Not to mention, people are so enamoured by Bea that there are endless video tutorials (her own Vogue one included) on the internet dedicated to her iconic makeup.

More importantly, fans seek her out for her softer-than-butter voice and journal entry lyrics. Bea’s in town for the opening night of her world tour. Squished into a booth at a Tāmaki Makaurau eatery, we face each other across a table laid with fries and our secrets. The afternoon’s hot topic? Open relationships. “Oh, that shit never works bitch,” she tells me bluntly. Bea’s famously gentle voice is serving hard truths today. Her energy is infectious; upon a casual mention of my recent breakup, she basically screeches at me, “You just got out of a relationship?!?” That’s the thing that becomes quickly enamouring about Bea — there’s not an inch of bubble wrap surrounding her. A difference against her industry’s standard of excellent media training. My gut tells me, though that no amount of plastic would be enough to suffocate her authenticity.

We had a lot in common; it turns out. We’re both 22, fringe-adorned and yes, fresh out of a breakup. Yet, the only people who speculated about my failed relationship, however were my friends — not hundreds and thousands of people on TikTok. Bea utters a loud cackle when I ask her what her breakup was like. “It’s very strange going through a breakup and everyone on the internet trying to figure out what happened, and pretending that they know what happened,” she says. This is a new thing for Bea and it’s been through Beatopia that she’s been able to understand these recent experiences.

Another treasure chest of inspiration for her music is her identity as a Filipino migrant to London. A perspective that’s not-even-discreetly missing in music. When I invited my best friend to Bea’s show later that day, she raised an eerie remark: “I think this is the first time I’m gonna see an Asian person onstage.” This is something Bea is aware of, “I think it’s something I have to talk about, and it’s important to talk about. I have to be like 'Yes, I’m Filipino', you know what I mean?” One of the best things about growing up a migrant is our deeper-than-most connection to our families, something Bea seems to feel. She wears a jade bracelet on her wrist gifted from her Mum. And during our shoot later in St Matthews Church, she keeps mentioning how excited her Dad will be to see these photos, something that will soften the blow of her past expulsion from Catholic school.

The afternoon felt endless — our gossiping in that booth holding the timeframe of infinity. This ease of speaking to her nearly made me forget that, hello, there is a shoot we need to get to. Talking to Bea held the comfort of walking through the doors of my house and crashing on the couch, beginning a debrief with my flatmate about our collective days.

Bea is however a supernova, not someone you can merely find on a Flatmates Wanted page. Later that night when I watch her onstage at Tāmaki’s The Powerstation, she transforms into a magnetic field. The crowd at her show was a mixture of local musicians, starry-eyed fans who’d flown from all over the country, curious industry folks and more. All uniting together to enjoy her splendour, and moshing enough to nearly rip my long-sleeved corset (bad choice from my end) at times.

A pretty magical sight to witness. Albeit a little envying too, given when you think about the new generation of young Asia women in that crowd, and around the world able to see her centre stage. Something most of us didn’t have during our formative years.

Earlier that day, whilst waiting to interview Bea, her manager recounted a story to me about their Uber ride from the day before. They’d been discussing their upcoming plans for the Philippines, of which, the driver’s ears perked up and turned around asking: “Are you famous or something? Are you a popstar, influencer or rockstar?

“Rockstar”, her manager replied. Bea giggles at this. But we personally couldn’t agree more, if one word encompasses Bea Kristi correctly — it is most certainly rockstar.

Read on to get swept up in Bea’s creative process, her old journals and all-around vibrance. Then, swipe through the shoot above to immerse yourself in her aura.

Yawynne: How has your upbringing shaped your worldview and the music that you create?
Bea: I think it has a lot of influence on what I write about. Because I speak a lot about my life experiences. Everything I write is almost like a diary entry. A lot of my music is very very personal. It’s a lot about my issues now and like childhood trauma that’s kinda come from being a migrant and my childhood. And about moving from the Philippines to London. That’s always been a really important topic when writing my music. Whether it’s directly about that or a situation that has come from it.

Do you think that becoming successful has made you want to reconnect with your cultural identity more?
100%. Well now it’s big, but on the come-up of when I started making music and when I was growing up, I didn’t see a lot of female Asian musicians. It’s definitely made me hold my nationality much closer to my heart knowing there are not a lot of Filipino rock musicians.

I feel like the industry that we work in is quite white.
Yeah no literally!

It’s also hard because do you ever feel worried that you’re being tokenized?
1000 percent. I think it’s something that I have to talk about, it’s important to talk about. Especially because I’ve got a platform. I have to be like “Yes, I’m Filipino!” You know what I mean? But I don’t want it to completely label me. Because I’m proud, I’m not going to hide my nationality to everyone you know?

What are some subjects that you found yourself discovering on your latest album Beatopia?
I think it was Ripples, the topic was something that I’ve never really written about in my music. It’s kind of a mixture about being a woman in general, and then being a woman within the music industry. That was something that I'd never managed to wrap my head around, in the way of writing about it, in music. I think I wrote Ripples and I think it’s made me understand a lot of things more… The treatment, I’m not just saying it’s just in the music industry. It’s very very apparent — of just in general being a girl in the world.

Tell me then, what was the best part of making the album?
The best memory, probably just when we made the intro to the record, we were really really stoned. It was just a really funny experience with friends. I love how collaborative it is with people who don’t usually do music. Everyone’s just really excited and having a great time.

What’s really special about your music is how personal the lyrics are. How do you then create those clear lines in your life where that’s just for you, friends and family?
I think I can’t help being honest with what I write. It’s literally just like a diary entry for me, I cannot help it. To save the fucking life of me, I literally can’t help it. But I think with people who listen to my music, it’s really open to interpretation. And I feel like it’s unfair for people to listen to my music and try to relate it to my life. Because at the end of the day, I’m writing it for myself. But then ultimately when I release it, it does not become just mine or just me anymore. It’s everyone else's. Ideally, I’d want them to relate to it. So, I think it’s just, I can’t help avoiding that thing.

What is your creative process like?
I start with a chord progression first and then I hum, then I write lyrics whilst I play the guitar over and over again basically. And then during the day or during the week, if I think of a lyric change, I would usually change it on my phone or whatever or write it down on a piece of paper. But, I write alot in my journal so that’s been like… I find it really helpful just reading back old entries.

Have you always been a journaler?
Yup! Ever since I was a kid.

Really? Do you ever look back on them? What were they like?
It’s really funny because they all kind of describe me as a person in that era of my life. The one from like 15, or even from 14 to 16 is like a black like journal that is the most depressing and scariest thing that I’ve ever read in my life. And I can never read it, but everytime I do read it, I laugh. But it’s also really deep and horrible dark shit, but everytime I do read it, I’m just like what the fuck am I doing? There’s like drawings and I’m like cringe, cringe, cringe! And then my diary from when I was a little girl is really sweet. It’s me getting really excited about buying pens.

Mine was so similar to that too! In Aotearoa, there was this stationery shop called Smiggle where you could get pens in giraffe form, neon rubbers…  It was crazy.
It’s insane… All my entries are like “Today, I got a new pen” and it was from… We’ve got an equivalent called Paper Chains and it’s just like a stationery shop. It’s my favourite shop.

But then my journal from fifteen to like eighteen is all about drugs. It’s just constantly about drugs. And then the one I have now is really existential about life. It’s like “this means…” trying to understand everything?

Oh my god, there is something so existential in the air. I just got out of a long-term relationship a few months ago and I think that—
— You just got out of a relationship?!!

Yes! It’s break up season!
Dude! I think everyone I know just got out of a fucking relationship. Everyone! (Bea drums the table) All of my friends got out of relationships and now we’ve all gotten with other people.

So tell me then, what was your break up like?
[LOUD CACKLING FROM BEA]. God. I mean it’s weird because I was just talking about it, but it was a lot. It’s very strange going through a break up and everyone on the internet trying to figure out what happened, and pretending that they know what happened.

I can’t even imagine.
I’ve never really had that before, so when it does, it’s just like what the fuck is going on? It’s like “SHE CHEATED, SHE CHEATED”... She chose to do a one-sided open relationship… I’m like this is all absolute bullshit. It was honestly quite funny. But then the actual break-up was really sad but needed to happen. And it felt like it was gonna happen, it was meant to happen for a year. But it was just… Getting broken up with 10 minutes before a show? Not a vibe.

Are you serious?
Yeah, not a vibe. But honestly, I wrote a song about it and it’s all over TikTok. So everybody knows. But I think it’s a very, growing experience. It definitely makes me feel more. I’m really happy now. And I’ve got a new man. I’m seeing someone and I’m kind of in love really.

Speaking of TikTok, tell me your thoughts on it as someone who's actually experienced the impact of it on their career.
I think we just can’t ignore the fact that TikTok is the biggest app right now. It’s really great for upcoming artists sharing their music and people discovering music. Now everybody all of a sudden listens to The Deftones and listens to Fiona Apple. It’s just like wow that would have never happened. You would have nothing in common with like 15-year-olds and that is what we have in common — music, and fashion. That is thanks to the Internet and TikTok. And it’s just something you cannot ignore. Yes it can be cringe sometimes, yes it can be very very unhealthy. Anything in excess is unhealthy but you just can’t blame the fact that it is sharing knowledge, sharing trends, sharing music. It’s what it’s meant to do.

What’s your TikTok For You Page like?
Oh YUP, to be fair lots of cats. It’s cats, a lot of babies right now for some season. A lot of guitar players, singing or playing guitar which is really nice. And also there’s really pretty girls?

Love it but also hate it. Because I feel shit. But also love it, because I’m like go off queen. But also wow, that makes me want to die.

Oh honestly, sometimes if a video doesn't get a certain amount of views, you feel like the world hates you.
Nooo, it’s literally that’s how TikTok goes. Anything that flops makes you feel like shit. TikTok is one of those apps. I’ll post on TikTok and it doesn’t go viral, then I’m like I’m gonna die.

Bea, our time is nearly up. There’s one last thing on my mind, and so much music has been written about our dear age of 22. What do you think is so special about it?
I think 22 is a really awkward age. It’s a year after being kind of wild and being like ”Oh yup I’ve just entered adulthood”. It’s this transitional period where you grow up to be an adult. There’s a lot of learning, I think a lot of things in your life change, ie. breakups and friendships. It’s a very big change in your life, just before you become you know… A big deal?



Features Writer: Yawynne Yem      Photos:  Jonathan Buenaobra      Fashion: Annabel Dickson

Shot on location at St Matthews Church, Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa


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