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Interview: Kimchi Princi

Talking internet pop and aesthetics with the Sydney QT

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Intoxicating is the only descriptive word I really feel comfortable attaching to Kimchi Princi. Over the past few months I’ve heard her being described as everything from rapper, to vapour wave, to dream pop, but Kimchi Princi is more than just a musician. Her act combines elements of fine arts, high fashion, and comedy, building a visual and aural experience that swallows her audience whole. Incorporating pop culture references from Miranda Kerr to Facebook chat, Kimchi Princi is one of the most culturally relevant musical artists in Sydney right now, and with an intelligent, calculated and creative outlook, she’s breathing new life into the club scene.

Behind the scenes, Kimchi Princi is more than just her creator, Gina Karlikoff. While Gina is definitely the face and lyrical machine driving Kimchi Princi, visual credit is wholly due to her sister and creative counterpart Danielle, who has made all of her practically viral music videos and images. Together, they have pieced together a completely bewitching pop goliath, born of the current millennia. From the hedonist paradise confection in ‘Luxe’ to the up-late Super 8 vibes in ‘Show Me (how)’, their videos both slide perfectly into the tumblr culture of the internet but transgress to a new realm of video art. I sat down with Kimchi Princi to discuss where she fits into the internet, how she creates her music, and the importance of her visuals.

You’re frequently described as an “Internet Artist”. How does the internet fit into your practice?

Well, I guess being an “Internet Artist” is different from being an artist who uses the internet to connect online and elements of it in their work… I mean, not everything I make is focussed on or about the internet. But of course it’s a massive part of everyday life and so naturally affects everything I do! Actually, there’s a song coming out called ‘Internet Friend’ which I’m excited about. That one’s about how you meet someone online and you contact each other in various ways, and then how that kind of lines up to IRL. In the video for ‘Shine 4 Me’, Danielle and I set out to translate some of that communication on screen. So the internet’s always there, it’s just ways of visualising and writing about it, perhaps.

What came first with you–songwriting, music or the visuals and internet?

I’d say it came from writing. Then I started putting poetry or the rhymes I had written to beats, and I just realised that I love writing that way. I feel the music’s really good at inducing a narrative for me so when it’s there, it’ll definitely effect what kinda of song comes out. So I guess I’m realising that maybe it goes hand in hand? The visuals are definitely where the collaboration comes in with DK (Danielle). That’s where the songs come to life. She’s an extremely visual person and I’ve always been way more inclined to writing and music so it’s this cool spectrum of processes when we can work together. I think the visuals are more ‘internet’ than the music. If you see my music, it’s internet, I think it’s internet pop. It’s not like vapourwave, it’s more using the internet in a pop way.

How do the visuals of Kimchi Princi fit into the songwriting process?

When I write I’ll always be thinking about a narrative and what time it is, what the setting is like or what I’m wearing. At that point in time I won’t be thinking about a video but definitely visualising everything and DK is my total interlocutor in that process. I’ll read something out to her and she’ll be like, “No, that’s shit” or “Yeah, that’s sick”.

Your stage name is Kimchi Princi, you’re half Russian and half Korean. How has your cultural background affected your music?

Kimchi Princi is a nickname, which is where it starts out, but I get messages from other Australian Korean girls who are like “It’s so nice to see someone who isn’t white doing what you do, and it’s so cool to see you talking about having an Asian mum”. Haha yeh, my Mum was a nun before she moved here from South Korea in her late thirties so I still can’t tell her that I have boys who are friends, as she’ll just freak out.

You work with your sister, you’ve worked with Victoria Kim. Collaboration seems pretty important to the Kimchi Princi machine.

Yeah Justin [Victoria Kim] and I actually became friends through the internet. He saw me on Instagram and was just like “What’s this?” and we just became friends. When I met Felix (Shisd), I guess it was because I saw him singing in Japanese in this really earnest way and I really liked his sound. He knew I was friends with Justin, and so when I went up to him and suggested some sort of collab—I think I seemed a little less crazy! The first song we worked on was ‘Shine 4 Me’. We’ve become good friends through the process which is cool, but he lives mostly in Canberra, so we mainly keep in touch online. On my mixtape, which will come out early next year, there’s a lot of collaboration with him. I really like that he’s super honest, and I feel really comfortable making stuff with him. It’s the same with Melty. I just really like working with people that I get to know. When you get to know them, you get to trust them and it also means you can just be silly and muck around.

And lastly, what do you like right now in Sydney?

In terms of music and nightlife, Friday Lite and EVE are my favourite things going on. I think it’s so cool how Friday Lite pushes ‘new rap and club’ and you can go there and dance to Kelela, Tinashe, Fetty, and Future. Also, as a night they’ve been super supportive of loads of Sydney acts and Nelly and Cass have really got a sharp eye and ear on things. EVE doesn’t happen as often but it’s probably my favourite club night. The atmosphere they create is just filled with good energy and it’s definitely infectious. I could probably go to an EVE night and not go out for a good month haha. But lowkey any night that involves Menya Mappen and Karaoke with my friends is the best.

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