Meet Effie Liu
The Pink Sheep of Pop Music
Delivering a pink-hued manifesto, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Effie Liu has spent the past few years polishing her sound to create the perfect trop-pop debut, Magenta Agenda—a seven-track release that pulls inspiration from early No Doubt and provides the ideal late-night summer soundtrack.
Though Liu's breakout project will drop in full on August 19, she's been teasing the EP track-by-track, beginning with the airy cut, "Best Side," and today, we're excited to premiere another song off Liu's forthcoming release. Called "Devil On My Shoulder," Liu sings about doubting herself above colorful, electro-pop production.
Listen, below, and read Nicopanda's conversation with the pink sheep of pop.
Bring us through your background and early music-making memories.
I grew up in the Bay Area, California. My early involvement with music was playing struggle-piano and then violin, but my dad snuck me off on a Saturday afternoon to buy a guitar because I’d been listening to a lot of punk and ska. When we came back with the guitar my mom was furious and was like, ‘there’s no way you’re playing that until you master the piano,’ but there was no chance of that happening because I was far from proficient at it. Instead, I went on the Internet and taught myself how to play punk songs. I learned enough to start writing music and bring my angsty teen lyrics to life. The first time I heard No Doubt’s ‘Just a Girl,’ it felt so relatable and I knew I needed to pursue music.
What music styles have had the greatest impact on your sound?
I grew up listening to all kinds of music, from Reggae and Ska to hardcore and punk. When I first moved to New York to pursue music, I fell ill with mono. The day I found out that’s what was wrong with me, I got a Facebook message from Shaka, known as Tom Cruz, who I’d recently met through a few friends, asking if he could crash on my couch. I was like, ‘Dude, I have mono,’ and he was like, ‘Great, I’ll take care of you.’ He moved in and spent two weeks cooking me Jamaican food and educating me about contemporary Dancehall and Reggae music, and I fell back in love with it.
How do you describe your sound?
When started making music, I experimented with a lot of different styles. My biggest musical influence has always been No Doubt, but I didn’t want to recreate their music, so I shied away from making Reggae and Dancehall-inspired tracks at first. Last year, I threw an event at a candy store where I performed three of my songs. The third one, 'Getaway,' was my first attempt at bringing the island vibes into my own music, and that was the song everyone couldn’t stop talking about. Through that, I realized I can pay tribute to the music that inspires me without copying it—that I can make music that’s a progression from it, while keeping it authentic to who I am as an artist. The sound for the EP was born.
What's the central message of your Magenta Agenda EP?
I always felt like an outsider in my youth. I came from a place where everyone wanted to be the same and I went to a super preppy private school. I was bullied for being different—for not dressing like everyone else. At home, my mom even put pressure on me to be more feminine so ‘boys would like me,’ [and] to be more like my peers. I always felt like ‘a problem;’ I felt like I might be the only one in my world feeling like this, but there must be more out there than me. My parents always put pressure on me to be a doctor so I could ‘give back to the world,’ and have a ‘normal’ profession, but I always knew there’s not a scientific bone in my body, and I needed to find another way to give back. The overall message of this EP is to be yourself and not buckle to the pressures of others. The Magenta Agenda is my announcement to the world that I’m here, I’m pink, and I’m a force to be reckoned with.
What's the biggest challenge you've experienced on your *:･ﾟrise to the top?
Sexism. Boys don’t expect you to know what you’re doing, they don’t expect you to have an opinion and they think they can push you around in the studio. Unfortunately, men control a lot in the music industry, and it’s hard to work with them when you can tell they aren’t taking you seriously. I have to be careful in choosing collaborators because if they don’t see me as their equals, it’s never going to work. The other biggest challenge was moving to New York and not knowing anyone in, or anything about, the industry. Nepotism and networking is everything in this industry, so it was hard to have nobody to help me get started. However, building my own network, finding other people who are working hard and doing it themselves has been so rewarding and has made my relationships that much stronger.
What's the story behind the track we've premiered, "Devil On My Shoulder?"
I wrote this song after having a huge fight with my mom. I grew up as the pink sheep of the family, and my mother has never been able to see why music is so important to me. It’s ironic, because being an outsider is what motivates me to make music, but it’s always hard to hear someone you love unconditionally not believe in what you’re doing, and she really got to me that day. The song is about bullying and how other people doubting you can make you question yourself. Writing this song was catharsis for me, and I hope it can help bring others out of those dark moments.
As an artist, what do you stand for?
I stand for embracing your true self, even in the face of haters, doubters [or] adversity. I grew up as an outsider, and I’m here for anyone who needs to hear that it’s okay to be who you are, especially if people are telling you it’s not. Growing up, there were so few Asian role models in the entertainment industry, but even today we’re underrepresented. Especially in music, there are almost no Asian-Americans in the mainstream. I want to be someone for other people in that community to see and be inspired by, and for people in all underrepresented groups to see as an example of breaking the mold.