Singer and artist Polartropica is a surrealist’s delight. Drawing inspiration from the 90s, her music combines infectious arrangements with dreamy, out of this world visuals to create music that even aliens couldn’t help but dance to. Unlike sugary sweet predecessors, however, Polartropica’s beats carry important messages beyond the whimsy and cotton candy aesthetics of her videos. Her new single, “Wild Lyfe,” calls attention to the mistreatment of wild animals in captivity; her previous hit, “Golden Soul,” sheds light on the stigma surrounding the opioid crisis and the pain of watching loved ones battle addiction. If Polartropica’s music is candy, then it’s certainly candy with substance.
Cliché: Your performance name, Polartropica, sprung from your fascination with elements that don’t belong together somehow coexisting. Where do you think this interest came from? Did you or do you still feel like an outsider or disconnected from mainstream expectations?
Polartropica: I love storytelling and creating dream worlds! I definitely do feel like less of an outsider than when we first started out, because LA is magical and somehow all of the cool folks just end up playing with and supporting each other. We are definitely disconnected from mainstream expectations – but I am totally cool with that! It gives more freedom and space for the art.
One of your major influences is 90s pop. What is it about 90s pop music that speaks to you?
90s pop is like delicious rainbow ear candy! It rarely gets too deep or complex but the arrangements, production and visuals are quite delightful.
How would you define “intergalactic space pop?”
If we were out traveling in space, these are the hot jams the friendly space aliens would be bumping.
Talk about the message behind your new single, “Wild Lyfe.”
While research/ wildlife rehabilitation are incredibly important and should continue, breeding and holding wild animals in captivity for entire lifetimes, and even generations in questionable zoo or water park conditions for human enjoyment and profit is outdated and unnecessary. Especially when we now have such advanced technology to capture wildlife in action in their habitats to teach both kids and adults to appreciate animals.
What are your sources of inspiration for the unusual aesthetics of your videos?
Many times the aesthetics for my videos are inspired by the director I am working with. I’ve worked on a few with Yoko Okumura, and we both love vibrant colors and dream-like, sparkling worlds that we created for “Light Up the Sky” and “Olympia.” For “Wild Lyfe,” director Tess O’Connor is such a master with capturing expression, movement and the outdoors. We wanted to create a dystopic fantastical tea party with human dancers representing colorful, exotic collectible birds. Peter Lai is a fashion designer in Los Angeles with an extensive collection of Chinese and Japanese vintage headdresses and pieces passed down from his family. This song features Jett Kwong on the guzheng so it was actually a perfect fit to incorporate some of Peter’s collection with the costuming to create the characters.
Your music videos have very eccentric visuals. What is the motivation behind that? Are you trying to create a dreamland for your listeners to escape to?
Definitely – it’s a chance to create something we wouldn’t be able to see in everyday life. We have under 4 minutes to create a magical world and a story for the song. I’ve always been obsessed with music videos – my favorite both to watch and make with friends!
You emphasize the importance of treating everyone with kindness and respect. How do you go about applying this mantra to your everyday life?
I try to take some time every day to check in and connect with family and friends I haven’t talked to in a while. With anyone I cross paths with, no one is perfect but I try my best share a smile, kind words or gesture when appropriate. Sometimes a small gesture can go a long way.
Are there any other musicians with surreal aesthetics that you admire?
Bjork, Vinyl Williams, David Bowie, St. Vincent, Grimes, VOX
One of your other songs, “Golden Soul,” was deeply personal to you and discussed your friend who was struggling with opioid addiction at the time. What was the response to that song like?
I received so many messages from friends and some kind folks I’d never met that wanted to reach out and tell me they had the same experience with a friend or loved one.
Do you think that we’ve done enough to de-stigmatize opioid addiction and offer help to those dealing with addiction or their loved ones? In your mind, what’s the next step we can take?
One step would be treating addiction like we do a life-long medical ailment and not with privatized rehabilitation that many cannot afford because relapse percentages are just so high. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to send someone with diabetes to a $20k+ 3-week rehab. Another step to de-stigmatizing opioid addiction would be to decriminalize addicts so they can seek treatment. The true criminals are the drug makers, sellers, prescribers and lawmakers that support them. This includes pharmaceutical companies involved and doctors carelessly prescribing the highly addictive pain meds without seeking other alternatives or disclosing the risks involved.
What does an ideal 2019 look like for you?
Eating lots of watermelon, taking our fuzzy rescue bunny Ronalda on tour with us, playing a magical show in an enchanted forest, and sending out the new record to everyone in a rainbow confetti cannon that also cleans up after itself :)!!
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Polartropica Delivers Space Pop With Substance. Photo Credit: Olivia Hemaratanatorn @dontmeanmaybe