RIKA bounces into the press office, immaculate despite having just wrapped up a cosy acoustic set in one of the Tobacco Dock lounge rooms. I’d scrolled through her Instagram a little before while prepping for the interview; admiring the warmth and vibrancy that filled post after post. Now that the real-life RIKA was standing in front of me it seemed that the brightly pixelated content on my phone screen matched its curator; a beaming girl with electric red hair.
Though this was RIKA’s first time performing at the Tobacco Dock, she’s been involved with Introducing Live before. In the summer of 2019 she performed on the Introducing Stage at Radio 1’s Big Weekend; her first festival performance.
‘It was great! It was super fun. Performing at a festival is such a different experience
because the crowd is just swarms of thousands of people moving left and right. I honestly
prefer the intimacy of a venue stage, just because you can really see everyone and connect
with your audience a bit more. I think they both have their pros and cons but an intimate
venue is so vibeable and I love that.’
Having seen her performance in the dimly lit ‘Amp Bar’, that RIKA prefers smaller venues is
no surprise. She’d engaged her audience during and after the set with a warmth and
familiarity that made watching her perform an incredibly intimate experience.
Though she had dressed down her songs for the set, performing them as softer acoustic
ballads, they have a danceable, poppy flavour that shines through. Her songs are
infectiously uplifting, akin to Charli XCX in their reworking of the template pop banger, their
injection of fresh, personal colour.
When I asked her about the origins of her sound, she said;
“It’s pretty much what I felt emulated me as a person the best, the way I wanted to put
myself out there. I really wanted to make feel good music, just really good fun tunes, I
wanted to connect with people in that way, make people feel happy, help them to create
great fun memories.
“…especially towards the beginning of my career it was a lot like that, but the older I get,
the more I feel like I have to say, the more I will have been through. As I’m relatively young I
don’t feel like I’ve had a lot to say, the older I get the more that the things I’m writing about
become more personal.'
It’s fascinating to hear someone’s prediction of their own growth not only as an artist but as
a human being. RIKA doesn’t seem sure of exactly what this change will look like, nor intent
on mapping it out, just confident that it will happen and ready to embrace how it can affect
her work. It felt to me like an incredibly humble and mature attitude towards life’s enduring
I wondered whether the mere fact of finding success early on, in an industry so saturated
with competition, was something that forces one to age beyond their years;
“It does, but maybe more so in a different way. I feel like because of all these social media
apps like Instagram and TikTok, people just want performers that are younger and younger,
like; ‘she’s fourteen! Let’s work with her’ And because I’m nineteen, I‘m comparing myself
to these kids, and they are making me feel very old, which obviously I’m not! So maybe in
that way more than anything.”
I had been vaguely aware of TikTok and the fact of its much younger user-ship, but I still
found it pretty amazing that by its standards, someone of 19 could be considered old. I
wanted to press her more on this, but she has already moved on to a happier note;
“But going into the industry, I feel like it all depends on the team you have around you. I feel
like a lot of the weight is lifted by the people I work with.”
RIKA's family are her personal and professional support network; quite literally the case of
her brother, who also manages her. They seem very close, perhaps a product of having
grown together into young adults at the same time as having grown as young professionals.
When she talks of her family she does so very affectionately; and is clearly incredibly
grateful to them for having nurtured her from the very beginnings of her career.
“My brother is my manager, my label is very good to me, we all carry the weight equally.
But I think there are a lot of artists who have to carry a lot of it themselves, and kudos to
them, but I think that that can definitely take a toll you know? So, I’m very blessed to have
what I do.”
“We started independent when I was 16. I just turned to my family and was like, guys I’m
doing music, and then they all just got on board, and were like yep we’re all doing music
now too. It was really nice of them to be so inclusive, and so ‘in it with me’ when I needed
them the most. Without them I really couldn’t be here right now.”
I ask RIKA if she’s noted any difference between the beginning of her career and now in the
kind of music she wants to make and the kind of people she’s trying to reach with it;
“I think at the beginning of the year it felt a lot more similar to what I was doing maybe two
years ago, but now... when you make music you kind of plan for like the next six months...
so I’ve already got my next three singles all lined up.”
“And, those feel a lot different, I feel a lot different. I don’t feel like I did at the beginning of
the year. I mean, I have red hair now! I don’t know what I’m trying to target anymore!”
“But I don’t know if it’s so much about who I’m trying to reach but about who wants to
reach me, who is connecting to what I’m doing. I don’t feel like I’m trying to target anyone
specific, I’m just here for anyone who’s loving the jams, and who in any what way feels
connected to me, whether it’s my heritage, my age, what people of my generation
experience, or even if you just like the songs! Anyone’s welcome.”
RIKA's final words seem to echo exactly the push towards inclusivity for which the pop
music scene today has come to stand. The embrasure of difference, the ‘anyone’s
welcome’ attitude. Music that’s about positivity; about shimmery excess, but also about
access. We need more of this attitude; and more young artists like RIKA who are promoting
such a mantra within their work, the better.