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An Interview with Satu

Updated: Apr 15, 2019

SATU's (or Sinead’s) music makes me want to relish in the tragedy of unrequited love rather than wallow in it. The UK based pop singer possesses a provocative gentleness that makes you thankful for all the melancholic moments in your life. Their music doesn't indulge in cheap nostalgia; it isn't excessive or lugubrious. Instead, they opt for a contemplative and reflective approach.

SATU's EP, titled Growing Up, is an introspective masterpiece. Though the driving force of the record is their own personal experience, each track leaves room for interpretation. The subtleties of the record allows listeners to meditate on their own coming-of-age. With titles like "Hometown" and "Alarm," SATU taps into specific yet relatable imagery to create a truly enchanting lyrical landscape.

Also a talented artist, Sinead is able to articulate on the heartache and bizarreness of what it means to be alive. Their drawings are wide-eyed, sometimes disfigured, and always seem to be both baffled by and accepting of the circumstances they’re faced with. Like Sinead's music, their art feels wildly intimate, but not so much in the sense that it reveals some unseen truth about Sinead, but rather, the characters they draw appear to unveil a concealed, vulnerable side within the viewer.

SATU is inventive; they don’t limit themselves to specific tools or specific areas of art; perhaps their work’s greatest strength is that it feels all encompassing.

Who are your inspirations, both artistically and musically?

The main thing that I find inspiring about other artists has always revolved somehow around their processes. Björk's Biophilia Project was something that amazed me, the way she not only used these incredible futuristic ways of generating sound for her own music, but the educational side of it too - taking what she knew and using it to challenge traditional teaching methods and encourage young people to be more creative in school. I remember when that project launched, and wishing I went to an Icelandic school because I never connected to the way music had been taught to me. I also remember when I found Grimes' stuff (probably 2012-ish) and realized for the first time that you don't have to be some kind of technical wizard to make really beautiful, cool electronic music. She talked a lot about just playing with things until they sounded good to her, and taking that on board was a big step for me. I'm always fascinated by anyone who has that kind of DIY approach to creating, especially when its such a prominent part of their practice; I think it's important that aspiring artists are taught that 'unconventional' methods of creating are just as valid. The same goes for art really, I always gravitated more towards graphic novels, or just work that wasn't necessarily as respected as more traditional styles (at least not in art school anyway). I loved Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim comics, a LOT of manga, pop-surrealism painters like Mark Ryden, Tove Jansson's illustrations... it was always the work that my teachers dismissed as 'cartoony' that really inspired me and helped me generate my own style.

How would you describe your musical style?

It's always hard to sum up completely, but I would say the main elements of my sound are a certain naive sweetness with a very abrasive dark undertone. I tend to gravitate towards a more epic, futuristic-fantasy-video-game kind of sound, or at least that's what I'm imagining as I'm putting a song together. Minimalism in songwriting is near-impossible for me, haha. My body of work definitely has a kind of personal mythology running through it. Its more of a narrative style in that the lyrics are the part I put the most into: I want to tell stories, maybe embellishing them to match how huge one small moment can become for me. Its very nostalgic in the way I - at times unfairly to myself - paint certain relationships or experiences into something far bigger and brighter than the real thing ever was; its bittersweet, but I love manipulating sound to try to express that.

Do you think that your art and your music share overlapping themes? If so, what are they?

Yes, definitely! I think the main one would be romance - not necessarily just in the traditional sense - in terms of aesthetic, my writing style, and the stories I choose to tell through art and music, it all comes back to romance. I see it as pretty unavoidable that there's an overlap between all my creative endeavors really, because my outlook in general is quite a romantic one and those practices are my way of both documenting and processing the things I experience; its almost like there's some things in my life that feel so intense or scary or beautiful that I have to put them into 'coded' language, whether that's paintings or songs, so I could deal with them from a safe distance. There have been so many moments that could have passed me by completely, but ended up having such a weighty emotional impact on me that the only way to 'exorcise' them was to allow myself to romanticize them a little through my art. 

Your EP "Growing Up" deals with, as the name implies, coming-of-age. What's your favorite memory of your childhood?

My family on my dad's side are Finnish, and I've grown up visiting my great-grandparents' summer house in rural Finland. Over the years people have grown up and passed away and been born etc but everyone still gathers there in the summer and its the most magical place I know. It's the one place in my life that's always been there, even if we weren't always able to visit. Even when everything else in my life was changing or uncertain, that was a constant. I remember being 12 or so and me and my younger cousins had been swimming in the lake there one day, and my grandmother came down from the house with ice cream and fresh berries for us, in little glass dessert bowls. I remember every detail about that so clearly, as if it happened last summer. Simple moments like that are ones that I appreciate even more in retrospect, now that I'm older and life never seems to slow down enough to enjoy small comforts. 

What's the best piece of storytelling you've ever encountered?

I would have to say Will Sharpe's series Flowers: personally, I've never before come across a representation of mental illness that resonated so profoundly. Its one of very few stories - whether thats films, books, TV, anything - that I always find myself gravitating back to, and each time is like the first; I laugh hard and cry harder and am utterly spellbound all the way through (both seasons), and that's really amazing to me. And I think its so underrated ! Its such a well-rounded insight into family and mental health that I honestly think everyone should watch, whether its for the brilliant acting, or the stunning visuals, or the bleak British humour; every part of it reflects the inner worlds of these characters and creates something absolutely magic from something thats so difficult to navigate in everyday life. I think the people involved in making it just knew exactly what they were doing, and created something really beautiful and important.

Using a metaphor, how would you describe your creative process?

For some reason all that comes to mind is some kind of eternally lovestruck ghost trying to find a way of keeping up their angsty diary entries  from beyond the grave... thats honestly probably the perfect image for it, haha.

Who would you most want to collaborate with?

In a dream scenario, Patrick Wolf. He's someone I've looked up to for so long, and discovering his music was really the catalyst for me starting to make my own stuff. I love the idea of collaborating with someone who has been so inspiring to me over the years even as my life, music style, and range of influences have changed drastically. He basically soundtracked my adolescence and its been really interesting to see how his work, as well, has developed since that time. Now that I feel like I've found my ~sound~, it would just be the coolest, most surreal thing to be able to share that with someone who's kind of been there for the whole thing (even if unknowingly, and in the form of CDs and posters). I also feel like if I truly got to choose whoever I wanted to collaborate with, I'd be betraying my younger self if I picked anyone else!

If you were to compare your body of work to an era of history, what time period would you pick?

Thats a really intriguing question! The first one that comes to mind is the 80s; but like, the kind of surface-version of the 80s that you can curate in your imagination from movies and music if you weren't actually there. I'd like to think of my work as somehow a combination of all the 80s teen movie tropes; like, if you can imagine the weird goth kid but also the preppy, pastel-wearing popular girls, the badboy heartthrob and the soft hopeless romantic all rolled into one. I see the one thing they all have in common being a very specific brand of melodrama, which I adore and constantly aspire to. I think that it was a really unique point in history where so many things became quintessential to an overall image; but none of them necessarily matched up to one another on closer examination, which could definitely be said about the influences and individual aspects that make up my work. 

Images used in collage via @shinsatu


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