Bea Kristi is booked and busy. When Variety caught up with the 21-year-old, she was just starting to settle down from a full day’s preparation for her performance at Madrid’s Mad Cool festival, which she was leaving for the following morning. For a brief moment, her standard nonchalance slipped as she started to gush over the moment she met Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo backstage at one of her recent summer festival appearances.
“I really wanted to meet him, but then someone from the festival said that he wanted to meet me,” Bea remembers. The two exchanged autographs — as Cuomo’s kids are Beabadoobee fans — which left her “completely starstruck by him. He’s a really interesting dude.”
Having also just completed a short circuit of North American shows alongside PinkPantheress and Halsey, the singer-songwriter has settled into her new groove of traveling rockstar — a stark difference from what her daily routine looked like during the creation of “Beatopia.”
On her second full-length studio album, “Beatopia” — out today via Dirty Hit Records – the Filipino-British singer (born Bea Kristi) delivers a blend of jangly guitar pop and nostalgic alt-rock, citing the Sundays, the Broken Social Scene and Masakatsu Takagi’s gleeful “Kagayaki” as direct influences.
“With this record, because it was after lockdown, I would write a song the night before and then I’d make it the next day with Jacob,” she says, speaking of Jacob Bugden, the guitarist in Bea’s band and her best friend. His influence and guidance can be found sprinkled throughout several tracks on the album like “Don’t Get the Deal” and the glimmering “Sunny Day,” a track that sounds like something you’d hear in a summer flick from 2004; the song’s accompanying music video dropped today.
In the new visual, Bea’s bedroom floor is replaced with mossy hills and sprouting mushrooms. In a trance-like state, she escapes through her window only to find the outside world aglow with lush foliage and a guitar-playing frog. The video ends with Bea chomping on a mushroom and levitating off of the ground as the greenery spins around her.
Although it doesn’t take all the credit, Bea says taking mushrooms “definitely helped” her rediscover the free-spirited nature of her childhood. She says she “cried for about two hours” during one of her trips “and then after I cried, it felt amazing. It felt great to just let myself feel the emotions.”
“Beatopia” is filled with many references to fairies and fantasy, as the concept for the album was “something that I had created when I was seven. Back then, it was much more of a physical kind of idea. Now ‘Beatopia’ is more of a feeling — feelings that I had repressed for so long and finally found.”
With that in mind, the subject matter of “Beatopia,” begins to unfold. The opening “Beatopia Cultsong” is a mosaic of clinking sounds and clusters of background harmonies that come together to “truly encapsulate what we all felt at the time,” she says, referring to the isolation and escapist yearnings of a year spent in quarantine. “I didn’t want to ignore anything that bad that may have happened in my life. I wanted to create with a sense of hope that it would get better — and that it was getting better.”
In previous interviews, Bea has openly discussed the hardships she internalized at a young age, like the countless stereotypes she faced at her all-girls Catholic school in London or her experience being overtly sexualized as young Asian girl in the industry. In the song “Ripples,” Bea confronts her “raging self-esteem issues,” and grapples with her fast-paced entry into the industry spurred by the success of her lo-fi bedroom pop ballad, “Coffee,” in 2017.
That track was what led her to sign with Dirty Hit, the British indie powerhouse that is also home to Rina Sawayama, the Japanese House and her frequent collaborators the 1975. Frontman Matty Healy helped with several tracks on the project — his an influence is noticeable in the airy strings of “Ripples” and the delicate chords of “Pictures of Us” — while drummer George Daniel helped produce the PinkPantheress-featuring “Tinkerbell is Overrated.”
Where “Fake It Flowers,” had its share of danceable moments, “Beatopia” seems to carry a much more intentional theme, with drum-n-bass influences replacing some of the indie-pop hooks. Her lyrics seem to accept and even display the darker sides of her personality. “See You Soon,” one of the album’s slower moments and one of Bea’s favorite songs from the album, off her new record, was written the day after her first shroom trip. In an attempt to simulate the drug’s emotional highs and lows, she whispers through the song’s chorus: “And I’m not sure why but I will see you soon / I guess I have to take it, I’m deteriorating / Feelin’ blue,” while reminding its listener that it’s imperative to be alone to grow.
With plans to move out of her parent’s house, and a different show in a different country almost every month, Bea’s regularly crossing major milestones — her most recent being the not-as-glamorous first heartbreak. Although she admits it’s not been the easiest process, her recent split from her boyfriend of several years has certainly served as an added layer of actualization.
“I feel like [after a breakup] you appreciate things so much more and you learn a lot about what you like in someone and what you didn’t like in someone and what you didn’t like in yourself and how you acted,” she says. In the last few weeks, her TikTok comments have flooded with questions about romance and initial panic over the potential loss of Bea Kristi love songs — but fans needn’t worry, she’s already “written a few love songs and a few breakup songs.”
“It’s definitely a bittersweet process, and it’s crazy because I can listen to a track like ‘See You Soon’ or to some other songs on ‘Beatopia’ that were written about completely different things and I relate them to the situation that I’m in now,” she says before musing, “I always think, when I’m 80, I’m gonna listen to songs on ‘Beatopia’ and be like, ‘Yeah. That’s still relatable.”