New Zealand singer-songwriter RIIKI REID has been very productive in 2022. She's just released her debut mini-EP, Newer Oxygen, which features a trio of captivating tracks in Meet U Again, The Dream State and new track Say You Want Me. Drawing from influences as diverse as DIIV, Radiohead, James Blake and house and techno music, no two RIIKI REID songs are alike, as shown by the trio of offerings on Newer Oxygen. Meet U Again brings to mind the music of '90s artists like No Doubt, while Say You Want Me hints at RIIKI's love of alternative rock. The Dream State, meanwhile, is cinematic, stadium-sized pop at its finest. It's an eclectic mix of songs, all highlighting RIIKI's deft production and captivating vocals.
Reflecting on the EP, RIIKI explains, “I’ll admit, I thought I couldn’t go back to this music I had put to the side as I was worried that people now knew me as something else. This EP explores a side of myself that was always there, but nobody has been able to see. It’s all about saying goodbye to RIIKI and hello to RIIKI REID; a version of me that isn’t dedicated solely to one genre but an array of styles that I love and make me ‘me’.”
When we speak to RIIKI in early May, she's just wrapped up an Australian tour with Budjerah, supporting him at shows across Australia. She tells us that it's the first time she's played without her band from back home, instead playing with session musicians. Reminiscing, she says, "I've met a lot of really cool people on the trip, and I've never been to Adelaide, Brisbane or Melbourne before." The pair shared stages all around Australia, and the trip "over the ditch" gave RIIKI the chance to get out of New Zealand's lockdown bubble.
The opening lyrics of EP opener Say You Want Me illuminate RIIKI's desire for something different, lamenting the feeling of walking the same old path. It's a fair sentiment given the struggles that artists have experienced over the last two years. There's a quiet determination in her voice as she sings "Loaded ready for a twist/I’ve walked this same route a thousand times/Filled with newer oxygen/I wanna jump to the other side of the line." The song's insistent drumbeat means the song flies along, and it's a sub-three-minute snapshot of why RIIKI REID's music is connecting with so many.
The dark pop aesthetic of The Dream State captures the feeling of jolting awake late at night, which was the situation that inspired the track. A particularly thunderous night caused her to wake up startled, spending the rest of the night in a half-awake state. The music video for The Dream State builds on the themes of the song, bringing to life the slightly nonsensical sequences that run through our heads when we're having particularly vivid dreams. If you've ever hopped on Google to find out what a dream meant, then you're not alone.
Speaking about her relationship with dreams, RIIKI reveals that they're a source of fascination for her. She explains, "I've definitely had a dream and then looked it up online and been like 'what does this mean?' Part of me is like 'they don't mean anything'. I definitely think that how you're feeling in your conscious state, the people you've seen and all those kinds of things play a part in your dreams, like when you walk past people on the street and you see their face in the dream. Random people like that always pop into your dreams."
Production is an area of music that RIIKI especially enjoys, and when asked about producing The Dream State there's a sense of pride in her response. The song, which was co-produced with George Nicholas, is lush and expansive, but it was made in humble surrounds. RIIKI explains, "I do pretty much all my own production at home, just in the spare bedroom in our family home. No setup, just my laptop, headphones my MIDI controller and a bunch of samples. I really like using the bare minimum and finding ways to manipulate sounds to get interesting tones and textures."
Family plays a key part in RIIKI's musical upbringing, as does her Scottish, Latvian, Māori and Samoan heritage. She highlights the role that her two older brothers play in her life: her oldest brother is a drummer and a skateboarder, while her other brother is a pianist and a guitar player. She explains, "I always say that I looked at my brothers so much. I think that my brothers in particular have influenced my musical direction today." She credits her brothers for inspiring her to take up hip-hop dancing (something that she's done "pretty much my whole life"), and they often give feedback on works in progress, as do trusted friends. As RIIKI puts it, "the encouragement from other people - not that you need the validation to release a song that you like - it's definitely a nice feeling.
RIIKI's artistry exists in both the visual and aural realms, as fashion plays a big role in her creative expression. Talking about the intersection between the two, RIIKI explains that both her music and fashion feed off each other. "The emotion I feel from the music that I make really determines what the visuals are going to look like and what the colour is going to be, for example," RIIKI reveals. The videos for The Dream State and EP closer Meet U Again are both excellent pieces of art in their own right, and the care that RIIKI puts into every aspect of her music is evident. The video for Meet U Again cleverly translates the song's message of wanting to reclaim that feeling you get when you first meet someone into a clip that sees her searching for something she can't quite find.
Newer Oxygen is, in many ways, a new beginning for RIIKI REID. Having previously released music as RIIKI, it's a chance for her to re-introduce herself into the world. She's planning to release "lots and lots and lots of music" throughout 2022 and beyond, using the time to give people the chance to understand who she is as both a person and an artist, as well as the music she loves making. Prepare to hear a lot more from RIIKI REID in the near future.