" I needed time to think, to fix my mental health, and live within my album..."

The outsider who forged her own path, Beabadoobee went from dreaming about hanging with indie rock icons to actually becoming one.

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This was meant to be Bea Kristi’s year. Since her first upload as Beabadoobee – the instantly-viral 2017 single ‘Coffee’ - she’s released a string of sensational EPs, with her cute-as-hell slacker sound fusing classic indie guitar tropes with a fresh vantage point. Each release upped the momentum – pretty soon she went from writing songs about Pavement’s indie rock demigod Stephen Malkmus to actually hanging out with him, all while touring packed out cavernous arena venues alongside early devotees The 1975.

But then came COVID, and the pandemic, and the live music shutdown. Just as her life reached escape velocity, just as her thrilling debut album ‘Fake It Flowers’ finally came into sight, she was forced to retreat, to slow down, and re-evaluate. And d’you know what? She’s relished every second of it.

“I feel like I really needed this time at home to fix some of my relationships,” Bea tells Clash. “I wanted to spend time with my family, spend time with my little brother, spend time with my boyfriend. I needed that. I needed time to think, to fix my mental health, and live within my album. Not a lot of artists have this much time to live in the world of their album.”

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‘Fake It Flowers’ is truly her own world – it’s the sound of Beabadoobee in 360, moving from the carnal rage of ‘Care’ through to the serendipitous delight of cute closer ‘Yoshimi Forest Magdalene’, matching her astonishing ear for glorious guitar hooks to the kind of lyric that can send your heart into spasms. It’s an album that feels important – firstly to Bea, but also to her army of fans, the one she speaks to online, and chats over DM with.

“I think it’s a healthy type of pressure,” she reflects. “It depends how you look at it. There are some days where it feels like shit and there’s just so much going on. But at the end of the day this is what I signed up for, you know? I wanted to write an album to touch people’s hearts because it’s so personal to my life. I feel like I had to expect this.”

“The idea of people actually giving a shit about my music,” she says, her voice trailing off. “As much as I write music for myself – most importantly for my mental health – the fact that if one person DMs me and says that my music helps them, that just makes everything worthwhile.”

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Music has played an integral role in Bea’s life since she was a kid. Born in the Philippines, she grew up in West London, and often felt like an outsider at school. Watching Tom Hanks movies with her mother provided a rare bright spot – her current bedroom is still a shrine to Big, Splash, and Forrest Gump – but it couldn’t shift her unhappiness.

“I had the most stereotypical all-girl Catholic school experience,” she recalls. “My adolescence very much felt like a film.”

It’s a film with a killer soundtrack, though, and some heart-wrenching twists. Bea got kicked out of school, and spiralled downwards – something she only escaped when her Dad gave her a guitar, as an attempt to get her to channel those emotions into something tangible, something healthy.

“There was definitely a dependency with me and music,” she says. “And I felt like at the beginning that’s how I started. Everyone around me had a thing that they were so passionate about, but I just felt so bored and empty all the time. I used to write a lot, and then once I could finally put all the words I had in my head and in my journal into melodies and into music, finding chord progressions that really matched that, then everything began to make sense in my head.”

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Once that spark came into being, the fire quickly blazed out of control. Touring with her heroes, meeting her inspirations, Beabadoobee is an uncontrollable force, a shooting star across the muted British pop pantheon. She played the NME Awards this year, and after her band demolished their rider Bea bounded up to The Cure’s Robert Smith, overwhelming him with her pure, fan-girl devotion.

It’s reciprocated, too. Already nominated for a BRIT Award – Rising Star, funnily enough – Bea is winning fans on both sides of the Atlantic. “It’s crazy how everything works,” she gasps. “Like my name’s Beabadoobee for God’s sake, I had no idea this was going to happen! You know when they say, never meet your idols? Well, every person who I’ve looked up to has honestly been the most genuine, nicest person ever. I’ve been really lucky with that; they’ve just continued to inspire me so much more.”

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She’s busy distilling those inspirations down into a powerful elixir. Debut album ‘Fake It Flowers’ is frankly astonishing – largely penned in her bedroom, it matches the inventiveness of West Coast 90s indie rock with the innocent melodies of OPM – Original Pilopino Music – she heard growing up. Hell, there’s even a touch of screamo in there, too, the sound of Beabadoobee finally letting rip.

“I think it’s really healthy expressing any kind of feeling, and that’s something I really struggled with at the beginning. I was like: I need to be sad to be able to write songs’ Sometimes I’d even create a drama just to make me sad so I could write a song!”

“At the beginning I was very closed off with how I felt,” she continues. “But now I can put that into a song and tell someone. I’ve got so much more confident with that. Especially being onstage, it’s different. You can’t compare that feeling to anything else, and that’s definitely helped with my mental health.”

“I guess I wanted a very well-rounded album... a song for every mood, a song for every person. A song for every mood I have! I think every song really talks about something personal in my life, and I tried being really honest with my writing. I can’t help it. It just comes naturally.”

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Each song on ‘Fake It Flowers’ is purely instinctive, the sound of something sketching their feelings out, just letting the emotions come loose. Working with quicksilver alacrity, Beabdoobee rushes from one scenario to the next, the cut-screen narrative shifts racing towards the final credits. “It all came naturally,” she shrugs. “After I went on tour I experienced so much - going to America, and everything that followed afterwards. I think I experienced enough to vomit all my feelings down on paper. I was like: I have to write about this, I have to get it out of my brain!”

Each album is a journey, and Bea’s debut has more twists and turns than most. The past nine months were supposed to have been her time – she had a full North American tour planned, alongside a host of other commitments. Instead, though, she’s been forced to sit that out – her parents are both health workers, and she watched the pandemic unfold with a gnawing anxiety for that could entail for those at the frontline. Hunkering down at her boyfriend’s parents’ house, Beabadoobee has been able to patch herself together, and to truly live and experience her debut album, in a way that has enriched her life. 

“I do have really shit days still and I do feel closed off at times,” she says at one point in our conversation. “There are days when I feel like I’m 15 again. But I’m definitely more happy than I’m sad now, and that wasn’t much the case a few years ago.”

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Right now Bea is working on the visuals for her album, as well as sketching out new songs. Slick, polished guitar pop with a DIY ethos – one of her heroes is Daniel Johnston, just so you know – this is sheer, boundless, web-born creativity. Where Beadadoobee goes next is entirely under her control – and she knows that it’s going to be positive. “I feel like after this whole corona thing is over there’s going to be this crazy summer of love,” she explains. “Just happiness and togetherness. And everybody wants to feel that, but I can also hear that in the music as well. I just want something to match that.”

She’s able to face the future with confidence – so would you, if you’d created something as emphatic, as nuanced, as textured as ‘Fake It Flowers’. Beabadoobee is the name that stuck – the person underneath is changing all the time.

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'Fake It Flowers' is out now.

Words: Robin Murray
Photography: James Robjant
Fashion: Grace Joel
Make Up: Mona Leanne
Hair: Ryuta Saiga
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

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