The lead singer of The Venopian Solitude has been leaving marks in the scene in interesting ways what with her thematic and eccentric songwriting, her spontaneous personality and the constant drive to push her music to the limits of inspiration and influence. Although some people obsess over her inclination to hide her real identity with her pseudonym, Takahara’s ability to weave an entire world around her sound (whether intentionally or impulsively) through the solitary persona in fictional Venopia takes center-stage here.
We’ll get to know Takahara Suiko through our interview with her at Urbanscapes and later explore deeper into her songwriting with our friends from Beyond the Line.
Takahara Suiko @ Urbanscapes (12th May 2017)
Care to introduce yourself, Taka.
My name is Takahara Suiko, I’m from The Venopian Solitude and that’s it. Yeah.
How are you feeling about the concert tonight?
I don’t know. Excited. It’s tiring to get excited already. Just waiting to get it done and over with. Not that we don’t appreciate the invitation to perform. It’s just that I’m tired of feeling excited and nervous.
How’s the progress been for your upcoming album?
My main focus so far is the album. I try not to take other projects in the meantime, because I know when I do that I will not focus on the album. It has been in the demo stage since last year, it has taken a very long time. I’m used to finishing up a song in two hours. Like from scratch to uploading it to Youtube it takes two hours, or at least it used to be like that. But now I guess I’m more human, I’m an adult now and I have to think things through. The next album is going to be a concept album as well so that’s why it’s taking quite a while to get the right songs into the right concept.
Is the next album still going to be based in Venopia ?
Probably… it is about a person. That’s all I’m saying. It’s not a love record. It’s about the growth of a person.
Are you listening to any records right now? Any favourite records?
I just watched Hidden Figures last night. There’s this song by Lalah Hathaway and Pharrell Williams called Surrender . It’s the best. Last week I was listening to Kendrick’s new album, DAMN. and dia macam susah nak assess, because I listened to To Pimp A Butterfly and he has said in his interviews, To Pimp was the album he wanted to do even before Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. So having listened to To Pimp first, I feel like I’ve listened to the perfect version of Kendrick Lamar.
I was discussing this with my husband, and then he said “There is probably a reason why he does something like DAMN., which is a bit of a disappointment. I guess once you’ve been meaning to do something and you can’t do it, when you finally get to do it you start asking yourself ‘What now?’. That’s why DAMN. was. After To Pimp I don’t need to strive for anything else anymore. There’s this interview that I watched where Kendrick said, “I don’t need to write songs for myself, I only need to write for other people. Not in the sacrificing-his-soul kinda way, but kind of like ‘it’s-for-the-community’, the Compton people, and the ‘people’ in general’. It’s about giving back.
Do you feel like you relate to that? Do you make music for other people?
I don’t. I try not to. Firstly, I don’t relate to Kendrick because I don’t live in Compton. *laughs*. But in terms of writing, I don’t think so – I don’t write for another person. For anyone really. I don’t want to write for anyone. In terms of my creative side, if I think it’s for a specific purpose then it’s not going to be me. It’s going to be bland, and it’s not going to be great. My spur in writing has always been – boop – tulis, habis. It’s not pre-planned, premeditated. So I try not to write for other people.
Since you’re such a spontaneous person, do you ever save an idea to write for later?
No that doesn’t happen at all. If I save things for later, it’ll disappear.
Let’s take a step back. The Venopian Solitude has been around for quite a while, even though you guys have only released one full-fledged album? Can you tell us a little bit about the evolution of The Venopian Solitude?
Okay, The Venopian Solitude, or TVS for short because I know people hate pronouncing our name, started in 2009. I got kicked out from a cover band. We only jammed once and they just decided that I’m too outspoken. I got kicked out so I thought “Okay, fine. Fuck it. I’m gonna have my own band. I’m gonna do a one-woman band”. That’s why I have the name The Venopian Solitude because it sounds like a band, padahal macam sorang-sorang je. It started out like that in 2009, until 2013 when I came back from Japan and then I got the Wknd Recording Fund. From there the people from Kasi Gegar Entertainment approached me and asked “Do you wanna make an album?” and I said “Hell yes – as long as you’re paying every day”. That’s how the album (Hikayat Perawan Majnun) came about and because Aizat‘s sessionists played with me, so naturally I got those bandmates. It just so happens that overtime we sort of gelled together and even after leaving the label I’m still working with those people.
How long did you take to come up with the concept of The Venopian Solitude?
Nope. Not long at all. You know how sometimes you get an idea out of the blue? Padahal it came from an article you read a long time ago but you’ve forgotten yet it’s still somewhere in your subconscious? The first time I came up with the word The Venopian Solitude I didn’t think too much about it until a few years later when people kept asking me. And then I realized it’s actually a world. It’s the Venopian way of solitude. Macam there’s a world called Venopia so I slowly pieced together that world after years of people consistently asking me “Why TVS?”. If I could I would just say “Suka hati ah”, but I can’t answer that so I gotta keep it lengthy. Dia macam gebang ah but eventually it works.
Who are your influences?
I feel like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is my introduction to concept albums. The way he puts poems in between and made me realize “Oh okay, this is how you make a concept album”.
Kimbra‘s The Golden Echo is like my vocal teacher of sorts. Kimbra is also my age, so she drives me to do things.
What song of yours do you like to perform the most at concerts?
Oh susahnya. All songs, I guess… as long as I’m performing with my bandmates? Contrary to popular belief I don’t like the Bontot song (Tenangkan Bontot Anda), because everyone likes it. I’m always just thinking “Oh come on guys, lagu lain please”. So when people approach me and they’re like “Oh yeah you, yang lagu bontot tu” and I’m just like “Yes…I have other songs too”. But I understand, it’s the one song that sticks with them. It’s fun to see the crowd’s reaction to that song, especially when they start singing along, but personally when I’m playing the band I like Mahar 2.0 where everyone pays kompang.
Anything you want to say to your fans?
Don’t be my fan. *laughs* I’m kidding. Thank you for following us and come to our concerts!
Takahara Suiko and Her Song Stories
Our friends over at Beyond the Lines believe in emphasizing upon the message in songs. They are a non-profit initiative that want to make sure that the backstories of tracks and the history behind verses are not shrouded or just left as a passing mention. They interviewed Takahara Suiko to get to know about what’s behind two of her songs: Dust and Mendungku.
Dust – BTL Song Stories
BTL Sessions – Dust
BTL Song Stories – Mendungku
BTL Sessions – Mendungku
If you guys like the videos by Beyond the Lines, be sure to check out their channel. They’ve also done a slot with Kyoto Protocol. To check out The Venopian Solitude’s music, follow them on Twitter or Facebook.