SAN MEI's new single 'Wonder' is her first offering since her debut EP. Emily took some time out of her work day to talk with Anna Leathem about the vulnerability of the track and her writing process.
RR: Hey Emily! This is Anna for Rabbit Radio. How are you? What have you been up to today?
Emily: I’m good! I’m actually at work, so I’m just sitting in my car on my lunch break.
RR: I feel like your music has a really unique feel and energy to it, who do you consider your biggest influences and how does that impact your sound?
Emily: I didn’t start getting into music that much until after high school. I learned classical piano as a kid but in terms of when I started to write songs I was listening to a lot of guitar music like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Metric, and bands like The Kills. Also Grimes, my mind was blown when I first heard Grimes. Lana Del Rey too - she’s a bit of an influence for melodies. Different aspects of those artists I’ve taken and made it my own.
RR: You recently dropped your single, ‘Wonder’ just a few months ago, how did that go? Are you happy with the reception?
Emily: Yeah, I’ve gotten a really great reception which is really nice. I was grateful to get a lot of support from Triple J and a lot of online blogs. I’ve gotten a really good response from it so that’s been good.
RR: Is it scary releasing songs that have personal meaning or ones that hit a little close to home?
Emily: Yeah, definitely! Until ‘Wonder’ I’ve probably been a little more cryptic with my lyrics, and drowned out my vocals. For this one, I was a little more intentional with writing transparent lyrics that people can catch on to and relate to. It was a little bit daunting but I thought I’d just go with it.
RR: I’m wondering what your writing process is usually like? Do you start with lyrics? Where do the ideas usually stem from?
Emily: I like to be isolated when I write, and I usually get in front of a computer. I often start with music first, lyrics come to me after that. I’ll just muck around on guitar or synth and try to come up with a beat when I’m planning what kind of feel or vibe I’m going for.
RR: For this track you worked with Oscar Dawson who has produced the likes of British India, Holy Holy and bunch of other big names. What was that collaboration process like?
Emily: It was such an amazing process working with Oscar. It was a little bit daunting when I first thought about working with him. Even in pre-production I was self-conscious because he’s such a talented person but he’s extremely down-to-earth and he didn’t try to take over too much, it was really encouraging and collaborative. It was an awesome experience.
RR: I noticed you’ve played with a few big names like GUM and Ali Barter. Who has been your favourite to play with so far and what are some of your favourite Brisbane venues?
Emily: You’re not allowed to pick favourites are you! I was a little bit star-struck when we played with GUM, that was such a cool show. He’s a really funny, cool, interesting guy. That was at the Brightside in Brisbane but I also love playing the Northern in Byron, I had a headline show there two years a go and people just kind of show up and want to party.
RR: You’ve been working on a music video too, what’s the concept for that one?
Emily: It’s a pretty simple concept. I haven’t really done one before where it’s just playing with the band.
RR: Cool, and you’ve been playing a bunch of local shows in the recent months. What can those of us who haven’t been to your shows expect from you in the future? What is it like going to a San Mei gig?
Emily: I’ve gotten a lot of people say that it’s different to what they expect. I think it might be in terms of the band set-up with guitars and live drums, which is different to when people might hear the songs on the radio or whatever.
RR: I have a bit of a weird question that I’d like to finish on. If you can recall the last person who texted you, would you rather be stranded on a desert island with them or conquering a zombie apocalypse?
Emily: I think it’s my manager and I feel like this person is fairly resourceful, so the zombie apocalypse would be a cool adventure to be on with him!
RR: Good answer! Before we say goodbye, what’s next for you or is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Emily: So next up I have some more music coming out – my EP that I recorded with Oscar. I’m pretty excited to be releasing some more tracks.