Spanish Sensation ROJUU on Bringing 'Shadow Pop' to Light

Spanish Sensation ROJUU on Bringing 'Shadow Pop' to Light

Photography and creative direction: Marina Vengut / Styling: Francisco Ugarte / Hair and makeup: Mariona Botella

Originally from Barcelona, Spain, 18-year-old ROJUU is currently one of the most promising, young Spanish artists with a long path of success already behind him. After starting a career on YouTube, where he would talk about music and earn his first hundreds of euros, ROJUU eventually dropped out of high school to fully commit to his passion. He claims that he could clearly visualize his creative and professional path since age 10.

With an impressive ability to give voice to adolescent sadness and the demons that haunt teens today, ROJUU has become a representative of his generation. By 2022, he has already released six albums, with the last one being Kor Kor Lake — a psychedelic journey from day to night inside ROJUU’s world. He’s also working on a new album, which “will be my most experimental project,” he tells PAPER, slated for release this summer.

Meet ROJUU, below, as he talks more about Kor Kor Lake and the steps that have led him to success today.

Sweater: Balenciaga, Necklace: Guillem Estevan

Where’d you grow up?

I was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain. My parents haven’t been together since I was born, so I have been around two houses all my life. I've lived around Plaza de Tetuán, near Raval and also lived in El Born. Both are neighborhoods pretty close to Parc de la Ciutadella, being the surroundings of my childhood.

How’d you land on the name, ROJUU?

ROJUU has its roots in my real name, Roc Jou, compressed. It actually was born online, during my e-gamer times. Whenever my opponents got mad at me when losing, they started yelling my name and misspelling it. So it went from Roc Jou to ROJUU in a heartbeat. I used to record these battles to upload them to my YouTube. I showed them to my close friends and they started calling me ROJUU, so I decided to keep the name.

At 18, you’re already known as a veteran of the Spanish music scene. How would you describe this journey for people who haven’t yet found their calling?

Looking back on my journey, I’ve been improvising. It's not about doing things for an instant reward, it's about working hard until it's solid enough to become recognizable. Your actions will always have consequences, good or bad, but the outcome will be aligned with your decisions and actions. Focus on what you want and what you have to do in order to achieve it.

For example, I decided to quit school. I find it nonsense and a way to follow social parameters that sums you up in a system that is not well structured, but somehow it seems like the only way to success, so everyone follows. You learn better from your own mistakes than in a classroom. Less degrees are not equal to less intelligence.

Clothing and accessories: GCDS, Sunglasses: Oakley

What does music offer for you on a personal level?

Music is just another creative expression. The sensations it causes are similar to riding a wave or being inside a bubble that flies you around life and introduces you to new people, but also grows you apart from others — all this being a very powerful vehicle to express yourself and create something new. Music is another tool to show and sell your creative side, just like drawing or painting, but maybe more mass consumable.

Your first steps into the music industry were through your YouTube, "Roctopus." What exactly did you post there?

I started this path when I was 13, using my YouTube as a way to show my music to others, but never thought it would get me this far. At some moment I decided to delete my channel and leave the scene for a while. I got back at 15 and released my single, "Kids & Drugs." This single marked a before and after in my career, because after that I met my manager and everything started to get more structured.

["Roctopus"] was a very silly channel. I was very young at the moment and it showed in the opinions I shared then. I'm in a different place, right now. What I admire the most about that version of me was the fact that I was one of the first to start sharing that type of content in Spain. "Roctopus" was a pioneer channel.

You started it at 13?

Yes, in 2016. I still have the channel with a different name and the videos private, but that version of me died a long time ago and I’m glad it happened that way.

Jacket: Prada, Shirt: Armani, Tie: Moschino, Shorts: Bottega Veneta, Shoes: MISBHV

How has your career developed since you decided to start?

Every album shows the stages I’ve been through. Cotard Delusion shows my early teenage years. On another side, Bad Trip Camp marks the end of those teenage years, the closure of a chapter in my life. Children Of God shows the instant when a person starts to perceive the world as an adult, but with some kind of resistance rooted in the desire to stay young forever. OOO remarks the sort of limbo that being a teenager represents. Then we have Roku Roku, which is the representation of this teen feeling ready to grow up and find success. Kor Kor Lake represents the reality check that we get as we enter the grown ups’ world and realize that it’s not easy to be an adult.

How do you see Kor Kor Lake, specifically, as an evolution from your previous works?

Kor Kor Lake is my immersion to the general public, a project where anyone can enter. Although the background is a bit more complex, the album is a journey from day to night on a lake in my world. What sets it apart from the others is the work behind it, as it's the first studio album I've made.

You collaborated with Clutchill, Bratty and other artists for Kor Kor Lake. How did this influence your creative process?

Well, I let Bratty do what she wanted. I was with her in the studio and I told her, "These are the lyrics and this is what it's all about, all yours." And she did magic. Then with Clutchill, I told her what I wanted and how I wanted it, and it was done. With Sara[malacara], I passed the topic to her and let her do what she wanted. She always does magic. Later in the studio, I put in some cuts and background sounds that were consistent with what I was saying and with the album. And to Mixed Matches, I let him do what he wanted within the margin that there was.

Shirt: Kenzo, Turtleneck: Raf Simons, Hat: Tommy Hilfiger, Hat accessory: Heaven by Marc Jacobs

What's your typical process like, then?

It’s a little chaotic, mostly because in the center of it you can find my purest and deepest emotions, which tend to be in a constant state of change. Normally I write the lyrics right after listening to the first draft of the beat, then I record it at home and then we remaster the beat. My lyrics combine my experiences with relatable feelings or happenings that may [resonate with] my followers.

You've been referred to as one of the biggest representatives of the "emo trap” Spanish scene, but you seem to reject it.

I consider myself an emo standing for “emotional,” but I do not have a “trap” style at all. “Experimental emo” suits me better, maybe. I have defined my fashion style as "shadow pop," the dark side of pop music. I feel very comfortable in the darkness, so being a traditional pop star is not my thing. My music is gloomy yet relatable. Limbo is a beautiful place with the right beat.

What’re you aiming to promote through your music?

As a tiny extract of who I am, love stories are the main experiences that I like to sing about. Sometimes I like to mix them with other happenings, but ROJUU represents my sentimental and romantic self. My artistic personality doesn’t represent a character or a mask, it's a fraction of my true self.

Stream Kor Kor Lake by ROJUU, below.

Photography and creative direction: Marina Vengut
Styling: Francisco Ugarte
Set design: Andrea García Ferre
Hair and makeup: Mariona Botella (Kasteel Artist Management using Kevin Murphy Spain)
Nails: Pannkks
Lighting design: Anna Port
Production: Sara Mata
Introduction: Anna Montagner
Interview: Jaime Martínez Sena and Anna Montagner
Translation: Charlie Dominguez