Once again, Uffie's timing as an artist, like when she first debuted, is accidentally impeccable.
A revival is already underway of indie sleaze, with its messy hair, smeared makeup and high-flash photography. The aesthetic is inextricably linked to bloghouse — a genre term that denotes not so much the sound of the music, because styles ranged from electroclash to rap to dance-rock, but the way in which the music was shared online.
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Both cultural moments date back to the mid-aughts, when Myspace and indie music blogs were everything. And depending on who you ask or what city you lived in, this all thrived until around 2011. Among all that hipster hedonism, Uffie was a teenage icon.
"What I really, really loved about that era was this immense entitlement to freedom, the not giving two fucks," Uffie says. "People didn't care: everyone was out, every night, and there was no tomorrow, and that was a beautiful naivety and freedom."
And she’s returned, debuting this week a music video for "where does the party go?" — the third single off her forthcoming sophomore LP, Sunshine Factory, out May 20.
Coincidentally, bloghouse contemporaries ADULT. have recently released a new album. Chicks on Speed, whose cover of Delta 5’s "Mind Your Own Business," though released in ‘99, was a staple of the era, unveiled a new song last month. On March 25, Kitten and the Hacker (FKA Miss Kitten and the Hacker) will release a third LP. Their “Frank Sinatra” cut was a cornerstone of every club night back then.
It was in 2005 that Uffie casually uploaded her first-ever recorded song, "Pop the Glock," to Myspace and it blew up fast. Suddenly her life was transformed; she became an important face of the critically of-the-moment Ed Banger Records crew, and collaborated with Pharrell Williams and labelmates Justice. Though born in Hong Kong and raised in Miami, then based in Paris, Uffie’s travels expanded even further; she began a seemingly nonstop tour of clubs around the world. Her 2010 full-length debut, Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans, stands as critical to the canon of bloghouse.
Sunshine Factory harkens back to that breakthrough in energy, for sure. Still, it’s clear Uffie’s perspective on life has changed. And, of course, it has; she’s not a teenager anymore and, sociopolitically and culturally, we’re living in a vastly different world than the one in which she started out as an artist.
While far less inclined to pull an all-nighter these days, Uffie — as an entertainer — still retains notes of that feigned blasé-cool and ironic absurdism of way-back-when. Some of it was persona, some of it was personal. We hope nobody’s looking for a clone-level resurrection of that imperfect past but, anyway, a copy couldn’t work if you tried.
"I think that music could only have been made in that period,” Uffie says. "Maybe it's being older, or maybe it's the state of the world, but everything's a little heavier. I feel like you need to be more conscious of the energy you're putting into the world, if that makes sense.” Her breakout, "Pop the Glock," wouldn’t have the same effect now as it did then, for sure.
But again, she’s not trying to duplicate Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans, nor her 2019 EP, the more melancholy but still poppy Tokyo Love Hotel, either. So while Sunshine Factory is inherently connected to Uffie’s past, it more accurately represents her, and pop culture's, present.
Uffie conceptualized the album as a club — a building industrial and austere on the outside, like Berlin’s landmark Berghain, but stunningly soft inside, yet also surreal and fantastical. She says it's place for "everybody who just wants to go out and not be bothered, and just have good energy and escape."
The concept of a club is somewhat of a nod to her beginnings, but consideration for the emotional and mental comfort of partygoers? That wasn’t so much a factor when she got her start, and that’s putting it gently.
Stylistically, “cool” would fit comfortably into those faraway nights of dancing stiff-shoulders-first while sporting American Apparel lamé leggings and pointy-toed heels. Uffie’s repeating of the titular word, as if with a nod as she speaks it, is used like percussion, which really seals the deal. “Life’s a disco,” she talk-sings. But the bass groove that drives that track? It’s not synthetic. In contrast to her mostly electronic past, on this album, Chaz Bear, AKA Toro y Moi, played every instrument live.
Uffie built the foundation of Sunshine Factory over the past few years with Norwegian friend and producer Lokoy. Ultimately, though, the LP was co-produced by Bear and is being delivered via his Carpark record label. They connected on Instagram “ages ago,” she says, with intentions to collaborate. They sorta did; vocals from a 2018 go at working together made it onto this album in the form of a disco-house track.
She reached out about Sunshine Factory, hoping he’d want to guest, but Bear took things a step further, offering instead to help get the LP released. Uffie soon found herself at his Oakland home base, where they organically fell into a creativity groove. “We’d go on hikes in the morning, then head to the studio,” she says.
With its bouncy ska backbone, “Dominoes,” the album’s second already unveiled tracks, recalls 2-Tone Records acts like The Beat or The Specials, yet it’s dripping with a fast-and-flashy pop shimmer, like wearing creepers with a '60s-inspired metallic minidress. She sings about dancing until you fall “like stupid dominoes.”
The line harkens to Uffie’s 2010s whirlwind of underground celebrity. There came a time where she was over it, but the party wasn’t over.
"What people don't really think about, [is that] it's their fun night of the week, or two days or however often you do it," she says. "But for the artist, [performing] has to be your fun night every night. And you owe it to your fans to come with that same energy."
Uffie continues, "To force yourself into that mode, it's definitely not mentally healthy and it's fucking exhausting. It adds up and it takes a toll, for sure. When I was younger I didn't have the boundaries or the vocabulary to say no to things, and would just go, pushing myself way too far.”
In those years of relentless performing and hard partying, Uffie wonders if she missed out on cultivating some social skills. "Because it's so easy when you're wasted and kind of tapped out to just go on autopilot, in a way, to get through that," she says. "It becomes such a habit of doing it all the time that it's not even really like a choice anymore."
Post Sex Dreams and Denim Dreams, there’s a noticeable gap in Uffie’s output. She took a much-needed break and moved to Joshua Tree. She became a mother and also studied. Uffie was still in her early 20s then. This period also marked a break from the "chemical rushes" so closely tied to club culture.
"I definitely drank and did so many drugs the first time around, like, hardcore," she says. "Which I guess we all had our naughty eras, but when I quit I definitely took a couple years off of everything just to cleanse. And now, I enjoy wine and weed, but am definitely much more chill. If I tried to have one of those nights now, I would have a nervous breakdown."
Today, her partying approach is one where "you can leave," she says with a laugh, "before it’s well into the next day.” Uffie mentions going to early evening forest raves and heading home well ahead of sunrise; this kind of mindful good time, as opposed to a free-for-all, is akin to the “pockets full of fun" she sings about on "cool."
"I love going out and having a good time," Uffie says. "But it's more picking and choosing those times and being a little more balanced with having a home life, too."
Around this time, she delved into writing for and alongside other artists; she was one of a handful of songwriters who worked on P!nk's “Hurts 2B Human," featuring Khalid. She also collaborated with Charli XCX and Galantis.
Most of the work of Sunshine Factory was done from November 2020 through the summer of the following year. The release was pushed back only because of the recent vinyl production backlog, but the timing somehow worked out. Her kids, now 12 and 8 years old, are finally back in school, and our defenses against and understanding of COVID-19 and how to live more safely in a seemingly forever-pandemic is much improved. Compared to the past couple of years especially, it’s currently a better environment for touring in support of a new album.
Sunshine Factory is the result of bloghouse-in-hindsight; you can’t revive something without closely considering its heyday, and that resurgence is affected and shaped by the context in which it reemerges. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that, like bloghouse, Sunshine Factory could only be made now, nearly 20 years later.
Photography: Mark Hunter, The Cobra Snake
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