Photo: Anna Partington

One release at a time, SAKIMA inches closer and closer to his ultimate goal, which, in his own words, is to bring "LGBTQ+ pop music to people who can hear it, relate to it, and feel a little less alienated by the extreme heteronormative culture of pop music." Ones To Watch is proud to present your first listen of the latest step towards that mission, "What I Know Now."

The London-based singer, songwriter, and producer has previously appeared on Ones To Watch as half of the dark electronic duo SWIMS. "What I Know Now" allows SAKIMA's distinct lyrical deviance to shine through while retaining the complimentary bond between him and his SWIMS' counterpart, beat-smith AObeats. The new track gives us the first taste of what's to come on SAKIMA's debut EP,  Facsimile, a title that aptly describes its nature as a copy of today's traditional pop music–enhanced with a dash of homosexual relevance.

Listen to "What I Know Now" before its March 24 release, and read more in our interview with SAKIMA below.

OTW: What is the personal significance of "What I Know Now"? What message do you hope gets across to listeners?

SAKIMA: This song marks a departure from the left field electronic music i've done in the past. I've become way more focused on electronic pop music and aligning my sound to be accessible, but with my gay identity and experiences taking a spotlight in the lyrical themes. In my opinion, LGBTQ+ representation in pop music is almost non-existent, especially with anything remotely as explicit as 'heteronormative' pop music; there's just no real role model or representation that isn't totally 'PG' or ultra-censored. So for me, it's not all about my audience finding a deep sense of meaning in the music–my biggest hope is that my music can give listeners, especially my LGBTQ+ listeners, something fun, sexy and poppy that isn't shy or afraid to express sex or talk about sex. I never had that kind of music growing up as a young gay man, and that lack of role models or culture/community that speaks directly to you really contributes to feeling rejected by society and like you don't belong. So that's my number one concern: bringing LGBTQ+ pop music to people who can hear it, relate to it, and feel a little less alienated by the extreme heteronormative culture of pop music.  

OTW: What was it like working with AObeats as SAKIMA vs as SWIMS and what distinguishes the style from SWIMS?

SAKIMA: Me and AObeats just work so well together, and we're so close, it's just normal to us to have songs as SWIMS and as our separate solo projects with input from each other. The difference in working is just when it's for SAKIMA, I get the final say in what stays or goes in a song, and in SWIMS, it's always a middle ground. Although we have all the same thoughts and ideas, pretty much, so it's never a debate about who gets to do what in a song. Stylistically, I think the music speaks for itself in its differences, but in writing it's hard to explain! I guess SWIMS can get pretty dark–I always push the lyrics with SWIMS to be more on a knife edge of being sexy but it could also be really sinister, where as when I'm SAKIMA, it's much more playful and true-to-life in terms of readability for an audience.  

OTW: What can you share about your debut EP, Facsimile? Does it follow a particular theme or message, similar to "What I Know Now"?

SAKIMA: I've been waiting to put out an EP for a couple years, so I'm fucking relieved I'm finally getting a body of work out where it's a collection of songs that have a specific sound world rather than singles. The themes of the EP vary in the context of the stories within the lyrics, but the 'ethos' or premise is the same as "What I Know Now" in terms of working gay stories into pop music without being shy. I decided to call the EP Facsimile because for me, that word poetically describes how I'm making a copy of pop music but embellishing with queer stories. It's also sort of the word I would use to describe my future intentions with music in general, a facsimile of pop music.

OTW: What are you working on now? Any shows coming up?

SAKIMA: AObeats and I have a bunch of new stuff coming out as SWIMS real soon, and we've just done a really sick collab with a singer we are excited to announce later on. For SAKIMA, I'm doing some cool sessions, working on my next batch of songs. I'm writing music everyday so it's safe to say there's always gonna be new music.

OTW: Who are your top 3 artists to watch and why?

SAKIMA: Tobias For Now - He's a young rap artists in the states making legit queer rap on a level with Kendrick Lamar.

K.Flay - I know she's already pretty big but honestly the truth in her lyrics speak like diary entries. She could easily be the voice of a generation.

Satica - A fellow Moving Castle artist, Satica is definitely my #1 one to watch.