pictoria vark sent an email introducing herself and her most recent single “Good For,” but I went back to her self-titled EP first. With her journey into full time musicianship on a pause, I thought it would be good to get her perspective on being an artist now.

pictoria vark
Photo by Nicole Rosengurt

Who is pictoria vark?

I guess I’m pictoria vark! I chose to perform under this name instead of my real one because there are so many people (and places!) named “Victoria Park” and it would be hard to find my music online anyways. But I think we’re really similar, or maybe mirror images of each other.

The first release under pictoria vark was a self-titled EP split and then “Good For” in March 2020. What were the origins of the self-titled songs? With a year and four months from the EP to the single, what was the inspiration for the new song?

The songs on Self-Titled were some of the first songs I ever finished writing; the EP was just a means of documenting and sharing them for fun. A lot of those songs are about the uneasiness of transitioning from being a teenager to a 20-something-year-old and I think I still relate to that uneasiness.

I wrote “Good For” only a few months after I released the EP, but it took so much longer to record because I wanted to do it with my band back in New York and had to wait until summer to be there. It’s about a difficult moment that happened when I was 16 that I still don’t really talk about.

Is there any message you’re trying to put out with your music?

I don’t know if I have a specific message or mission statement per say, but I hope in giving myself permission to take up space in music, I can encourage other people and especially women to do the same.

How do your songs come together? Does it start with a melody or bass line?

It really depends on the song! A lot of the time I’ll be working on basslines and lyrics separately, then try to put them together, and add melody to write the song. But I’m trying to change up my writing process to keep things fresh.

How did you start playing music?

I started taking piano lessons when I was four! My mom’s side of the family is really musical (her sister went to Juilliard for music) so that was pretty natural. I started playing guitar when I was nine after asking my parents to take lessons.

Your bio says you’re a touring bass player for Squirrel Flower. How did that happen? What is a touring bass player in terms of the direct definition versus what it means to you?

I met Ella (Squirrel Flower) in college during my first year. A mutual friend introduced us because we both play music and she asked if I wanted to play bass in her full band lineup during my second semester. I’ve been playing bass for her ever since!

I guess being a touring bass player means that I’m able to be hired by solo artists or bands for live shows and touring. It’s how I envision my future in the music industry and a career I hope to make a full-time job!

Korean music is generally digested under the Kpop umbrella, do you know any Korean musicians or artists? Who is your favorite artist in general? (non-Korean or Korean, either or)

I do! I’m a huge Yaeji fan, like so many Americans these days haha. My dad also really likes SsingSsing and Leenalchi (이날치 right?) and I think they’re both really cool, too.

But I definitely know a lot more Korean-American artists; some of my favorites are St. Lenox, Japanese Breakfast, Xiu Xiu, and Katie Sin. My favorite artist(s) of all-time are The Beach Boys or Hop Along.

How is it being a minority within the American music industry? Have you had to mute your identity because of any outside pressure? Do you think people (journalists/A&R/producers) try to bucket people based on different attributes?

I would say it’s like being a minority in any industry: not easy, but an ever-changing fact of life. I haven’t really had to mute my identity due to outside pressure, but I definitely feel constrained by it at times.

At every single show I’ve played – no exaggeration – someone in the audience will come up to me afterwards and compare me to Mitski, a Japanese-American indie artist who also plays bass. While I think it’s well-meant and I love her music so much, it 100% wouldn’t happen as much if I wasn’t Asian and that can be hard to deal with sometimes.

Now that music tours are on hold, what are your plans? Are you taking your music skills to streaming?

Definitely working on getting more live streams together; I have two coming up on Instagram live with Blue Salt Records (bluesaltrecords) on April 26th and DIY Casual (diycasual) on May 1st.

I’ve been lucky to also be featured on some really amazing compilations that came out during this time, supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, both for artists and other causes. And I’m now hosting a livestream concert series through Grinnell Concerts (grinnellconcerts), which I’m really excited about!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself one year ago? One piece of advice to yourself one year in the future?

To myself one year ago: “Everything’s going to be ok! Stop being so mean to yourself.” To myself one year in the future: “Getting help is okay 🙂 maybe go back to therapy if you stopped…again.”

Anything to say to readers?

Thanks for reading! And be well <3 

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Korean Indie owner and Editor at Large. Constantly looking for new music and working on library parity on Spotify and YouTube Music.