These On-the-Rise Musicians Are Getting Me Through Quarantine

If the bevy of at-home concerts, Instagram Live DJ sessions, and expertly coordinated Zoom performances are any indication, music is the ultimate unifier during a time of so much isolation and uncertainty. Now more than ever, the right playlist has the power to get the creative juices flowing, spark an impromptu dance session (something I highly encourage), give you that extra boost during a workout, or allow you to lean into a proper cry because, you know, that’s okay too. April has always been an unofficial music month here at Who What Wear, and while we’ll have to save our festival content for later, I couldn’t think of a better time to bring back our Fresh Faces in Music portfolio.

I’d argue it’s a very exciting time for music. We’re seeing a wave of new artists launching their own careers on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, young musicians injecting new life into classic genres, and established names redefining themselves. The talent pool is definitely getting larger, which is great for avid listeners like myself, but today I want to turn the spotlight on a select group of female musicians who are not only changing the industry for the better but giving me life during this quarantine.

These are the artists on my radar right now.

Photo:

Leeor Wild

WHO: Chika

WHAT: A vulnerable and politically charged lyricist out of Alabama who landed on many one-to-watch lists in 2018 after calling out Kanye West’s support of Donald Trump with a poetic freestyle. Since then, her ascension in the music business has been swift, but trust—this is no flash-in-the-pan artist. Chika is one of the most exciting new rappers of her generation, and her heartfelt and honest approach has earned her praise from industry giants and celebrity fans alike. Her debut EP Industry Games has been on repeat fueling my long WFH days.

WEAR: Comfort with a capital C.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your point of view as a rapper?

I’m the type of rapper who grew up seeing rap as a sport with artists competing via pen and not always through the charts. Skill over popularity will always sum up my point of view.

Your new album, Industry Games, is here. Congratulations! Can you tell us the meaning behind the album title?

Industry Games refers to the tactics and gimmicks used and expected from artists by the world and the industry. I’m refusing to partake and play them. I’m gonna do this how I want to.

What personal experiences did you draw on for this album?

All of the album is personal experiences. The entire thing. Each song is a different story from either 2019 or just in general. Leaving the internet title behind, meeting Jay-Z, dealing with hate, losing a friend. The EP is quite literally a diary.

What do you hope listeners take away from Industry Games?

I hope listeners remember what it’s like to feel and communicate. Dealing with emotions is hard. Life, in general, is hard. It’s easy to brush past things. My project attacks my demons head-on while being transparent about not always feeling great. We need to be more honest as people.

As an artist who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, what are the issues that matter to you most at this moment?

Self-care, mental health, and communication are at the top of my list of important issues right now. We’re locked down.

Who are the artists who influence you?

No one currently influences me. As artists, I think we’re weird about that at some point. I like to feel original, even if I find out it’s not after I make it. But growing up, it was Wale, J. Cole, and in recent years, Mac Miller.

What has been a monumental moment in your music career thus far?

Going to Paris and performing at Hôtel De Ville. Crazy.

When you are feeling creatively stunted, where do you go or what do you do to get inspiration?

I take a little nap and try not to force it. If I’m blocked, it’s for a reason.

How would you describe your stage style?

My stage style is really casual. I have to be comfortable. Maybe one day, I’ll be extra, but for now, gimme some joggers and a nice regal coat.

While on tour, what are the three pieces you can’t live without?

I haven’t been on tour yet! But I think it would be my favorite baggy jumper, my favorite joggers, and a comfortable pair of sneakers.

Photo:

Julian Gillstrom

WHO: Winona Oak

WHAT: An ethereal Scandi-pop songstress whose thought-proving videos are not to be missed. A cover of Haim’s “Don’t Save Me” plus a collaboration with The Chainsmokers might have put Winona Oak on the map, but her debut EP Closure, a mix of melancholy synth tracks à la Lana Del Rey, proves she is a vocal force to be reckoned with and here for the long haul.

WEAR: A colorful, glittery fantasy.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music?

I’d say that it’s emotional and cinematic. But it’s honestly pretty hard to describe my own music since it’s very personal to me. It’s constantly growing and changing with all the highs and lows in my life. The beauty with art is that it also means something different to everyone. A song that makes you euphoric and happy is the same song that makes someone else melancholic and blue.

Can you tell us the story behind the moniker Winona Oak?

Oak is the translation of my family name in Swedish. I also grew up with a big oak tree in my backyard and love the spiritual meaning and healing properties of oak trees. Winona is just a name that I’ve always loved and feel very connected to. So here you have me, Winona Oak.

You’ve said that your debut EP, Closure, is a collection of very personal songs. How does it feel now that it’s out in the world and to share those moments with your fans?

Yes, Closure is a collection of songs that I wrote over the past five years. It’s always scary to share a piece of yourself with the world. You really put yourself out there. But it means more than anything to me that I get to share them with so many beautiful souls out there and that someone might find a piece of comfort or happiness in them.

Your collaboration with The Chainsmokers on the single “Hope” was a huge success! How did the collaboration come about?

It’s a small world, and it all happened very fast. I had this sad song that they wanted to work on. So we met, and I really loved them both immediately. They are very down to earth and super-talented guys.

Are there other artists and/or producers you would like to partner with in the future?

One of my favorite parts of making music is that you meet so many inspiring people. To be able to come into a room and talk about emotions and turn them into songs, the value of that is just so priceless. In the future, I’d really love to make collaborations with more female artists. And more duets like “Hope.”

Your Instagram is this gorgeous curated mood board of personal imagery and art. Where do you go or what do you do to get inspiration?

I find inspiration on Pinterest, photo blogs, galleries, and all different kinds of places. I spend a lot of time looking for interesting art online. I also love physical photo books.

I love your music videos. They are all unique but so visually interesting. How do these ideas come to you?

My videos are a big part of my visual identity. I love how they can make you understand a deeper meaning of a song. Whenever I write something, I sort of visualize a scene or a specific vibe in my head. For the “Let me Know” video, for example, we wanted to catch the feeling of how vulnerable you are when you’re falling for someone. It’s scary and beautiful at the same time.

How would you describe your stage style?

I think my style is changing a lot depending on my mood. But I love to wear colors, patterns, glitter, and shiny little things on stage.

What would you say is a Winona Oak style signature?

Hmm, I’d say a bold coat and some badass shoes. Rock but make it classy? I’m currently very much in love with designers Victoria Hayes and Cynthia Rowley. And there are some great Scandinavian designers that I’m obsessed with, like Stockholm-based brand Stand Studio. They really know their coat game. I also do a lot of vintage shopping and support environmentally conscious brands that make clothes using recycled materials.

While on tour, what are the three pieces you can’t live without?

These Docs are perfect for performing—comfy but still a statement piece. I can’t choose between all my gorgeous Stand Studio coats, but I’m def bringing this one. And I love my House of Holland suit. I could wear it all night, all day.

Photo:

4th Floor Creative

WHO: Koffee

WHAT: A 19-year-old artist out of Jamaica bringing new life to reggae one explosive hit at a time. Achieving major career milestones out the gate—she is the first woman and youngest reggae artist to be nominated for and win a Grammy—Koffee pays respect to the roots of the genre while injecting her own modern flair with socially conscious messages and sounds “derived from different influences worldwide.” Positive lyrics and Caribbean Island beats on tracks like “Toast” and “W” have me longing for warm summer nights spent with friends.

WEAR: Dynamic layering with a sporty aesthetic—always effortless, never complicated.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music?

I would describe my music as world reggae. A mixture of sounds derived from different influences worldwide pieced together by a positive message.

You were the first woman and youngest reggae artist to be nominated for and win a Grammy for your EP Rapture. What do you hope comes out of that moment for both you as an artist and reggae music?

I hope that my Grammy will inspire other youth to believe in themselves and to understand that nothing is impossible with consistency and hard work.

What are the experiences you draw on as a young songwriter?

As a songwriter, I draw on life experiences to pen my lyrics; day-to-day encounters and events that affect my mental state.

Is there a song on Rapture that particularly stands out to you or is a favorite, and why?

“Rapture” is my favorite song on my EP, Rapture. I feel this song is a clear expression and representation of my entrance into the music industry and the success that came from this, making it an important piece of my journey.

Harry Styles asked you to join him on his tour later this year. Do you remember when you got that call? What do you admire about him as an artist?

I remember being elated when I found out Harry Styles invited me and my team to open for him on tour because he is a huge inspiration to youth across the world, and it’s beautiful to be able to spread music with other phenomenal artists like him.

Who are the artists who influence you?

I’m inspired by artists like Protoje, Chronixx, Lila Iké, Sevana, Runkus, etc.

What would be a dream collaboration for you?

A dream collaboration for me would be one with the African Giant Burna Boy.

Where do you go or what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?

I like to go by the sea for inspiration. On a boat ride, a raft, the beach, etc.

How would you describe your stage style?

My stage style is straightforward. My aim is for my music to allow the audience to feel as if they were a part of the experiences and the process that led to each of my songs being created.

While on tour, what are the three pieces you can’t live without?

Three things I can’t live without while on tour are my in-ear monitors, honey, fruits.

Photo:

Aaron Kirk

WHO: LPX

WHAT: Lizzy Plapinger’s high-octane solo act. Formerly one-half of the indie-pop duo MS MR, Plapinger is stepping into her own under the new moniker LPX and showing fans a more candid, direct, and sincere side of her music and art. The result: a collection of pop-rock bangers that will inspire you to just get up and dance—and shake away the stress.

WEAR: Eighties Jazzercise with a healthy dose of punk rock.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music?

Pantone punk.

Having been a part of the duo MS MR for most of your music career, what inspired you to go solo?

After six years of nonstop touring around the world and two albums as MS MR with Max, (at the time) eight years running Neon Gold with Derek, as well as splitting with my partner at that time of five years—all beautiful partnerships—I wanted to take all my knowledge and firsthand experience and stand on my own two feet for the first time in my life. [I wanted] to see what I was capable of as an artist, as an entrepreneur, and as a woman, without compromise, entirely independently. It was also important to me creatively to explore making music that was closer to the artists and bands I grew up listening to. Icons like Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Shirley Manson (Garbage), Kathleen Hanna (Le Tigre), Gwen Stefani (No Doubt), and Alanis Morissette, to name a few.

I really like the lyrics to your single “New Mood,” which say, “I want to light up a new mood. Where I choose what I choose. And I finally cut it loose. And I’ve found my point of view.” What is your point of view as the artist LPX?

I am a strong, aggressive, creative, vibrant, feminine force that is also deeply flawed, vulnerable, and figuring it out in real time with my audience. I’m a deeply earnest person and I want to share that in every aspect of this project.

With MS MR, I usually wrote fairly obtuse lyrics that were shrouded in metaphor and grandiosity as a way to shield myself. As LPX, I’m trying to be a lot more candid, direct, and sincere about who I am and what I’m saying in my music and art. Part of that is being a solo artist versus a duo, but it also comes with age as I start to better understand and appreciate who I am.

What was important to you in terms of establishing yourself as a solo artist?

I want to help assert that there is space for powerful female voices in alternative, which is a historically male-dominated genre, while also showing there are options for artists in this industry. I want to be an example and loudspeaker for what is possible as a DIY independent artist, as a woman, and as an entrepreneur.

What excited you most about going solo as LPX? And on the flip side, what made you the most nervous?

I was (and am) definitely most excited to perform live as LPX with music that better matches who I’ve grown into as a performer and the high-octane energy of the music. The stage is where I most come alive and where the music is intended to be heard. Connecting all those dots makes me feel whole.

I was definitely most nervous that fans of MS MR wouldn’t be willing to grow with me or accept me as I experiment and develop with LPX. … And I’m humbled by the fact that they have been so supportive of me during this creative chapter.

You have signed a lot of fantastic artists, like Haim, Charli XCX, Ellie Goulding, and Christine and the Queens to your label, Neon Gold Records. As someone who clearly knows how to spot talent, we’d love to know who is on your radar now.

There are SO many awesome artists popping up right now who I adore! On the Neon Gold side, Winona Oak is a rising star, as are Jax Anderson and Your Smith! As a fan, I’m loving and listening to Rei Ami, Royal & the Serpent, Maude Latour, Prettyboyshav, and this new artist Bickle. You should check out this song and video for “Naked” immediately. It’s incredible.

How would you describe your stage style?

Punk-rock Jane Fonda.

What would you say is an LPX style signature?

My uniform consists of tights/leggings, a bodysuit or one-piece bathing suit, a great belt, a sick pair of boots, and glam sunglasses.

While on tour, what are the three pieces you can’t live without?

Zak Eyes sunglasses, Everyday Shaman snake pants, Big Bud Press tie-dye jumpsuit.

Photo:

Sophie Hurr

WHO: Orion Sun

WHAT: A Philadelphia-bred multihyphenate—songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist—with a knack for soothing melodies that can’t be boxed into any genre. It’s easy to get lost in the dreamscape that is her debut studio album, Hold Space for Me, a beautiful and emotional coming-of-age journey of an artist learning to be gentler and kinder with herself.

WEAR: Cool suiting, knit headwear, always gold hoops.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music?

Freeing.

Can you tell us the story behind the name Orion Sun?

I’ve always loved the sky ever since I was younger. The moon, the clouds, the sun, stars, and pretty much everything up there. I’m a very curious person. I connected with the constellation Orion because of his profession—he is the hunter. Whenever I’m creating, my process feels like I’m on the hunt, whether it’s within or externally or quite literally like searching for what seems like hours for the perfect snare sound. Hunting takes patience and focus, and I believe those very things have helped me in music and in life. The sun part of my name stems from the feeling that I am a better daughter, friend, and sister at a distance. I like being able to help and show love, but I’m not as extroverted as I want to be. It’s hard sometimes to be around people a lot, but I still can feel the sun even when it’s miles and miles away. I hope to give that same warmth to the people I care about in my life, even when I can’t see them every day.

Let’s talk about the title of your new album, Hold Space for Me. There are a lot of conversations about the importance of making space for yourself. How are you creating and holding space for yourself at this time?

Walking lightly, being gentle and kind with myself.

Is there a song on this album that particularly stands out to you or is a favorite, and why?

They are all my babies in their own special way. I can't pick just one.

How has your music evolved or changed since your first album, A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams?

Sonically, I feel as though I am just building upon the foundation that was A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams. I’m not so much figuring out my sound now as I was with my first project, but instead, I'm seeing how far I can go with each idea. With the new things I have learned since this project and with life changing as it does, I feel I’ve grown in a really healthy and exciting way both in production and lyricism.

Who are the artists who influence you?

Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Jazmine Sullivan, just to name a few. There are a lot of artists who influence me.

Where do you go or what do you do to get inspiration?

I go to my studio, or I go out into nature. I love to travel, physically and virtually.

How would you describe your stage style?

Laid-back and fun. I really like connecting with people in the audience. It’s overwhelming.

While scrolling your IG feed, I couldn’t find a photo of you in which you weren’t wearing hoop earrings. They are clearly a signature of your style. Do you remember when they first became a part of your daily repertoire?

My mom got my ears pierced maybe like two weeks after I was born (or something close to that lol). I can’t remember a time where I wasn't wearing earrings. I tried all kinds of styles while growing up, but these just stuck with me. I rarely feel dressed without them.

You recently debuted your own merch. What do you think is the key to great merch?

Anything that is true to you! I feel like people can feel stuff like that.

While on tour, what are the three pieces you can’t live without?

My hoop earrings, Dickies 874 navy blue pants, and Orion Sun merch hoodie lol.

Photo:

Miriam Marlene

WHO: Lila Drew

WHAT: A London-born, Los Angeles–raised singer-songwriter with an affinity for soulful melodies that are introspective and visual. Check out new tracks “Locket” and “Dad’s Van” for an introduction to the 19-year-old’s dreamy vocals and soothing harmonies. I find it best accompanies a relaxing cooking session.

WEAR: Hoodies worn over silky slips and oversize suits for a certain nonchalance.

For people discovering you for the first time, how would you describe your music?

Introspective/personal and visual. A snapshot of a particular moment in time, both lyrically and sonically, but also based on my love of classic writing.

You’ve been releasing some great tracks this year. Can you tell us about this new collection of songs?

Thanks! I think of both “Locket” and “Dad’s Van” as stand-alone singles, and they both encapsulate me making music right out of high school. “Locket” is a heavy song about first heartbreak, while “Dad’s Van” is lighter and centers around this idea of living in some kind of alternate childhood. I’ve been trying to lead with my gut in terms of the songs, and these are both songs that I care a lot about. They just feel right for me as a 19-year-old learning so much about myself. These songs have helped me through that process.

Locket is the title of your first EP and the title of a recent single. What is the significance of this item?

For the past two-ish years, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a locket. It’s something that’s so strong, but it holds these secrets inside it. That really resonates with me when I think about my own music. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable in my day-to-day life. I’ve always been more comfortable expressing that through my music. The locket is the keeper of those personal moments.

How would you describe your process as a songwriter?

Always different and always evolving. I often begin just with melody and lyric, but I also tend to write a lot in the studio while we’re working on building out a track. I think it’s cool that a song can come from so many different places! Oftentimes, I’ll go into a session with the first few lines or an idea and expand from there. Otherwise, it’s a lot of writing alone in my room.

Where do you go or what do you do to get inspiration?

I don’t really have specific things I do in order to find inspiration. I listen to a ton of music, so a lot of inspiration comes from that, but I find inspiration can strike anywhere, and it’s about catching those moments when they come!

Who are the artists who influence you?

Right now, I’m inspired by Stevie Wonder (Songs in the Key of Life is one of the best albums ever!), Blake Mills, and Caroline Polachek. And Moses Sumney!

How would you describe your stage style?

I have to be comfortable on stage. So that’s number one. I have a real love for fashion, though, so my stage style at the moment has either consisted of something along the lines of a hoodie with a slip dress underneath or an oversize suit. Something I can move freely in but also feel great in too! And always a super-high platform boot. I’m too short otherwise. :)

What would you say is a Lila Drew style signature?

A white Fruit of the Loom men's tank top always.

While on tour, what are the three pieces you can’t live without?

Imagining what I couldn’t live without on a tour… My white denim suit from Lemaire, my Unif platform boots (they’re called the Parker boot, but they’re sold out!), and a vintage T-shirt.

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