Photography Callum Harrison

Popstar Raissa makes music inspired by Miyazaki

As the French-Spanish Londoner gears up to release a ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’-inspired music video, here are 10 things you should know about her.

by Frankie Dunn
29 October 2020, 4:37pm

Photography Callum Harrison

23-year-old Raissa (RYE-SUH, duh) makes really incredible pop music. “I think it's all-encompassing,” she says of the genre. “It's not a sound or a style anymore. I think pop is what makes young people feel good and excited, and that can be a lot of different things! I aim to make people feel hopeful about life with my music.” Born to a Spanish mother and French father, raised in cities across Asia and Australia, Raissa -- newly signed to Zelig, alongside King Princess -- has long felt like an outsider. 

“I always felt some form of alienation deep down, as I was never a citizen in those places — my time was transient, so I sought refuge in art, creating my own culture when I didn’t fully have one myself.” The place she felt most at home though, was Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, where Raissa lived from her teens into young adulthood. “It was very formative for me,” she says. “It's the place I started to make music properly by myself in my room; I feel I owe a lot to that city and the people in it.”

But it was a move to London four years ago, where Raissa intended to study cultural criticism at Central Saint Martins, that really shifted her focus onto music making. “The moment I set foot there, I wanted to vanish from the universe,” she remembers. “I felt like I was about to step into a weird movie playing a role that wasn’t mine. I had been making albums on my laptop since I was 14, complete with artwork and concept, without telling anyone. That day was a real come-to-God moment.” With her destiny accepted, the singer, producer and visual artist began cementing her vision before shooting and editing a series of music videos, which she has rapidly teased out over the course of this horrific year. 

Maybe you, too, were won over by the anime-kissed synth pop banger “Bullying Boys” back in January? Or did you fall for “Valentine” on 14 February? Perhaps you turned up late to the party and it was this month’s “Go Fast Baby” with its high-speed Bedroom-directed music video that did it? Whatever your route in, you’re here now and it’s just as well, because Raissa isn’t going anywhere. Get to know your favourite new popstar via these 10 fun facts…  

1. Raissa is trilingual
“I speak French, Spanish and English fluently — the first two because my mother is Spanish and my father is French. It’s hard to tell which I feel most myself in because they represent different sides of myself. I associate affection and innocence with French and Spanish, because that's the language in which my parents speak to me. But I feel like my personality as an adult/individual comes out with more ease in English. It feels like I found who I was growing up in that language.”

2. She was just 4 when she got her first paid job in music
“I remember my parents having people over for dinner and charging them for a performance (like 5 cents lol) where I sang “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” in my ballet tutu and leotard. I even had a little dance where I waved my finger side to side whenever I said ‘quizás’ in the song.” 

3. Her new single “Crowded” is about feeling overwhelmed
“I’ve always felt like I had a lot of emotions and thoughts and feelings in me all the time, and at times it was kind of hard and I just wanted to not feel so full and cramped in my heart and soul. I've come to terms with it though! In the song I kind of teeter between being okay with it and not, and navigating different moments and scenarios where I tried to articulate it to someone close to me. It's a hopeful track in the end, even if it has a darkness to it.”

4. Raissa’s lyric videos feature ASL courtesy of the incredible Otis 
“I had this mental deluge about how accessibility, which is a massive issue in general, wasn’t addressed in pop music, and it made me really upset. It didn’t feel fair and I was upset at myself for not having been aware enough before. This was just a small step towards that. I want to shine a light on people like Otis who make incredible art with the ways in which they experience the world, because they deserve it and because, in my house, everyone gets a seat at the table if they want one!”

5. Her alter ego, forthcoming debut EP and label are all called HEROGIRL
“She’s my alter ego in a lot of ways: she's the best version of me, she’s who I was when I was a kid, she's so a re-imagination of the heroines I grew up. HEROGIRL is also an idea, a way of being, an ideal, everyone can be a Herogirl -- boy, kid, person, human. I think what HEROGIRL represents is in all of us, in one way or another.”

6. And she reckons HEROGIRL the EP would be a good soundtrack for…
“Anything by Wong Kar Wai, because I love him and his use of pop music. But also for coming of age movies, movies with unlikely heroes, sci-fi, fantasy, anime… the list goes on! Anything that makes people feel hope, and like things can be beautiful.”

7. Raissa is such an Aries
“I don’t know too much about astrology but some friends have explained what my chart means and I think it seems pretty on the nose. I'm really soft and caring and have a lot of love, but I’m also headstrong, I care about justice a lot, and I’m not afraid to fight for others or for myself.”

8. And in case you couldn’t tell, she’s really inspired by Miyazaki
“Miyazaki movies have been a massive influence for me. Howl’s Moving Castle specifically was a big inspiration for the upcoming music video for “Crowded”, so if you’re a Studio Ghibli fan, keep an eye out for Easter eggs!”

9. She’s also a big sci-fi and fantasy nerd and has a bunch of heroines
“I love Leeloo in The Fifth Element, Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle and Chihiro in Spirited Away. They rise up to meet things and they don’t let themselves be bullied or intimidated, yet still they allow themselves to feel, to care. They are brave. That's all really important to me.”

10. You can look forward to big things from her EP
“Expect Herogirl going on adventures, rising to the occasion and kicking ass all set to some sick pop music that’ll make you wanna run and jump and hug people.”

10 things