mitski tells us what's on her mind, and what she's listening to (k-pop)
As she tours her breakout fourth album 'Puberty 2' across the U.S., Mitski talks to i-D about her songwriting strategies and favorite sneakers.
Photography Ebru Yildiz
Mitski is a rising indie music powerhouse and a kind of warm, sugary center for the sad girl movement. Her music is replete with heart-rending lyrics and driving guitar riffs. Listening to a track like "Your Best American Girl" or "Happy" is like listening to a favorite riot grrrl rocker mashed up with the pleading poetry of Fiona Apple and a little Natalie Imbruglia pop. Her latest album, Puberty 2, is expansive. Touching on everything from women of color's struggles with love to the fickle nature of happiness, her songs are tragic and endlessly relatable. Mitski's social media is awash with her responses to her followers' lyric-captioned selfie tributes.
Beyond those heartfelt interactions, Mitski (full name Mitski Miyawaki) is also a queen of Twitter musings. Her observations, much like her music, are gentle, precise, and beautifully humorous — they lay bare all our quiet feelings. She shares memes, news stories, and stuff like this: "it's toddler city at the airport today. wish yall could see this tiny ppl meet n greet going on.must b a small child convention this weekend."
i-D called up Mitski, before she begins her European tour, to hear what else is on her mind.
What's the first thing you think about when you wake up?
I need to pee.
What's your favorite feeling?
Focus. [With] songwriting, if it's going well, everything disappears and I get to just focus on creating this song.
Your work is so lovely and vulnerable. How do you maintain that self-exposure without losing energy?
This is a little morbid, but I always go about my day and my life just hyper-aware of the fact that I'm going to die. I'm definitely not going to get out of it, I'm definitely going to die. It's a cliché but it's true, and it makes me want to live to the fullest. I don't want to waste my life. I don't want to go through my life without experiencing everything there is to experience. Being vulnerable and going to those emotional extremes is part of living to the fullest before I die. It's important to me that I keep doing that because it helps me actually face death.
What's your favorite piece of clothing?
I only wear one brand of sneakers: Patrick. It's from France. I have small, narrow feet and it's really hard for me to find comfortable shoes. Good shoes make or break your day. Especially on tour, I go to a lot of different places and I walk around and it's so important for me to be comfortable.
What's the significance of white button-down shirts for you? You've sung about them, and I'm actually looking for one right now.
The white button-down is a clean, official piece of clothing, it's what you wear to work. But also you can wear it anytime. When I'm wearing one, it's an exaggeration if I say, "I'm an equal" — but I feel I'm like a player in the game. I'm including myself. I feel like "I'm doing this. I'm here. I'm supposed to be here."
Granted I'm not very good at the upkeep, but I appreciate the symbolism of taking good care of your clothes and the idea of someone who makes sure to look clean and good and proper. I've talked about this before, but a lot of crust punks are white because they get to dress dirty and still have their privilege. As someone who lives on the outside and often didn't have those same privileges I felt like I wanted to dress neater to be part of the conversation.
What's your most PG vice?
I have so many PG vices. Not so many R vices. I'm really boring but I love sweet things. I love chocolate. I love creamy, custardy things. I just love sugar. I can never quit sugar. I often make my meals smaller so I have enough room to eat dessert. I love tea. I don't even think that's a vice. Sugar is my greatest vice and my downfall.
What's the best kind of day to write music?
One that started early and a day on which I got a lot errands done so my mind is clear and my conscience is clean.
Where's the best place to write?
I travel a lot so I've learned to adapt to wherever I'm at. I used to think there was a perfect place to write music but then I realized that had become kind of an excuse for me because I'm never in the right place. The only thing that I need in a place [to write music] is for it to be quiet and for no one else to be there.
What do you consider the strongest weapon in your arsenal?
I'm able to step back. I think that's what it is. In a lot of situations where other people would react emotionally and involve themselves and feel like something is a personal attack against them, I'm able to step back and stay cool. It's a skill that I've learned.
Do you have a weakness? What is it?
Impatience. I'm very impatient.
What song are you listening to on repeat right now?
There's this K-Pop band EXO, their song "Call Me Baby." One of Michael Jackson's old producers produced it and it makes sense because it's so Motown pop-y.
What do you think about before you go to bed?
I have 20 thoughts at once. I think that's why I have insomnia. My biggest thought while I'm trying to fall asleep is trying not to think of anything. I try to clear my mind and sometimes it backfires and becomes the hardest thing to do.
Mitski is currently on tour and will be playing venues in the United States and Europe.
Text Nadya Agrawal
Photography Ebru Yildiz