With graceful zeal, inimitable songsmith and hip-hop vocalist POOKIE shapes intimate narratives of self-love, growth and expression into vibrant, poetic soundscapes for her potent debut LP ‘FLick ’.
With the release of her first full-length album, POOKIE presents a powerful re-emergence that culminates her artistic ventures within music thus far. Exploring music as an emotional outlet, the rapper/composer known for her sultry sound with a heavy jazz-hip-hop influence, finds herself in a place of personal rebirth and renewal.
She sheds what longer serves her; “giving the flick” to relationships and patterns she’s outgrown. Expect dynamic hip-hop cuts drenched in jazz, rock and RnB, characterised by an intuitive creativity that makes for a spellbinding listening experience.
The Footscray local has been based in Naarm since 2018 when she first began her venture into the music world as a new avenue for creative expression. ‘FLick’ is the euphonious manifestation of this personal journey. Alongside her five-piece band, she sets the vibe from the downbeat, carrying you with raw and unapologetic vulnerability through her experiences as a South Sudanese woman. Laden with smooth melodies and rich vocals, each track traverses different emotional states and envelopes you in a sense of refreshing and energising warmth, reminiscent of ‘sun rays on a cloudy day’ - to use lyrics from the artist herself.
Hear FLick for yourself below. The live studio album premiered earlier this week on October 25th via Heavy Machinery Records and was commissioned by ‘Flash Forward’, a Naarm-based initiative aiming to highlight the city’s creative arts culture. FLick is also available on vinyl via Bandcamp and to listen on various streaming services.
Having found POOKIE's soundscapes a playlist-staple through lockdowns and beyond, I was eager to catch up with the rapper to talk about the creative decisions behind this compelling and prolific new release.
First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on the absolutely stunning release! I feel super honoured to have gotten a sneaky listen before everyone else. You must be so proud to put out your first full-length album.
Thank you so much. It's crazy. I feel like I haven't fully let it sink in. It's sunk in like twice now. It's almost like it sinks in and I'm like ‘oh, shit.’ Life kind of just goes on as normal the day after that? Probably because most of this I'm experiencing through my screen. In the past, we would have been organising physical aspects of this and actually seeing people react. I think it's a bit different sometimes when those who have listened to it, they've expressed how they feel - and I'm very grateful for it - but it's just so different. When someone experiences that and you experience their reaction to it both in real life… I really miss that.
Sometimes I'm like will I ever get to [perform live] again? It seems so far and that experience is so ethereal in itself. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself if that happened or not. But now, having not done that for almost two years… I mean, I've gotten to perform this year, but it's different when performing is something that you're doing for an extended period of time. Let's say you're just doing shows for the next couple of weeks, you actually sharpen your tools. By three months into it, you're on a different level whereas I haven't really gotten to that point this year because it's been like a show...then locked down. You never reach it.
Could you tell us a bit about what the title ‘FLick ’ is about? What does it mean to you?
See, sometimes I just do things, I don't think about it. Sometimes I'll do something and then like two years down the track I'll realise why I did it.
FLick - that was a last-minute decision I made to call it that. I felt like the birth of this album came at a time in my life where I was also being reborn; I was waking up to a lot of things and realising the things that don't serve me anymore. Kind of like giving them the flick and shedding my skin.
I heard you managed to record all the songs before we went back into lockdown which is so lucky. How exactly did you start working on FLick? Did you know explicitly when you were working on it, like “alright, these songs are for the next album”? Or were you just making songs?
I put together a band in 2019 and we performed together basically all of that year. FLick was [made up of] songs that I’d produce, go play to them, then figure out the live instrumentation together and go from there. We wrote a few songs together as well. We were performing every fortnight, if not more, here in Naarm. We got to do Strawberry [Fields Festival] too.
There's been a lot of freedom to recreate [old songs for the album] - it was really fun for us. Like I love my art and I'm precious about it but I'm also not. Like if I'm going to work with someone it’s because I trust their creativity. So, having a lot of trust, we were flipping the songs every time we were playing; like ‘let's do it this way’. By the end of the year  we had all these versions of the same songs.
So this year when Miles contacted me about Flash Forward, I already had music; I didn't have to write anything [new]. It was also work that I'd wanted to record for a long time anyway. Then we got on to it - ‘how are we gonna play this song, we're gonna play that song’ and so on. We were lucky with the freedom we had [before lockdown], we got to even go out for a writing retreat for a weekend. We had a few rehearsals then we recorded the whole album in one week. It was nice to just do it and get it out. As soon as that happened I went to Perth and the next day [Naarm/Melbourne] went into lockdown.
How did you and your band come together?
We went to uni. We went in together studying audio production, they were music students. They hit me up first actually; we had a recital and they were all ‘I want you to rap while we play our song.’ I think it was like ‘Crazy in Love’ by Beyoncé. When I was there, I was like, shit, this is the first time I've ever played with a band like this was actually pretty cool.
So that's how we met; got really good vibes from everybody. This would have been 2018, then the next year when we started uni again, I was like, ‘this is how I want to take my stage show to the next level. How do I do that? We push this button.’ And this button was me being like ‘I have a gig coming up in a month, do you guys want to play with me?’ We got ready within four weeks and killed it. Then we did a few more shows and I was like, ‘I like this - do you guys like this? Cool. Let's be a band.’
Before getting into music you started as a visual and a spoken word artist - how does music compare to other forms of artistic expression for you?
I see it all as one thing. The difference is that it's just a different medium of expression. Let's say my creativity lives on a planet where it looks like my paintings, but it sounds like my music. But everyone's wearing stuff that I've been knitting or some shit like that. Even though they're different things they're all coming from the same place. I don't think I've ever firstly decided I want to be a painter or I want to be a poet. I'm like okay, that's cool. I want to try that out. Then whatever I'm feeling in that moment is expressed through that. That same thing happened when I came across music. I see all my artwork as one.
[Painting and making music] come from different head spaces - when I'm painting it’s more of a reflective feeling. It's a very clear headspace to be in and it's not so much processing; whereas when I’m trying to make music, I'm processing something. When I’m painting, I'm just being - I think it definitely comes from different places or different ways of existence. Another way of existing is experiencing your emotions and when you're actually in it, like let's say you're angry and you let yourself feel that; that's what I feel when I'm making music.
Could you tell us a bit about how your relationship to making music has changed since your last EP, Dinka Girl, and since being in lockdown again? Have you had to do anything different?
They're two very different projects. I produced Dinka Girl all by myself, like it was my project. Most of that came out of my bedroom so it was just a very different process in comparison to FLick. I was doing it by myself; I released it by myself. I could’ve literally changed the date if I wanted to. Now this time, with FLick, because it's on such a bigger scale and there's timelines that are going to be affected by me if I'm not responding... Like guess what, I’m an artist; sometimes we just ghost okay [laughs]. So I definitely want to say my relationship has changed. I just understand how to run projects on that scale now. I've grown in that sense. Doing something like Dinka Girl in the future I feel like that will be much easier for me than it was last year, because I've gained a lot of knowledge over the past few months.
With the music being so different as well, like one's heavily produced [Dinka Girl] and the other one is a live studio album [FLick] - it's causing a bit of an internal battle because I do love producing but I really enjoyed making this record... So I'm like, where to?! There's so many options... I need less options! Just give me one thing and I'll do it.
Then because I worked with the biggest amount of people that I've ever had on one of my own personal projects, it's opened me up to more collaboration. I was really comfortable with just being alone in a studio or with one other person just because I'm an introvert. But I realise it can actually be fun when you're working with other people and collaborating, exchanging ideas, brainstorming together. Once you do that there's an energy that gets created that only can exist with you and those people. So I'm excited to open up a little more.
I'm curious, where did the name Pookie originate from? You’ve mentioned it's a nickname?
Oh Facebook actually named me. I did a quiz and that was the nickname it gave me, so I changed it to Pookie on Facebook. Then people started calling me that - mind you, I only changed it for like a week! I changed it back but they didn't stop. [laughs] So Pookie manifested into a whole other person!
Back to the album, what made you choose Halloween as the single?
I felt like it was just a good introductory piece, it's a good song. It's like ‘hey, I'm here.’ It doesn't really know everything about the album, doesn't really tell you everything - you still have to listen to it. I felt like it was just for me when I listened to it. When I'm listening to Halloween, I feel like I'm on top of a moving truck… with a megaphone, just yelling. So that's the energy I wanted to start with.
I noticed you took the photo for the cover as well, I love it. Could you tell us about its origin?
It was a whole thing actually. So that's my friend Remi on there. I just invited him out to the park. Before we did that, I cut the word into his hair. It was cool that he let me do that. We went to a park, brought a mirror along and got to chat. I hadn’t caught up with him in a while anyway. So it was nice to just experience that moment as well. I feel like it was about him for a reason as well. I think he's someone who, in this musical journey, has really helped me understand things and how to understand the ways of moving through this industry. Even though not everybody is going to know that that was like that. For me, it's a part of the story.
I've read that you’ve given back to the Naarm music community through mentoring emerging artists, uplifting creatives from disadvantaged backgrounds. Is there any key advice you like to give to those wishing to kind of explore their creativity more and dive into the music or arts scenes?
There's a lot to say. I know it sounds a bit cheesy but honestly following your heart or your gut. Your decision maker sits following that feeling why when something feels good. If something doesn't feel right then listen to your intuition. Remember to keep yourself safe and prioritize yourself. Value yourself and what you bring into this artistic community. I feel like I wouldn't be where I am if I didn't at some point in the past realize ‘hey, you know what? I'm important. I deserve to be here. I want to learn. I have the right to exercise my brain.’ So I think it's definitely like no one's going to give it to you. You got to take it.
Where do you see the Naarm scene going post lockdown, moreso when live music will be allowed? Is there anything in particular you would like to see happen in the future?
I think it's going to go far actually. After this much time spent in lockdown, there's so many people itching to just refresh themselves. On top of that, there is this whole bunch of people who have had time to process. I think there's no shortage of difficult emotions for anyone to channel into their creativity right now. So I'm really excited to see how that pans out. Even from the little gaps we've had when we got to be out, in my mingling with people, that was already very different. People will have self-respect now. When someone's like ‘I'm tired, I want to go home’, everyone's like, ‘oh, okay, have a good night.’ While back in the day, there would have been a lot of peer pressure or things like that. So I think now in an era where individuals have had a time to process who they are as individuals, that's how we see what the creativity is going to look like.
What's next for you? Is there a launch party or any other projects on the horizon?
Yeah, I’ve started to think about it now. I’m trying to think about how I want to do that - I can't wait. I feel like I'm someone who takes an artistic approach to everything, sometimes it's a bit annoying. Like, how do I want to present this piece of work, what do I want that to look like, what do I want that to smell like, what's the visual physical version of this album?
I haven't started working on a new project yet but I'm already seeing it. I feel like it's going to be heavily collaborative. I just want to work. [laughs] I’m so sick of just being in my house! I want to reconnect with people again, hang out and make something so that I'm like, ‘hey, we got through it.’
Whether you’ve heard her before or only now just tuning in to the waves she’s been making, Pookie is not one to miss. Listen to ‘FLick’ on your preferred music platform now and order the vinyl on Bandcamp.
Stay up to date with Pookie on Instagram and Soundcloud.
Words and Interview by Caitlin Bond
Photography by Nicole Reed