Since youth, New York and Los Angeles based DJ, producer and singer Alice Longyu Gao has been a musical prodigy. However, this talent never hinders her from following her own unique path. Kanpai, Alice’s new single, proves this to perfection. She started DJing sets in downtown New York City, and now she has carved a new sound into the electric dance music genre. Her wild and energetic persona brings us club bangers while still leaving room for serious discussions on mental health and social justice. Alice has received praise from the likes of Lady Gaga and Zane Lowe but will soon be a cultural icon of her own.
Your new single Kanpai has a vibrant, upbeat aesthetic that makes getting up to dance infectious. What inspired you to choose such a glitch pop like tone for this song?
I am a very conflicted and reclusive person. I am sad, insecure and anxious all the time. These qualities come from my family and the way I grew up. A song like this makes me smile right from the top. I think it is healthy to put it out for myself, and I hope this will lift my listeners as well.
Kanpai means cheers in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Can you talk a little about wanting to make a song that delves into your heritage and the importance of putting a spotlight on Asian Culture?
I get emails from commercial music people saying that they love when they can have songs with an international flair.  I am in this entertainment business and I know if people are watching me that's because I have things they don’t have. Kanpai came together because of some magical inspiration that was sparked. I am not feeding into any other people’s fantasy about me and my community. This song came out just at the right time. I believe now it's a good time to be a woman, and to be Asian. Put me on the stage, my dreams are valid and I deserve to be heard.
While Kanpai has a very happy, bright and electronic pop sound, a lot of your music such as Rich Bitch Juice, Karma is a witch and LEGEND are more trap. Can you talk about this difference and not being tied down to one specific electronic style?
Music is just the quickest medium for me to express how I feel and how I think our society could be better. I read the New York Times first thing in the morning and I watch CNN to go to sleep. I get angry when I see women being treated unfairly, I get upset when I see rich people are giving the bare minimum and taking advantage of the under-privileged.
As well as music, I’ve made neon sound reactive sculpture installations around Times Square and also at my DJ set at MoMA. But I choose songs as my current focus because I know the process and I can spread my message to a larger audience. I grew up with rigorous classical music training and I want to be able to practice art until the day I die.  I think to a lot of people music is a business, a sound or a wave. It is not any of that for me because those things fade. It's too early to label me with anything at all.
How does your new single Kanpai reflect who you are as a person and what do you hope to show your fans from this pleasureful track?
My life is full of struggles and painful learning experiences. I have nowhere to escape to. My main mission on this earth is to create a fantasy that people didn’t know they needed until they have it.
Can you talk about the music video for Kanpai and why you chose to have to such fast edits with a plush bright background? What was the significance of having so many parrots? Can you also speak on how you chose the stories for other music videos you have made in the past?
My taste changes as my art practice progresses. But within me there is always a part that loves kawaii stuff. I never ever wear Qi Gao even though it is part of my roots. The pink modern dreamy Qi Pao in the music video was customized for me and I looked perfect in it. It was a very special look for me. The parrots idea came from my love of animals, nature and the zoo. I'm doing it for the parrot lovers. They are so smart. The parrots in the Kanpai music video actually learnt how to say Kanpai on the set.
For my music videos I’d always start with imagining some scenes, making an excel sheet with the breakdowns. LEGEND with Alice Glass might be my favourite music video because it shows my punk energy. I was really inspired by Alice Glass’ pre-covid live sets. We basically recreated them in the video.
What was it like as an up-and-coming artist to receive praise from musicians such as Lady Gaga and Zane Lowe as well as being able to work with Mura Masa? What impact do you think this has on your career?
It does feel so much better when my icons notice me. News and business people won’t believe something is worth paying attention to until you get that co-sign or they see money. Life is too fast and too real to overthink or indulge. I am just stoked to be able to create something music listeners would be amused by. I aspire to be a fly higher and I am always working on what’s next.
You have such a unique and exuberant fashion style. How do you think these intriguing looks benefit your brand image and distinguish you as an individual?
I am literally just being me.
What are some other artistic fields outside of music that you want to incorporate into your own work in the future?
I want to have my own talk show, like Seth Meyers or Trevor Noah. So I can actually hammer policy makers every single day for a better society.
How do you think growing up in Bengbu but also living in New York and L.A. influences your music? Do the differences between these cities affect the art you create in any way?
Living a life outside my hometown was what I really wanted. I didn’t know growing up, grinding and surviving could be this hard and painful. Being misunderstood and dismissed are not nice. Maybe that’s why I imagine myself as another version of me in my songs.
What are some of the things you do in order to stay mentally and inspirationally aligned with your music?
I don’t really think about doing anything else that is unrelated to making music and my art. I enjoy getting a manicure and a massage sometimes.
In the electronic scene, performing live at festivals, concerts or anything in between is a vital aspect for any artist to have success in this genre.  Can you speak on the significance you think this has had on your own career? Has the pandemic affected this in any way?
I started out by DJing all over Manhattan. I was really lucky to be able to pay my bills by doing music. Even though I had to fight some shit promoters and I used to DJ for 6 hours at just 50 dollars in cash, so I could afford to buy food. Live experience and reading the crowd trained my ears before I even tried to produce and write songs. I was on a sold-out US tour with Dorian Electra and I had other amazing show offers lined-up. For example, Stella McCartney had her team reach out because she wanted me to play at her fashion show. I am a huge Paul McCartney fan. So it was insane to even think about she has listened to my songs and wants me to perform at her namesake fashion brand’s show.
Can you talk a little about the diary entries you have on your website, and the importance of normalizing the discussion of mental health in society? What does princess of manifestation mean to you?
I think a lot of people left my life because they just didn’t want to deal with me anymore.  I ask for help and I get no answer. It’s really cruel. But I also want other people to live the life they deserve. I will sit in my dark and figure it all out. I am too emotional for a lot of people that I love. So I understand and support their choice. My dreams are valid at the end of the day. I am smart and strong enough most of the time.
What is the future for Alice Longyu Gao? Do you have any music you’re sitting on waiting to be released? Any future tours you are planning?
I am back on tour already. People can track me on my Bandsintown page or my Spotify page. It's really important for me to let my listeners experience my world live. Because it takes them to a world that is full of passion and honest feelings. I am going to make an EP that is for dancing. I want to be able to play for 30K people at a stadium.
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