Toki being the Korean word for “rabbit”—and monsta needing no translation—TOKiMONSTA is the project of Korean-American electronic musician Jennifer Lee. Beginning with classical piano in the suburbs of south L.A., and somehow ending up in the north Atlantic headlining Sónar Reykjavík, her discography is heavy with hip-hop and soul. She answered a few of our questions about her musical journey in anticipation of her arrival here in Iceland.
Sónar Reykjavík will be the first time you’ve played in Iceland. Have you visited before? Will you be able to spend much time here? How does it feel to go from Australia to Iceland within one month to play music?
I have not been to Iceland before, but I’ve always dreamed of the day I would be able to go and visit. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to come in a couple days before Sonar to really explore some of the beauty this country has to offer. If I really sit down and think about my life and these opportunities to travel the world, like being in Australia a few weeks ago to being in Iceland, it’s truly wild and humbling.
You’re currently touring ‘Lune Rouge,’ your newest and most personal work yet. You’ve averaged more than one record per year since 2010. Where do you get the energy and motivation for that kind of momentum?
I think it’s a personal impulse always create, but that doesn’t always mean with music. I do have moments where I do feel less creative in the music realm. However, when I enter those phases I will find ways to be creative in other areas, like visual arts or even cooking. I’ve managed to put out a release or so year because when I enter my musically creative phases, I am able to really flesh out and finish my ideas.
You’ve talked before about your music telling stories. Each song is a story, each performance is an ordering of smaller stories to create a longer one and so on. Do you feel like there is an even bigger story being told album by album? What kind of narrative would it be?
I think the bigger story behind on my work, the over arching story line, is my road and journey as a musician. I don’t know the ending to the story yet, but I’m excited to see where it goes.
With each album, you push your sound further forward but never lose sight of the crisp, clear beats that make your music both identifiable and refreshing. From where do you draw your sounds? Are they mostly original or sampled from your record collection?
Most of my unusual sounds are actually field recordings—rocks, car doors, airplanes, etc.
What are you listening to these days? Are you living for any genres, time periods, or artists right now?
I’ve been listened to a lot of r&b and soul lately. Alternatively, I’ve been listening to a lot of techno. I love it all! Ambre Perkins is one of my favorites.
What’s next for TOKiMONSTA? Another tour, another album, another project, another sound?
All of the above.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, and for giving us hope that the future of electronic music is fresh, funky, and forward-thinking. See you at Sónar. I’ll be in the front!
Yes! Let’s get it.
See TOKiMONSTA at Sónar Reykjavík, happening this week.