Interview with Beabadoobe: in search of Beatopia
“Back then I was like, ‘I am a ‘90s rock chick! jokes Bea, affecting a voice that is reminiscent of this video of Avril Lavigne talking about punk. “But I was also 19 years old. Like, sure, it might be nostalgic for people, and they can compare it to a certain decade, but I just wanted to make music that I wanted to make. I absolutely didn’t want to be stuck to one genre.
“I look at it with emotion, ”she says, smiling. “It’s kind of cringe, but it’s sweet. It was what it was back then and I needed it to be able to do that.
By “that” she means Beatopia. Framing the deeply personal in the realm of fantasy, the album shimmers and shifts like a daydream, using a range of sounds – from psychedelia and Midwestern emo to singer-songwriter – to bring the world to life. imaginary whose name it bears.
The story of Beatopia begins in seventh grade, when 11-year-old Bea returned to her regular class at Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith after a violin lesson to find everyone staring at her. The professor – a tall man who still smelled of cigarettes – had Blu-Tac’d one of his drawings on the whiteboard. “Do you have something to tell us? He asked. She looked confused, so he asked again – mockingly this time. “Beatopia?”
The class burst out laughing. A pinned sheet of A4 paper illustrated a world that Bea had created at home four years earlier, when she was only seven years old. Everything was laid out in grim detail, from a map dotted with the names of every continent and country, to each letter of the alphabet that provided the building blocks of its language. She crowned her fictional kingdom Beatopia and kept the drawing on her desk at school. Two years later, she was “expelled” – due, she says, to a combination of “grades and behavior,” presumably both bad – but went on to complete his A-levels at Hammersmith Academy.
“My two friends also created worlds, but they weren’t as enthusiastic about theirs, which was kind of embarrassing… I guess I just wanted to escape reality,” she said thoughtfully, dipping a chip into a small tub of ketchup. “I sort of hung on to it because there was a lot going on in my house and it was a way of escaping everything that was going on around me.
It was also around the age of seven that Bea started going to therapy, which she has been doing on and off ever since. The decision was motivated by a few factors. A family moved from the Philippines to London when she was three. Feeling isolated at her Catholic girls’ school in Hammersmith, where she was one of very few Southeast Asian children. A “major depression” around age 11 was followed in his mid-teens by a struggle with self-acceptance and a period of drug and alcohol abuse. She describes how she would react to bullying or feelings of discomfort “just let it happen”. So when the class laughed at her, she joined in reflex.
She left the drawing on the board. Beatopia sank into the depths of childhood memory, like an emotional Atlantis, and it never spoke of it again – until recently. “I talked about it once in an interview and it was almost like a throwaway little chat, but it got me thinking about it.