Who is Akira AK? Well, Akira AK is the name Akira gave himself to allow himself the space to be an artist. When thinking about creating a song, or a piece of accompanying art, this name allows him the freedom to explore and embody a wider range of traits and ideas that Akira AK just can’t do outside of being an artist. It can sound very nonsensical, and in some ways it is, but Akira AK’s artist name makes him feel like he can do anything he put his mind to, and within just the past few years, Akira AK really has – from creating two full bodies of work, to working with organisations such as New York Comic Con and the Imperial Court System (specifically from New York) in helping organise and be a part of some great charity efforts utilising his music and artistry. In the cheesiest, but most on-brand way, it makes Akira AK feel like a singing-songwriting superhero.
Currently Akira AK is hauled up in his apartment just working on getting his new EP “Pearl” as much attention as possible – creating as much noise as he can make. But aside from that, Akira AK is currently writing for his next EP and looking forward to working on it in the studio when he can go back to it as soon as possible (safely of course).
Aside from writing for his future EP, Akira AK is currently re-reading comic books that he was able to get his hands on before quarantining went into full effect – specifically Jonathan Hickman’s “House of X/Powers of X“, and Akira AK is trying to find ways on how he can incorporate some elements of that story into his songs. Akira AK is also catching up on TV (currently loving VEEP on HBO and Mrs. America on Hulu) and learning how to cook better meals. These things keep Akira AK’s mind off the pressures he put on himself to create something “great”, and give him the space to mindlessly think about things – every once in a while Akira AK come up with a new melody that he ended up using which is a nice change of pace from how he usually sits down to write music.
Self-isolation is not so bad for Akira AK, however, it could definitely be worse as there are those who are having a harder time. What this time is allowing Akira AK to do is really discover some new artists, and really take in some of their sounds, ideas, and concepts to somehow work into the amalgamation that is his own music. Akira AK is really using this time to sit with the ideas and demos that he already has and work on how to make them bigger, better, and even more fleshed out than they already are.
“The EP is meant to be listened to from top to bottom as it tells the story of a person who goes from being totally dependent on a relationship – to the point where their whole identity is defined by it, to being completely independent, with the acknowledgement of their past behavior and how it makes them stronger.” — Akira AK on the story of his “Pearl” EP.
Going deeper in to the creative process of the EP, Akira AK explained to Eat This Music that it really began right after he released his first EP “Autotune + Heart” in 2017, when Akira AK’s friend introduced him to the world of “Steven Universe”. The show is full of such beautiful imagery and sounds that “color” (for lack of a better term) the show, and really bring a kind of organised beauty to the ideas presented throughout the show’s run. As Akira AK got more and more into the show, the ideas of identity, relationship building, loss, and coping really began to take center stage in subtle, but powerful ways. It was at that point that Akira AK wanted to explore those concepts through his own music, and utilising the character of Pearl as she has, arguably, one of the most tragic backstories in the show, while hitting on all those themes.
For reference, the scene that really solidified Akira AK wanting to talk about the character Pearl’s journey is below, and for context, the person Pearl mentions at the end of her yelling is Steven’s mother “Rose”, who she was in love with. Rose has passed away, yet she has never been able to come to terms with it:
As Akira AK was crafting the narrative he wanted to tell (he always knew that he wanted this EP to be a self-contained story), Akira AK also knew that he wanted to tribute the show [Steven Universe] by attempting to utilise some of the sounds and sonic ideas that are sprinkled throughout the series in its songs. Everything from the title track being arranged the way it is, to the select synths that were chosen to be a nod to the series synths themselves. Specific lines in each song are also nods to the show and its adjacent properties (for example in “Rose” there is the line “I’ll keep on attacking the light”, which is a nod to the Steven Universe video game “Attack The Light“). Getting the sounds and lyrics just right was a bit of a challenge, but one Akira AK happily put on himself.
Elements of Akira AK’s life are in the EP, but he really took the time to write from the perspective of this character [Pearl] because it is the character herself he gravitated to the most on the show. The character “Pearl” on “Steven Universe” is voiced by Deedee Magno Hall, who is Filipino, and whether it was written into her script or not, the way she delivered her lines really struck Akira AK deeply because they sound like things that he himself have heard or experienced in his own life. Akira AK’s mother is from the Philippines, and the way Deedee Magno Hall spoke as Pearl reminded Akira AK of how his mother spoke to him (in the best of ways). So in that respect, it is a personal EP because it ties all the way back to Akira AK’s mother’s country by honouring the work that her countrymen has done for all of those who enjoy the show “Steven Universe” all over the world.
To get to my question though of how much of Akira AK’s own life played in the creation of the EP, Akira AK explained to Eat This Music that his personal life is sprinkled throughout this EP in the lyrics because he talks (sings?) about the ideas that have fueled him up to this point in his life. From the uplifting lyrics in the third verse of “Pearl”, to the conflicting feelings Akira AK has in “Storm In My Head”, to the title phrase “I Too Shall Be Saved By Love” itself – they’re all micro-mantras that Akira AK used to propel himself forward. In that way, Akira AK’s own life gets a little cameo amongst the overall story that he is trying to tell with this EP.
“I decided to make this EP because I wanted to challenge myself to directly pull from a truly nerdy source (i.e. a children’s cartoon) and tell a concise story, while also making each song stand on its own two legs.” — Akira AK on many of the reasons as to why he wanted to create his EP.
What Akira AK means by a song “standing on its own”, is that each song can be listened to individually, and be enjoyed without the context of the whole EP around it to make it make sense. That is why each song is vague enough to be listened to as a singular piece, but when the other songs are surrounding it – it becomes a piece of a larger whole.
At the end of the day Akira AK wanted to explore more facets of himself and how he looks at the world through the content he consumes and internalises, through his songwriting. Akira AK is happy to believe that he has done that with this EP and definitely looks forward to challenging himself even more with his future work.
Contrary to conventional belief, because this EP is meant to be consumed as a whole package, he decided not to piece out the release of it. Akira AK really wanted to hammer the point home that this EP is a whole body of work that is meant to be taken apart and analysed from the top down, instead of a piecemeal.
However, Akira AK decided to release the EP now because he felt like after working on it for three years with his engineer Tom Stewart from Factory Underground Studio, Akira AK admits that Tom definitely helped in making the songs sound both cohesive and even better than he had them originally. Akira AK just couldn’t hold onto the songs any longer. Around the time the quarantines started being implemented last month, Akira AK had just finished the last song for the EP and after consuming all the news about how people were so bored and looking for content to consume during their time in their homes – Akira AK thought he would add his EP to the chorus of content being put out there to help people “escape” for a bit. Because “Pearl” is so overtly inspired by a such a fantastical children’s show, the idea of escaping back into the world of “Steven Universe” (as the show has just recently ended) just seemed like something he know people would enjoy right now – Akira AK know if he was in that position as a consumer, he would want that too.
Also with the songs being vague enough to feel universal, Akira AK really wanted to provide a kind of soundtrack to anyone who needs to emote right now. It’s so important for us to level with ourselves, and not shy away from all of the feelings we are feeling during this time – both the good and bad ones, because otherwise it would really take a toll on our mental health, which we cannot allow to deteriorate right now.
Because Akira AK had been sitting on his music for three years, there are of course songs, ideas, and concepts that he wanted to get out there, but working on one major project at a time (like recording this “Pearl” EP singularly vs recording for multiple EPs) really helps organise and prioritise his thoughts and next steps. But Akira AK definitely has more ideas in the works coming at you soon enough!
As proud as Akira AK is of the “Pearl” EP, and loves all the songs on it, he has always maintained that the “song of his life” will forever be “Mute” off of his first EP “Autotune + Heart”.
Akira AK says the above because on his debut EP, “Mute” is a sprawling piano-pop ballad that teeters on the darker side of thinking while not completely going to a super dark place. That is what Akira AK has always tried to maintain in his work – a sense of gray-space. Akira AK has never wanted to have a song be straight up depressing, because he doesn’t find that fun to listen to, but talk about the darker things in life in the context of self-reflection – which means that the event has already been experienced and is now being looked at from a better and safer place. What Akira AK loves about “Mute” too is that he specifically created a dance version (which is available on his website as an exclusive track if you get the “Autotune + Heart” EP from there) to show how versatile his music can be, and show off a teaser of where Akira AK plans on going with his future work. That idea of moving into the more electronic, dance space is continued with “Pearl”, and will be even more present in his follow up EP out sometime in 2020.
Where does that leave Akira AK for the second half of 2020? Well, Akira AK told Eat This Music, which he also spoke about through this interview, that he is currently finishing up the demos for his next EP. It will be a four-song piece and utilise even more electronic/dance sounds than “Pearl”. While those songs will not be packaged together like “Pearl” was for the sake of a specific narrative, Akira AK can assure you that the future songs do work off a common theme and motif. Because Akira AK loves all things nerdy and comics (and is currently getting his whole entire life from the whole “Dawn of X” era that Jonathan Hickman created when he took over the X-Men line last year for Marvel Comics) what Akira AK can say about those future songs is that they are inspired by a certain X-Man (or woman) who is a staple of the team, since the beginning of the series. The character has many facets of themselves that Akira AK thinks a lot of us can identify with, and he is excited to bring them to the forefront with this new EP.