Photo by Shirley Yu
Photo by Shirley Yu

No shrinking violet, Effie Liu arrives to our lunch date with head turning fanfare. The native Californian is a compact, doe-eyed entity of Taiwanese descent all swathed in black mesh with a headful of shocking flamingo tresses, highlighter pink pout and meticulously penned black eyeliner extending from her far-reaching lashes. She wafts santal and checks her smartphone with a flourish of iridescent white acrylic fingertips. It’s no wonder our smitten teen server keeps asking her if she’s satisfied with the roast beef sandwich he’s brought her. As she makes short work of his carb-rich offerings, I ask the singer/songwriter, who’s dropped an effervescent seven track reggae-inspired brainchild titled Magenta Agenda, about the trials and tribulations of pursuing a career in music. Chowing down on a handful of cheese fries, Liu effuses that this is “the chillest interview ever” and knocks down a series of questions that’d leave many hemming and hawing. Here’s how it plays out.

AudioFemme: Unsigned musicians are constantly searching for the “breakthrough” formula. Based on what you’ve experienced so far as an independent artist so far, what would you say the recipe is?

The most important thing is remembering what the hell we’re doing here in the first place, and it’s not necessarily about being the illest on social media or looking good. At the end of the day, music is the core competency of what we’re talking about. You have to surround yourself with people who are supportive and honest. Then it comes down to navigating the seas strategically. And of course there’s that X factor: luck and timing.

Who are your greatest influences?

My friend, artist Penelope Gazin, the most fearless woman I know. She’s so creative and lets her freak flag fly. Also Gwen Stefani, Blondie, Madonna, Rihanna… I just like fearless, bad bitches.

What’s the best thing that could happen to you professionally at this point?

That’s a multiple choice question. Realistically speaking, I’d love to be supporting an artist on tour whose music works with mine. Live performance is where it’s at for me. I write songs not just to express what I need to say but to share them live and give people an experience they can’t download.

You have an unmistakable statement look. What role do cosmetics play in your life?

Such an on-brand question! You know, I have a degree in apparel design and survived the Devil Wears Prada scenario when I first arrived in NYC from Cali, but I couldn’t stand to be treated like that so I moved on. Cosmetics are like getting dressed for me- another form of expression, only on your face. I love a decent-sized sharp

[liquid eyeliner] wing and hot pink lip to match my hair. Those are my ritual in preparing to face the world and when I see other women being creative with their makeup it’s like “shout out!” I also wear this magical scent that rubs off during hugs and makes people smell expensive. I’d love to do a fragrance or collaborate with a brand to design a line of athleisure wear. Or a smelly candle line.

What are your thoughts on the limited visibility of women of Asian origin in mainstream American pop music?

At the end of the day, I don’t want to be filling some “affirmative action” void just because I’m Taiwanese American. I feel like awareness of racism as a whole is on the rise but there really is a scarcity of Asian visibility on the charts. At least there are more Asian actresses in Hollywood now. It’s a start. With the fuckload of talented minority performers in America, people are slowly starting to figure out that creativity comes in all colors and shapes.

What’s surprised you most in your musical pursuits to date?

I’m surprised whenever anyone says they love my new album Magenta Agenda. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but you have this desire to create and the bravery to share it… and then once you throw that message in a bottle out there, you can only hope that it’ll wash up on somebody’s shore and that they’ll like what’s inside.