Local indie-pop singer Cherie Ko planning to produce her own debut album

Cherie Ko performed acoustic covers of her favourite songs on YouTube from 2005. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF JUFFRIE FRIDAY
Cherie Ko performed acoustic covers of her favourite songs on YouTube from 2005. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF JUFFRIE FRIDAY

Over the past two years, singer-songwriter Cherie Ko has grown to be an indie-pop darling in the local music scene.

The 23-year-old has been charming fans with her quirky electronica music, which she performs under the moniker Pastelpower.

She is also recognised for her work with local indie-pop band Obedient Wives Club, in which she plays guitar, and as a singer-guitarist in minimalist rock trio Bored Spies.

Some local music critics have dubbed her an indie-pop princess, a title she says is flattering, although she says she is unsure how it came about, given that she has not been playing shows in Singapore for the past year.

Instead, she has been playing in places such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Bangkok.

She tells Life!: "This buzz is definitely great publicity for a young artist like me. It's great that the media and fans are so supportive and I can't be any more honest than this: I'm really flattered."

She adds of her work as a musician: "I've always worked on my music on my own terms. All my close musician friends are fiercely independent and it does have a great impact on me to have a hands-on, do-it-yourself approach in all aspects of my music and projects, be it producing my own music and music videos or releasing them under my own label."

Her latest endeavour is a two-track live EP called Pastelpower Broadcast, which she released last month along with two concept videos to accompany the songs.

Both videos give the viewer insight into the Pastelpower persona. Ko performs kitschy pop songs on her keyboard with colourful props that include plastic food, a stuffed toy llama and an apple-print fabric backdrop.

One song is called Oh, Louie!, a song inspired by a fictional story about a middle-aged man who cheats on his wife with his personal assistant.

The second is Allergies, inspired by her personal experience dealing with allergies. She is allergic to fur, seafood, certain flowers and sometimes even the sun.

"Antihistamines are my best friends. My Obedient Wives Club bandmates used to make fun of my allergies all the time, so I thought, 'Why not make it into a song?'," she says.

Ko, who holds a marketing degree from SIM University and works as a marketing and public relations executive, started Pastelpower in 2012. It was conceived by her desire to write songs "with a heavy aesthetic of 'pastel-ness'".

"I wanted one word that people would immediately associate with cotton candy, pink, bubblegum and everything nice. I also liked the alliteration, kind of rolls off the tongue nicely," she says.

But before her current music projects, Ko, who holds a Grade 7 certificate in piano, had already been performing acoustic covers of her favourite songs on YouTube back in 2005 to 2006, building a sizeable following.

She says of those early years: "I was fascinated by the extent of how much a song could be transformed by stripping it down to acoustic form. I bought a guitar and started fooling around on it. I started making acoustic covers of my favourite songs and uploaded them on YouTube."

She now has more than 30,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel.

American music producer Brad Wood, 50, who has worked with bands such as American post-punk band Sunny Day Real Estate, folk-pop musician Pete Yorn, and Ko's other band Bored Spies, says she has improved a lot since he met her in 2012.

"I think Cherie is doing fine. I like how she is involved in multiple projects and it seems the more she works, the better she gets," he says.

Ko, who is single, counts dream-pop acts such as Beach House, Slowdive, Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine as her musical influences. She plans to do a regional tour this year and to work on her debut album for Pastelpower.

Asked if she feels pressure from fans, given her rising prominence in the local music scene, she says: "Of course, I feel pressure to perform and produce a great record which is amplified by the fact that it's my full-length debut.

"But it's healthy stress which I hope can push me to do the best that I can."

melk@sph.com.sg