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A Conversation With Polartropica

Three words to describe Polartropica: “Sparkly SpaceRock.” 


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Dive into the world of Polartropica—the whimsical and otherworldly musical project band and brainchild of queer femme artist Ihui Cherise Wu (she/they). Hailing from California but born in Taiwan, Wu initially pursued a degree in Economics and Biology at UC San Diego before delving into the creative field. After moving to Los Angeles, they started out playing for various bands in the local scene before eventually creating what we now know as Polartropica.

Polartropica’s music is quirky and upbeat, but its subject matters often underlie deeper meanings. In their 2020 debut EP Dreams Come True,

Wu incorporates personal experiences about seeing a loved one go through addiction and important matters such as activism and solidarity with marginalized communities into their music.

Recently, they released a cover of The Everly Brothers 1958 track “All I Have To Do is Dream” as a sweet tribute to their father, whom they missed over quarantine. This combination of a dreamlike soundscape and lyrically heavy topics offers not just a special experience to the listener but also a deeper insight into Wu as an artist and person.

“There was this song by Mark Foster from Frankenweenie called Polartropic,”

Wu explained when asked about the beginnings of Polartropica and its unique name, “I just like the opposites because I always wanted to make a fantastical dream space for myself and I know it’s like escapism. I feel like when we watch movies or when we go to shows, we just want a different experience. We want to see things in a different way, feel things in a different way, and so that’s how I want to create my art for other people as well.”

The inspiration behind their work, they shared, is maximalism. “I think because I grew up in such a serious and straightforward household, and same with the bands I played; everyone was so serious, and I get it!” Wu confessed,

“But I’ve always been very rambunctious, mischievous, and playful. So I was like, “This is my chance to do everything I want to do!” There’s no limits, well, there’s some. I can’t have confetti cannons at every show!”

But it is also obvious that identity and culture play an important role in inspiring Wu. Growing up, Wu tried to erase their Asian immigrant identity to assimilate into the US. Even in the household, they were not taught much of their native language in fear of having an accent or being disadvantaged by not being able to ‘fit in.’

“A few years ago, I came to the realization that our heritage is so important and so special. We really need to treasure it and learn as much as we can. Our identity is everything. What we also bring to the table that other people don’t have is our own unique experiences, however beautiful or painful or difficult.” they said.

Being a queer femme Asian immigrant also comes with its fair share of challenges, Wu added. “We’re definitely treated differently already as a femme playing music. People assume that you don’t do your own work. I feel like a lot of the time, people don’t give us the credit for all the work that we do, first of all. Second of all, when it comes to the cultural stuff, you know, it’s very blatant in the industry that there’s not that many AAPI artists. It’s just not representative of us or our experiences. I feel like there’s some gaslighting.” Wu paused for a bit and continued,

“And as far as being queer, I think because it’s not conventional, it does make some people uncomfortable, and that’s really hard. I try as much to be as authentic and genuine as possible, but there are times where I feel like I have to hold back or I can’t be myself. Some people accuse me of trying to be like an influencer, whereas I’m like, no, this is who I am! I’m trying to be as authentic as possible and open, and it takes courage to be who you are and talk about it.”

“I think we have to keep being visible and loud.”


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“I think silence is everyone hiding behind being scared of being themselves. It’s just not letting anything, especially the patriarchy or the mainstream or people of influence, keep you from being who you want to be, who you are, and how you want to express yourself.” Wu goes on to talk about recognizing and accepting their identity, claiming that it was not easy in the beginning. They admitted that it took time to find power within themselves and that it also helped to meet other individuals carrying out similar endeavors. “I think also just learning how to build boundaries and learning how to say no serves you well.

It’s just a long learning process, and even now, I think back on how I could’ve done things differently. At the end of the day, I think it’s just following your intuition, which is something that has served me well.” 

Aside from creating music, Wu also co-founded Squidtropica (@squidtropica)—an art, microgrant, and resource collective for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC artists—with their girlfriend, Lauren YS (@squid.licker). On the topic of Squidtropica, they said, “It came from a place of recognizing the need for community and representation. It’s also an organized space for bookers or curators to seek other creators. During quarantine, too, we gave out grants to help cover food and health expenses.” Wu also passionately added about helping fellow artists in times of hardship that, “The world needs our art, the world needs our voices!” 

Wu is unapologetically and proudly queer. They acknowledged that the celebration of LGBTQIA+ folks should be an everyday event but emphasized that having a designated month for Pride gives people the opportunity to focus on the history and community. “I really think it’s for honoring people that came before us and understanding how they fought and suffered for us to have what we have today. Also, understanding helps us push to make things even better in the future and not take things for granted,” said Wu. When asked to give a word of advice to other LGBTQ+ individuals, they had this to say: “Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to find community and take breaks! Find a way to get somewhere where you can have peace of mind and be able to explore who you are without feeling bad about it.

And as for what Wu is most proud of?

“I’m so proud of all of us! I’m proud of you!”

Favorite work thus far and why: My recent music video, “In Another Life,” which is, like, Gay Grease the Musical. That’s probably my favorite thing we’ve ever made. Also, just because we retold a classic story in the gayest way possible!
Go-to Boba order: I really like matcha with either almond milk or alternative milk because I’m lactose intolerant. Sometimes I like to add coffee which I know sounds so gross!
Favorite Asian dish: Xiao Long Bao!

Favorite place to visit: I love going back to Taiwan, just because I don’t get to go back often.



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POLARTROPICA is the unconventionally alluring music endeavor of Los Angeles-based galactic dream-pop artist. Recently crowned LA Weekly’s Best Indie Pop Band of 2019, Polartropica has created a genre of ethereal synth psychedelia that you’ve never heard before – combining exquisite melodies, dreamlike classical string arrangements, and shimmering vocals. Following up their first US Tour and residency at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles just last year, Polartropica released their first full-length LP ‘Dreams Come True’ to sparkling reviews. Having been crowned LA Weekly’s ‘Best Indie Pop Band of 2019’, as well as landing acclaim from the likes of Billboard and LADYGUNN, among others, Polartropica is an artist to watch.

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