Yunè Pinku: bedroom producer carving out time to chill in the rave

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’ll see opening the bill for your favourite act. This week, Malaysian-Irish producer and songwriter Yunè Pinku explains how she traded her early love of Billy Joel and Madonna for the wide world of electronic music to become one of the genre's most exciting new prospects

Having never been a fan of “all-out raving”, Yunè Pinku found a whole new appreciation for the more chilled-out side of electronic music during lockdown. “Just listening to some other stuff made me realise that there are way more kinds of electronic music than I thought there were,” says the teenage producer, real name Asha Yuné. This period of discovery has further influenced the Malaysian-Irish 19-year-old, whose fusion of UK club culture, introspective lyricism and hypnotic melodies has propelled her to become one of the fastest-rising names in the dance music scene.

It’s surprising, then, to hear that Yuné “actually hated electronic music growing up”. Her initial disinterest in the genre, she says, was down to constantly hearing her mum’s favoured trance music around the family home (Yuné preferred, er, Billy Joel and Madonna). As she got older, however, Yuné began to enjoy “messing around with soundscapes” and writing songs in her bedroom. “I’ve always really liked writing, but I wasn’t making music to go anywhere,” she recalls. “So I just started adding bits and bobs.” While she originally only utilised her vocals as a backing to her music, over time Yuné’s voice came to the forefront of her creations: “I think you can carry what you’re trying to say or what the feeling is [in your music] a bit more when there’s words to it.”

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As she started to build up a collection of tunes, Yuné began – albeit nervously – to show them to her friends, some of whom were already active in the music industry. “Back then, the stuff I was making was not in the same sort of lane of what they’d be into, so I wasn’t very confident in showing it to people for a long time,” she remembers. Despite having no official releases to her name, Yuné then managed to land her first BBC Radio 1 guest mix during Joy Orbison’s residency in July 2021 – though she didn’t realise how much of a big deal it was at the time. “[Orbison] was one of the first people I worked with when I started working in music,” she recalls. “We did a few sessions, and then he asked if I wanted to do something on his show and I was like, ‘Sure!’”

Two months later, ‘What You Like’, a collaboration with Logic1000 that the pair created over email, arrived, and it now boasts over 2.6 million streams. “I was quite excited about that [collaboration], because I hadn’t met any girls in electronic music up until that point,” Yuné says of working with the Sydney-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer on the track. “I think there’s a massive thing going on now where you’ve got Nia Archives, Logic1000 and PinkPantheress, who are all producers. There’s definitely a boom coming in that sense, which is nice to see.”

‘Bluff’, Yuné’s debut EP as Yunè Pinku (Yunè is a childhood nickname which means ‘cloudy’ in Japanese, while Pinku is a nod to her love of Pingu), sees her join that list of artists who are instilling a sense of intimacy into their club-ready tracks. Carrying that oh-so-relatable feeling of “accidental anxiousness”, the four-track ‘Bluff’ was written during the pandemic and consequently serves as “a diary of where I was at that time”. Recalling how she was “having a hissy fit about being bored and missing things”, the EP narrates the period of “going from lockdown and being quite isolated [to] then trying to readjust to being back out in the world”.

“It’s quite true to who I was at the time,” Yuné offers. “It’s quite angsty in certain ways and there’s definitely a thing of constantly trying to be tougher, but there’s also a gentleness to it as well.” Take opener ‘DC Rot’, for example: built on piano house keys and a steady kick drum before Yunè’s nonchalant vocals chime in, an unexpected rumbling breakbeat then engulfs the atmosphere and sends the song spiralling into a different direction, before it’s then pulled back on course.

This push-pull is reflective of Yuné tentatively trying to reintegrate herself back into the world. “It’s all the kinds of things that a lot of people are probably feeling as well,” she says, having tapped into those in-between moments where you’re neither happy or sad. “I’ve always veered away from trying to write about typical romantic subjects; things that were like, ‘I’m so in love, I’m so happy, I’m so sad’, because I’m someone who’s always really struggled to try and identify what I’m feeling,” she adds of the EP’s vulnerability, which is particularly evident on the tracks ‘Laylo’ and ‘Affection’. “I think a lot of people have the same thing, where you’re meant to be having a good time but you really don’t feel up to it…”

Credit: Yunè Pinku

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Describing her DJ sets as “heavy garage bangers with time to chill in the middle”, Yuné’s preference for softer moments is ever-present. “It’s the idea of making stuff that doesn’t fit into one particular genre, but then it’s also something that I would listen to myself,” she explains. “I think it’s a bit of a battle between both.” Equally suited to clubs and dinner parties, ‘Bluff’ brings a refreshing relatability to the dance world, perfectly encapsulating, as Yuné’ says, “the things that you can’t really seem to explain or you don’t feel like you can justify feeling”.

Yunè Pinku’s ‘Bluff’ is out on April 1

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