It’s a sunny midweek morning in Brisbane when NME meets Suzi. We’ve just picked up our lanyards for BIGSOUND 2022, where she and her band are playing three back-to-back showcases. The 22-year-old Melbourne indie punk artist (who uses she/her and they/them pronouns; this story uses both at her request) is buzzing with a mix of elation, exhaustion and anxiety – she’s on the cusp of an explosive mainstream breakthrough, and it’s here that she hopes to win over a new horde of fans.
This feeling is one Suzi’s become well-accustomed to over 2022, with tour opportunities continually growing more lucrative and her second EP – the first she’s made with the intent of being taken seriously – just months away from release. “I’m just so blown away by everything that’s happened this year,” they tell NME. “I had my ‘TikTok moment’ during lockdown, but I never expected what happened on the internet to translate over to real life.”
That “TikTok moment” came on May 20, 2020, three months after posting her first clip on the platform (a cover of Billie Eilish’s ‘Bellyache’). Suzi challenged herself to write a song based on three random words sent to her by a friend – “card”, “drink” and “skirt” – which led to a stirring acoustic ballad about a self-serving paramour that played with her heart. After it went viral with, they kept posting.
“There was a period where I was literally just writing songs for TikTok,” Suzi admits. “People’s attention spans are so short, so I’d be like, ‘I need a really snappy line at the start! I need to write with this tempo…’ It got to a point where I was like, ‘Why am I even doing this?’ Sometimes I forget to step back and ask, ‘What feels most like me?’ So I kind of had to go through this process of re-centring myself and figuring out what I actually want to do.”
And what does Suzi actually want to do? “I just want to sing my silly little songs and go on tour with my friends,” she says, bouncing in her seat when the topic turns to her newly formed backing band: guitarist Declan Long, bassist Holly Ditchfield (who learned the instrument to go on tour with Suzi) and drummer Naomi Best.
Since the start of 2022, they’ve played over 30 shows together, most across interstate tours – including a headline run in support of her recent single ‘Everyone I’ve Met Hates Me’. The biggest tour so far was a stint supporting Ben Lee (who discovered Suzi on TikTok), and her favourite was a five-date chunk of The Hard Aches’ recent regional tour.
Usually terrified to meet her idols, Suzi wasn’t let down by the Adelaide pop-punk group, who she says “basically raised me”. Buzzing, she says: “We stayed at [frontman Ben David’s] house in Adelaide and he cooked us dinner! It was like, ‘Oh, people actually are nice in this world, and we can have good connections with them!’”
As she continues to grow as an artist with her own burgeoning platform, Suzi hopes she can give a new generation of rock fans those same kinds of formative experiences. “I think that’s the only reason I play music,” they say. “Seeing people that weren’t just cis, straight men making music was really important for me… Knowing younger people are doing the same thing I did, watching me and my fully non-male, queer band rocking out at BIGSOUND or playing these big shows… It’s really fulfilling.”
“All I want,” Suzi declares, “is for people to know that they can be whoever the fuck they want to be and do whatever the fuck they want to do, regardless of who they are or where they came from. I want people to feel seen and recognised, and find some kind of comfort in [my music].”
“I want people to feel seen and recognised, and find comfort in my music”
This is the sentiment that epitomises Suzi’s second EP, ‘I Hope You Can Hear Me Now’. Tentatively set to arrive in February, it serves as something of a re-debut for its creator, following 2020’s ‘I Like It Better Indoors’, which she describes as “a fun activity for myself” that “was never meant to be anything serious”.
“I only started making music because I was struggling with my mental health,” she says candidly, “and I thought it would be a really good outlet for me… It didn’t really work – you do still need actual therapy – but it definitely is helpful!”
The new record is about growth, Suzi says, noting that “the songs are a lot more mature” and tackle themes like “recognising things in your past that weren’t necessarily good or right”, and reckoning with the trauma that came from them. Its title comes from the hook in Suzi’s next single, ‘I Don’t Owe You’, an empowering indie-rock scorcher – due out next Tuesday – that she says came to life when “there was just so much anger built up inside of me”.
“It’s about [the end of] a relationship that I’d been dwelling on for a really long time,” they explain. “[The lyrics reflect] how I felt after I’d taken a step back, and I was really able to think about everything and see everything a lot clearer. And that reflection all just came out in this song.”
Suzi can’t wait to release the song – and to have it resonate with her audience. “The day we play a show and I see a crowd singing along to that hook, I am literally going to cry like a little baby.”
Suzi’s new single ‘I Don’t Owe You’ is out next Tuesday (November 8). Her second EP, ‘I Hope You Can Hear Me Now’, is out early 2023. Follow her on TikTok at @suzisangthis