Aggressive and candid. Vulnerable and self-asserted — undoubtedly the perfect words to describe singer Rei Ami and her signature brand of music.

Calling it “rage-pop” (or “reipop” if you want to be cuter), Rei Ami is unapologetically herself when it comes to her work. From her debut album FOIL in 2021 to the present, she has been on a non-stop musical warpath of experimentation and antagonism; playfully showcasing a side of herself others might be too afraid to even dare.

Ahead of her performance for Jaded’s FRIENDS:FOREVER SXSW, alongside the likes of thuy, Se Seo Neon, and more in Austin, Texas from March 14-15, Billboard Philippines got to gain insights from the impenitent singer, shining a light on her fiery take on pop music, (hating) being vulnerable, her relationship with religion, and her latest EP shhh. Get to know Rei Ami through Billboard Philippines‘ interview with her below:

Billboard Philippines: What’s been keeping you busy lately, music-related or otherwise?

Rei Ami:
This year, one of my new year’s resolutions was to prioritize health and fitness more. I have a complicated relationship with my body and I wanted to look for fun ways to not only help my body, but celebrate it. Since dance has always been a point of interest, I’ve been spending a lot of my time in the dance studio. Most of my days consist of dance and movement training – hip hop, jazz funk, even some ballet etc. Not only has it been a great source of exercise, but it’s been a great source of creativity and inspiration.

Tell us about your musical journey so far. Who or what got you into music?

If I had to say “who,” I’d say Ariel from The Little Mermaid. It was the first Disney movie I saw and “Part of Your World” became MY song. The song made me fall in love with music and singing. If I had to say “what”, I’d say my rebellious spirit. Growing up in a South Korean evangelical cult was… umm… difficult… let’s just put it that way. I grew up in a controlling, toxic environment where any form of individuality was shamed and discouraged. My parents (we have an amazing relationship now) once said that they would “disown” me if I ever decided to pursue secular music — they said this to me on the drive home from my middle school choir concert where I had just performed a solo. I feel like most people would be scared sh*tless by that but I took that as a challenge. In my head, I was like, “Okay… Try me… Try losing me and see what happens.”

Upon first listen to your discography, an unmistakably playful yet low-key aggressive atmosphere often peppers your songs from start to finish. In your own way, how would you describe your current sound? Would you say it was a conscious decision for your music to sound this way?

I would describe my current sound as “rage-pop” but let’s call it “reipop” because it’s cuter.

The current sound is 100% intentional. I think aggression has always been a theme in my music because most of my music is inspired by real life experiences – religious trauma, heartbreak, betrayal, death, etc. I’ve carried this sense of anger and frustration from a very young age and I’m still learning to unpack it to this day. And now, as I make music, I find that the only healthy way to release it is through my music.

To be honest, I was really afraid to go down this route because the sound isn’t necessarily “pretty.” It’s loud, chaotic, and hits you like a truck… but that’s exactly what anger feels like to me.


Rei Ami: courtesy of @reiamimami

Your music also often has a penchant for being experimental — blending different genres into cohesively haunting and fun-sounding outputs. Such is the case with the tracks on your latest EP shhh. Walk us through its history and your songwriting process for it.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a bipolar Gemini stellium with severe ADHD but I have a really hard time committing to just one bit. I can’t. I get soooooo bored.

Anger was the main theme of the shhh EP. When writing this EP, I not only had to showcase my anger but also explain the reason behind my anger. Anger, like I said before, is chaotic…it can be ugly. But we rarely talk about why we get angry. Why do we get angry? I get angry because I care. Because to be so deeply affected by something, I had to have cared. And when you realize that, while it was real for you, it wasn’t real for them, that shit will have you SIDEWAYS. 

Capturing the “anger” sonically was the easy part. But when it came to capturing the sonics of the “why,” I had to start being vulnerable. I F**KING HATE BEING VULNERABLE. I had to abandon the “bad b*tch, you can’t break me” attitude to “why are you being mean to me I’m just a f*cking baby you dusty b*tch” attitude. So with that, I knew the sonics of the “why” could not sound the same as the “what.” And that’s why you see the infusion of different genres in the EP because that’s exactly how I felt when going through it. It was a collage of emotions happening all at once.

Adding to the previous question’s topic on blending different genres, can you tell us who your current musical influences are and how exactly have they impacted your songwriting?

This is going to sound crazy but I haven’t really been listening to new music/artists. Recently, I’ve been into the 432Hz meditation sounds on YouTube. It helps me calm down and feel relaxed. Creating and releasing the EP took a very big emotional toll on me so I’m not surprised that I’m gravitating towards sonics that make me feel safe and calm at the moment.

You’ll be performing for Jaded’s Friends:Forever at SXSW 2024 in March. The whole event is meant to showcase Asian musical talent, such as yourself, from both within the US and throughout the rest of the world. Congratulations! How does being part of the lineup make you feel? What are you most excited for? What can people expect from your set?

I’m honored to be a part of such a badass lineup of Asian artists. I’m very thankful to Jing and Cathleen at Jaded for thinking of me for this festival so shout out to them! I’m really excited to just perform and watch the other performances. As for my set, just be ready to scream and shake booty.

What can we look forward to from you in the near future?

Working on new music — that’s all i can say for now.

Listen to Rei Ami’s latest EP shhh below.