Thursday 19-11-2020 - 16:35

By Erin Kalejs

Each month, we catch up with a Westminster music student to see what they’ve been up to


Moscow-born indie-pop artist Alena, known as “Aiko” on stage, released her newest album 'Expiration Date' back in July - a collection of tracks that show off captivating rhythms mixed with emotive songwriting and haunting vocals. 


She took a moment to talk to us about London’s music scene, her musical inspirations, and how the album came together. 



A post shared by Aiko (@aikomakesmusic)


How did you come up with the name Aiko? 

I was googling Japanese-inspired names and I came across Aiko which is similar to my childhood nickname Aika. I chose it because it was a sweet blend of both things. 


You’ve lived in many different places from Moscow to the Czech Republic and now London - how many languages do you speak?

Four; English, Czech, Russian and German. I knew I didn’t want to sing in Czech because the music scene in the Czech Republic is really small, so it just makes sense to sing in English so that I can reach more people. 


Who are your biggest musical influences? 

Aurora, Florence + The Machine, The Neighborhood, The 1975, and Arctic Monkeys. I think they’re all really great songwriters. 


For someone who’s never listened to your music before - what’s the first song you recommend they listen to?

 'Hunt', it’s just a very happy song and lyric-wise it’s very true to my style. 


What was the inspiration behind 'Expiration Date'? 

The title came from me thinking that pretty much everything in our lives has an expiration date. Any relationship or situation always comes to an end be it a good or bad one. I think we should enjoy all those moments while we can. 


The song 'Only Child' on that album is quite emotional, I wondered if you wrote it from personal experience? 

It’s one of the most personal songs on the album. I was expressing all the positives and negatives that come with being an only child. 


Going back to the beginning of your music career, it started when you were only 15 and appeared on the Czech show Superstar. What was that experience like?

 I sent my application in for fun, I didn’t really think I’d get in, it wasn’t my dream to be on TV at the time. I got to the semi-finals and that was actually my first live gig, so it was a lot of fun to see how everything worked behind the scenes. 


I watched a few of your live performances on YouTube, you have a very energetic and charismatic stage presence - where does that come from? 

In the last year, I’ve really come to love being on stage. Before that I used to actually hate public speaking, so talking to the crowd in between songs used to make me nervous. But in general, I always love performing- I do contemporary and pole dancing, so I always love blending dancing and singing together when I’m on stage. 


You also have a very unique fashion style- as an artist, how important do you think image is? 

I think nowadays it’s important since there’s so much competition, it’s a way to stand out. But it doesn’t have to necessarily be fashion. It’s just something that I personally love and comes naturally to me. 


You collaborated with Unluv on 'Expiration Date' - in general, how do you feel about collabs?

 I think they’re really fun! My next one should be released sometime next year. I love collaborating because it gives you the chance to take someone else’s influence and mix it with your own to create something new. I do have a very competitive spirit but it’s not based on negativity, but more on thinking, “What can I do to be as good as them?” It’s a positive way to motivate me to work harder. 


Who else would you like to work with in the future?

I would love to work with producer Askjell, he has a very interesting production style that’s perfect for Indie. Of course, I would love to work with Aurora cause she’s a big inspiration of mine. Filming wise, I would love to work with a company called Kinoproby who make really incredible visuals.


You’ve been living in London for over a year now, how would you describe London’s music scene? 

Very lively, obviously not right now! I think the main difference between the Czech and London’s music scene is that in London more people go to live gigs and even if they don’t know you, they still really support you and come up and talk to you after the show. British people really appreciate the fact that you’re trying, whereas in the Czech Republic they have a sort of “impress me” mentality. In London, through one gig you can get another, it’s just full of different opportunities. 


During COVID musicians all over the world have had to adapt, especially through hosting virtual concerts - what do you think of them? 

As a performer, you feel good that you’re playing but it’s really weird because you finish a song and you don’t hear anyone clapping and don’t see any people, so you just awkwardly laugh and continue. Other than that it’s at least a good way to keep the industry alive. Hopefully, we will be able to go back to playing live gigs. 


What do you think the future of music is post-COVID?

 I think people are hungry for live performances and won’t take them for granted anymore when they come back. So I think there will be a lot of new opportunities popping up - we’ll have to wait and see! 


What’s next for Aiko? 

I’m currently working on another album and planning to release it in Autumn 2021. I also have a few singles on the way, they should start coming out around February/March along with music videos. I’m also actively working on my social media and I have a few gigs planned for next year, so hopefully, the festival season will be back to somewhat normal and we’ll be able to see each other live again.


'Expiration Date' is out now





Related Tags :


More Smoke ArticlesMore University of Westminster Students' Union Articles

More Articles...