Are you looking for a mood booster? Shawn Wasabi’s got you. The L.A.-based artist and record producer dropped his debut album Mangotale yesterday, and we’re loving its feel-good 8bit-video-game beats laced with all things Filipino.
I caught up with the talented 24-year-old earlier this month to learn about his humble beginnings and how he weaves his Filipino roots in every beat of his 12-track album.
(Shawn’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)
How did your music career start?
SHAWN: I’ve been doing music for most of my life. Since I was 4 years old, I had this little Casio keyboard piano that I would doodle around on and learn songs by ear. So, I’ve been hearing instrument since I was like a toddler. But I’ve been writing music for the past two years. I’ve been doing pop music for a bit. I’ve been doing mashup stuff on my Midi-Fighter controller, putting videos on YouTube, putting videos on Instagram and that’s all fun. That’s what I do in my free time, at least now (in home quarantine). I love making music. It’s one of my favorite things ever.
What’s the story behind your name?
SHAWN: I have two reasons for that. My real last name is Serrano, which is like the spicy pepper. Wasabi is also spicy.
And also because when I got my hair dyed for the first time, I wanted it blue but my friend messed up and it accidentally turned green. And she was like, “Oh it looks like wasabi. Your hair looks like wasabi.” So, I took that joke and that really stuck with me. So that’s where my name came from.
How important is it for you to integrate your Filipino roots into your songs?
SHAWN: My mom is from Cebu and my dad is from Manila. They came to the States before I was born. Now, I live in L.A. and they live 6 hours away in Northern California.
My roots are super important. I love the Philippines so much. I love my family there. Visiting the Philippines is one of my favorite things ever. So, I’m super happy whenever I get to see my family back in the Philippines, and Filipino food is my favorite food. I take that to heart and I try to incorporate that to my expressions. I try to communicate that.
Why did you choose to create music using your Midi-Fighter 64?
SHAWN: I co-created this when I was like 19, with an engineer friend of mine and it has been a big part of my creative workflow. I use this in everything. I bring it with me. But it’s like my bread and butter. It’s like when you make your own instrument and you get to play it. I feel like it’s integrated to my whole process at this point.
How would you describe a “Shawn Wasabi” song to someone?
SHAWN: Hyper-melodic. A lot of colorful sounds. I want to say it’s very colorful. A lot of food and drink references. It’s very pop. Very upbeat, up-tempo. It makes you feel good. It’s like sunshine in a bottle of music.
Tell us more about your debut album Mangotale.
SHAWN: It’s my first album. I’m super excited. It’s like the album I’ve been wanting to put out and it represents all the musical creative ideas that I wanted to put together as well as that part of my culture where I grew up in. It represents different parts of my adult life and childhood life. It represents a lot of visuals, a lot of cartoon, and a lot of animation stuff that I love growing up in. Mangotale is very personal for me and yet it is full of cultural markers.
One song is called “Mango Love.” That’s definitely a Filipino song, it’s definitely Filipino-inspired. I have this other song called “Halo Halo” that I put on my album and that’s clearly inspired by halo-halo, the desert. And also, I have a bunch of references in my music that I’m working on that have little bits sprinkled on Filipino culture.
QUICK REVIEW: Mangotale is an invitation to the brighter side of the world. It will make you smile. It will make you dream. At one point, you’ll dance to the beat without you noticing it – a certified mood booster.
ALBUM SHOWER SCORE (out of 5): 🚿 🚿 🚿 🚿