Ükku and the Cursed Kingdom

“I don’t believe in reality but in fantasy!” says Ükku. The sounds of Ükku are that of an atmospheric and mysterious synthesizer. The sci-fi pop musician combines sounds and vocals to create mystically beautiful music. It is best described as an ethereal melancholia poetry soundtrack mixed with post-punk trap. Ükku released her debut album, Cursed Kingdom, in May 2020.

It’s the most important thing I have created.

The whole atmosphere for the album is very theatrical and magical, with each song like a different story of the Cursed Kingdom. The title, Cursed Kingdom, can be interpreted as the world we live in. Ükku focused a lot on the lyrics so they all tell stories of human feelings, interactions, the troubles we face in life and in ourselves.

The album is an experimentation, taking influences from jazz, hip-hop, trap, and ambient music. Ükku has self-described the album genre as ethereal electronic.

Ükku has been making music since 2014, but the creator and voice Daniele Ganenaite has been surrounded and making music since she was a child. Growing up she heard all kinds of music, as her parents both had gone to music school and have very unique musical tastes. As Daniele explains, “my older sister always showed me bands and musicians that inspired her, I guess, my family is the reason I got into music.” 

When and why did you start making music?

I remember when I was 11 years old, and I was learning how to play the piano, I started to improvise and write notes in my notebook. But only after I turned 14 did I start to create actual songs with lyrics, using a guitar. I started writing those songs because I felt a lot of tension and wanted to be free. I went to art school and it was really tough there, as we used to get a lot of criticism. Music-making was like freedom to me. I also started doing it because I felt lonely and wanted my own secret way to express all the emotions I had. 

iWeek 2019 performance

What is your creative process like?

Usually, I just sit down and play. At first, I simply improvised. If I start hearing something that catches my ear I record it and improvise with that melody some more. In the beginning, I like to create a complete mess. I record many different tracks, add many vocal layers. After a while, I’m cleaning that mess and that’s how the song is born. There’s no specific mood that I have to be in, I just have to prepare to sit down and work.  Everything else comes with time. For lyrics, I write ideas every day. I carry my notebook with me, if I don’t have it I just write stuff on my phone. The best way to keep being creative is to always search for new ideas and let one idea lead you to another one. 

Is there something or someone that inspires your music?

Everything around me inspires me all the time. A random conversation that I heard, books, movies, other artists, and most importantly my own life experiences. I like to observe people, their relationships, feelings, struggles. I also search for inspiration in my own mind. I ask myself what feelings I hide and what is important to me. I like to sing about things that are sensitive and sometimes even too personal. In the end, of course, my family and closest people to me are the ones that inspire me most of all. 

How has the pandemic affected you and your work?

It’s very strange, but actually it affected my work in a positive way. I got laid off from my job and I got trapped at home. That’s why I became very productive, writing new music every day. I also released an album that was recorded way before and I had lots of time to work with cover art and other details.  I had time to become more active on social media and work with promotion. The only sad thing was that with school being closed I couldn’t use any of our studios to professionally record anything. 

What’s your favorite song to perform?

My favorite song to perform is usually the one that I just created. Just because it’s very exciting to play something new that you never played before. But if I have to pick one song from all my concert sets right now it would be “My Beasts”. It’s one of my favorite songs that I ever wrote. 

If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who and why?

It’s a very hard question. There are so many amazing artists I would love to collaborate with. At this moment I would choose either Grimes, John Frusciante, or Pink Floyd. Because these musicians inspired me the most in my life. Strangely enough, they’re all alive. I would also love to travel back in time and play music together with tribes, for example, Indigenous Americans. 

What is the future looking like?

To be honest I have no idea. Sometimes I think about the future and I’m hopeful, sometimes I get really scared. I just know that I won’t stop doing what I’m doing. My biggest dream would be to create soundtracks for movies. I just know that if you dream about something and work on it those dreams eventually come true. 

Interview conducted and edited by Isabella Presnal.

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