Raquel Abolins-Reid was at a crossroads. Then known simply as RIIKI, she was mid-COVID-19 lockdown and struggling to correlate her personal journey with her growth as an artist.
“I was twenty-one and realised so much had changed since the start of the project, including the vision and the fashion,” she recalls. “I felt like I’d matured a lot and the music had changed as well.”
That’s why in 2022, seeking a rebirth, she changed her artist name to RIIKI REID, an explicit signalling of a new chapter in her music career. “The name change needed to happen to emphasise the fact I’d grown up and was more mature now,” says the Wellington-based singer-songwriter. “I feel the most myself now, which is really awesome. I feel like I grew faster than the artistic project, so it’s now up to speed.”
The aptly-named Newer Oxygen EP became her first release under the new moniker, followed by the visceral Crash & Collide late last year, and both records perfectly weaved together as a dual showcase.
“The first EP was just me learning to walk again and showing everyone a side of myself that they hadn’t seen before. But Crash & Collide was a case of ‘we’re running now’.”
The music matched the ambition: her second EP as RIIKI REID is resolutely up-tempo and upbeat, with the twenty-three-year-old producing three exhilarating songs that she labels “forget the world music.”
Crash & Collide was also inspired by a love of early Noughties dance music. “There was this one song by Deadmau5, ‘I Remember’, and I listened to it and was like, ‘I want to make this song!’” she explains.
Released when New Zealand was slowly returning to some form of post-pandemic normality, one of the EP’s songs, “The City”, was a euphoric ode to carefree hedonism. “There was this period of time when my friends and I were going to this Wellington club, 121, every weekend,” she says about the song’s origins. “It’s all house and techno, it’s really dancey, and the club became a hub for us. It was right after COVID lockdown and it was just that little burst of time where we could go out together, dance a lot, and have fun.”
Just don’t call it a party record. The EP closes with the more pensive “We’re A Different Kind”, written in the midst of a “quarter life crisis.”
“My friends and I were having these deep conversations at the time about what we were doing with our lives. We were asking ourselves if we even wanted to live in the city, or if we were hanging out with the right people, those kinds of questions. So the song was about how I’d become really comfortable where I am, but that wasn’t where I wanted to be.”
Although she loves her hometown, the fledgling indie-pop star wants more. “I want to go travelling. I want to go to Europe and write with people. […] I’ve realised that I like to work with people and build it together. That’s the really fun part of the process.”
Having only toured overseas in Australia so far, Raquel’s keenly aware that there’s a lot more to discover. “I’m at the point where I’m so curious about the world,” she adds. “I feel like this is my time, I want to get so inspired.”
In art, self-worth is as important as the approval of others, and Raquel now has it in abundance as RIIKI REID. “I feel like it’s rare for an artist to listen back to their own music, but I’ve been playing these three songs a lot, and I forget they’re even by me,” she reveals. “I’ve just been listening to my music because I genuinely like the songs!”
Artistically rebirthed, personally revitalised, RIIKI REID is heading into the future in beautifully confident fashion.