October 11, 2018 | Feature
strawberry generation makes music
sweet tunes with “millennial snowflakes”
Two years ago, I remember going to the Underground for an event. How the event went and what friend I went with and what things I saw there, I can’t remember. But what I do remember is what I heard, from two people and a ukulele. Little did I know that I was witnessing the beginnings of Strawberry Generation, an indie pop band made up of four students, three EPs, and one strong passion—making good music.
post-: Let’s do intros.
Luk Yean (Luk): I’m Luk Yean. I’m one of the singers and the rhythm guitarist. I’m from Singapore. My majors are CS-econ and music. And my spirit animal…[sighing] What do you think?
Alejandro Subiotto Marqués (Ale): A fox.
Luk: Fox? Really? Like a lazy fox.
Valerie Zhu (Val): No, no, no, like a sly fox.
Ale: Like a snow fox.
Luk: Oh, that’s good, snow fox.
Val: I’m Val. I am one of the vocalists, and I play keys, sax, and tambourine. I used to play ukulele also. Sometimes melodica. I study biology. My spirit animal is the tomato.
Luk: ‘Cause you’re vegetarian—or used to be [laughing].
Ale: I’m Alejandro. I’m the drummer in Strawberry Generation, and I’m from Brussels, Belgium…I’m a development studies major, I’m a senior, and my spirit animal is a lion mixed with a koala.
Max Naftol (Max): Ok [laughing]. I’m Max. I’m a senior and a music concentrator. I play bass in the band. I guess my spirit animal would be an octopus.
Luk: Mmm interesting, that’s funky.
post-: So how did you all meet?
Val: Origin story? Wait, I don’t know how origin we’re talking here.
Luk: So I was born in…[laughing].
Val: We met in the Ratty in freshman year, Luk and I. We met through our mutual friend Chris.
Luk: I guess around the same time, I was recording some of my own stuff. And I made a song, called “Satellite,” and I had an idea that I wanted a saxophone solo at the end of the song. So I asked Chris, “Do you know anyone who plays the saxophone?” He was like, “Oh yeah, my friend Valerie plays it.” And I was like, “Ok! I’ll reach out.”
Val: Then Luk said, “Hey, we should do a show together.” Me, Luk, and Chris. So we did. It was the B-Side Coffee Haus.
Luk: It was the first ever acoustic show that B-Side Magazine organized, and my Meiklejohn happened to be the founder of B-Side. It was really fortuitous because he knew that I made music and asked if we wanted to play a short set. So I asked Chris and Valerie to play at that show. And at the end of the show, there was this really cool-looking fella who came up to us and said, “Hey, that was great! My name is Alejandro.” I was like, “Oh, cool, Alejandro! Nice to meet ya.” After that, it became the four of us, I guess.
Val: And then Chris was like, “Sorry, man, I got CS.”
Luk: Then we got a couple of extra new members, and then they left. And for a while, it was the three of us again, and now Max is joining us.
post-: What is the story behind your name?
Luk: Strawberry Generation is a Chinese phrase, and it’s the Chinese equivalent of saying “millennial snowflakes.” Strawberries spoil and become rotten really easily. It’s the way that the older generation mocks young people. I guess we kind of wanted to reclaim it and turn it into something that’s…not that. And also, strawberries are a distinctive visual image, so I kinda like it.
Ale: So I think our music is very…sugary and happy and all that stuff, but if you listen for the lyrics, it’s not as simple as it may seem when you’re just listening for the music.
post-: How do you come up with the lyrics?
Val: That’s the question! Sometimes, you listen to a specific artist, and you’re inspired by the stuff that they do, and you kind of feel like you wanna write. Sometimes, you’re inspired by situations in your life. I guess like, for me, if I experience something very sad, or if I’m feeling moody, then I’ll wanna write.
post-: You’ve mentioned how everyone in the group comes from different places and has different tastes in music. So we wanted to talk about how you’re different but what unites you in this group.
post-: Is that a point of division or unity?
Luk: I feel like there are small intersections of the Venn diagrams of each of us.
Ale: Yeah, they’re really interesting intersections.
Luk: Yeah, both Ale and I listen to rap, like Brockhampton and A Tribe Called Quest. Val and I like Carly Rae Jepsen…The bands that unify us are the ones that we identify with, possibly because we sound quite connected to them. We have quite a similar style and lineup as Alvvays, which is an indie pop band from Canada. So I guess we all converge and happen to like the band because that’s what we want to see perfected in our own music.
Val: That’s Alvvays spelled with two v‘s instead of a w.
All: [Holding up v’s in the first two fingers of each hand] All-v-vayz!
post-: What would you call your music?
Val: Haha, sweats nervously, haha.
Ale: Sugar pop. I say sugar pop, yeah.
Val: We’re kinda twee.
Max: Pretty, like, saccharine, almost.
Ale: Isn’t it jungle something? Something jungly…no, jangly!
All: Yes, jangly!
post-: What’s it like to be a student musician at Brown? ‘Cause you mentioned Chris stopped because of CS, right?
Luk: Yeah, I can go first because I slept at 5 a.m. last night doing CS homework. I feel like, first of all, I have to acknowledge that my parents are really supportive. They’re coming to our release show, which is great. They’re literally only coming to see us play. I think it’s gotten a lot tougher, partially because, just personally, I kind of changed majors in my junior year. Although more like I added CS in addition to econ. So that’s been kind of tough. I guess being a student musician, I keep thinking about opportunity cost because I’m an econ major [laughing]. But you know, I don’t think I’d be the same, I don’t think my Brown experience would be the same if I wasn’t part of the music scene and playing music with the people in this band.
Val: I don’t think that I ever considered not doing music at Brown. I do a lot of different things that are unrelated to each other, like in bio and with the music stuff. In my bio-related activities, people there don’t really know a whole lot about my music life. And people in my music life don’t really know a whole lot about my bio-related activities. It’s like Hannah-Montana-style, [singing] get the beeest of both worlds! But it’s good. It keeps you sane…Like Luk said—opportunity cost, gotta figure out what your priorities are. I think that’s always the hardest question: What is important to you? And what are you willing to spend time on over the other things?
Ale: That’s why you gotta do the humanities, and not do the readings [laughing].
post-: How often do you guys try to meet or practice?
Max: Scheduling all that stuff in and around classwork is quite difficult. It’s easier with Strawberry Generation though, because Luk is very militaristic in his planning and thinking, with organizational skills that I’ve never seen in an informal band before. Everything’s on a Google Drive, everything’s run through Slack, there’s notifications, there’s even, you know—
Val: A shared Google Calendar.
Max: A shared Google Calendar, everything is on military time…
Luk: Sorry, I wish to clarify by saying it’s ’cause I actually was from the military.
Max: Yeah, it’s just funny to see that applied to a musical setting because I’ve never experienced that before. It’s efficient but also intimidating.
Ale: I’m really grateful for how much effort Luk puts into all of it. Because it always feels like he’s always helping further us in some way.
Luk: The major thing that I’m kind of trying to enforce onto myself is that we want to finish an album by the time we all graduate next year. Which is tough because we have maybe, at most, 2.3 songs complete. And we probably need a few more to make an album.
Val: We’ll have more.
Luk: Ale has always been like, “Hey, let’s go become a Brooklyn band and live in a small apartment…”
Ale: Well, I said LA first…
Luk: LA is tough…unless you’re Brockhampton.
Luk: Well, ’cause Ale and I are international students, the future is fuzzy…We’ll see about that. The fact that this is our last year and that we’re international students is definitely fueling this urge for me to get things done, because…it reminds you that things are ephemeral. Part of me’s always like, “Oh, you know, I’m a senior. I have to do senior-y things, and I still wanna make this album. This is crazy.”
Ale: I feel like senior-y things is making music.
Strawberry Generation’s new EP, Losing Our Way, comes out today—if you’ve never heard their music before, a perfect way to get a first taste would be to stop by their release show tonight, Friday, October 12, starting at 8 p.m. at North House (111 Brown St.). If you can’t make it, you can also find them online! After all, this is a band of, by, and for the millennial generation.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.