21-year-old Darian Chen splits his time between Edmonton, Canada, and a remote mountain village in China called Anhai.
Darian is FaceTiming me from Edmonton, where it’s snowing and face-burningly frigid. He tells me he needed some fresh air, regardless of the cold, because he was cooking fish in his apartment and ended up burning it.
The origin story of his new song, ‘TESLA,’ produced by his friend BQ, is also pretty gross. While staying in a youth hostel in China, his roommate made a ~deposit~ in the toilet, only to realize the toilet wouldn’t flush. Without skipping a beat, she picked up her ~excretion~ and tossed it out of the window, hence the euphemistic lyric, ‘you took a log and threw it on my car.’
Disgusting origin stories aside, the track opens with orchestral strings before dropping the listener into a dark, distorted production. Chen’s vocals are restrained on the verses, but he dodges in and out of the chorus with agility. On the final verse, the chorus repeats itself into implosion, fading out in combination with what Chen describes as a ‘coked-out synth solo.’
It’s a fun track, the verses something you might hear Billie Eilish whisper over and the tumbling chorus the kind of party pulse not dissimilar from The Weeknd‘s latest album. (Shout out The Weeknd and an album that should’ve racked up a bunch of Grammy noms!)
Chen, who first ventured into music as a kid, his parents putting him into piano lessons. In high school, he began getting into jazz and then making jazz-inspired beats, which led to the space he’s in now creating popular music.
Chen says his biggest inspirations include Michael Jackson, Prince and Ryiuchi Sakamoto. While he admits his music doesn’t exactly resemble them, he loves pop stars who push the envelope of what’s possible.
“When I was younger, I was elitist about it,” says Chen. “I was like, ‘pop music is not cool.'”
“But then later on I realized I was being kind of a dick about it, and secretly I’d enjoyed pop music all along. My guilty pleasure was listening to 1989 by Taylor Swift, the record with ‘Blank Space’ on it; my transition into admitting I liked pop and then making it wasn’t exactly smooth, but it happened over time.”
While he might’ve turned his nose up at the concept of pop early on, now it’s the realm he plays in artistically. His unique set-up, which includes bouncing back and forth between snowy Canada and rural China, gives him an interesting angle to approach his song-making process.
“When I’m in Canada, or anywhere in the West really, the music and sounds I hear feel very familiar, in a good way. With EP 2020, the project I put out before ‘Tesla,’ I wanted to explore sounds I wasn’t as familiar with, though. I was in China, in this mountain village where my dad’s family grew up, and I went to these ritual and temple ceremonies to absorb that culture.”
“I don’t want to like, play this cliche card, but since I’m Chinese I definitely wanted to be in tune with that part of me. So I wanted my first EP to blend the Western sounds I was familiar with and the sounds of where I’m from in China that I was really getting in touch with.”
Chen says that while the pandemic has helped give him time to sit down and write and produce, he’s all about collaborations, and he misses being more in-touch with the community, especially his friends back in China.
“I have these friends in China who are working on this hyperpop project, and I wish I could be there collabbing with them.”
Find Darian Chen on streaming services like Spotify, and follow him on Instagram @darianjch for new music updates on his journey.