Amanda Sum (she/her) is a performer and creator who dances between theatre and
music. As a musician, Amanda’s writing floats on top of the indie-pop genre, sometimes dipping into
jazz or visiting alternative folk. Her debut single and music video, “Groupthink”, was released in September 2020. Amanda’s debut full-length record, New Age Attitudes, will be released in the fall of 2022. She aims to champion other under-represented artists in her music work. All her sound recordings were made with an all-female production and engineering team, and feature an all-Asian female band. Music recording collaborators include Emily Millard, Olivia Quan, Jamie Lee, Mary Ancheta, Cindy Kao, Shin-Jung Nam, Ginger Chen, and Elisa Pangsaeng
On May 20th, Amanda premieres her new single “Different Than Before” alongside an ambitious and cinematic music video. To celebrate the occasion, Amanda and her key collaborators will debut the video with a virtual panel conversation about the making of the video on Amanda’s Youtube channel at 11AM PST
For now, you can can check out this teaser video, and make sure to subscribe to Amanda’s youtube channel to catch the debut on May 20th. Your next chance to see Amanda live is on May 26 at Songs of Resilience, presented by Elimi8hate and VAFF.
Our Interview with Amanda Sum
Amanda sum, tell us who you are!
Hi!!! I’m a theatre artist and musician! I dabble a little in dance sometimes too! I’m based in Vancouver, BC.
How and when did your relationship with music begin?
I was put into piano lessons as a kid and stuck with those lessons until I was midway through highschool. I played clarinet in elementary school, and both oboe and English horn in highschool. I was also in the chamber choir in highschool, which got me singing all the time. Somewhere in there I taught myself guitar and started posting covers on Youtube attempting to impress my crush. My mom, Linda (who plays my mom in the music video!), was instrumental in matchmaking me and music. She is an amazing singer and pianist and always supported my musical endeavors, even when I told her I wanted to quit piano lessons!
What motivates you to be creative?
The fact that every creative project inherently involves working with incredible artists is a huge motivation.
Do you have any other creative outlets?
Yes! It was when I was nearing the end of my theatre degree that I decided to make music more than a hobby. So now I am finding a balance between theatre and music. I’m currently Theatre Replacement’s COLLIDER Artist in Residence, building a show of mine, which is a musical “pop-up book performance”. I really like this practice of melding theatre and music in ways that subvert western musical theatre frameworks. Other than plunking away at that project, other creative outlets include dancing, doodling, a needle crafting thing, or cooking!
Can you share some of your influences?
My mom. Carole King. Maiko Yamamoto. Mayumi Yoshida. Laufey. Sandra Oh.
Can you talk about the inspiration behind “Different Than Before?”
The song was written in May 2020, and at the time, there was a harsh uprising of Asian hate crimes, especially in Vancouver. I was worried for my family, my elders, and my community. I wrote this song with this longing for change, balancing that with an acknowledgement that it won’t happen in an instant. We’ve got to keep working for more tomorrows until our community can live without fear of being attacked.
Where did the vision for this video come from and how did the project come together?
I performed and spoke about this song at an online concert in the summer of 2020. Mayumi Yoshida was streaming the concert, and we were just about to release our first music video, Groupthink, which she directed. She messaged me calling dibs on this song “Different Than Before” for our next project. I was excited about this, but it felt preemptive, as I hadn’t successfully secured any funding to record the song, let alone make a music video for it. We put a hold on thinking about it while I saw through the logistics of the album recording. In the spring of 2021, Mayumi and I had brainstorming sessions on the visuals. I love her brain, and after a lot of conversations about what the story would be, we teamed up with Sebastien Galina at Boldly to apply for Creative BC’s Music Video Program. From spring to fall, we loosely touched on plans. The scope of the project was quite large, and we knew we needed some more financial support to fully realize the vision. We applied to RBC’s MVP Program in the fall of 2021. By December 2021, we had enough funding, we brought on Lynne Lee, and the ball rolled very quickly from there. We shot the video in March 2022, and it feels surreal to be releasing it now.
What was challenging about writing this song and making this video? What surprised you?
Logistics are challenging. Practicing patience is challenging. Asking for support is hard. And still being in a pandemic…
But seeing how many people were so interested in being a part of it was surprising and so humbling. It really is special when a silly little song that I wrote in my bedroom could become something like this, where I got to work with such experienced artists and activists to bring this project to its full potential. Like, WHAT? I’m still pinching myself, truthfully.
How do you define success as an artist?
Ooh that’s tricky. I find it hard to find a proper measure of what success is. But maybe, in part, success is being in a place where neither the amazing or terrible comments/reviews alter and affect how you see your work. I’m not there yet.
How does your sense of identity influence your work?
I think my sense of identity plays a lead role in my work. Whether it’s about being young, being a woman, or being Asian, most of my lyrics stem from those identity pieces. Thematically, things can expand out from there, but they’re usually rooted in identity.
What is the role of art in society?
Art is a reflection of society. And art creates walls for people to either play within or break down (amongst other things!). I think.
What is a dream project you would like to take on?
I dream of choreographing a tap dance show and then writing a musical score that replicates the exact same rhythms, and then present the two pieces as a double bill??? I also dream of composing something for an orchestra!!!?? And I dream of writing children’s raps???!! But I am also currently working on my dream projects right now, so I’ll have to finish those first.
What are your upcoming plans and where can we see you perform next?
Different Than Before will be released on May 20th. A couple more singles and music videos to follow, and then my debut album will be released in the fall. I will be performing on May 26th, organized by Elimi8hate and VAFF. I will be returning to develop and perform in re:current theatre’s New Societies, an interactive theatre game, which will have a short Vancouver run in June, and a tour in July/August!
Where can people follow you and your work?