uNder Spotlight: 808vic is Creating Emotive Bedroom Pop Ballads
"I just want people to really connect with [my music]."
"I just want people to really connect with [my music]."
Since marking his debut in 2019 with two EPs ‘Floppy Files’ and ‘Wav’s for the Summer,’ the Nigeria-born, London-based bedroom pop artist 808vic has remained consistent with his output while letting go of the lo-fi nature of those projects for the polished sheen of 2021’s ‘lived to love’ and 2022’s ‘Vic’s Odyssey.’ Yet, the connecting thread at the heart of each of his projects is the emotional core 808vic injects: snapshots about love, romance, loss and growth.
In October’s edition of the uNder column, 808vic earned a spot on the list among other rising musical talents. He revealed that music “helped bring me out of tough times, provide clarity and inspire me.” Since then he has released his second music video for “luvsik!” off ‘Vic’s Odyssey.’ In the video, he and his lover and collaborator Ria of Mars reprised their real-life romantic chemistry for the bubbly tune. “Ria is a powerhouse,” he tells the NATIVE.
We caught up with 808vic for a deep dive into his life pre-London, his musical journey and his plans for the future.
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NATIVE: What was life like in Nigeria for you before you moved to London?
I grew up in Ketu, Lagos. It was a regular life [with the] hustle and bustle of Lagos, in how you see waking up early at like 5:30 [in the morning] to go to school because of traffic, just the regular stuff. I spent a year in CKC [Christ the King College] in Abuja when I first started secondary school. I didn’t like it; I was getting too sick and losing weight. I was in boarding school as well. When my mom came over for one of the visiting days, she was like, “Nah. Find another school.” So I went back to Lagos.
NATIVE: Was there an initial difficulty with adjusting to London when you moved there permanently?
808vic: No, no, not really. It was different for sure. Because, again, you’re kind of immersing yourself in a new culture, a new way of doing things, a new way of life. There is constant electricity [unlike] the normal things that you plan for in Naij, where you kind of anticipate the worst before doing anything. There was a change in that way. At the same time, it’s a different culture, like it’s more of a melting pot of different ethnicities and races, whereas, in Nigeria, most people are black. It was different but it wasn’t hard to adapt to; I think a lot of the media we consume [in Nigeria] is very westernised.
NATIVE: So it was easier to adjust, right?
808vic: Yeah. I mean, I was watching Zack and Cody [from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody] when I was small. You catch on to all these cues and stuff. And then it’s just about getting used to them.
NATIVE: I know you started music officially in London. Were you ever aware of your passion for it while in Nigeria or was it when you got to London that you realised you wanted to make music?
808vic: I’d already been doing it [music before London]. I was in the choir in Naij and my uncle played the keyboard. So I already learned how to play the keyboard a little but in terms of actually pursuing music as a thing that I would want to do. Yeah, that didn’t really click until I came over here [London]. I always thought about it as something I did rather than something I would like to fully invest myself into at some point. But I think as I started doing more things and seeing how there was an actual potential pathway, it just clicked.
NATIVE: What was it about making beats that appealed to you?
808vic: To be honest, I think I didn’t trust my voice and my songwriting and my ability to deliver anyways. I used to sing when I was younger, I was in choir right but then at some point, I think I lost some of my ability to sing or rap or just perform generally so I just kind of entered this shell of just producing. And to be honest, I like producing so it wasn’t as if I was consciously feeling like I was hiding. But I reflect and think about it, it was probably that but then I love constructing music. At some point when I was in SS3, I was the only person doing music in my school, like for my year so it was only me that wrote music for my WAEC. I love the theory behind music, so that was always there, but I think that I avoided putting my voice on things for so long because I didn’t really fully trust that I could do it.
NATIVE: Who were your musical inspirations?
808vic: I think because I started as a producer, I have inspiration in that sense and also in terms of writing music. I remember when I first started producing, I was listening to a lot of LeMav, a lot of WIZE it was very kind of electronic. When I first heard his [LeMav] SoundCloud, I was like “Whoa.” I literally went through his whole SoundCloud discography. There are a lot of people in a production sense, as well as Phoelix, if you know him, I think he’s from Chicago, Monte Booker as well. And then in terms of writing, I really enjoy listening to Noname, Smino, Saba, Joji and Anderson .Paak.
NATIVE: Run me through how you went about recording your earliest projects ‘Floppy Files’ and ‘Wav’s for the Summer.’
808vic: It was fun. ‘Floppy Files’ especially because that was the first time I fully decided to put out my own original music and where I would be on vocals, I’d be mixing, I’d be working on everything. That project is really special to me. So I think I started thinking about making some type of project that would just be centred [on] me and my family, [and] people that I had access to really make music with. It was a really fun time, from buying my first mic and sound card to figuring out the whole process, because I started making some of the beats on my own in London. And then when I went back to Naij for the summer, I tried to get my siblings—Burgundy and Joshua—in the room, [and] record what I could record. Some things I didn’t record, I had to figure out how to send it over email and all of that. But it was fun writing that project. But I think after I dropped ‘Floppy Files’ and it was what it was, I learned so much in creating ‘Wav’s for the Summer’ because they both dropped in the same year. But I felt like I grew a lot between the two. Sometimes when I listen back to it, and I’m like, “Oh, this dropped literally six months before,” it’s hard to visualise. But it was very fun working through the whole process because I produced all of them myself. I mixed them myself even though some of the mixes, [I look] back and I’m like, “Hmm. The choices.” But it was very fun to work on those projects, honestly.
NATIVE: Your older brother Burgundy was ever-present on those projects. What was it like gaining his co-sign at that point?
808vic: It was incredible. A lot of the early music I listened to was shaped by him, like a looking-up-to-your-older-brother type [of] thing. My introduction to the Alté scene was through him; I came back to Naij in [the] summer [of] ‘16 and the guy was putting me on to Mafeni and Lady Donli and to Odunsi and all these guys that I had never heard of. I couldn’t even conceptualise the music that they were making and he was putting me on to all of these. And in terms of the ability to write music, the guy is one of my favourite people, he’s one of the best people around, to be honest. So when I first started producing, he was like, “Oh, make a beat”; I knew then I wasn’t that good, but just the fact that he was willing to even jump on it. And then after that when I was trying to do my own music, he was willing to lend his own art and his own writing and advice. It was incredible. He’s shaped a lot of how I think about music and on top of that, he is very good at music himself. So yeah, it’s very good to have support like that around you.
NATIVE: Does he still do music?
808vic: Yeah, he does. He’s working on a project. I keep telling him to put stuff out. It’s the plight of an artist – you always second-guess yourself. I want to force him to drop something because he has so much cooking. I’ve listened to so much unreleased [music] and I’m like, “All of this stuff. If you put it out, it slaps.” So hopefully soon he will have something coming out that can show everybody what he’s about because he’s very superb, honestly. All the songs that he is on, on my projects, they end up becoming his songs.
NATIVE: Apart from collaborations with your brothers, you have also worked with other acts, sometimes even acts based in Nigeria. How do you decide who you want to feature on your projects or whose projects you’d like to feature on?
808vic: Honestly, if I like somebody’s music, I will try my best to be involved in it. I’ve managed to work with a lot—not a lot, to be honest, I realise now that I’ve worked with a small circle—but the people I’ve worked with, I really have faith in their music and I genuinely enjoy their music as a listener. So it makes reaching out to them a lot easier or if they reach out to me it makes it easy to be like, “Oh, yeah, for sure. I’m going to hop on that.” I’m grateful for that. So with [Cozy] Kiyo and Ictooicy, and Aussie Maze as well, all those guys I genuinely listen to their music outside of the songs we have been on together. So it makes things easy.
NATIVE: From your ‘lived to love’ EP, there’s a noticeable difference in your music. It has become more expansive and polished. What did this change come about?
808vic: When I made ‘Wav’s for the Summer,’ I was still figuring a lot of stuff out. Like in terms of techniques of how I dealt with music, like how I wrote and all of that. But in ‘lived to love,’ I think I grew more; there was a big gap between it and ‘Floppy Files’ and ‘Wav’s for the Summer.’ I think in that time I grew a lot as a person. I listen to a lot more music. So I expanded myself as an individual. I think that contributed to how I constructed that project. And the themes I explored and the ways I explored those teams. Yeah, I think that’s what it was, honestly, I think it was just giving myself time to actually grow as an individual and experience things. That’s really what contributed to that.
NATIVE: Talk to me about the song “21” on ‘lived to love.’ Were there any burdens that track took off your shoulders after recording it?
808vic: For sure. I think, low-key, it’s kind of a sleeper. I wanted to just talk on that project because 2020 was a very real year. I think the world as a whole reached a threshold [and] things broke. We had the BLM Movement go worldwide [and] EndSars happened in October. There were a lot of structures that had been upheld for a long time that I think a lot of people in the global consciousness started being aware of. So I wanted to speak to that growth I felt. And I also met the person that is the love of my life.
There were a lot of moments that I grew from in 2020 and I wanted to unwrap them and present them in a song format. It was a real year. When I finished recording and mixing it, I felt accomplished with myself because the way it sounded and everything I said in there was exactly how I wanted to say it. I think it’s a sleeper; it’s a very good song. I don’t listen to [it] that much, but when I do, I feel good.
NATIVE: Is there any difference between how you create music now and how you created music in the past?
808vic: You know, when you’re figuring stuff out, you tend to sometimes waste time just trying to do the simplest things and that can take away from how much you end up doing. But now I think I have more clarity. When I opened up FL Studio, I feel like I know where I’m going. Obviously, there are still [those] times when I need to open up a piano and jam stuff together and see what happens. But I think in terms of decision-making, I’m a lot clearer and my writing has gotten a lot more clearer as well. I think it’s just a thing of experience. When you produce your own music, it’s a thing about putting in hours. I don’t think there’s any talent to do with it. It’s just about knowing your workspace and enhancing that to work for how you want to create. I think now I’ve gotten that down, so it makes things a lot easier.
NATIVE: Your partner Ria of Mars is a big part of your current process as an artist, helping with the music videos and general creative direction. Can you speak about her influence?
808vic: Ria is a powerhouse. If you go to my Instagram and try and trace back how I used to release music, it was very much like, “Oh, I have a song.” Gbam! “That’s the song. Take. Do what you want to do.” That was literally the release process and I’m done for the year. I’ll see you when I see you. Since meeting Ria, the decisions we’ve made together, mostly from Ria, have enhanced how my music lives. The mediums I can actually send across a message from have evolved; it wasn’t just me posting a cover that I made on Snapchat that I sourced from something. But Ria is so creative, hearing something and deciding, “Okay, this is a route that we can go with this song, what do you think?” And then we have a talk about it, narrow it down, cut down ideas, bring up some more [ideas] and it’s just a better process.
And I think a lot of times people have connected with the music solely because they’ve seen something that they like before even hearing [the song]. So it’s enhanced the whole way I released music; I feel like, through working with Ria, there’s an expectation when I want to release new music. There’s an expectation that there’s something visually striking that will come alongside it.
NATIVE: You have shared music videos for your songs. What was it like being on set?
808vic: It’s fun. Obviously, when we’re doing those music videos, I’m not as involved because I’m not creating the set, I’m not directing [and] I’m not doing anything. I literally just show up. If I have to learn a dance, I learn a dance. If I have to make a turn on cue [and] all those things, sure, I do that. It’s a little laidback for me so I just enjoy it. During the first music video that we did for “lived to love,” I remember day one was frightening because when I send my unreleased stuff to people [and] hear that somebody else was in the room when that person was listening to it, my brain starts going crazy.
So being in a room where, on a normal, these people will never have heard this song but now everybody has to hear the song and everybody’s hearing the song, it was frightening. You have to get free of your inhibitions to really let the vision of the director shine because then it’s not really about your art anymore, even though your art is playing a part. It’s about letting this director or directors do their own thing and giving up a bit of your control. You have to trust a lot more and honestly by day two, I was more comfortable. So I literally just had to fight those feelings for day one and by day two, you understand that everybody that is here is equally as talented and understands their craft. Whether they’re using a hammer and nail to do a set or they’re setting the focus on the camera or the ones hitting playback on music. Everybody’s working together to create this art piece and it’s really amazing to see everybody just do their thing.
NATIVE: Your earliest works were copyrighted to you (Victory Obot); now, your works are under “we are in soup.” Is that a label?
808vic: That’s a good catch. It’s nothing at the moment. I just didn’t want it to keep being my government name. I’m still independent. I might end up making something with that, maybe a label or collective, who knows.
NATIVE: such an interesting choice, though. Why did you choose that?
808vic: So basically, all of my accounts [on social media] were “VictoryObot1.” And Ria was not having it. Ria mentioned many times [that] it didn’t really do anything. So I stayed up late trying to figure out what the new name would be across my socials and I ran through a lot of different options and tried to come up with something cool. And then I just landed on Victory is in Soup because, as a Nigerian, you understand the sentiments, but if you don’t understand what that means, I guess it’s just a random thing. It makes sense, now that we have created this fake show called The Soup. It’s just very quirky.
NATIVE: You released the two-song pack ‘Vic’s Odyssey’ in September. Is there an album in the works?
808vic: Yeah, I’m working on an album. I have no I don’t have any ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) on it because I want to really to—you know how you noticed that jump from ‘Floppy Files’ to ‘Wav’s for the Summer’ to ‘lived to love’?; you could see the progression—I want to have that progression be evident again because I believe that if I release this next project and that’s the last thing I ever release, I want to be comfortable with that. Do you know what I mean? The thing I’m working on is very conceptual. When you try to do stuff that is conceptual, if you don’t do it right, it just falls on its face. I want to just make sure I’m doing everything correctly and that it hopefully connects with people.
NATIVE: So how far are you into the album?
808vic: Still writing and recording. I have pieces but it’s nowhere near it needs to be. I can’t even give you a percentage on it but when it comes out, I’ll be proud of that.
NATIVE: Any plans of signing to a label or are you remaining an indie artist for now?
808vic: For now, yeah. This indie life can be difficult. Basically, anything I make in music goes straight back into music because that’s just how it has to be. And I’m also still working at a full-time job, so it is difficult. You reach some recent days and you’re just like, “Bruh. Omo, won’t it be easier to just sell out?” and at least I’ll get some other problems but at least I’ll be free of the current ones. But yeah, I think I’m still comfortable for now. The things I’ve managed to do to this point have almost given me a reason to be comfortable in it because when I was starting, it was Chance the Rapper and Saba that were giving me the validation to be like, “Okay you can avoid the vultures and try and just do it yourself.” It is possible; you have the internet now, [and] you can release music. Somebody can wake up today and just decide to release a song on streaming platforms and they’ll be able to do it. Obviously, things might change; these days I’m being a bit less idealistic in how I thought about these things. Now I think I’m more understanding that it’s situations. You just have to make sure that it’s a good deal and that you are not screwing yourself over.
NATIVE: When you make music, what impact do you hope it leaves on the listeners?
808vic: I don’t know. I want people to just connect with it, honestly, in whatever way they need because I’ve listened to music where the same song one day feels vastly different from how I received it another day, even though it’s the same words and the same beat, but sometimes you are just in a different frame of mind so you receive it differently and it’s still as impactful.
I just want people to really connect with [my music] and [my music] help them out when they need it. I have gotten some messages especially on “lived to love” because that’s my biggest song so far and people tell me that the song acts as a therapy for them. That kind of thing is incredible to me because that’s what music and art can be for people. I want my music to be able to help people cope because the world is chaotic.