This story is part of Dialing Up, a series where the Preen staff gets cozy and comfortable with your fave people.
There’s a movement in the music scene pushing for more spaces for queer artists and an openness to talk about the importance of mental health awareness. It’s under these circumstances that indie pop singer-songwriter Rienne makes their debut under the label Off The Record with “Try Again.”
The track is part of a trilogy of love songs. Last August, Rienne dropped the second single in the lineup titled “Just Friends.” Much like its predecessor, it’s tender as it speaks of pining, fear and heartbreak. But it’s also hopeful. With music videos containing clips of the West Virginia-based artist moving around town, it’s almost as if we’re asked to remember that we can start moving on even if we’re still feeling nostalgic.
We got on a call with Rienne to talk about growing up queer, their indie pop idols, fishing memes and more. Here’s how our conversation, which felt like catching up with a warm and open old friend, went.
Hi! How’ve you been? What’s quarantining in West Virginia like?
Well, here it’s kind of different. People are kind of more free. When I left the Philippines in September 2020, everything was super bad. You know how it is. Here, the basics lang.
When I saw your photo with a giant fish on Instagram, I thought of the “women want me, fish fear me” cap that became a meme.
I know that [meme]. Oh my gosh. I love that so much. [Laughs] Yeah. We went fishing. It was my first time and I caught the big ones.
You can wear that cap now that you’re a certified fisherperson.
Fisherperson. [Laughs] Love that! Thank you.
I love your gorgeous haircut, by the way. Your hair was longer in the “Try Again” music video. Did you have celeb hair inspo?
It’s almost the same as yours! I wanted to get Kristen Stewart’s haircut and this is what happened. It’s kind of funny ’cause I got my haircut for free.
The MV was shot by Reggie Bangsil. Are they a family member?
Yeah, that’s my dad. We went to a vacation area in West Virginia. I don’t know why I was wearing that outfit. To be honest, I regret that outfit. But it was fun [shooting the video.]
Since I’ve mentioned the MV, let’s talk about your music. Your themes are mental health and your experiences as part of the LGBTQIA+. What’s the story behind “Try Again”?
I just got out of a relationship with my girlfriend of one year. It wasn’t a good breakup. Then, I moved here [to] the States and everything just didn’t feel right. I was heartbroken and moved to a new place [where I only knew] my parents. One time, my parents were fighting and I was like, “Whaaat? This is making me more scared of trying again.”
I don’t want to marry someone and not be happy with them. That’s why I wrote “I don’t want to fall in love just to fall out of it.” That’s how the song was born.
Is being a mental health and LGBTQIA+ advocate part of your artistic identity?
It would be an honor if someone ever thinks of me that way. I want to be one. Mental health and being a queer person are two things that are very dear to my heart.
I’ve been struggling with my depression for a long time. And I remember when I had to act straight. You know that feeling. I was so scared of being judged by my family but they’re so supportive of everything. They love me.
Do you embrace the indie pop label?
I try to make my songs, as much as possible, indie pop-ish. But they’re starting to sound like indie rock. I want that raw sound, ’yung parang walang pake. Let me say what I want to say. This is indie, [but] I’ll make it sound like whatever I want it to sound like.
Yeah, I saw someone in the comments section say something along the lines of, “Ang lakas maka-Fazerdaze.” So who are your top 3 musical influences?
That’s easy. Greyson Chance, Bea Miller, and Paolo Sandejas.
Any Filipino artists based in the U.S. that you’re dreaming of doing a collab with?
I actually want to collab with artists in the Philippines. So it’s hard. It kind of makes me want to go back home for a little bit. Zack Tabudlo. Love that man. He’s been booming so I don’t think I have a chance.
Never say never! You’ve shared on IG that you had past Spotify artist accounts. Was there a big jump from who you were as an artist then and now?
Yes. My old songs were more pop, more mainstream. The [sound that I have now] is much more me.
Who is Rienne now?
[One of the names I went by was] Rian Panganiban. Panganiban was my dad’s name and Rian was supposedly my name if I were a “boy.” That time I was having a crisis.
When I was thinking of rebranding myself, I thought, “Why not Rienne?” It’s my real name and it was closer to who I think I am—someone who loves and accepts themself.