Independent Thai pop star Cupnoodle, real name Sasha Johst, writes the most relatable, sardonic, yet soulful tracks you’re ever likely to hear.
With a string of self-released hits, Cupnoodle has seen her tracks appear on UK TV shows, garnered flagship playlist spots from Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music, and seen her hand-picked by Spotify as one of the best Asian Indie artists of 2022.
Her soulful R&B-inflected indie pop sound draws upon her diverse musical and geographical influences, being born to Thai and German parents, studying Music Technology in London and living and working out of her studio in Bangkok. Her lyricism is laced with wry humour and can shift from raw and emotive, to brutally caustic sarcasm within a matter of a few bars.
Drawing on her life experiences, Cupnoodle speaks to her audience almost like the big sister that everyone wants. Her songs are replete with empowering messages, sage advice and just enough witty self-effacement to make you feel better about the all-too-familiar situations she describes. "For, that resilience is grounded in finding people who love us unconditionally and, ultimately, learning to love ourselves in the same way," she says. In Cupnoodle’s case, this unconditional love is modelled on her mother, evident in the lyricis to her latest single That Pretty, which releases on Sept 7, (“I look like my mother, she’s the best of all / That’s who I wanna be”), though she is quick to acknowledge that this role could be filled by anyone.
Cupnoodle’s latest pop single That Pretty explores the themes of self-acceptance and resilience in the face of the constant public scrutiny we subject ourselves to through social media. Guru By Bangkok Post speaks to the artist to know what makes her so relatable.
Why the name Cupnoodle?
Here’s the elevator-pitch, Asian-born, instant and worldwide. Everyone has their personalised version of Cup Noodles. You might put whatever’s leftover to make something that you can survive on. It can also be the base to some of the most decadent and fancy toppings if that’s what you’re feeling. It’s that last thing in the cabinet as a life saviour or a guilty pleasure that will make you bloat the next day. The real question is why not?
By adopting the name Cupnoodle, I’ve chosen to break free from conventional boundaries. I don’t confine myself to specific music genres, as you can see from my releases so far. I also don’t limit myself to particular themes in my lyrics or production style. Cupnoodle represents a unique perspective. It’s a nod to the features my songs share with the food brand: originally Asian, instant and with a global influence.
Where do your musical influences come from?
My mom’s cassette collections of American folk music such as Lobo, Bee Gees and the Carpenters, which were always playing in the background. By the time I could buy CDs with my allowance, I was addicted to learning the songs of the pamphlet of artists like Britney Spears, Whitney Houston to Beyonce. This was before the time of streaming, I had to source out my own exposure.
Whenever we travelled, I would always ask my parents to check out CD stores and get a few random ones. In Indonesia, Japan, Netherlands and Germany, I got some CDs of Sarah Vaughn, Etta Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin. That took me into the world of jazz and soul.
Then, when I studied in Dusseldorf and London, alternative rock bands like Nirvana and The Doors, and blues artists like Chuck Berry and Etta James came into the picture. I think my musical influences really reflect the fact that music has never left my side as I grew up.
How would you describe your genre of music?
It’s a love-child between the singer/songwriter way of story-telling lyrically and experimenting with different flavours of production. For me, it’s a constant balance between letting the lyrics shine as a songwriter and experimenting, pushing myself as a vocalist. Soulful yet singer and songwriter.
What’s your latest release and what inspired it?
‘That Pretty’ comes out Sept 7 and was written in the kitchen while my mom was cooking. I was feeling down. Somewhere, somehow I have lost track of why I’m on social media. Moving back to Asia, I felt more pressure into ‘getting things done’ to my face. I felt challenged by the idea of ‘looking perfect’. But spending time with my parents that day made me realise how they love me unconditionally. They have always put value in my effort and creativity.
Writing this song reminded me what my focus is on social media. I’m there to connect with my listeners through my stories and music. It is self love but in the form of resilience. The song mentions my mom and my roots because I believe that’s how I’ve developed this resilience. None of us looked commercially ‘perfect’ and it has never mattered in my house. I think my upbringing has shaped me into someone who question conformity and social norms.
In my case, I’m blessed to have a really great relationship with my parents and it’s really through them that I’ve gradually come to learn what it means to love myself. There’s so much pressure on us to be perfect — just think of how we try to present ourselves on Instagram, for instance — but I came to realise that my parents love me no matter how imperfect I am. We all need that kind of anchor in our lives if we’re going to find self-acceptance and that person could be a partner, a best friend, a sibling or anyone.
When is an album coming out?
It’s currently in boiling water. I do like my noodles al dente so maybe a few more months in the pot :).
What or who do you listen to?
I listen to people’s stories, to how other artists move me. I find the most inspiring songwriters like Billy Joel, Don McLean and Freddie Mercury can offer a much needed perspective to living while letting us escape into their music at the same time. Currently, I’m loving Nala Sinephro, Tash and Q. I really like to shift from some form of instrumental and contemporary vocals in my playlists.
Where does Cupnoodle go from here?
Cupnoodle is ready to be shipped worldwide! And what really excites me the most is diving into the live music scene. My passion for music started not only as a songwriter but also as a performer. On stage is where I feel most connected to my listeners, I can feel so vulnerable up there. I’m eager for the moment I can share that with them.
Pre-save Cupnoodle’s That Pretty on instagram.com/cupnoodlemusic.