Kiki Rockwell On Storytelling, Videos & Why Pirates Are The Original Punks

By Dan Ahwa
Kiki Rockwell in Cup Runneth Over. Photo / Supplied

Joan of Arc meets “apocalyptic-Viking-witch-pirate” is how Auckland-based musician-to-watch Kiki Rockwell describes her unique style.

It's cosplay folklore combined with a mellow pop vocal arrangement supported by visual storytelling that takes you to another planet.

Debuting the music video for her latest single Cup Runneth Over today, we get to know this emerging creative a little better.

Today you've just released the video for Cup Runneth Over. Can you talk us through what it was like conceptualising this visual component and the storytelling you wanted to get across?

The director Oshara Ardelean and I were going down all sorts of strange and beautiful idea roads, when we decided to circle back and come home to the most glaringly obvious choice: a queer love story set roughly in the medieval age.

I really wanted to explore my more masculine side as this knight’s commander that begins a secret affair with the queen. The queen, who just so happens to be married to a very power-hungry and jealous king.

We wanted to create a Shakespearean-style romantic tragedy and to really see how much we could make a music video feel like an actual film.

And I knew in order to do this we had to go big. This meant I had to learn sword fighting with a stunt crew for months, become a better horse rider and really push my acting skills. I’ve never been so muddy.

As someone who is interested in costume and vintage, how would you describe your personal style?

I find this so hard to pin down. I have worked in costume for years and the line between fashion and costume got blurred for me a long time ago. But for now, let’s go with apocalyptic-Viking-witch-pirate.

What powerful women in history do you reference in your work and why?

I love Circe (not the Game Of Thrones one), but the first witch from Greek mythology who was banished to an island and pretty much invented herbology.

She also had pet lions, bears and wolves and turned a crew of sailors into pigs. I am releasing a song soon about Persephone.

Same Old Energy is a tribute to all the women who lost their lives in the witch trials. The more songs I write, the more I find myself wanting to write through the lens of powerful women history has wronged.

There are elements of Vivienne Westwood in your fashion from pirates to punks – what fashion designers are you drawn to?

Pirates are the original punks, are they not? I love designers that absolutely do their own thing.

They don’t worry about trends or pleasing people but have an absolutely unapologetically unique take on fashion.

But to honest, at the moment, everything I wear is thrifted or I make it myself.

What about the process of putting together visuals for your music do you enjoy the most?

My absolute favourite moment is when you realise you might actually be able to pull it off.

It starts as this imagined concept in your head, and then you slowly start to build a team, collect the costumes and props, cast actors, and scout locations and there’s always an ‘aha!’ moment where you kind of stand back in shock and realise you are pulling this idea out of your head and into the physical realm. It's pure magic.

It seems like your creativity knows no boundaries  do you give yourself any restrictions when you're creating? How do you filter ideas so it works?

The only restrictions are what we can actually do technically, like damn, you know I'd have a dragon in every music video if I could, but they’re so hard to come by.

You have amassed a loyal following on social media, particularly TikTok. How has this medium helped you as a creative artist to get your music and message out there?

TikTok is incredible. It’s the perfect place to find your niche audience. I knew quite early on I wasn’t exactly everyone's cup of tea, so via these mediums, you’re able to find your people and interact with them on a really personal level.

I made a pact with myself at the start to try and reply to every single comment (not quite possible but I’m doing pretty good, I’d say.)

Your single Same Old Energy was something of a breakthrough for you as it amassed 5000 views on its first day of release, plus the messaging around the song connected with so many people. How does the song connect with current-day politics and injustices when it comes to women's rights?

I’ll answer that question with some lyrics from the song, as I feel they explain themselves.

'We were just trying to heal, just tryna survive, a women with magic is fine with him if, that magic is between her thighs. Rise up oh flame, come join the game, they started a frenzy but we’ll take the blame, a bare-chested dame, who goes by no name, their arsenal’s empty all they got is shame.'

'Same old energy baby, history repeats, same old energy baby, they’ll march you through the streets, same old energy baby, they fear what they don’t know, same old energy baby you’ve burned this way before.’

It saddens me that as of the recent overturning of Roe v Wade in the U.S., this song has connected with people on a much darker level. Women have been dealing with the same themes for thousands of years.

Along with fashion, there's a cinematic quality to your visual storytelling  what films or directors have inspired you as a visual artist?

Films are a huge part of my work. I will often watch movie trailers on mute while I’m listening back to a song I’ve just produced so I can visualise the sounds better (if that makes sense haha).

A major influence has been Robert Eggers' The Witch and The Northman. Obviously, Lord of the Rings (that's a given).

And the Game Of Thrones episode 'The Battle of the Bastards' really inspired my most recent music video, Cup Runneth Over.

Kiki Rockwell’s EP Bleeding Out in a Forest is out now.

Share this article: