NewTracks New Artist: Wongii

NewTracks New Artist: Wongii

Emerging from past EDM explorations into groovy rhythms, Wongii has released four singles thus far, tracks that take listeners on thematic journeys through space and time. Wongii is the musical child of Caleb Wong, a multi-instrumentalist from Wellington, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see an EP, or album on the way. Currently taking on all aspects of music promotion himself, he is also doing all the recording, production, mixing and mastering for Smokefree Rockquest finalist jazz-funk band Crumbly Jack. Rewarding Wong’s focus on improving his production chops, Cousins was included on NZ On Air’s NewTracks compilation this February.

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Caleb Wong is my full name. I’m from Wellington and I play the piano, saxophone, and drums.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I’ve just finished high school, and taking music throughout was very helpful. The subject was relaxed, so it meant I could use the school’s music facilities and microphones to really hone my recording craft every day. Piano, sax, drums, and music theory lessons outside school were extra epic as they diversified my musical tastes and gave me some chops.

Any previous projects we might know you from?

I used to make electronic music under the name C.Wong, it’s still floating around Youtube and Soundcloud too.

What’s the background story of how Wongii as a project came to be? 

It started when the first lockdown hit in early 2020. I had been wanting to make more alternative, rather than dance-orientated music since the end of 2019, and online classes were pretty minimal so I had heaps of time to work on new material. My good mate Max Henley sent me a couple of guitar loops that I ended up creating the first two ‘Wongii’ songs around. Max usually plays the guitars for my songs, but on Cousins he wrote and sang vocals with me as well.

How and when did you come up with the name for the project?

I thought ‘C.Wong’ as an artist name was super lame and not cool. The music I had made in 2020 was vastly different from the EDM songs I had already put out anyway, so it felt like a good idea to rebrand.

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

When I started making music, I pretty much only wanted to make EDM, but nowadays I’ve strayed away from the EDM tropes and cliches I leaned into so heavily.

At this point, I’m experimenting with how certain words and phrases in certain orders sound, rather than the meaning of them and creating a thematic story. For example, Cousins really isn’t about anything at all, but think the vibe of the nonsense is at least a little groovy.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Passing over a million streams across streaming platforms from my c.wong and Wongii music is nice, but it’s only really because a couple of songs were uploaded by some big Youtube channels. Placement on Spotify’s editorial playlists; Fresh Finds AU & NZ, New Dance Beats, and Dinner Mood is exciting to me though.

What makes cousins stand out for you as a single?

Cousins was my best-produced song at the time. I think the ear candy vocal and synths sounds are good fun. This is also a song I didn’t really do any marketing and promo for either, whereas I spent a lot of time sending out my first two songs. The year was coming to an end and I couldn’t be bothered with streams or doing any promo with cousins, and Max Henley didn’t even know we were dropping it.

What is the lyrical story behind cousins?

The song is named after a good friend. Luke Cousins is always ingrained into my brain, and Max Henley also thinks about him a lot. Luke Cousins is also the bass player in the three-piece Max and I played in during high school, so it just felt right to dedicate the song to Luke Cousins.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

Probably the outro/breakdown section at the end of the track. There are lots of subtle ambient sounds and vocal harmonies going on, and the way the guitar loops throughout is a cool moment to me.

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where?

I wrote the song with Max Henley, and did all the recording, production, mixing, and mastering in my set up at home in Wellington.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Live, laugh, love.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I don’t really have the artistic vision for a larger project at the moment, so I guess every song I make is a single right now. I just enjoy making music, but I think releasing a 100-track album would be so swag.

Who else is in your team?

Currently, I manage all aspects of my music from the cover art through to independent distribution. Max Henley is the only Wongii teammate because he plays the guitar really well on our songs, and was a driving creative force behind Cousins.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I’m doing all the recording, production, mixing, and mastering for a band called Crumbly Jack. They were national finalists in Rockquest last year and their upcoming EP is all killer no filler.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Jordan Rakei: Family
  • Matt Mercury: Breathe
  • Doma Cyno & Jack Hegarty: Peril (Speak To Me)

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

It doesn’t cost me anything to release or promote my songs at the moment since I’m doing it all myself under my parents’ roof, so I haven’t even thought about applying for funding yet. My last track with Max Henley, Moist, was included on NewTracks which was lovely to see, but unfortunately, I don’t really have any advice for others. I am sorry. Although, there’s probably some money to be made in NFTs somehow which can help fund musical projects.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’m a big follower of Theneedledrop on Youtube. I’m extremely appreciative of Anthony Fantano for telling me what albums I like and dislike.

Any last words?

Freddy fazbear 😍😍