Alice Longyu Gao is creating a maximalist, queer sonic party world that’s better than our own
Alice Longyu Gao would like to leave this world in search of another. In fact, she's actually been quite busy building her own — Alice Longyu Gao World — where she's the president, running on a platform that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, a CEO championing artistic vision and diversity, and the resident party starter, providing splashy hyperpop beats.
"I'm so curious about how humanity and systems work, and the more I get to know it, the more I realize the system wasn't built for women, the system wasn't built for minorities' success, it wasn't even built for non-English speakers,'' Alice Longyu Gao says. "Because the systems weren't built for LGBTQ+ kids' success, the world wasn't built to understand us, I wanted to invent a self-sustainable world — system — for myself, my community."
Read more: SZA has always been alternative—you just weren’t listening
While many artists set out to create a cohesive concept within their music, both sonically and aesthetically, few do it as deftly as Longyu Gao. With her colorful alt-dance music, maximalist fashion, and DJ sets and live events like Alice the Club, it really is as if the queer NYC-and-LA-based recording artist is establishing, not just a world, but an entire sonic universe where queer people can thrive. And it doesn't just feel all-encompassing in her art — Alice Longyu Gao World is like a more idyllic, more fun version of our own reality.
[Photo by Stolenbesos, Astra Zero]
It's right there in the title of the Bengbu, China-born artist's "second debut EP," Let's Hope Heteros Fail, Learn, and Retire, which just dropped today. The release follows up 2021's High Dragon and Universe EP and a series of singles, and features collaborations with Dylan Brady of 100 gecs (they previously worked together on her viral track "Rich Bitch Juice").
Although Longyu Gao defies genre ("Come 2 Brazil" is a bumping rap in which she spits cheeky bars about how clouted she is, while "Hëłlœ Kįttÿ" is pure bubblegum-screamo chaos), she's an artist in the distinctly online hyperpop scene who is all about bringing her beats live and letting go.
"It's all about people getting together," Longyu Gao says about her music and lifestyle of DJ-ing event after event. Like many other hyperpop artists, she feels like she "exploded" a bit online during lockdown, which is when she began hosting her Zoom club nights that raised funds for LGBTQ+ performers, but now she sees the IRL space as perhaps the most important part of her "world." She describes the way she thinks about everything she does and the parties she throws as like building a community from the ground up. She says, "Think about making a nation, right? You got to have the hospital, you got to have the newspaper." What's especially essential to her? You simply have "got to have the club."
Like many New York transplants before her, Longyu Gao was drawn to how many people there formed their own families, and felt a desire to "nurture her community." Originally, the recording artist grew up in a mid-sized city in China, where she studied classical piano. She says, "I'm the black sheep of my family and the space for me to be who I am was quite small at where I grew up. Therefore, I needed to leave."
Eventually, she went to university in Boston, but finally found herself, and where she really fit in, in New York. "It's like this for a lot of New Yorkers. Most people are not from New York, but like once they come to New York, 'Well, can I go back to, like, Idaho? Probably not.'"
There, in the late 2010s, she worked in various creative industries like fashion, but became "addicted to the hustle" in figuring out how to make money by DJing — playing party after party and experimenting as much as possible while producing original tracks. Eventually, that nightlife space, particularly with other queer artists and fans, is where she found her niche. She says, "I was like, 'Wait, my goal is not just to make money and survive. My goal is to build a world.'"
Now, you know when you walk into an NYC party and Longyu Gao is behind the decks. Sure, the DJ is instantly recognizable, dressed in a dress with puffy sleeves or feathers, her hair in bows or coiffed in spikes, but she's always working the crowd with jaw-drop-worthy pop remixes.
Years ago, she even caught the attention of A$AP Rocky at an Art Basel event in Miami that she was booked at and played AQUA's "Barbie Girl." "It was a lot," she says, but weeks later she was stunned when A$AP approached her at a NYFW event to tell her, "I want to do a party together, let's play 'Barbie.'" While nothing ever came of it and her DM attempts failed, last year, Longyu Gao finally ran into him again — this time one night on Canal Street in which she felt compelled to approach him, show off her tattoo dedicated to A$AP Mob, and ask if he remembered her. That moment, and the first time she played Brooklyn's Elsewhere, opening for 100 gecs on their first-ever tour, she counts as the full-circle, extremely New York moments that assure her that she and her world are on the right track.
Longyu Gao may only be putting out her "second debut" EP, with a third on the way later this spring, but Alice Longyu Gao World isn't at all short of its world-building. Each one of her visuals is like a fashion-fairy fantasia; her eye-catching style often plays on gender, from masculine-CEO-ready looks that emphasize how much work she puts in as an independent artist to hyper-feminine stagewear; and her sound is like a pop-punk pixie princess was handed over the stage at a rave. On the very personal track "MONK" she sings, "Grandma, grandma can't you see?/I'm a fucking prodigy/Grandma, grandma can't you see?/I am making history," and it rings true, as if it's her induction speech as the president of Alice Longyu Gao World.
While she's poised to welcome even more citizens into her nation, she's largely focused on trying to make queer audiences feel seen. She says, "It would be sick if I can be a stadium-type artist — but also, if I am so self-sufficient to the level of ‘Every single show it's like 500 people, always sold out, everybody has fun, I can pay for my electricity bills,' that sounds good to me, too. I wanted to make this world for myself and my community."
First her "second debut EP," next running a nation, codified LGBTQ+ rights, and health care for all.