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VICE spotlight

VICE Spotlight: ZK king 劉

ZK king 劉 is where Kelsey Lu and Blood Orange collide.

ZK king 劉’s music is cutesy and precious, as if it were embellished in pink ribbons and bows. It maintains a distinct, sweet innocence that makes you feel giddy inside. 

Themes of heartbreak and goodbyes are juxtaposed with glistening chimes and vocals wrapped in desire. All of this unravels ZK’s internal conflict: the long-term indulgence of short-term relationships.

Despite the ongoing motif of grief and longing, ZK’s music provides the same feeling of sending a flirty text to your crush, or slipping a love letter into their school locker. 


It’s daunting, heart-thumping and lovesick.

Jamie Marina Lau, also known as ZK king 劉, is a songwriter, producer and novelist, and is one of many Naarm-based artists fronting the alternative R&B/pop scene in Australia. 

Her song “princesspeachlovesong” uses fairy-like whispers and hypnotic vocal melodies to let you in on secrets that are otherwise taking refuge in her diary pages.

She puts you in a place where you’re both a fly on the wall and a part of the conversation, with music doused in a childlike sense of make-believe and mystery, where fantasy and reality come together. 

ZK’s whimsical approach to music came from scavenging the internet for songs alongside her brother and fellow artist, Chef Chung. Free music download apps and 4shared allowed for a deep exploration of the many hidden musical pathways on the internet.

“That had a huge impact on the music we make now, mostly because we were always listening to bootleg versions.” she told VICE.

A lot of the music ZK consumed growing up came from huge stars like Michael Jackson, Spice Girls, The Beach Boys, Boney M and The Pet Shop Boys, mixing in scattered spins of ABBA. And the Cantonese pop classics that ZK heard during family road trips would expose her to elements of music outside of the Western formula.

“CantoPop ranges from ballads to trance music influences and remixes. We heard a lot of remixes growing up. So we’d be driving through the outback listening to that.”


After growing up on a rotation of pop music, and developing an infatuation for jazz and soul from her music teacher, ZK king 劉’s Garageband ventures began. 

“A couple of years ago I started making beats but wanted to create dreamy, sparkly ambient film soundtracks, so my music manifested into that. I didn’t quite know what it was when I first began making it, and I’ve just been playing around with production since then,” she said.

“I feel like with producing and songwriting, I could play freely and let it be whatever it wanted and needed to be. My music dips its toes into pop…but I want to try everything. I want it to keep being this thing in my life that I can escape to.”

Chasing that escapism comes from the musicians that currently inspire ZK: Dean Blunt, L’Rain, Anna Wise, Yves Tumor, and long-term inspirations, Cocteau Twins, Blood Orange and Minnie Ripperton, to name a few.

“I just love how they oscillate between styles and moods. It comes from somewhere real.”

Taking a page out of these artists’ notebook, ZK uses music to invite you into sonic realms that are “dreamy but boyish, sweet but tough, hazy, misty, ethereal, baby pink and earthy green.”

Her debut EP Heart throbs is described as a fusion of textured, uncanny pop. The project dives into the concept of relationships, both online and offline, and the subtle narrative of expectations and togetherness in distant crushes. Most of it came together in the back seat of her car and “fucking around on Ableton”.


“It was a really silly, fun process. After I finished the project, I spent the rest of the year in the U.S and I was relying a lot on internet friendships and for my relationships to be maintained online,” she said. 

“Being far from everyone I knew and being on my own for the first time carrying this project with me felt really special,”

“The project felt like nostalgia before it was even made, it felt like I was calling back but also calling-in. In that way, it manifests as dream-like and heady, impulsive, dramatic too but contained in its light, sweet packaging.”

Likening the stories told through the project to anonymous Tumblr messages and online worlds like IMVU, where you can hide behind a character, Heart throbs flirts with fantasy and reality, and encourages you to step and play into your imagination.

“I think it explores transience in a funny way,” she said.

“On the surface they are cute songs you’d play while getting ready to go out, but many of the tracks speak to saying goodbye to a side of yourself or someone else; moving forward almost delusionally.”

ZK’s repertoire of music so far is a strong start to an already fierce journey, and she owes it to the blossoming creative community she's part of.

“I love my community. I think for a lot of artists in this country, a lot of the exciting stuff comes out of the friendships we have and the community we share,” she said.


“I’ve been wanting to see more autonomy and independence…I’ve spent time in commercial industries…it kind of makes you second-guess yourself,”

“But I see so many artists doing their thing with such staunch nowadays, so I’m not too worried [about the future].”

Adele is the Junior Writer & Producer for VICE AU/NZ. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter here.

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