Well-known for her collaborations in the hip-hop and rap world, Kilo Kish is an independent vocalist and songwriter who does not so easily fit into a specific genre of music. Since the release of her album Reflections in Real Time almost a year ago, Kilo Kish has sparsely played shows and festivals, but has yet to go on an official tour. Beginning February 24th, Kilo Kish will be bringing her artistic vision to life when she opens for Vince Staples on his tour “The Life Aquatic.”
An interview with Kilo Kish to preview the tour.
Besides the reference to Wes Anderson, is there any reason the tour is named “Life Aquatic”? Was this a choice you and Vince made together?
It’s totally Vince’s choice. I think it will make sense. I’ll let him explain why it’s called that.
In a tweet you described your live performances as “basically so dramatic for no reason.” Could you elaborate on that?
I feel like being an artist and making music about yourself and your own personal journey- it’s such a narcissistic thing. When I do the live show, I really like to over-dramatize it and make it more over the top for that reason. A lot of the subjects on the album are very personal, so instead of doing the obvious “let me have emotion with this song,” I like to make it more dramatic and play on that even more, so that it’s just kind of funny after a while. So that’s my take on the live show thing right now. It’s been fun to explore that. It’s fun to play the show as this accountant character, and I just kind of freak out. It’s been an on-going project. I’ve been making films with it, and the Obsession video as well. I’ve been playing on the idea of this one super regular person. Because yeah, I happen to make music, but a lot of the themes on the album are about coming of age, or being in your 20s, or anything else. You could’ve made that album, or a girl down the street could’ve made that album. It’s kind of a universal thing, so I choose a very simple uniform for it, because it kind of stands for all people. That’s what I choose to play it as. I choose to bypass the whole obvious narcissism of “I’m a performer” and in a way “I’m trying to dazzle you with who I am.” I try to make it more basic than that, and ask more questions rather than answering people’s questions.
So for you it’s more about what you’re saying than it is how you’re portraying it, and you want to use a more basic style to let your words speak for themselves?
Yeah, as an artist, I like to ask questions. For me, the more that I can take it out of myself—and this is such a personal record—and make it more universal or basic, the more we’re able to ask a question about what it means. I don’t have an answer to those questions. I don’t want to spend the next three years trying to make myself into—cause I haven’t performed for a long time—a performing artist. I don’t want to make myself into, like “a Kilo Kish show is like this or that, this is exactly who she is and this is how she likes to dress” or like “Is this sexy? Is this cool?” Instead of you asking the question about it, I’d rather just ask a question about the way we live and the way we communicate, and the distance between each other. What is the responsibility of a performing artist, and what is the responsibility of an audience? That’s what I’m more interested in rather than inflating my own ego with like “let’s get tons of likes!” I’d rather us have a conversation even though I’m the one that’s standing up there for 50 minutes. I would much rather spark a question.
You deleted your Instagram, is that right?
Oh yeah, I do it periodically. Vince kind of does it too a lot. It kind of takes away the power that it has. It’s hard to live without thinking that it has power, and I think the freer you are with it, the better. Because I know myself, I’m a tourist, and I can get caught up in games of life. For me, it’s important to, every now and then, reset. Especially because you can get caught up in your own shit and your own aesthetic. Sometimes it’s good to just delete it and start over, because then when people start to understand you for something, you start to question if you can change, and then if you can’t change, how can you grow? So for me, I think it’s important. I wouldn’t want to do another album like Reflections ever again probably. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it for what it is. I just really want to make the best or the worst or whatever work I can make out of this particular time in my life, and then I want to do something different, and then I probably won’t have any of that stuff on my Instagram. It makes it hard for cataloguing things, and makes it hard for people to get an idea of who you are. But I feel like in general that’s kind of an impossible thing, for someone to have a complete idea of who you are.
Do you feel like you and Vince have a similar creative vision? Could you talk a little bit about what led to you two touring together?
I don’t know how we got to touring together, but we’ve worked together for a long time. One of the first people I met making music was Vince, along with Matt and Syd, and some of the [Odd Future] people. From that time period, which was almost five years ago, I’ve known Vince, and then we’ve worked on little projects here and there, but Vince is super smart. He’s just really fun and funny to have a conversation with, and he has a creative vision for himself which is very different from a lot of other rappers. I think he takes a different approach to his work, and I feel like he really values the work over making money and having fame. I think he takes a really conceptual approach to his records, so it’s really easy to collaborate with him. He has an idea of what he wants, what he wants is usually something interesting, and something that has a purpose for him, and he’s easy to work with.
What are you looking forward to experiencing specifically on this tour?
I’ve never gone on a bus tour. So I’m really excited just to see how 10-12 shows will change my outlook of how I’m performing it, and if it will change throughout the tour, because the way that I have it right now, it’s pretty calculated. I want to make sure that everything is accounted for and that I’m making all the points I want to make. But I feel like overtime I’m thinking that I’ll get into the flow of it more and the work will change from me being with it for so long. Usually I’ll do one show and I’ll change the show. This will be the 6th version of Reflections in Real Time that I’ve performed so it’ll probably be 9 more versions by the time the tour is done. I’m excited to see what it will be like over time, by the end of the tour, how I’ll feel about the work and what I’ll learn about the work, and what I’ll learn about the interaction between people and the work. I think that will be really fun to see by the end. Also, I’m excited to see how I feel about it afterwards. It’s been a year almost since the record’s been out, and I’ve learned so much in the year about it. And from performing it more, I have a different appreciation for the music. For my past couple of projects, I didn’t perform them ever. I never really even gave them that opportunity to live in a different way with people or in a space. So this one will be really cool to see how it changes, how it changes between cities, because the way that I perform is not always 100% typical. So it’ll be interesting to see, especially because it’s Vince’s tour–obviously there will be some people that already know who I am— it will be interesting to see how somebody else’s fans react, whether they understand it, or relate to it in any way. The past few times I performed it, like the last time I performed it at Flog Gnaw, usually I get stares, and then when I go down and talk to people afterwards, it’s like there’s so many mixed things, which I love. That’s kind of the fun part of making things. You get totally different reactions.
What do you think fans can get out of your live shows that they wouldn’t necessarily get by just listening to your music?
I think the album makes 100 times more sense live. And that’s so weird, because I wasted a lot of time not doing this. This particular project makes more sense live. Some of my other projects, maybe not so much, because they’re more of home, easy-listening. With this one, the beats and the music are way more intense, and in a big room where the music is really loud it sounds really great. I think it’s the way that I want the show to be extremely hard-hitting and overwhelming and I think that’s easier to do live. Cause when you’re at home, you’re listening to this record in headphones, and that’s why I was kind of sad, because then it’s a record that you sit down and you listen to at home, but it’s not really a great record to work to, or to play at a club or anything. I think with the live performance, especially having me there to perform them the way that I see them in my brain, I think it makes more sense, because it’s a very conversational record. Sometimes when you’re listening to songs, you don’t get that conversational aspect to it. Then when it’s an actual physical person there explaining to you the state of mind of whatever the song is, it’s like talking to music, and I think the way that people perceive songs–recorded songs– it’s like “okay, this is where the song starts; this is where the song ends.” You’re waiting for these different points, you’re waiting for this chorus, and you’re waiting for the point where you can repeat it. In conversation we don’t wait for those things. In a live performance it makes a lot more sense. I think me in general makes a lot more sense live. But then also, just the visuals that we’re preparing for this will round it out to where it makes total sense, if you want it to.
Are you still planning on starting up your clothing line?
Yeah I am! It’s just really hard to do. I didn’t realize how intense it was going to be, and how much time it would take up. I basically spent a lot of 2015 and 2016 prepping and preparing this concept of this brand and creating products and getting samples and all that, and really I’m just waiting for the right time. Right now I’m going to be doing the tour for a while, and I just really need a partner for the brand. I’m really scatter-brained, so sometimes I work on stuff super heavily. Last year I worked so much on this brand. They’re all kind of essentials. They don’t really have to rely on trends very much because they’re just kind of basic items. I mean I’m still working on it but I think I would just prefer to have a partner because it makes it so much easier. Especially because I’m doing music and I need to make a new album [laughs]. I have to put my priorities in check. I’m doing so much random stuff at the same time. Right now, I’m also working on finally getting out all the last bits of Reflections or any of my ideas about media and consumption and individuality or any of those concepts from Reflections in Real Time. I’m doing a gallery show in L.A. to close it off, and then after that, I’ll probably be ready to work on this brand, and probably while I’m on tour with Vince, start working on new music. But I need a break from this idea. So then when I make a new project it actually feels different than the last one because I feel like when you go really quickly between them you kind of get the same thing, like a 2.0 version.
In terms of those last bits of reflections that you’re trying to get out, do you feel like any of that might come out on the tour? Would there be anything new that audience members would hear?
Well, I haven’t performed a few of the songs off the record. Basically on the Vince tour I’m only doing Reflections just because… I know you should mix [the songs], but I don’t like mixing them because you can’t really get a vibe right. I know you’re supposed to play the best or most known songs you have, but it’s just not me, I’m sorry. So yeah, I’m basically playing “Moments” and “Taking Responsibility” and some other songs that I haven’t ever played live before. Also, I’ll have the dancers at a few of the shows I think. I play with my boyfriend, so he’s going to play a lot of the music. We have live instruments as well, like guitar, and everything like that. So it’s just a different version of it. He loops everything live. He created the entire record, so it’s cool to see him re-build it every time. So it should be interesting, and I have all these visuals and a similar concept, but it’s more intense. So yeah, it’s version 6!
Click here for a follow-up review of Kilo Kish’s performance at Union Transfer.
For more information on Kilo Kish and tour dates, go to https://www.facebook.com/kkilokish/