Kilo Kish Takes Flight
Kish stays busy between albums with projects including a suit collaboration with designer Allie Teliz and the presentation of Real - Safe, her debut visual art show at Downtown LA’s HVW8 gallery. Over the next half hour we delved into the creative process behind her forthcoming EP, touring with Gorillaz and the delightfulness of growing up in the Sunshine State.
You rocked some stunning blazers, boots and skirts for our photoshoot with John Clayton Lee. Talk to me about your personal style.
It really depends on my mood. Right now I’m going through a vintage vibe; lots of 80’s dresses that I find in vintage shops in LA. I’m also into bows a lot right now for my hair - the whole 80’s prom look. It changes all the time! For my last record Reflections in Real Time, I was in this ‘bummed-out accountant’ phase. I just wanted to wear suits all the time and be very plain. Right now I’m having a little bit more fun with myself.
How does your onstage style differ from your daily looks/streetwear?
It really depends on what I’m working on, that often dictates my look. Sometimes I’m doing a lot of design work and not going out or seeing people as much. For those days it’s just dress pants and a black t-shirt, like every day.
My next project is a bit more fun and colorful, so I’m wearing my 80’s looks. I don’t know why I chose the 80’s in particular but I wanted to have more fun with my dress; go more prom-y. For stage I love the juxtaposition of wearing something beautiful and sweet looking while performing over really hard beats and bass. Something that adds an additional layer for the audience.
- Dress by Ellery, hair clip by Miu Miu, shoes by Robert Clergerie
I noticed that you referenced Sade as a style inspiration for the cover of your first album; that look of classic, fresh-faced beauty. Are there any other artists whose style you admire?
Right now I’m on a 70’s and 80’s rock vibe. Debbie Harry, Courtney Love; artists like that. Usually I like to create characters or personalities for myself and build out from there. I feel like everything right now is very aesthetically-driven. Like curated very ‘nicely’ with all of the pieces and looks being super put-together. I’m kind of on a tacky vibe just for the sake of tackiness. I just wanna have fun!
Tackiness can be very chic!
Yeah! I want to make my look about fun. It’s not about whatever the cool brand is, or the season. I’m more about looking into the past and finding what’s interesting there.
Are there any visual artists that are inspiring you right now or any that you’d want to collaborate with on future album art?
I love the album artwork by Tom Hingston for the new Young Fathers record. He also did a series of Massive Attack covers which I adore. He has a great design sensibility. I’m also really into the MM Paris studio who work with Bjork. Outside of that, I find inspiration from all kinds of things, including lots of Swiss poster designs. The cover for my next EP will not be a portrait. I do usually love a portrait of myself for covers but this will be a piece of graphic design, which I’m obsessed with. For the next full-length album I think I’ll do a portrait and need to brainstorm around who I’d like to do it with!
You wrote the song "Hello Lakisha" as a reflection on the perceptions and prejudices you’ve experienced from people drawing conclusions around your first name.
Yes, but it’s like a funny version of it. It’s really not meant to be any sort of activism statement but more like my sarcastic version of explaining my experience.
- Shirt, skirt and boots by Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, gloves by The Stockroom
Do you feel that our country is evolving on how blackness is perceived by mainstream culture?
I think that we’re evolving. At least the conversations are happening. The thing that I find myself pushing against most is being a black artist in spaces that are not traditionally or predominantly black. That is the main thing that is frustrating to me. As far as being a black artist, I do fight the battle of being able to be seen outside of my blackness and just being able to be who I am and go into whatever genres I want and make whatever music I want while not being typecast into an R&B role or anything like that. That's more of what I deal with, like more than my hair or other genuine problems that aren’t necessarily my problems.
You wrote all twenty tracks on your last album save for one song. That’s an incredible endeavor! Have you been working on any new music in a similar way?
Yes! I have an EP coming out pretty soon called Mothe. That’s M-O-T-H-E. I added an E cause I thought it looked better even if the word doesn’t need one! From there I’ll begin working on my next album. It’s kind of hard for me to start two projects at the same time; I love to get a response from one project and then start working on the next one. Once Mothe is out I’ll begin working on the album. Hopefully I’ll be able to create it in a space that’s super isolated; really get into it. I want to make music that’s different than what I’ve released in the past. For me, Mothe is a bridge between what I’ve made and where I’m attempting to go next. It’s just an EP, but it’s really important for me to put down my flag in a certain place. I’m really excited for it to be out! I’ve been waiting forever, and I’m excited to hear the response.
If you could give me two creative pillars to describe Mothe, what would they be?
Well, with Reflections In Real Time and a lot of my other projects I was basically dissecting people’s use of technology and the ways in which we communicate with each other. With Mothe, I’m focusing more outwardly towards the relationship between nature and technology. Nature is constantly reforming itself; I’m comparing that with the way that we’re able to create different versions of ourselves through technology. The entire project has a video game element to it and I’ve created different visuals that are all centered around the idea of creating yourself or respawning yourself. It’s also a reference to moths the insects. This is not so much a butterfly but more of a moth; like the less-pretty version of change. That gave me the album title, and from there I built installation work centered around that concept so hopefully I’ll be able to take it around to New York and overseas. I’ve already shown one soft-project around the EP in Los Angeles and hopefully once the EP is out I’ll be able to take it to more cities.
We’re stoked to see the installation! The album concept reminds me of losing a life in a video game and respawning with an added ability.
You were recently announced as part of the lineup for the second-annual Demon Dayz Festival which is being held in Los Angeles this year. Will music from Mothe be part of the set list?
I’ve been playing Mothe out at little LA shows and testing songs, so I’m just really excited about having people know the music. For now I’m kind of just throwing it at people and they’re like, “I have not heard any of this music before!" It’ll be great to perform the project once it’s out. I’m excited for Demon Dayz because my friends The Internet will be there, and I always love playing with Gorillaz. We performed on tour together last year!
Is there anything you bring on tour with you to make it more enjoyable?
With my show, I’m always throwing myself around the entire time. On my last tour, I broke my finger and didn’t even realize it until the next day. When you have adrenaline you don’t really feel the knocks! After a show, I usually do a shot and lay down on my heating pad. A yoga mat comes in handy when we’re just parked somewhere; I’ll take it out and just lay in the sun. There’s a lot of free time on tour, so I’m always doing zumba on YouTube or doing random meditations or watching TED-Eds. So I guess my laptop is also super key.
Heating pads, TED-Eds, and a shot. All key to a good tour.
And hot cheetos! Flaming hot.
- Suit by Alexander McQueen; Blazer, skirt and hair clip by Miu Miu, Shoes by Robert Clergerie
You’re originally from Orlando. Do you ever reflect on your time in the Sunshine State as inspiration?
Always, always. People give Florida so much shit like, “It’s the weirdest place!!” I’ve had someone literally say ‘ew’ when I tell them I’m from Florida.
I’m tired of Florida getting a bad rap. I think that growing up there was really cool and really different. It has a lot of people and culture from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. I liked growing up there. It’s also uniquely mundane. I’m from Orlando, so the mundaneness of shopping centers and the stillness of pace is very real to me. I guess anyone from a smaller town would know. I always want to shoot videos in Florida because there are so many cool locations. You also grow up around a lot of absurdities. In Orlando, you live right in between Disneyworld and Gatorland. There are snakes and swampy stuff. I had a turtle growing up. I love Florida. My grandpa took us fishing all the time and we would stop at Ron Jon Surf Shop and hang out. All these weird Florida things. I’m kind of a bro because I grew up in Florida. A shrimp basket and a beer, and I’m good.
What do you love about living in LA versus New York?
I like that you can get a lot of both worlds. There is quiet and there is Hollywood scene-y stuff if you want. I enjoy the ability to be with myself and get work done. In New York, I was out a lot and never really had the time to get to know myself fully. Every single night I was doing something, and I was also working really hard. I made a name there but felt like I wasn’t getting as far as I wanted to creatively. Living in LA afforded me the opportunity to be by myself and figure out what I wanted to do. The switch to LA can be frustrating the first couple of years because you’re so used to being busy all the time, so when you’re not busy it feels weird. But you do adjust to it and you can learn a lot about yourself. That’s why I like LA. I think that’s a lot of the same reason I like Florida. In California there are so many places like Burbank or deep in the Valley that feel untouched and random. You can really find a lot of oddities.
Is there anything in particular you miss about living in New York City?
I miss restaurants being really small. I’m a person who likes to sit in a restaurant and read by myself or write notes on my iPhone or write poems; that’s so me. I’m starting to find more places in LA that I like for that but it took a long time. In New York there’s a cool bar on every street where you can have a beer and sit by yourself without feeling weird. In LA it’s a bit more strange to be in a restaurant alone. In LA people are more about being at home and having people in their homes whereas in New York you can just be out alone and strike up a conversation with people. There’s more friendliness with people out and about just being people. I also miss the vibe of New York. The feeling of crossing the bridges, going from Brooklyn into the city. All of that is nostalgia for me, all of the times I’ve had there.
Is there anything else you want to tell office readers?
Be on the lookout for Mothe! The drop date is not set yet so it will take you by surprise.