Interview – JXCK KXLLY

Photo Credit: Robin Waters

Toronto pop artist JXCK KXLLY has released two new singles, “Nothing” and “Nancy”, in the throes of her summer tour—spanning the Toronto Festival of Beers, Crossing Point Festival, CNE Band Shell, and the CBC Music Festival.

First of all, thank you for your time. Your style has been described as ‘cinematic seventies throwback’; how do, if at all, your two newest tracks fit into that description? How do they differ?

It’s my pleasure! I wrote these songs at a time when I was really delving into my love of 60s French pop, 70s psychedelic music, and disco. All three genres allow the listener to escape from reality and enter into a different world. The harmonies that I employ and the guitar lines I’ve included really convey these themes for me. At the same time, my vocal approach and the use of digital sounds, like synths and stylistic filters, make the music my own. I started as a jazz singer, so I think that my vibrato and my ability to create interesting vocal lines also add to it.

Additionally, your tracks are said to embody the notions of artists’ disdain for the superficiality of society, as well as the existential crisis one faces while discovering oneself. Where did the inspiration for that stem from?

It’s not just artists; it’s everyone in western society. Sure, there are challenges in music that I find frustrating — like the fact that anyone with Pro Tools can become an ‘artist.’ But even on a human level, and as a feminist woman, I feel that we are, as a culture, allowing for mediocrity because we congratulate the smallest of efforts in people starting at childhood. We praise engineered humans and their subsequent outputs; we favour brands that operate at the sacrifice of the humans who work for them.

The use of the Internet and as a result of our easy access to it, rendered by the information age, has created a serious contradiction between what we value in Western society versus what is reality, especially for women; we’re pitted against one another to compete on the physical plane, and we’re valued most for our sexual authorities. It’s also confusing for those who are attracted to women because the bar has been set to a place of extreme unrealistic attainment. Without hundreds of thousands of dollars, this absolute perfection that we see on some of the world’s most famous people is impossible. I think that it’s all bullshit, and our diverse lenses on life mean more than the fantasies we create to comfort our shortcomings.

The existential crisis is less about myself and more about the age in which I live.

Adding on to that, as an artist with a large online audience, how do you feel you utilize social media? Do you feel you use it to project your best self, embrace your femininity, or is there another driving force that you feel is behind it?

I’m very grateful for so much online love, but I don’t quite know how to harness it yet. Right now, I’m focusing on sharing snippets of my life on stories while promoting my work in my posts. That said, I’m not very focused on social media so I’m sure that there are ways in which I can improve on the experience of my audience.

I also often imagine myself as successful in a time before social media, when artists and talented people were revered for their unique outputs. Now, anyone with a bikini and a basic understanding of photoshop-esque apps or a thousand designer items can garner millions of followers online. It’s just not my vibe.

On your new EP, do you have any current feelings or topics you drew your inspiration from?

REVOLUTION is a dual-themed project, with three songs about my experience as a human in the modern age, and three songs about love. I was in love when I began the project, lost love while recording it, and then found love again while finishing it up.

RISKY REVOLUTION talks about my time in Los Angeles dealing with the sliminess of the music industry, while GO TOGETHER depicts the lusty energy of a new relationship.

What are your goals as an artist?

My only goals are to create art and music until I die and to make each piece better than the last. Also, sharing my truth is I think the purest quality of my artistic expression, which I hope to never lose the lyrical ability for.

Now, in terms of your summer shows, how was performing at CBC Music Festival and are you excited for the remaining shows?

I love to perform live. Studio recording is very robotic for me.

CBC Music Festival was a lot of fun — I’m very excited to open for Ludacris and Nancy Wilson later this summer, as well! Any opportunity to play with wonderful musicians and share my art is an opportunity that I shall always take.

For people who haven’t seen you perform live, what should they be the most excited about?

The live instruments and Nevada guitars are the two things that excite me the most, but the tone of my vocal also ties it all into the experience. I also have some zany synth lines that would make anyone want to dance — who doesn’t love disco?

Finally, what are some parting words from you about “Nothing” and “Nancy”? What are people loving about them? What do you hope people take away after listening?

“NOTHING” and “NANCY” set the tone of my brand. NOTHING conveys my truest feeling about the world as I know it and follows a very Serge Gainsbourg sort of repetitive format. NANCY is a fun guitar-driven disco track that describes my art the best.

I hope that people know that this is my authentic self on a silver platter. I hope that people will enjoy it for years to come. I hope that it will excite people and encourage the consumption of music beyond the redundant slew of beats and auto-tuning that anyone in this day and age can get away with. There’s a difference between a singer and an artist; I am the latter.

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