Kilo Kish Turned Her Existential Crisis Into an Experimental R&B Concept Album
“I get frustrated with things and I definitely break stuff all the time. It’s an actual thing that happens a lot,” says Kilo Kish, laughing in her soft yet penetrating voice.
Taking cues from Yoko Ono and David Byrne, Kish enjoys the more avant-garde side of performance and its cathartic effect. “I wear a suit, throw around briefcases onstage and I throw myself all over the floor. And as myself, as an actual living person, I feel much better because I get to act my songs out in a overly dramatic way. It kind of makes it like it didn’t really happen in real life, but it did. It’s kind of a surreal thing where I can laugh at myself now. I can laugh at this record," she adds, referencing her debut studio album, Reflections in Real Time, which came out last year, "compared to when I was 23 to 25, I wouldn’t be able to.”
She adds that these type of performances are very draining and she probably won’t do them after this current run of shows, the Life Aquatic Tour with Vince Staples. You can catch her and Staples on April 11 and 12 at the Fonda.
Well before Lakisha Kimberly Robinson got her stage name, Kilo Kish, she just wanted to get the hell out of Florida and live her dreams in New York. But her ambitious pursuit of a creative career came at a cost. “I didn’t really have time to build an identity," says the 26-year-old singer, model, designer and artist. "I think at 25 or so, when I started working on Reflections and living in L.A., I had to take time to pause to see how I felt about things.”
Kish had her first big break with Matt Martians of The Internet, appearing on the 2010 album The Journey to the 5th Echelon from Martians’ group The Jet Age of Tomorrow. She would then move on to work on her own solo material, developing an experimental hip-hop/R&B sound on the EPs Homeschool and Across and a well-received mixtape, K+. She has guested on songs by Childish Gambino, Vince Staples and The Internet, and most recently did vocals on Gorillaz's forthcoming album. Kish describes her rise as a “whirlwind” and that “things just kept happening, happening and happening, and snowballing into more projects.”
At 23, she moved to L.A. from New York with a now–ex-boyfriend, a transition that was far from easy. “Being in an isolated space where I didn’t have any friends, in a studio apartment in West Hollywood and not driving, I think that isolation in your mid-20s is an interesting thing. Usually in your mid-20s you have your solid friend group and you’re starting your career and you’re figuring life out, and I think that uprooting from that stability when you’re changing into [adulthood] is going to be challenging. I didn’t realize that before I moved.”
The isolation of her new life in L.A., however, helped her achieve self-realization as she began work on Reflections. “To contemplate and look yourself in the mirror and figure out who am I, and not who am I with this group of friends, or who am I with this career, who am I actually. If I am in this weird-ass apartment by myself, who is this person? I think having isolation at that time period can be jarring, but it does help you come to grips with who you are.”
With songs comparing people to ants and contemplating the futility of life, you can tell Kish dug deep into her psyche for this record. “I had a lot time on my hands, and I would take time by myself to think about these things and have an existential ... kind of a depression. I would dig inside myself, and go more and more into the rabbit hole. I think I eventually come out toward the end not 100 percent happy but at least content.”
To come up with lyrics for Reflections, Kish wrote obsessively in her composition notebooks about her happiness, fears, obsessions and frustrations. She made keywords and went through her journals meticulously. “I would cut out different parts, scan them, place them on each sheet where something is related to that topic, and then from there I form those into songs,” she explains.
Since then, she has moved to downtown L.A., where she feels less isolated and more at home. “I think the record was very helpful in helping me understand the way that I think, and how I can change and be different in the future," she says. "I discovered a lot of things that I worry about, I don’t need to worry about."
Kilo Kish opens for Vince Staples April 11-12 at the Fonda Theatre. The April 11 show is sold out, but tickets for the April 12 shows are available here.
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