Inside the living room of a rambling West Adams house, underneath a ledge boasting a massive collection of My Little Pony dolls, Bjorn Littlefield-Palmer stood slightly slouched in thick-soled Mary Jane shoes waiting for the lights to fade. She was dressed in a ruffled pink confection made by her mother, her arms loaded with bright, plastic bracelets and her face painted Kabuki white, marked with hearts to celebrate Valentine's Day and a few fake stitches that lent her bit of the broken doll look called guro Lolita. When the room turned black, she crashed through the crowd, pointing her microphone in every which way as a trail of feedback followed. Then she returned to the mock stage, knelt before her pedals and placed her finger to her lips before uttering the only distinguishable phrase we would hear during the set:
Playing on a Japanese word for cute, Kawaiietly Please is redefining the way that L.A. music fans appreciate noise. Where once the drones and feedback that mark the style were best witnessed while seated and watching a knob-twiddler on stage, Littlefield-Palmer is actively engaging the crowd, using them as a sound source while at the same time compelling the audience to dance in big, mosh-pit waves with the help of drummer Maddie Deutsch's gabber-fast beats.
Littlefield-Palmer's influences are varied, from the big names of noise like Merzbow and The Boredoms to Nirvana to the glossolalia she heard as a youth in Alaska. These might seem typical for someone whose job is to essentially separate the elements of music and twist them into wall-shaking vibrations, but it's one unexpected name that helps drive her Kawaiietly Please performances.
“I love Malice Mizer,” she said over lunch a few days before the show, her face exploding into a giddy grin at the mention of the now-defunct Japanese rock band. “I absolutely love Malice Mizer.”
“They visually compose the show,” Littlefield-Palmer explains. “Even when writing guitar parts, they are visually thinking about what the person on the left is playing and what the person on the right is playing and they are in unison. For me, for a live show, that's amazing, that's my rule for how it should be approached.”
The concept of “treating the stage as an element” of the music is crucial for Kawaiietly Please. While Littlefield-Palmer typically plays very small, mostly DIY-style venues, she transforms these spaces into a scene of stylized anarchy. On Valentine's Day, she thrust a cardboard heart filled with plush animals into the crowd. As the package was subsequently mauled by the crowd, huge clumps of stuffing and the shredded, smiling faces of cuddly toys fell on the crowd like a surrealist's dream of a snow storm.
“I feel like I'm being intellectual about it,” she says of the shows, “but when it comes to performing, whenever you're on stage, it's almost like a loss of time, you feel very detached from yourself.”
In the end, what Littlefield-Palmer does is merge sonic noise with its visual counterpart. At this particular event, her the live performance mashed-up against rave-friendly projections by Rachel Kerry to create flurry of images that contrast the cute and brutal.
“I think that maybe that clash between the Lolita aesthetic and the noise, that in itself is noise,” says Littlefield-Palmer. “I've had outfits before that were almost completely destroyed in a set. That's a contrast in itself for a noise artist.”
Kawaiietly Please will be touring the West Coast with BIRTH! and Vampire Pussy beginning February 23.