Meet Sydney's Kavi, who captures queer club euphoria with a new single, REALITY TV
The Sydney-via-Melbourne-via-Malaysia musician creates cathartic, expressive electro-pop through his returning single.
Header image by Khushi Patel.
There's an incredibly euphoric and healing nature within club culture, and over the years, it's something we've talked about with everyone from SG Lewis to Robyn. However, back here in Australia, it's something that's been absent - and continually remains absent - amongst the country's biggest cities, with lockdowns and restrictions suffocating dance music's cathartic sounds in both Sydney and Melbourne (and at times, elsewhere too) for much of the last two years - and especially so within the last six months.
As such, people have had to turn elsewhere for that joyful self-expression that dance music can bring, and Sydney-based, Melbourne-raised and Malaysian-born musician Kavi is someone who has seemingly stepped up to be a lifeline for those in need of an electronic dose. He's someone that understands the power that comes with club culture (especially for queer people and people of colour), being someone who forged his own identity through the community he's found over the last few years.
Now, however, he's aiding in the soundtrack that community thrives within, making a return with an electro-pop spark of a single titled REALITY TV. It's a single that encapsulates the whole feeling we're talking about; the way club culture and dance music can bring so much joy and excitement in its pacing rhythms, yet simultaneously, be a source of cathartic therapy, and a means to express yourself and your identity amongst the thrill of a production that brings it all to life.
REALITY TV communicates that brilliantly, with a rushing production elevating Kavi's vocals that look inwards at his relationships and friendships, and have they've changed amongst the isolation of continued lockdowns in both Sydney and Melbourne. It's something REALITY TV brings to life with this cutting-edge and futuristic brilliance, matched by a self-created, Y2K-inspired video that flexes Kavi's multi-faceted artistic muscle, as he explains:
"Following a move to Sydney, and as the city’s lockdown this year was announced, I was forced to throw out all plans to have the REALITY TV music video professionally produced," he says on the single. "While coming to terms with the loss of two members of my family, and unable to travel home to my parents in Melbourne, I built the video’s set myself in my garage, and styled, filmed and edited it solo, fuelled by plenty of tears and caffeine. Seeing this project through has been one of my proudest achievements – a full-circle experience that I hope lost and confused baby Kavi would be proud of too."
There's more to come no doubt, but in the meantime, Kavi's latest voyage is a bright and powerful introduction to someone that really understands dance music's richness, and we can't wait to see how he continues to explore that in the releases to come. Dive into REALITY TV's video clip below, and better introduce yourself to Kavi underneath:
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Karvesh Pillai and I make electropop-club music as Kavi. I grew up in a pretty conservative environment, and only delved into “mainstream” Western music in late high school. I found solace in the lyricism of that Tumblr wave of indie-alternative artists, and the theatrics and brazen self-expression I discovered in the world of pop inspired me to begin writing music and create a space for myself to exist as authentically and boldly as I could.
What’s your music like? What does it sound like? What kind of themes does it usually cover?
The liberation of the club paired with the euphoria of pop. I keep describing my music with this one-liner, but I don’t think there’s a more concise way to. I want to build a community in so-called Australia and beyond that queer, coloured kids can feel safe, seen and able to unashamedly express in – a community that I wish I had while growing up.
For now, my music pulls from pop and techno, and is built around broken hearts and all the sticky dancefloors, grimy club bunkers and smokers’ lounges in between. I’ve been experimenting with writing outside of my comfort zone through lockdown this year, so I’m excited to experience the sonic and thematic evolution of my future projects.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
I discovered I’d write my favourite melodies when I wasn’t really paying attention - I used to have a warehouse packer job where I’d hum melodies to myself while pushing trolleys, and then hide behind boxes on pallets to whisper them into my voice memos. I eventually swapped out pallets for cool-rooms at my hospitality jobs, and that process evolved into the same voice memo routine but on long walks in lockdown.
Lyrics start off with randomised words or phrases I like that I jot down in my notes; once I’ve got a concept for a song, I play around with the melodies I have and build those phrases up into a story. I’m lucky to be surrounded by some incredibly talented producer friends – I’m not yet at a stage where I’m ready to release self-produced material, so I try to convey the intended energy of a song in rough demos that I then pass onto other producers.
For me, songwriting is kind of like putting together a sonic jigsaw puzzle. It’s frustrating when I hit a dead-end, but the satisfaction that comes with the completion of a song is euphoric.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest single, REALITY TV?
REALITY TV was written about a relationship I held with someone I really cared about, within which, in hindsight, I realised I was kind of the bad guy. I was naive, super emotionally immature and didn’t know which battles were worth picking - so I picked them all.
I eroded what was actually a really beautiful friendship, and I hadn’t realised how significant of a part I had played in its dysfunction until the forced introspection of Naarm / Melbourne’s lockdown last year - the same time I began my foray into the worlds of Calabasas and Beverly Hills. I think I found it easier to acknowledge my shortcomings when I could satirise and frame them in the delusional sensationalism of reality television drama.
I was dumb, reality television is dumb, and juxtaposing both worlds in this chaotic track was fun.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
REALITY TV is the first piece of a larger project I’m putting out into the world next year, and I’ll be dropping a second taste of it right before summer. Many of the songs on the project are high-energy, so I’m excited to play live shows and take them to the dancefloor, both at home and internationally.
Fashion is a significant facet of my identity as an artist, and having worked across community radio and music PR, I’m passionate about uplifting emerging queer, POC acts. KLUBKAVI – the fashion and record label – is a dream I want to turn into a reality in the long-term.
I’m also excited to eventually begin writing for other artists – I think I write pretty good pop! (If you are reading this and you are a popstar or A&R………. hello).
What do you want people to take away from your work?
Be fucking fearless. I grew up in a hyper-conservative, religious environment, and spent too many years shrinking myself within the parameters of what that community deemed acceptable – I finally feel at peace with my most authentic self, and I wish I could redo those years with the self-assuredness I have now.
KLUBKAVI is a musical world that will always be centred around authenticity and freedom of expression. Life is short and regret isn’t worth living with; put in the work and do all the scary things you want to do, be hot, be kind and have fun.
Where can we find more of your music?
Here! Select your preferred streaming platform and just simply vibe. If you’re mega-loaded and have an extremely intense, overwhelming burning desire to buy me a coffee, you can do precisely that here (thank you <3).