Meet BLACKSTARKIDS, who blur boundaries and bring energy with BRITNEY BITCH
The Kansas trio pluck influences from across music and distil it into something distinctly them - and it's all very exciting.
Header image by Jake Kelly
At first, BLACKSTARKIDS sound like any other act being labelled a voice of music's future. The Kansas trio - made up of Ty, Deiondre and Gabe - are synonymous with the future's genre-fleeting experimentalism, plucking influences that stretch from Tyler The Creator through to Daft Punk and mixing them with their own individualism; creativity at the forefront of what they do. Over the last twelve months in particular, we've seen acts with a similar ethos emerge from all over the joint - 'genres are dead' is music's most overused thesis at this point - and a lot of it stems from a younger generation of musicians with respective tastes sprawling across genres wanting to do a similar thing with their own work too.
BLACKSTARKIDS, however, feel a little different. As mentioned, the group have a list of influences and inspiration that could run for miles, but the end result of these coming together doesn't feel like a confusing mish-mash of sounds that tries to tick every influence box they have. Instead, it feels like something entirely new; the attitudes and creativity and experimentalism of their favourites being what they take shadings from, rather than the direct sound itself. BLACKSTARKIDS are just themselves, and in a time where music seems over-saturated and near-impossible to brand yourself as something entirely unique, BLACKSTARKIDS have been able to do it, and their authenticity is a big reason for that.
Across everything they've put out since their debut release just last year, you get the sense that BLACKSTARKIDS aren't just evolving musically, but personally too. Their work moves between dancing alt-rock and glitchy hip-hop at the drop of the hat (with a tonne of sounds in between, of course), but every different edge of their complex, multi-faceted musical selves are linked together with an urge for self-expression and embracing themselves, and a desire to make music that isn't just a reflection of what they're going through at the moment, but what everyone like them is going through too.
On their SURF record earlier this year, that came through sharp lyricism that covered everything from mental health to escapism, presented in a way that felt light-hearted and casual to not overshadow the brightness of the instrumental underneath (take TOO DEPRESSED 4 SEX as an example, which instead of explicitly going deep on negative emotions, rather just says things like "I'd rather much just stay in my bed and listen to Frank Ocean," which is honestly a more relatable lyric on mental health than 90% of other pop stars and their many songwriters could come up with).
BRITNEY BITCH, a new song that preludes the release of another record planned for this year (WHATEVER, MAN is out later this year through Dirty Hit), is another song that has the trio's authenticity shine in another way. Musically, it's glitzy and fun, with bubbly sampling and percussion-soaked instrumental forming an underlay for their switching vocals, which together, almost feels like a 2000s pop group with a slight hip-hop edge that separates them from the pack. Go further, however, and BRITNEY BITCH is just a lot of fun - they're dreaming, thinking big, manifesting their future - and in a time where that can be pretty tough because of everything in the world, that's arguably needed even more than a song reflecting on mental health and isolating.
Anyway, it's a tonne of fun and they're an act we're dying for you to meet, so take a dive into BRITNEY BITCH below, stay tuned for the release of their forthcoming new record WHATEVER, MAN out later this year, and in the meantime, introduce yourself to BLACKSTARKIDS below:
Tell us about yourself?
Deiondre: I’m Deiondre I’m the Singer/Producer for the group. I’ve always been interested in a lot of hobbies growing up, but ultimately knew my interest for music would never fade.
Gabe: My name is TheBabeGabe and I’m a singer/songwriter for BLACKSTARKIDS. I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue music,fashion, and acting as a career at a very young age. Hopefully I’m able to dabble into a little bit of everything since I’m interested in so many different art forms. Music is definitely my number one but I’d love to challenge myself at different things.
Ty: My name is Ty, I handle a lot of the writing for the group. I’ve always wanted to make music, I’ve never been interested in much outside of that.
What’s the ‘vibe’ music-wise?
D: The vibe of the music is definitely coming of age, a lot of the songs are about a time and place in current lives and so we naturally tend to contrast that with sounds from a more simpler times of our lives sometimes.
G: I feel like the vibe of our music is very young and big on self discovery. It’s so hard to choose a genre to put us in because honestly there isn’t one. We tackle on so many different sounds, topics, and ideas. I know that the music we’re making today is going to sound completely different tomorrow. We really just make music based off what’s inspiring us in the current moment.
T: The vibe of the music I’d describe as coming of age. It sounds like figuring out who you are as a person, but having fun while doing it. I think a lot of our music touches on day to day personal issues, but it sounds like us making the best of it because we use music to escape our problems. As far as genres, I’m not really sure we’re inspired by a mix of genres we don’t really have conversations about genre when working on stuff.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
D: We’ll all listen to new stuff and old songs to get inspired for the track we’re about to make, then I’ll handle the production while ty and Gabe write their parts, then the hook gets written out during or after the production and then we have a finished song by the end of it.
G: Whenever we’re about to make a song Ty usually has a title and reference ready that we’ll listen to. Deiondre produces everything and me and Ty will kind of guide him on the direction. By the time the production is done we’ll have our lyrics ready to go and share amongst each other. We always have the tv on one of our favorite shows and neon strobe lights all over the room. Feels like such a creative environment.
T: We’re always in person while making the song. We like to have a conversation with each other about how we’re feeling that day and what sound we want to go for, then from there Deiondre will produce the song and me and Gabe will start working on the lyrics while he’s doing that. Then we’ll all come together show and tell style and show what we came up with then put it together as a song.
Can you tell us about your new single, BRITNEY BITCH?
D: I was honestly having trouble figuring out how I wanted to approach This track sonically at first, but then after our friend medici sent us a drum loop, everything else made sense and fit perfectly, it’s a very fun and bold spot on the album.
G: BRITNEY BITCH was such a struggle to make but it definitely turned out the way we wanted. Sounds very early/late 2000ish and that’s what our upcoming album captures. I absolutely love the feeling this song gives me. Makes me feel like such a pop star.
T: Britney Bitch was the hardest song on the album to make, because we knew we wanted a song with that feeling but it wasn’t happening the first couple of times we tried. Our friend Medici sent us a little drum pattern and we based the rest of the song off of that. I wanted it to sound like something from Mean Girls.
It’s another taste of your new record out later this year, can you tell us a little bit about that too?
D: Whatever, Man is an album I really wanted to step up in the production more and really give the album a whole life to, almost as if it’s a movie or tv show I’m scoring. I’ve always had a huge fascination with movies and their soundtracks growing up as a kid and I really feel like we’ve created a whole world you can experience in this album or even soundtrack your own life to.
G: Whatever, Man is definitely a huge step up from SURF which was the goal and we successfully did that. I love this album so much because I feel like you can hear BLACKSTARKIDS truly forming as a band. The sound is just everything I wanted to hear as a teenager. It’s very fun, very bright, and makes me smile whenever I play it.
T: Whatever, Man is an important album to me because I think it’s the album we learned a lot about each other as a band and as friends. Our lives changed a lot while making it so I’ll always have a fond outlook on it. Musically it feels like the soundtrack for a coming of age movie to me. The lyrics are a reflection of how we felt at the time, and the culture around us.
What does the rest of 2020 have in store for you?
D: Just hoping to grow and keep getting better this year, really looking forward to concerts and shows whenever it’s okay to do that kind of stuff again.
G: 2020 for us will be just more visuals, more songs, and we’ll also begin working on a new album. We really want to take this time to create while the world has stopped.
T: Hopefully growth and people enjoying and understanding our expression. Also I hope I get permanent access to a trampoline sometime this year.
What do you want people to take away from the project?
D: I want people to connect to the album and be able to think of your day to day life with a positive view while having this album soundtrack it.
G: I want people to feel like they can really be whoever they want in life while listening to this album. I want people to feel at peace and feel young again if they aren’t already.
T: I want people to like the project, it’s probably a cooler answer to act like you don’t care but we put a lot into it, so I definitely hope most people like it. I want people to listen to it and feel better about themselves. A big message of our music is to go easy on yourself, especially in a year like this it can be easy to beat up on yourself, but we’re all trying and that counts for something.