A conversation with Kilo Kish
After five years of living in New York, Kilo Kish (born Lakisha Robinson) was an F.I.T. graduate and had designed capsule collections for brands like Maison Kitsuné. As a musician she released two EPs and a mixtape and collaborated with The Internet, Chet Faker, Vince Staples and Childish Gambino among others. But instead of being asked to give concerts or perform during events, she was often invited to dinners and parties simply because of her status as a downtown It Girl, which is why almost four years ago she moved to Los Angeles to re-center and hone her skills. Since the move she’s developed and explored her artistic interests through experimental gallery performances and a first full-length album, Reflections in Real Time (2016). We spoke with the 27-year-old Orlando native about New York and L.A., and what she’s learned from life on both coasts.
How did you feel when you made the move from New York to L.A.?
I didn’t like L.A. when I first moved, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. New York is a very hustle and bustle place. You can be out every single night for no reason, but after five years of constant contact with your friends, tons of networking opportunities, tons of gorgeous dinners and museums, you start getting a little bit jaded. I felt like I was being praised for the wrong things, and my work wasn’t being respected in the way I wanted it to be. Kilo Kish—and I call it Kilo Kish because to me it’s a project—was such an abrupt change in my life because I didn’t expect anything to come out of it. When it started taking off, I didn’t know who I was as an artist. I’d gone my whole life feeling like an individual, but New York really has a way of making you assimilate, of taking individuals and creating scenes out of them. After a while I couldn’t tell who I was. In L.A. that’s not a problem because you can spend a lot more time by yourself – I got a small apartment in West Hollywood, chilled there, made music. I’m 27 but right now I feel more like I was when I was 16 or 17, more like me.
Is there anything you miss about New York?
I miss the artistic community and being able to make cool projects on the fly. In New York anything goes when it comes to art, music and fashion, if you have the drive to do something, there are people who can help and there’s always a community. There are so many chance encounters, where you might see the same person twice on the train in the morning or in your coffee shop. L.A. doesn’t really have that, so I started getting really insular with my work. My last album would totally never have been made in New York, where there’s such an emphasis on quickness. Seeing everyone all the time, people are asking you, “Oh I saw online that you did this, what are you working on now?” Then the next day the same person will say, “Oh yeah, so you’re done with that, right? What’re you working on now?” It’s like, “I’m working on the same thing. I want to spend time on it.” You have to have a new project every time you see someone, which is completely unrealistic when it comes to making art that is not disposable.
Dress - Vetements
Shirt & Pants - Balenciaga
So you’re able to be more patient now?
Exactly. Now I give myself time to come to my own realizations and to trust them. In New York, I was so caught up in playing the game, which now I don’t play at all. I’ve been in a box by myself for years. When I go to fashion events, I’m not pulling clothes. I’m going to wear what I want to wear. I’ll always love fashion, art and design, but the gimmicky part and the part where I have to be something for you to validate are non-existent in me now. It took a long time for me to get there, because I had to be by myself in an apartment with my cat. Little by little, you don’t have those conversations anymore. You become comfortable working on your own. You’re not around the same people who are also constantly playing the game and pushing it on you too.
How was life growing up in Florida?
From when I was 14 or 15 I would get all of these magazines, Vogue, Teen Vogue, W, and read them from cover to cover. I would see the party section in W and be so excited about all of the cool girls and benefit dinners. I didn’t think it was possible for me, because I didn’t have any idea of what New York would be like. I just thought it looked really cool and I wanted to live there. In school I didn’t care what other people thought about me, because I knew I wanted to leave. There was a fashion club, we had a little fashion show, I would buy vintage clothes and cup them up—I had a T-shirt brand that I would sell to my friends—but I didn’t feel like any of my peers. The only people I keep up with from high school were similar and all left Orlando. It’s very Republican and intense.
Trench & Dress - Joseph
So you applied to art schools in New York, right?
Yeah, all of them. I ended up going to Pratt, but my financial aid got screwed up my second year. I knew I could either go home or sweat it out and get a job. As an intense academic student it was very uncomfortable for me to not go to college. I thought college was the only way that you could achieve anything in life. As an artist that’s such a ridiculous idea, but I was so focused. I think the birth of me becoming an artist was when I said, “Following this is more important than going to community college in Florida for a year.” So I started working in restaurants and meeting different people downtown. That’s when I started making music.
Was that a scary switch to make?
It was, even though I’m barely touching the surface because I didn’t perform for three of the five years I’ve made music. I couldn’t get with it because it wasn’t something I foresaw in my plan. I just thought I could put out songs, and I didn’t have to perform them or make music videos, or deal with the industry around music. But of course you totally do. There are so many parts that you have to at least acknowledge. It was really hard to figure out where I was supposed to be in music. It’s really hard to get up and perform in front of people; that ego part of being a music artist doesn’t exist in me. It’s like, “What does the music have to do with me? Why can’t they just listen to the music?” I have a lot of high-art ideas, but often no one wants to hear about those in music. They just want to see a video and a performance.
Shirt & Pants - Balenciaga
Trenchcoat - Ader Error
So what’s the solution?
When I have ideas now I put them in the right places, so everything can run smoothly. I love the creative element of writing songs and the conceptual side of music, having an entire album that fits within a beautiful palette, having it be its own thing. But also I really care about design, so I want to do the merch and make videos. I want to make videos for other people too; I don’t only care about being Kilo Kish. The way I separate it in my brain is that I have all of my ideas—some work for a gallery, some of them work for a live show, some work for a capsule collection with a brand. I’ve found a way to work within myself. For now, I function as an artist. I don’t identify as a musician or a designer. If I want to design something, I’ll do that. If I want to make an album, I’ll be an artist making an album.
For more information on Kilo Kish's music and projects click here.