Rising Above Comparison Culture With Artist Kilo Kish

And why self-care is the key to success.

The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is often used by artists to portray change, although 28-year-old Kilo Kish takes a much more real approach with her new project, Mothe. The recently-released EP explores the relationship between nature and technology, and uses the unpopular flying insect to symbolise those often “intense and jarring” transition periods in life.

Mothe acts as the bridge between Kish’s introspective debut album, Reflections In Real Time, and where she’s headed in the future. As is true for all her creative outputs, the electrifying collection of songs are guided by her steadfast curiosity with the world around her, and they’re an ear-friendly reminder that you can learn a lot when you embrace the uncertainty of change. To celebrate its release, we chatted to the multi-medium artist/whip-smart human about everything from turning your back on comparison culture to the importance of staying true to yourself. Get acquainted below!

On the inevitability of change and how it informs her music…

Being an artist in general, you are forced to constantly change, it’s just part of life. For all people, actually. Nature was a big inspiration for Mothe—it’s constantly changing and it’s never not doing something. The Earth is never not moving or shifting slightly, water levels are always rising, and things like that, so it’s completely reforming itself at all times. For a long time I thought that I wouldn’t have to change, you know, but that’s just like the most unnatural idea that any human could have [laughs]. I try to take cues from nature a lot, in that regards.

I guess a lot of my projects are my own questions about how things intersect. A lot of the musical inspiration for this project was from video games and soundtracks, and things that I like listening to on my own. There’s a lot of industrial elements to the music itself—a lot of 90s and early 00s video game music inspiration—and from there I kind of went on a tangent of like respawning yourself or creating a character out of yourself. I wanted to explore the similarities between social media and nature… It’s really just playing around with the idea of how nature is constantly revisiting itself and fixing itself and correcting itself, and the way we can do that with technology.

“I personally don’t do well when I can’t be myself. It’s almost more painful to not be myself than to have the gratification of knowing that people liked something that I did. It’s still more important for me to be true to what I’ve set out to do.”

– Kilo Kish

On rising above comparison culture…  

The older I get, the more I think that there is no such thing as right or wrong decisions in life. If you don’t like something, then it will correct itself through your next actions, and if you do like it, you’ll continue down that path. There’s always time. The craziest thing about our generation, though, is that it feels like there is no time. Everyone is getting everything done instantly, whereas it personally takes me a long time to do things. There’s so many variables that we don’t get to see from other people’s lives—like when you see someone on social media succeeding in ways that you aren’t, you instantly compare yourself. I think we have to be comfortable and mindful of the fact that our lives are our lives and their lives are their lives, and try and just do what we like doing the most instead [of comparing].

I don’t really have an answer for it. I wouldn’t know how to be 16 right now, you know? I have the same questions I had when I was 16 [laughs], and I haven’t gotten any new answers for them, besides the fact that I’ve learnt to forgive myself for the mistakes that I’ve made, or the things that I thought I’ve done wrong. I’ve just had to be like, “It’s all good.” I think that’s the main thing—having patience with yourself. 

On knowing what advice to take onboard…

I think you should have the humility to be able to listen to all advice. Then you gotta just ask yourself the question. The points in my life where I’ve gone against what I knew worked for me, I’ve felt bad about it after. And I think everybody has those feelings, when you know you’re not being true to yourself. So you just don’t do it again. That’s what I’ve learned. I personally don’t do well when I can’t be myself. It’s almost more painful to not be myself than to have the gratification of knowing that people liked something that I did. It’s still more important for me to be true to what I’ve set out to do.

I know it sounds cheesy, but only you can be you. Take advice and listen the best you can, but discard what advice doesn’t work for you.

On being critical of the world, not yourself…  

I’ve learned to trust myself and the things that I think work for me as I’ve gotten older. Whereas in the beginning, when I first started doing art and music, I think I always trusted everyone else’s opinion more. I’ve always been hard-headed and stubborn, so I always kind of carved out my own space, but I’d still find myself second-guessing my decisions all the time in my head. If you’re going to go forth with what you’re doing anyway, why spend the additional time second-guessing if it’s gonna work or not?

I think being a punching bag for yourself is kind of pointless. I know it’s going to happen anyway [laughs], because every creative deals with it. You have to be critical to be a creative, because you’re judging your world and you’re trying to make something out of it, so you have to have your magnifying goggles on. So it’s really just learning to find the balance, and making sure that you’re using those goggles for what you’re creating, and not on yourself.

“I try to get myself into a place in the morning where I’m the least bitter and the least angry, where I’m rooting for everyone else and they’re rooting for me, and everything is positive… I’ve had to learn to give myself time to be the most helpful person to other people and to my own causes.”

– Kilo Kish

On her complicated relationship with social media… 

If I wasn’t an artist, I don’t think I’d have social media at all. And, if I wasn’t in such a formative stage in my career, I wouldn’t have it. From a personal standpoint, I’d prefer to find out what my friends are doing when I see them. I’d prefer to talk and hang out in person, and have [my friends] explain to me why what’s happening in their lives is so awesome. As an artist, I’ve been conflicted for a long time, because I really don’t want an Instagram, but I do think it’s a good platform for showing your work. I don’t see myself being super personal on it, though. I think it’s kind of a trap for artists [laughs]. I have a lot of ideas, but I would rather have the context be correct—you have to really know someone to know where they’re coming from when they say things. I’d rather you talk to me in person at one of my shows for 45 minutes, and then I’ll tell you everything. I don’t think social media is a good or positive place for people to be smart.

On her growth as a musician since putting out Reflections In Real Time

I think I’ve grown a lot—just because we were able to take [the album] around and do a tonne of shows. I hadn’t really done shows for a while before I did Reflections In Real Time, so the performance aspect really informed the way I made my new music. I wanted it to have a specific vibe for a live setting, so I think it really helped with that. I’ve also started to learn how to play new instruments, so it’s been a different type of work. I take a super natural approach to songwriting, whereas learning instruments is so much muscle memory and actually having to practice, so it’s a different kind of skill to learn—I’ve been really focusing on that.

“You have to be critical to be a creative, because you’re judging your world and you’re trying to make something out of it, so you have to have your magnifying goggles on. It’s really just learning to find the balance, and making sure that you’re using those goggles for what you’re creating, and not on yourself.”

– Kilo Kish

On pulling yourself out of a creative rut…

I’m waiting for music to come out a lot of the time, and that can make me feel a little anxious. In times like that, I tend to focus on a different medium that I like, or I try to learn. Even if I’m not making things, I think it’s good to take time to read a bunch of books, or discover new music that you don’t know, or go to the museum, because all that stuff goes into the database of your mind. And you don’t know when, but at some point it will pop into your brain when you need it. If you’re focused on your own work all the time, and not just soaking up information, then you never get those moment where something from six months ago connects to what you’re doing and you’re like, “Oh my god!”

And, just taking time to experience life is so important. Not just being so connected to what everyone else is doing, even though that’s really, really hard. By taking the time to be away from your phone, I think your brain works a lot better.

On the role spiritually plays in her life…

I don’t meditate as much as I used to anymore, but I do pray more. I try to devote time to God and centring myself in the morning. I don’t get how to speak about spiritual stuff much [laughs], but I do try to get myself into a place in the morning where I’m the least bitter, and the least angry, and where I’m rooting for everyone else and they’re rooting for me, and everything is positive. I’ve started to limit calls and emails until the afternoon. That was hard for me, because I wake up early and want to get everything done immediately. I’ve had to learn to give myself time to be the most helpful person to other people and to my own causes.

Listen to the EP in its glorious entirety here

Words, Madeleine Woon | Photography, Daria Kobayashi Ritch | With thanks, Kilo Kish and Def Jam

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