INTERVIEW: Kelsey of Blak Emoji



PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Condon

Kelsey of Blak Emoji


THE awesome Kelsey from Blak Emoji

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Condon

has been telling me about the band’s new single, Lust Above Love, and whether more material is coming next year. He tells me how the band got together and what sort of music he is guided by – Kelsey recommends a few rising artists that are worth some time and energy.

Kesley reveals Blak Emoji tour plans and which one album means the most to him; if he gets time to chill away from music; how important New York is to him regarding sound and direction – he ends the interview by selecting a great track.


Hi, Kelsey. How are you? How has your week been?

What up, Sam? Good but crazy-busy!

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Sure. We’re from N.Y.C. Blak Emoji is a band and/or myself (laughs) - kind of like a Trent Reznor N.I.N. thing. Been around a few years; first single dropped in 2016 and our debut E.P. called INTRO came out last year. Our sound falls in the genres of Electro-Pop, Alt-Pop-Rock and R&B. Someone once called us ‘Blacktronica’ which I thought was pretty awesome.

Lust Love Above is your latest single. Is there a story behind the song?

The groove came about when I was creating ideas on my laptop via GaragBand. I thought the beat sounded kind of sexy; had a cool minimalist vibe. So, the lyrics naturally had to fit that style. It’s just a song about wanting to please your lover; an ode to connection.

How did Blak Emoji start life? When did the band get together?

I previously fronted a Heavy-Rock band for years in N.Y. and was just growing tired of it. Lot of ups and downs. Mentally and sonically, I felt stifled; like I put myself in a straitjacket. So, I decided to end it but, while that was happening, I was spending studio time alone making these Dance songs and more Dance-Rock stuff just for the sake of doing it - wasn’t planning on starting a new band or releasing anything. I just wanted to make music in a different light without pressure. This was around the end of 2015. A few songs took shape and it was like: ‘I think I have a new project’. Early-2016 it went public with our first single, Sapiosexual.

After that, I was really missing playing live so I started a new group. I saw Max play drums at a local downtown club and was immediately hooked! I knew Sylvana in a roundabout way via musicians in the scene. We met and played one time and it was just the perfect connection. Max recommended Bryan after we had a few bass players and he fit like a glove after one rehearsal.

PHOTO CREDIT: Nicole Brody

Do you feel there will be more material next year?

Definitely! We have a new album called KUMI that’s recorded and finished. We’re actually doing a little sneak preview of it for our N.Y.C. fans and core followers this weekend but releasing it officially on major music platforms - Apple, Spotify and all that - early next year. 

In terms of musical inspiration; what sort of music were you raised on?

I was raised on so many styles which shaped my whole musical being. Lots of classic R&B, Funk and Soul in the family. My brother got me into a lot of Rock, Alternative and Jazz while my sister introduced me to quite a bit of Pop. After that, it was Punk, Metal; Hip-Hop, Electronic; Minimalist Classical…anything that moved me. I’m a true fan and always will be. I believe that’s the key to being a well versatile musician. And it’s fun.

New York is where you are based. How important is the city regarding your passion and work?

New York slowly became a backdrop and/or inspiration to quite a bit of my songs after moving here. Almost like a (Martin) Scorsese or Spike Lee film where it’s always lingering in the vibe of their work. It’s inspiring, the good times and bad times here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Condon

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

We’re releasing a few more singles from KUMI so I hope people enjoy them and they get the recognition. I also want to continue producing other artists as much as possible for their projects before the year closes. Doing a few remixes here and there too.  

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

Hmm. I remember being in Tel Aviv early-2017 and watching the impact of the band grow online out of nowhere from a few positive write-ups. It was interesting watching far away from the outside looking in for a change. In less than a week, I was back in N.Y.C. playing to this huge audience at Irving Plaza for our E.P. release. I have so many memories watching bands that inspired me play that venue. So, to celebrate the release of our first E.P., there was a beautiful moment. Definitely a fun memory.

Which one album means the most to you would you say (and why)?

Aw, man, that’s a tough one. Off the dome, I’d say Prince’s Sign o’ the Times because it’s so all over the place yet focused at the same time. It’s just the most enjoyable Avant-Pop trip you can take. To this day, I’m blown away by the songs on that album and how influential it is to myself and artists I highly respect. The lyrics, the songs; the Funk, the Rock; the Avant tracks like Dorothy Parker. Pop genius.

It goes back and forth with Purple Rain for me depending on the year.

PHOTO CREDIT: Nicole Brody

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Nine Inch Nails! I wouldn’t even care about the rider so much…  

Might we see some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?

Early next year, yes, in March. We’ll be doing a few sporadic N.Y.C. and regional dates until then.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Keep moving forward, even if you start to feel comfortable or complacent. And trust your instinct as much as possible.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Whitney Tai

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yes. There’s a pop artist in L.A.; singer/songwriter Whitney Tai who is the real deal! We collaborate together with a project called BlakTai too but definitely check her music out. There’s also a Metal band with serious low-end from Brooklyn called Netherlands. They’re amazeballs! Ho99o9 are this Electro-Punk trio from Jersey. Live, they’re incredible; crazy energy. Oh, yeah, and Karolina Rose; an Electro-Pop artist in N.Y.C. is about to release a new E.P. I dig her stuff. Max and Bryan play with her live sometimes too.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Karolina Rose

Do you all get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

YouTube rabbit holes; Netflix, dancing; hanging with my daughter...few of my favorite things. I like sleep, too.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Low’s Disarray from Double Negative is playing in my headphones now


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