The Sober and Alone EP is haunting, melodic, relatable and seems profoundly personal, as music should be. Can you share a bit about what the creation process was like?
Well, first of all, I’m flattered! I have an insufferable tendency to downplay everything I do and create so that’s really nice to hear. These songs were written over a period of time—some of them are a year old, some of them were written while I was recording. Two of them were written while I was living abroad and having existential crises. I tend to write when I’m left with nothing else to distract myself from my feelings. Like most people, my creativity arrives in waves—sometimes they’re far apart. Lately, the waves have been rolling in strong and hard. I came home from a trip to Europe and was stuck in a serious depression. I am an introvert at heart but this time, I didn’t want to see ANYONE—and I didn’t for about a month. I’ve had “record a solo album” on my list of things to do for the last few years and I’m not sure exactly what made me do it, but I dove in. I spent a month barely sleeping, and being painfully depressed. I put all of that pain and hurt and confusion into recording; it was my outlet. I showed my mom the album and it made her cry. I guess the pain shows—haha.
Additionally, creating and sharing art are two vastly different experiences. What was it like to release this EP?
I’ve never recorded solo music (well, maybe a few songs here and there) and I’ve only been playing guitar for about a year-and-a-half so it was intimidating. The last band I was in was the first time I even wrote songs. I’ve played in lots and lots of bands but always as “the bass player” who played other people’s music. Anyway, it’s terrifying to spend so much time on something and then send it out into the world for everyone, busy with their lives, to listen to and judge. I honestly couldn’t tell if it was garbage or not—I was trapped in my room at all hours of the night (cliché, I know) recording and listening and mixing and I can’t tell if it made me feel more insane or... I finally sent a few songs to a friend and she said they were good so I felt some relief. Anyway, like I said earlier, I lack self-confidence so it was scary to share the album, but also, I created the music and the recordings for myself so whether people like it or not is an afterthought. It was more about, “Ok, Kye, time to do that thing you always talked about but always found a reason not to do.”
'The Gender Binary is a Jail Cell' is a great song title, ringing vastly true. We see on your Bandcamp that your pronouns are they/them. Has it been liberating to detach yourself from harmful gender stereotypes?
I should preface this answer by explaining some words and concepts I use—because not everyone knows or thinks about these things. Whereas gender is socially and culturally constructed, sex is biological—chromosomes, genitals, etc. The best way to put it is, sex is what’s between your legs and gender is what’s between your ears. Sex does not determine gender. They’re completely separate. Gender does not determine sexual orientation. Cis-gender (pronounced ‘sis’) is a term for someone who identifies their gender with the sex they were assigned at birth. A cis-male is someone who was born male, who identifies as male—and likewise for females. The ‘gender binary’ is basically the idea that there is ONLY male or female within the gender spectrum: it’s static and set in stone. What I mean to say is it’s completely bullshit because people are never one or the other (in my opinion).
The most liberating thing I’ve ever done was admit to myself, and the world, that I don’t fit in the gender binary. It’s very confusing to people and almost everyone I encounter uses the wrong pronouns. It’s really just an “okay, they don’t mean it maliciously” thing and also, I have to pick my battles. I get it. I look male. I can’t help that. I’ve always struggled with my sexual orientation and my gender because of the rules set in place by society about what I can and cannot do (because of my genitals). At first it was bisexual and then queer and then “maybe I’m gay, oh, but sometimes I like women too” and then finally I realised, “oh, right, I’m not one or the other, I’m all of it and none of it: I’m genderqueer and gender non-conforming [which generally falls into the ‘transgender’ spectrum].” When I first admitted it, I thought I needed to transform myself into a ‘woman’ (because I often feel more female) but soon realised that was playing into the binary as well. To me, there is nothing more toxic than Male/Female. Gender is fluid. Sometimes I dress more male. Sometimes I dress more female. Why does it matter? Why is one outfit ‘masculine’ and the other ‘feminine’? What I wear doesn’t change who I am inside. My genitals don’t determine who I am or how I express myself or who I’m attracted to.
Genderqueer people are sometimes asked to justify their identities, which is highly intrusive and is not expected of cisgender people. Do you find that you are sometimes asked to explain who you are because you don't identify with traditional gender roles? If so, how does this affect you and how do you hope to see society's understanding of gender identity progress?
I don’t feel like I have to justify myself to people because the whole process is in their heads. They can use the right pronouns and still see me as male. That’s not my battle. All I can do is be myself and explain who I am as best I can. The rest is for them to decide. If they don’t accept that people can live outside of the binary, that’s their business—but I’m doing it and it’s wonderful. I can’t control how someone labels me or categorizes me or judges me. That being said, when it comes to sexual relationships, it’s very confusing because I think most people still see me as a man, no matter what they say—which makes me feel shitty. Because of that, I don’t really ‘date’ anymore—haha.
I think the cis-male is stuck in a “THIS IS WHAT MEN DO” mindset (as conditioned from birth) yet “tranny porn” (I don’t like that word) is consumed by straight-males (not that anyone is admitting it) on a massive scale. It doesn’t line up. I just want to scream, “it’s okay to want to do ‘weird’ stuff, men of the world!” So, when men stare me down like I’m a monster, I’m never sure if they want to fuck me or kill me or both. It can be a bit much, but I guess I like that my appearance alone challenges some people. In my perfect world, gender wouldn’t exist and we could all be whomever we want to be regardless of genitalia. I should add that ‘female’ can be just as constricting and restricting of an idea, it’s not just ‘men’ who are trapped. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just strange.
But, really, people seem to always have a problem with “they/them” pronouns because it’s not “proper grammar”. But, really, what is grammar? It’s a bunch of rules created over time—but it changes. It slowly changes. Grammar and language aren’t set in stone. Everything is adaptable. We can accommodate human beings of all sorts into our dialect; it’s just a matter of rethinking how we communicate. Long story short, most people don’t get it and think people like me are mentally ill or are looking for attention. Yes, I’m mentally ill but that has nothing to do with my lack of gender. I’m not looking for attention—most of the time I want to go unnoticed. I would give anything to live in a world without a gender-binary. Yet, here I am, doing the best I can with where and when I live.
Sometimes, when listening to music, there are those, for lack of a better term, "fuck yeah!" moments where the lyrics hit the listener hard. I had a lot of these on my way through the Sober and Alone EP. Obviously all of the lyrics are important to you, but are there any that are especially meaningful and why?
“Deep inside, she longs for love, but all she feels is her pain” is the lyric that comes to mind. It’s something I’ve struggled with all of my life: loving myself. I’m a self-loathing expert; I’ve perfected the craft. This last year I’ve been really working on loving and accepting myself, but it’s so hard. Being gentle and kind to myself does not come naturally. Often I think, “it’d be much easier if someone could just come and love me because then I don’t have to love myself” but that doesn’t address the real issue. Someone else isn’t going to save me from myself.
What are you doing when you aren't playing music?
I’m compulsive and obsessive so when I get in a routine, I milk it for all it’s worth—but also I change my mind constantly so those routines are always fluctuating. What I mean to say is that last year at this time I was meditating and practicing yoga and running and hiking every single day. Two years ago at this time I was probably drunk or hungover in a pit of self-destruction and despair. Right now, I’m in a “I’m going to chain smoke and nap every afternoon and record a lot of music” phase. With all things that come and go in my life, the constants are music, photography, motorcycles, gardening, and reading. Of course, dealing with my mental health is a daily practice. Like creativity, my depression comes in waves and it’s something I’ve come to accept rather than try to deny. Also, I eat very healthy (so healthy I can’t even eat at restaurants) and I’m sober so I’m a real HOOT to be around.
What makes you smile?
Riding my motorcycle will, without fail, bring a smile to my face. It’s my go-to whenever I’m feeling down. A therapist once asked, “are you sure you should be doing such a dangerous activity when you’re feeling that low?” She was probably onto something, but it works every time, so… Also, my mom makes me smile a lot because she’s just about the cutest person I’ve ever seen.
What does your perfect day look like?
Every straight-male is wearing a dress and makeup and they’re all kissing each other on the cheek and talking about their feelings and crying and professing their love and realizing that masculinity (and femininity for that matter—the gender binary) is a prison but everyone holds the key to escape.