“The frustration of wanting and needing to ‘make it’ before outgrowing your youth,” producer Kenza cites as one of the most shaping experiences of her growing up. A notion that feels very much at the core of our Social Media driven times, fueled by the need for constant comparison and instant gratification. Somehow, success while being young, while not even fully knowing what you are doing, feels like the highest to aspire to. Maybe because adolescence in itself is such a formative period, that the goals you set for yourself in those years feel like the most honest passions. And if this honesty, this true sense of yourself resonates with other people, what greater success can there be?
So no surprise that for Kenza, adolescence was and is equally integral. At 20-years-old, the Vancouver-native is still very much in the midst of figuring it all out, and one outlet that especially helps her to make sense of herself is music. After her debut coming of age album “Adult Glorification”, she once again takes on the topic of adolescence with her sophomore EP “Dixie & the Dead States” on the 30th of March, a mix of R&B and a 70s spin. With a distinct connection to the US – the songs are particularly influenced by days spent alone in San Pedro and Nevada – Kenza says with this new offering she is “chasing the modern american dream”. In what ways that might show itself, we asked Kenza when we caught up with her on her new album and the influx of chaos that draws through it.
When describing your new EP it feels like you’re touching upon a lot of themes of adolescence, finding yourself and your place in the world. How has this period shaped you?
It felt like the departure of the hard-headed youth in the passenger seat of your dads Volkswagen, rebirthed as the erratic driver now behind the wheel. I’ll be a kid forever but this time, I’m in control and I’m calling all the shots.
Touching on this metaphor, what have been your most shaping (driving) lessons?
I’ve always sweated at the thought of time being wasted and outcomes not being even just a little bit inside my hands. I learned to not get too attached to what things are supposed to look like and time being your greatest friend. “D&DD” started out as the single “Biscayne Bay” until life hit. I was so concerned about time, the frustration of wanting and needing to “make it” before outgrowing your youth, only to come back and create my favourite project yet.
Being constantly conscious of time and making the most of it you must’ve felt an immense pressure, like so many young artists today.
It’s been the only way. Everything I’ve ever done and ever felt sits inside me and won’t leave until I write about it. It paints the picture in full and sometimes, puts it to death. Similar to cutting yourself open, blood is all over the floor and everybody analyses what happened. It’s now you and how you feel, it’s not me anymore. I genuinely believe I was meant to be emotionally detached for the first 19 years of my life; until my first project. Letting others into my head created this intimate and open space inside a woman that never really wanted to be.
Which other musicians heads did you like to go into through their music while growing up?
Tyler, The Creator. Radiohead. Lone. Kanye West. “808’s & Heartbreak” was the one that planted the seed in me, my grades were C- all the way from grade 6 until the year I dropped out of high school because of that album and its influence on me. I knew the day I heard it that I needed to be on some superstar shit.
How did you then go about creating your own musical style from there?
Through being a terrible artist. Doing anything and everything if it sounded some type of right because I was so used to being wrong, musically. Singing and screaming high to low, living the same way, soon came out this lone, psychedelic R&B with heavy electronic elements after following the blind glorification of adulthood and the relationships that come along with it; leading to 300+ scrapped demos and the start of KENZA.
Your life seems very much embedded in your music, what parts of the real Kenza show themselves most clearly in KENZA on the new album?
Somber and incessant days spent solo in San Pedro and Nevada, in and out of old hotel rooms. Always deeply tantalised by Los Angeles and Vegas, creating an expectation of the cities that I shortly noticed couldn’t be fulfilled. When I arrived the cities left me feeling very small, bruising my almost larger than life ego. Out of trying to put some words to the feeling came “Dixie & The Dead States”; a world play on the southern term of a typical small, sweet girl, my blackening mental state and the way it all felt for the first time, dead.
What especially drew you to San Pedro and Nevada?
While “San Pedro Sedation” and “Vegas Best” allude to geographic destinations, I admit all together the “Dead States” are more of a state of mind. A play on the lustiness of Vegas and Los Angeles and how so many leave only with their packed bags full of broken dreams, addictions and disillusionment.
Speaking about broken dreams, you previously said you are “chasing the modern American dream” – what does this dream look like to you? Do you think the American Dream still exists?
The American Dream to me means running to win and praying to the god you don’t believe in that you don’t trip. Yes; I’ll always believe in my modern American Dream.
What do you dream of for yourself?
Everything. Sold out shows, Brad Pitt narrating my short film and a McLaren 720s.
Photography by Amber Beckjord