Kuni offers aggressively queer industrial beats to challenge heteronormativity in RVA
With heavy industrial stylings, Kuni’s songs are a celebration of aggressive and overt queer sexuality.
“I kinda think it’s industrial and like, post-Disney slutty pop princess,” he said. “It’s got an aggressive electronic sound, but the songs are very like- you know, a lot of pop songs are very sex oriented, like Ariana Grande and Britney Spears and stuff, and I’m trying to… push that, cause you don’t hear a lot queer music that’s pretty in your face about sexuality.”
This dichotomy between dark electronic sounds and a pop focus on sexuality really comes across in “The Beast,” where he sings about a passionate sexual encounter over heavy beats. “It was rooted in that punk, industrial, heavy dark,” said Khalili. “And I kind of realized that I didn’t wanna be dark about it- kind of like, more positive.”
Khalili has performed with other bands and musicians before, but he never felt like he had the chance to express himself as completely as he would like.
He found that chance when a musical project he’d planned with a friend fell through.
“Being antsy, I just started working on music at home for fun and it started to progress into songs, and I was like, I’m just gonna do this solo,” he said. “I kinda just started fiddling- teaching myself how to do synthesizer and stuff, cause I’m pretty new to it all.”
Khalili does most of his musical work through software and experiments to find appealing melody and rhythm. Once he got to know the gear, he began writing lyrics first, and then music to suit them.
Still, with unfettered creative control, Khalili found himself reconciling the dark electronic stylings he set out to create and his inclination towards upbeat themes.
“The music’s aggressive, but it doesn’t come from a dark place,” he said. “It’s trying to come from a more positive, truthful place about myself and my life. I really put myself out there, really earnest content, really honest. I think you can have a punk attitude and not be negative, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
In a way, he’s taking a transgressive, industrial approach to mainstream musical stylings.
“I listen to a lot of pop music,” said Khalili. “And that’s definitely something, just listening to the mainstream radio, it’s definitely very heteronormative, very sexual, and then I feel like, you don’t hear a lot of that made by queer people. So, it’s just my honest truth, it started off a little Taylor Swift-y, ‘I’m gonna write a song about this boy that pissed me off.’ That’s kinda how it started, and I went from there, pretty much.”
That period of experimentation and musical discovery began in January this year. Since then, he’s created about eight songs and has performed at house shows and small venues in the Richmond area.
Khalili finds that he likes performing at idiosyncratic locations and seeing how it plays out. “I kind of grew up doing a bunch of punk community stuff, so like, I kind of enjoy playing what you might call a not safe space,” he said. “Playing a very, you know, incidentally very heterosexual aggressive show, and seeing how people react.”
“Usually it’s positive,” said Khalili. “I’ve had some people act very awkwardly to me afterward.”
It’s not hard to imagine how his music might make some people uncomfortable. Aside from its focus on gay sex and gay relationships, elements of his songs are highly confrontational. The vocals in “Supreme,” for example, are bitter and confrontational as he describes the self-hatred that society demands of gay men and as he asserts his identity in spite of that.
This sense of confrontation would very likely have existed even had he made every step to steer clear of it.
“The mere act of being a queer person in public and doing music is a political statement,” said Khalili. “It’s just a fact. I do recognize that, my mere presence is a political statement, going out the door every day.”
Despite that, Khalili’s primary focus was always on self expression and positivity.
“I don’t wanna write songs about politics and how awful things are for the queer community,” he said. “I want to focus on the good stuff.”
Khalili hopes to have a full album available by the end of January 2017. Until then, you can keep an eye out for house shows featuring Kuni and check out his bandcamp page.
Top image via Craig Zirpolo
Although they’ve only been together since March, the RVA all-female band Fetish Gear is carving out a niche for themselves in the music scene with their take on hardcore metal. Emory (guitar), Kestrel(vocalist), Rachel Ludwig(bass), and Zoey Brosinski (drums) make up the band, and they recently released a chilling, but epic, unapologetic demo, “Haunted Mansion” [...]October 3, 2016
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