San Fermin’s Charlene Kaye Is A Powerhouse Of Her Own

Photographed by Yu Ling Wu.

And she’s also really, really cool

For Charlene Kaye, music was always a passion; a fact made crystal clear to me when I recently saw her perform at the Mercury Lounge in New York’s Lower East Side. Even those who didn’t know her name when the show began left the venue with fandom in full effect.

Kaye is fresh off of the release of her latest EP, Honey, which features dreamy pop-rock tunes and catchy choruses. The singer-songwriter doesn’t stop there. In addition to her own projects, she still has time to lend her voice to pop band San Fermin. I caught up with Kaye recently and found out how she first got into music, her dream collaborators, and why 2013 was such a strange year for her.

What are you up to today?
Not much! I’m headed to [meet] Ellis [Ludwig-Leone of San Fermin] to record some finals for our next album.

That’s great that you’re able to work with San Fermin in addition to your own stuff.
Yeah, it’s great. It’s really fun to be a part of a bunch of different visions, and I really like playing sideman. I play guitar in this other pop band this fall, in addition to doing my own stuff and San Fermin. As long as I’m surrounded by music, it makes me happy.

Which came first: singing or playing guitar?
Oddly enough, first came classical piano. My mom grew up in Singapore in a very poor family of eight siblings. When she moved to America, she really wanted the best for my sister and me, and she threw every instrument under the sun into our hands. Later, I picked up guitar on my own and fell in love. When I told her I wanted to be a musician for a living, she was like, “Wait, what? We didn’t want this to actually be your livelihood—we just wanted you to be well-rounded.”

Like a hobby, capital H, to put on your resume.
Exactly, but she’s come around. Now she knows that I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. I completely appreciate the length my parents went to, to give us some of these opportunities, and I think I would certainly do the same if I were a mom.

Tell me about Honey. What was the inspiration for it?
Honey was born in this murky period between when I had released my last album and when I joined San Fermin. I was struggling with some major life changes that were happening at the time and dealing with a breakup and stuff with my self-esteem. I just needed to write a song that entailed the complete opposite of how I felt, and then I needed to see if that changed my world view, and it did.

What was the first song on the album that you wrote?
The first song that I conceived was actually “Armies.” I wrote it when I was thinking about how humans connect to each other. There is a line in the song that was inspired by two characters in this book called On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Basically, there are two characters who are a married couple and they are constantly at each other’s throats, which was a really, really profound image to me. These two people love each other deeply, but will never truly connect because they can’t communicate.

How has the response been so far?
It’s been awesome. I’ve seen on social media that a lot of people have really connected with “Carry You,” which is my favorite song of the EP and the song that I wrote for my sister. In that murky period that I mentioned, there was something about that year that just felt very like...

I remember your mentioning 2013 being a crazy year at your concert...
I don’t know what it was. It was like, “Oh shit, there’s like a reckoning happening collectively here.” For me, I wasn’t totally sure if I even wanted to continue with music because I was in this quagmire of self-doubt, and writing didn’t seem as free and as natural as it had in the past. I think I was trying to, like, shove a square peg into a round hole. I was trying all these different things, so I just took a step back and lent myself to Ellis’ vision, and the San Fermin vision really helped me see why I fell in love with music, to begin with.

If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be doing?
I had a really inspiring English teacher in high school and originally thought about doing that. I’ve always been interested in the psychology of people and talking about relationships and figuring out what makes people tick. I think there was something interesting to me about talking to young kids and helping them figure out one of the messiest and confusing times of their lives, which is teenagedom.

If you could collaborate with any other artist right now, who would you want to collaborate with?
Oh my gosh. This is daunting. My younger self would say, Rufus Wainwright. I also want to collaborate with Awkwafina. She is a badass Asian rapper. I want to be a voice for young Asian-American girls who might not think that they can be pop stars or rock stars because they don’t see anybody that looks like them doing that. I think Awkwafina is somebody who is really pushing the definition of what it means to be a pop star, and I would love to collaborate with her. And Janelle Monáe, too

There is definitely more diversity today than there was even a decade ago.
Yeah. I grew up in the '90s, which was the boy band era and when Britney Spears was ubiquitous. I think the idea of what it means to be a woman and what it means to look like a woman has expanded and evolved so much. You don’t have look like Britney Spears to succeed in music today. I think there’s been a renaissance of diversity in the pop culture landscape. Now, we’re seeing more and more examples in the media like Fresh Off the Boat and Master of None that actually represent how I grew up.

The same kind of goes with being a woman.
There used to be so much stock put in the likeability of being a woman, and I feel like there was a lot of pressure growing up—and from my parents as well—to be beautiful and delicate and pretty and not make too much of a fuss and don’t be too opinionated because that won’t make you an attractive person. And so, I was like, “What is the point of being likable if you’re gonna round out all the edges of yourself that make you special and make you who you are?” And you won’t really be telling your real story if you do that, and that’s not being honest. I think trying to be likable would eventually make one milquetoast which is the worst thing of all.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

What are you currently binging on Netflix?
I watched Stranger Things, of course, and I also just finished The Night Of on HBO. It was excellent.

If you were going on a road trip, who would you put on the playlist?
Oh, man, I’d put some Weezer, some Fiona Apple, some System of a Down. These are all bands that I listened to in my childhood. And I’d throw in some Beyoncé for good measure.

Do you have a life motto or any words you live by?
I found this thing on Instagram that someone shared—it’s my phone background right now—and it says, “Failed? No problem. Next idea.” There’s so much I want to do—I want to produce stuff for other people and I want to co-write for other people, I want to write big pop songs for bigger artists. No matter what I decide to do, I’m gonna figure something out.

Lastly, and clearly most importantly, do you have a favorite flavor of ice cream?
Yes, mint chocolate chip from Morgenstern’s [Finest Ice Cream].


Screenshot via Youtube

While the song should serve as a reminder to your exes

Just a day after dropping new single "Nunya," featuring Dom Kennedy, Kehlani has released the winter-wonderland visuals to go along with. The singer, NYLON November cover star, and mother-to-be rocks some of the best winter 'fits I've seen in a while, including a glorious puffer jacket that could double as a down comforter that I absolutely need in my life right now.

Kehlani is clearly living her best life up in some snow-filled forest hideaway, vibing on the beach at sunset and sipping on something bubbly as she coolly reminds nosy exes that who she's with is "nunya business." There's not much of a story line (unlike her recent "Nights Like This" video); the main takeaway is that Kehlani is busy dancing through a forest, missing no one and chilling amongst people who are clearly not the subjects of the song.

Kehlani is only two short months away from bringing baby Adeya into the world, who she thanked for helping her get through the video process. "Shot that 7 months pregnant in da snow..." Kehlani wrote on Twitter, adding, "thank u baby for da motivation, mommy was FROZE."

Even from the womb, Adeya has been hustling hard alongside her momma. Twitter user @ODtheMC pointed out that this is already her second music video appearance, and she's not even been born.

Get some mulled wine ready and escape into Kehlani's winter getaway, below. Stay tuned for her forthcoming mixtape, While We Wait, out on February 22.

Kehlani - Nunya (feat. Dom Kennedy) [Official Music Video]



Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images.

As in Black Panther Political Party leader

It's been a running joke that the Black parents/grandparents of millennials were really confused about all of the Black Panther hoopla ahead of its 2018 release. Many of them were anticipating a movie about members of the Black Panther Political Party and didn't know who the hell T'Challa was. Well, those people are about to have their moment, and we're about to have another one.

Variety is reporting that Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader at the center of the upcoming biopic Jesus Was My Homeboy, could be played by none other than Daniel Kaluuya. Apparently, he is in negotiations for the role. And he's not the only Black Panther alum in the mix. The Warner Bros. project is being produced by Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler. The same article reports that the forever swoon-worthy Lakeith Stanfield—who appeared with Kaluuya in Jordan Peele's Get Out—is also in negotiations, to play William O'Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party.

Coogler and Charles King are putting together a dream cast to tell a difficult story. Hampton was killed by the Chicago Police Department, while his pregnant girlfriend lay next to him, thanks in part to information they received from O'Neal. Whenever it's out, I strongly recommend having Black Panther queued up as a palate cleanser.