Soundpark Act of the Month: Kässy

Photo of Kässy (c) Clemens Ascher
Kässy (c) Clemens Ascher

From Charli XCX to Nirvana, from guitar to A.I.: Kässy‘s glitch-pop is the musical reflection of the social media age – and it’s made the Austrian artist our Soundpark Act of the Month for July.

What does it take to break into a globalized “market” flooded (by TikTok and friends) with indie productions and attention-grabbing musical short cuts? Individualism, a knack for addressing current issues without being annoying about it, and a substantial helping of courage. Kässy’s got all of that.

Her first single, “Skirt On Pants”, already had listeners asking themselves what’s going on in the guitarist/singer/producer’s head. The wild mixture of sounds and styles seems a musical expression of the social-media-induced attention-deficit pandemic. The way Kässy hot-swaps sounds, musical aesthetics, experimentalism, and harmonic passages, it’s easy to get lost in the eclectic ecstasy.

In her own words: “I wanted to see how far you can take things and still have them be catchy. I think I succeeded pretty well with this song. I learn something new with every song, whether it’s about production or about songwriting. Or things I can do with my voice. It’s a little experiment every time.”

Video: Kässy – “Skirt On Pants”

Between A.I. and the Guitar

If Kässy’s voice sonds familiar, you’ve probably heard the trio Sharktank, with whom she plays guitar and sings. Even before that, Katrin Paucz shared the stage as a guitarist with Oehl and Bilderbuch – but all that’s not particularly relevant to her solo project, Kässy. Here, it’s just her making the songs. The ideas had been knocking around in her head for years. It was finally time to make them a reality and unleash them on us.

In the “Skirt On Pants” video – to match the wild mix of styles – Kässy appears in multiple copies of herself. It reflects the virtuality of our time, the urge to continually re-invent oneself, to present oneself anew. The thing is, you can also lose yourself that way. “On TikTok, there’s this ‘core’ trend, where you present a lifestyle as your core,” she says. “Like, you can be ‘cutecore’ or whatever. And some people feel like they have to decide on one ‘core’ or another – but there are so many thousands of things that you feel, that you can be; you can also lose yourself and your identity. I thought it would be interesting to project different things onto myself, to reveal only single aspects of who I am instead of everything.”

Kässy certainly isn’t afraid of new trends and technologies. For the “Skirt On Pants” video, she loaded photos and videos into an artificial intelligence program to generate a visualizer. That matches her preferences and working style – she just opens up Ableton and starts experimenting with sounds. The music is built around this artificial aspect, which Kässy likes to call “glitch” – a genre of music that developed in the 1990s and has been referred to as “the aesthetics of failure“: consciously integrating the errors of electronic devices or software into music – or even using them as the basis for songs.

Between Charli XCX and Nirvana

Video: Kässy – “I Feel So Heavy”

This glitch-pop is a perfect vehicle for what Kässy wants her music to communicate: that errors can be cool. Even she has a hard time allowing herself to fail now and then. As a producer, she’s a perfectionist, but she loves the imprecise, the raw, the unrefined. She draws her musical inspiration for this project from somewhere between the perfect pop of Charli XCX and the good old grunge of Nirvana. On the two singles she’s released to date, you can also hear the influence of Icona Pop and The Naked & Famous. You might think her longtime friend and bandmate Marco Kleebauer was involved, but she must have absorbed his production habits into her musical DNA unconsciously. The thing that makes Kässy unique, though, is the combination of her voice with all of these influences, assembled into a colorful, glitchy mosaic.

The love of experimentation is always audible in her music, as is her playful approach to all the elements – technological, musical, and aesthetic – that surround us in the music business right now. Kässy has made a many-faced alter ego for herself, and we’ll be seeing more of them before the end of this year…

Article by Andreas Gstettner-Brugger, translated from the German original by Philip Yaeger.