Forces At Play: Natasha Kmeto

Portland-based electronic producer and singer Natasha Kmeto has been referred to as a “unicorn” in the industry, and the sentiment is not inaccurate. There are a myriad of qualities that set her apart. She’s an openly queer female in a male dominated industry, and not afraid to express her sexuality lyrically. She creates her own music from start to finish, rather than relying on a producer to create tracks for her to sing over top of. With a powerful, soulful voice, her vocals are featured prominently on record and in her live performances, rather than relying on vocal samples or burying herself in backing tracks.

And none of that has gone unnoticed. Between her 2013 release, Crisis, and 2015’s Inevitable, she joined TV On The Radio for an extensive US tour, and has since performed at major festivals including Coachella, Bumbershoot, Decibel and SXSW. On Inevitable, Kmeto even teamed up with TVOTR’s Tunde Adebimpe to collaborate on the track “Grind,” for a beautifully dueling vocal arrangement. 

Join us on Wednesday, 11.9, as Natasha performs her first hometown show in some time, where she plans to unveil a new live band, moving away from her historically solo performances. She’ll be joined by the Seattle-based electronic industrial pop duo Crater, and the show will kick off a short run of west coast tour dates for the two acts.

Ahead of her show, we chatted with Natasha about her early obsession with music, overcoming industry obstacles in an “ism”-plagued society, what her new band will look/sound like, and about her upcoming 7” release “Pour Down” b/w “Free For Tonight,” read below. 

Holocene: What are your earliest memories/experiences with music and when did you first realize you wanted to be a musician and performer?

Natasha: Some of my earliest memories of music are definitely just singing and dancing along to music with my family as a kid.  I grew in a very musical appreciative household and was exposed to so much music as a kid.  I started taking piano lessons at age 5 and then moved to vocal lessons as a young teenager.  I also was an athlete, which I think oddly played into my desire to perform.  I’ve always loved the thrill of performance and I’m obsessed with music, so I think I’ve always kind of known.

2014-15 were huge years for you, touring with TV On The Radio, performing at major festivals, and collaborating with Tunde Adebimpe on Inevitable. How, if at all, have those experiences been transformative for you as a musician?

I saw so many things, met so many rad people and got to play so many incredible shows.  I also got to see, feel and experience some not so great things too. In hindsight, I am most appreciative of all of my experiences because they have helped me figure out so much about what kind of artist and person I want to be going forward.

You’ve faced some major obstacles in life and your musical career as a female person of color and someone who identifies as queer. Do you have any advice for other individuals who are struggling with their own identities and overcoming systemic oppression in a society plagued by “isms?”

My best advice would be to stick to what feels good, always.  Meaning, trust your instincts even if it’s not “best practice”, follow your heart and don’t be afraid to shine for exactly who YOU are.  People try to set up a lot of rules and limitations in this industry based on the past, but it’s our choice whether or not to acknowledge them and move things forward. Do you, don’t just re-hash shit.

For those who haven’t yet seen you perform with the new band, what will your set at Holocene on 11.9 look/sound like compared to your solo performances?

I’ve performed solo for the past 5 years, so this set up seems like such a refresh for me! As of right now, I’ll be joined on stage by Damon Boucher on keys and Donovan Edwards on vocals.  They are both such incredible talents. The line-up may expand in the future as well 😉 The sound is much more full and “live” sounding.  It’s also great to have other folks to interact with on stage.

You have a new 7” vinyl due out later this year. What can fans expect of the new tracks, and are there any deets you’d like to share regarding the release?

The a-side is called “Pour Down” and the b-side is “Free for Tonight”. They both discuss and center around empowerment and escapism, respectively. “Pour Down” is about some of the feelings I’ve had about being a woman in the music industry and the world at large.  “Free for Tonight” tells the story of being in a hypothetical “safe space”.  It’s out 12/2 on 7″ vinyl and I’m self-releasing because it seemed the most appropriate way to put these songs out after the past couple years I’ve had, haha.

What are some things you’re currently listening to?

Solange’s new album is a daily listen right now.  It’s getting back to moody weather again too so I’m re-visiting all my Andy Stott.  I’ve also been listening to a lot of Chelsea Wolfe.