A sure-fire way to emphatically jumpstart one’s artistic status in the public landscape is to simply saturate oneself in all things shocking, outlandish, and/or erratic in regards to their creative ventures. Especially in the highly approachable, and equally just as in-demand Internet age, effectively making a statement in an extravagant and momentous manner is without question a tried and true methodology that numerous acts have at their disposal to this day.
But just because anyone can make a resounding statement in the public eye and have it stick in people’s heads does not mean that the given statement is anything significant or worthwhile in the long run. To take that next step and advance forward in the process, a creative has to infuse that very statement with just as much talent as sheer market appeal. If that daunting accomplishment is achieved, not only is the bar further set for more creatives to try and reach that same level, but the act in question will undoubtedly reap all of the benefits as they progress towards their respective endeavors.
And that is exactly what Karm and Yung Skayda have come to represent with their remarkable rise to prominence together as XIX; the two Connecticut natives have burst onto the scene in 2020 via such outstanding viral hits such as “Sick Duck” and “Kismet” — the latter of which being the catalyst to their uprising due to its immense popularity on such platforms as Tik Tok and beyond.
Though they have seen their time in the spotlight jump to exponentially higher levels than they could have ever imagined this early in their careers – even going as far as earning them a deal with Masked/Warner Records – the two have seldom been fully recognized and fleshed out as individuals.
But with their debut music video for the aforementioned “Kismet,” they have effectively make their mark on the scene from a visual level that ever-so-perfectly matches the utterly raucous and outlandish personas that their music so ideally conveys. But even beyond the Mezzy-directed video, there is so much more to these two superstars-in-the-making than what any of their creative endeavors could spell out on their own.
How did XIX come about between you two?
Karm: We’ve been friends and working together for a really long time, and the group kinda had a bunch of different stages, like a metal band at one point, and this is kind of its final stage.
When you guys entered this phase of your careers, what was the progression like leading up to deciding on your own type of style that we see now?
Skayda: I was listening to a couple of like “glitchcore” songs at the time, but that was as far as I was going into the genre. But Karm is always on Tik Tok, and he was telling me all about how cool these songs were that I wasn’t hip to. So we kinda decided on trying that route with Kismet, but I wanted to really make it more of a “hip-hop” type glitchcore song, because that’s what I’m all about.
Karm: I’ve never had a genre I felt I was confined to at all, so when I started hearing these glitchy sounds and stuff, I wanted to start doing some of that myself. And being around Tik Tok and that audience definitely helped me find a fix for what I was itching to do. Just that really weird but still so cool type of sound.
Did any artists in particular spark that influence at the time?
Karm: 100 Gecs, CMTEN, Osquinn, and Bladee are huge influences to me with that. Different stuff like Uzi, Zillakami, and Lil Darkie also play a huge part to us as well.
Skayda: I really like to listen to a lot of Death Grips and Machine Girl to get my experimental side going.
Hearing how diverse your guys’ tastes are certainly says a lot about your music, considering how off-the-wall and all over the place it is and how well you execute it. What prompts you guys to really step outside of the norm with your approach?
Skayda: For the most part, it really just comes from a genuine place for both of us. We don’t try and go out of our way to be as different as we can, that’s really just how we are. We really just make anything we like, and if it’s a banger, we’ll put it out. We really don’t want to make any particular style of music, we just want to make good music.
Karm: With me, I can never really focus on making one single thing when it comes to music, and that’s why our stuff is always a mix of so many different genres. Like I’ll get halfway through a song and not be happy with it because I wanna make it sound different all of a sudden.
Because your guys’ music changes so much in the process, did a clear vision ever really exist from the outset with a song like Kismet?
Skayda: For awhile I was always just trying to make catchy songs so that they might blow up, but one day when making Kismet, I kinda just decided to make it a little weirder than the rest of our stuff, and I really didn’t think anything of it. I really didn’t think this was gonna be our biggest break; I just thought it was gonna be another one for the books.
Karm: When Skayda sent me the original idea for the song, it was really distorted and intense, even more than it is now. So when I went to do my thing on it, I wanted to keep that chaotic energy but still have it be a little easier to listen to.
And it obviously paid off quite a bit due to how much the entire world adores the song. What was it like seeing its virality rise as it did?
Skayda: We’ve always stayed somewhat relevant in the underground community, like we’d always have at least one song at a time doing decently well. But we honestly thought we’d just slowly work towards our goal until we eventually got there. But when Kismet blew up, it really felt so good because we’ve been working at this for so long trying to stay relevant, and this year we really just went above and beyond.
Karm: It was really redeeming for me; at the time when it blew up, I wasn’t doing well in school and a lot of people were treating my goals in music as like a “side thing,” and it felt so good to know that I really could make this music stuff my living because of it.
So with the accompanying video to the song being your guys’ true first visual entrance to the world, how did you guys go about conceptualizing what would become the resulting product?
Skayda: Our manager kept telling us to come up with ideas for a video once the song started going up, and eventually we hired Mezzy to be our director for the entire thing. So we rented out that school and just went crazy. But the label really helped us out here, and we can’t thank them enough for that. They flew us out to California, paid for our hotel… everybody was just so helpful and we had such an amazing time.
Karm: I actually started talking to a few Tik Tok users who really kinda helped us with some ideas for the entire thing, like networking with other sources really helped us a lot.
Going as crazy as you guys did in the video, were there any sort of barriers in your way that might’ve clouded its original intent?
Skayda: Nah, there was absolutely none of that. We knew everyone knew who we were, and we knew that we had every right to do what we wanted with it.
Karm: There was literally this scene where we pull out of the parking lot in the truck, and I pulled up on my skateboard before we shot it and was like, “what if I hitched on the back of the truck with my board while we drove and then jumped in the back,” and like that just shows how crazy we wanted to go (laughs).
Did you guys take up this project knowing that you had to make a statement, being that it was your first official video?
Karm: Everything you see in the video is stuff we used to do in high school on some sort of level, like fucking around a lot and shit. So we really wanted this to reflect how crazy go and how crazy the music is for sure. We just intensified it all with the video here.
Skayda: Everyone involved definitely knew the nature of our personalities, but really I just had no idea how much the label itself was gonna let us be ourselves. So it was amazing finding out we could do what we wanted. They honestly put us in our element.
Relationships like this are really not expressed much by other artists, so how do you guys feel about being so comfortable with a label presence like that, especially one as big as Masked/Warner?
Skayda: We thought that we would have to work hard to get where we are now for so many more years, so when the label came to us and told us that they wanted to make our journey so much easier, it really made us feel so good. They really let us focus on ourselves as artists before anything else, and they literally let us make whatever we want.
Karm: They just made everything so much easier for us. With Roger doing his part, and being as influential as he is with Masked Gorilla, he told us right off the bat what we envisioned for us. He told us that no one would be limiting our creative freedom, and that is exactly what has gone down. We really, really won.
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