There’s a longstanding maxim that to be iconic, you have to be recognised through silhouette. That’s what KennyHoopla refers to in conversation with us about his new mixtape, as he continues to be lauded by press as the alternative artist that’s come to soundtrack us out of the monotony of the context that we’re living in. What differentiates him is simply remaining unabashedly himself, although he’s not here to judge anyone that does decide to hop aboard the hype train.
“Even the trends right now, even with the whole pop punk thing, there’ll be people specifically going out of their way to look super crazy, like rock stars, where I’m just like, ‘Aren’t we supposed to be in the now or trying to move it ahead?’ It’s super dope, I’m not here to judge anyone, but that’s not what I’m on.” He concludes: “Some people are following the same silhouettes, and I’m just trying to make sure that I have my own.”
In Hollywood, where he’s been hard at work piecing together SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE// with blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, Kenny sat back and observed those patterns of conformity, as the city itself continues to act as a rapid exchange market of global trends on a microcosmic scale. Having said that, the move he made to Wisconsin, announced sardonically in a recent single, hasn’t made as dramatic a difference as one may have expected.
“Honestly, I don’t like it anywhere,” he laughs. “I can see the beauty in things, but it’s hard to be like, ‘I like it here.’ I don’t feel comfortable anywhere, exactly. But that also might be the workaholic or something else in me that [finds it] hard to sit in one place…Most of the people are the same everywhere you go. But it comes down to the world that you make in your head and the way you carry yourself.”
Viewing it through a wider lens, SURVIVORS GUILT isn’t exclusively about his experience in tinsel town. We are in a time where a potentially deadly virus could knock any of us off our posts, aside from the thousand other things that could go wrong on any given day. Compounding what the title of the release means to Kenny and his collaborator in the blink-182 drummer, Barker was one of only two people to survive a plane crash that killed the remainder of passengers onboard back in 2008.
“It just spoke to things Travis went through, things I’ve gone through, you know, just making it out alive. And then it also spoke to, I felt like a sign of the times to where there’s this whole virus. I feel like all of us are lucky to be alive right now.” Of course, while the pandemic has been raging on, there hasn’t been a lot that many of us could do other than staying home, a subject the record also broaches. “A part of it was almost not knowing what to do with my time and being in a good situation but not knowing how to make the best of it, not knowing if you deserve it. And then also getting in a better situation. It spoke to my personal life – ending up alone, getting to a place where you thought other people would be there. Surviving, and a guilt that comes with that, having to cut things and people out of your life to become stronger.”
“We need anthems and we need that to be real because all of this stuff we idolise, that stuff is going to be gone.”
Being able to take solace in feeling less alone has always been the strength of our scene; the songs that make us feel understood – catchy enough to hook us like a fish on a line but with so much more beneath the surface – inexorably unite us together as a community. Kenny is fine with being called the voice of a generation in his efforts to pay that forward, but doesn’t have the calibre of ego where he’d add it into his socials bios.
“My feelings on it are all politics aside because I don’t really have an ego. I honestly have really bad – I don’t want to say confidence problems – but it’s just hard for me to have an ego, especially knowing the history. And I’m kind of just like, that is one thing I will take though. I will take that because I know at least from looking around me and, I don’t even know what you would call it, just the other artists and you know, our generation. I’m like, I know I care. I’m in a room and I know I care more than a lot of these people. Everything else aside, I feel like I have the heart for it where I could carry things in a good direction. It’s not even so much as to be a good gatekeeper, but to keep it authentic…Even if I’m not the best artist, I know that I have the heart for it. A lot of these people don’t, and I truly, truly, truly care about it.”
If that doesn’t convince you that Kenny is the one that should be carrying the torch, his attitude on the direction of alternative might. He speaks of a future for the genre that few others do, preoccupied merely with what will garner an uptick in hits and followers. Instead of resorting to baiting, or bathing exclusively in the nostalgia set up for us by our icons of the early 2000s, Kenny sagely confirms his intention to create the anthems that we play at our Emo Nite celebrations in ten years’ time, refusing to capitalise solely on the success of re-purposing what resonated the most from those who came before.
“There’s a certain language of heart that comes with with the genre that I feel like I know. It’s in my heart and I’ve carried it with me forever,” he reverently explains. “I put that much pressure on myself where I’m like, if I’m not making the next ‘Sugar We’re Goin’ Down’ or ‘Mr. Brightside’, if we’re not trying to do that, what are we doing? What are we doing if we’re not trying to push things forward? We’ve heard all these other songs again and again and again…We need anthems and we need that to be real because all of this stuff we idolise, that stuff is going to be gone. In the end, all we’re going to have is us.”