Images by Lionel Deluy
It would be hard to refute that for many years dance music, like skateboarding, had a serious gender problem. The number of women shaking bridges was shockingly negligible, and while changes have occurred, it is arguably still a very unbalanced situation.
In 2014, a Vice The article also took direct aim at the lack of booked LGBTQ artists at major dance music festivals — and there, too, the issue has been slow to correct itself. But a 17-year-old non-binary kid from Los Angeles might very well be enough of a force of nature to maybe embrace real change. Indeed, Moore Kismet (born Omar Davis) got his first taste of recognition at just 14 years old, finishing remarkably as a battlefield finalist at A-Trak’s 2019 Goldie Awards. They have since released a dozen excellent singles steeped in the British bass music genre, with growing success – including the exuberant ‘Call of the Unicorn’ (ft. Tasha Baxter) last November.
Last year, they were the youngest performers to take the stage at both Lollapalooza and the Electric Daisy Carnival.
A complete album is in preparation. But Kismet’s latest single “Parallel Heartbreak” (ft. Pauline Herr) looks set to define their style going forward. Alternating between lush, sonorous verses and utterly uplifting choruses, it abounds with dreamy atmospheres and galloping rhythms, Herr’s voice so effectively conveying the track’s deep sense of nostalgia.
With plans to hit the road again starting March 25 in New Orleans, we’ve slowed them down long enough to discuss what it all means.
You were only 14 when you found yourself a Beat Battle finalist at A-Trak’s Goldie Awards in 2019 – how was it?
Honestly, when I learned that I was selected as a finalist, I was blown away. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to get away with it because it seemed at the time that the Goldies had very definite limits on what you could and couldn’t do. I’m really grateful that I was able to make it happen, and even though I didn’t win, I still made a bunch of wonderful friends and got to meet some of my biggest musical inspirations. That’s all I could really remember.
You did the Billboard ’21 Under 21′ lists two years in a row and was the youngest performer to take the stage at both Lollapalooza and the Electric Daisy Carnival – are you worried you’ll end up jaded by the time you turn 21?
There are times in my life when I personally feel like I would be better off if I didn’t make music or just left Moore Kismet; but it is certainly not because of the achievements. It’s mostly because I feel like I’m still playing a catch-up game with all the people in the industry that I really look up to and want to be at the same creative level. Luckily, my mom, my friends and my team all keep a cool head for me and I know that what I’m doing, while it may not be enough for others, is enough for me.
You grew up in California, how did you discover the UK Bass?
I think it all started when I started trance and progressive house around the age of eight or nine. I love listening to old Anjunabeats releases from artists like Audien, Above & Beyond, Jason Ross, and many more. It kind of propelled me into learning different forms of electronic music and led me to where I am today, with my musical tastes on the electronic side of things.
You already seem to have a fairly developed style. How would you describe your music?
Whenever someone asks me this question, I always refer to the one time a fan called my music “beautifully controlled chaos”. So I’ll stick to that.
What are some of the things that influenced this style? And what are you currently passionate about?
I think a major thing that inspired me to follow the path I’ve taken with my style, especially in recent memory, has been seeing more artists do the same and laying the groundwork for more artists to follow. other artists follow in their footsteps. People like SOPHIE, Rickyxsan, Oski, Leotrix, Voltra and others have inspired me to take a bigger risk with my music and explore raw experimentation.
Do you feel like “Parallel Heartbreak” is setting a new bar for you? And tell us about Pauline Herr.
I would sincerely say yes. Writing “Parallel Heartbreak” was a very long and tumultuous, but rewarding experience. I had never intentionally tried to write something universally accessible before, but the biggest challenge was making sure you could still tell it was a Moore Kismet song. Yes, it was written by my best friend and some platinum-certified writers. But I don’t want that to obscure the fact that it’s still an MK song, and every chance I get I’m going to go crazy weird with this shit.
Pauline Herr is another Los Angeles-based artist I met a few years ago at a show. My mom told me to swap information with her and the other singers who went that night so we could keep in touch and maybe collaborate. I had no idea our relationship would become so great and so special. Our first collaboration (“You Should Run”) came out almost two years ago, and getting the chance to work with her again on one of my biggest records to date was the best thing I could ask for.
You have been a strong advocate for mental health. Is there something you have personally experienced that you are ready to talk about?
My song ‘Rumor’ started when I was 14, the night after I first attempted suicide. I was barely making my way through the scene and had begun to discover my identity as a non-binary trans person. My openness about this discovery, added to the fact that I am a black teenager, was a bit like an open target for racists, homophobes and xenophobes who immediately began to disparage me and accuse me of using my identity to gain weight. This sucked me into a deep depression and has been a major factor in altering my social anxiety over the past few years. Writing ‘Rumor’ was my way of finding catharsis through pain, like a needle in a haystack.
A Vice article in 2014 went so far as to say that no “out” artists were booked at mainstream EDM festivals. How do you find the stage now?
I noticed that he was slowly but surely starting to become more open to the presence of sex and gender diverse performers. But again, it’s very slow. And more often than not, the same queer artists end up getting booked into the same festivals, with myself gradually becoming one of them. I really just want to see a gigantic wave of people in my community being offered the same opportunities as me.
Have you personally found acceptance and support in the dance music community?
In my own spaces and in the spaces I’ve grown up with since I was little, yes. In general, not quite yet. It’s going to take a while, but I know that with every performance I give, more and more people start to know more about me, who I am and what I stand for. The gain is worth the work.
What would Moore Kismet’s ideal 2022 look like?
Graduating from high school, releasing my first album, finding a way to keep in touch with all my close friends, embarking on my very first tour and shooting my first movie in the open spaces between all of those things!