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Kaina Castillo

Kaina Castillo


By Nylijah Barnes

Chicago is home to plenty of creative souls, like Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa and Noname and twenty-one year old Kaina is definitely one of them. When I first entered her job at Bucketfeet she was instantly recognizable, greeting me with a bright cheery smile before she briefly returned to help out some customers. Last summer she released her first EP Sweet Asl along with the Burns Twins, the sweet, melodic sound drew people in quickly and soon everyone knew who Kaina & The Burns Twins was. Now she’s been performing in several small concerts and balancing her music with her everyday life and has begun to think about how to move forward with her career.


N: As you grow as an artist do you see yourself going into different genres or adding them to your music?


Before my project with Sweet Asl with The Burns Twins that’s actually the sweetest I’ve ever sang in my life. I feel like it’s lullaby jazzy, I don’t know hip-hop ish? But before that I was in a couple bands with some high school friends, that was more like soul rock funk stuff? I was screaming a lot as opposed to this project which was very sweet. And now as I’m moving forward, I grow and listen to new stuff too. I mean I wanna be a blend of all of these things, cuz I grew up listening to salsa and my dad really put me on Police and Queen and Motown, Motownis my favorite.


And then there’s such an interesting blend of people in Chicago that I’m coming across here. And so I think my next project, that I’m working on is gonna be like a mix of this dreamy thing that I’ve done but also a mix of this rock funk thing.


N: I feel like being in Chicago is one of the best places to be artistically because each artist has their own story and people are calling this the new Chicago Renaissance. Do you think that being a part of that influences your artistry?


K: Oh absolutely, I mean I’m born and raised in Chicago, so Chicago is literally everything to me, and like you said there is so many things going on and there’s so much history. Even though I feel like there is kind of a renaissance going on I’ve dipped my feet in so many areas of Chicago. Like I used do hip-hop dance, I got really good at it, then I was like “I don’t wanna do this anymore.” I know all the dancers in Chicago and they’re really having a moment and the musicians in Chicago are obviously having a moment. Also a moment independently where a lot of the people who are making it really big right now are all independent artist and just worked really hard. So it all influences me a lot and it inspires me alot because you know there’s so much ground work that had been done before like Chance and Noname and all of them, or like Chance and Vic basically. There’s so much lineage and I think that’s a word I’ve been thinking about lately is just like lineage of Chicago or lineage of your family or lineage of your art which can entail a lot of different things. The roots of everything, there might be a renaissance but it really started from the roots and all my peers are really influenced by everything that happened before us now it’s us really just collaging all these ideas, for me collaging the dance element like I took my first dance class in 4 years like 2 weeks ago and I was like “Holy shit this really helps me feel my body in a space so that’ll help with my performance” you know? So I’m really just mashing up all these different things together. And I was in After School Matters and all these nonprofits when I was in High School so everything I’ve learned I’m putting it together.


N: Do you think dancing or doing things you enjoy, is another way of expressing yourself?


K: Yeah that’s very real. Like I did After School Matters for hip hop during the summer and during school. Dancing really is expressing yourself through your body and I haven’t danced in years and I forgot that that was a thing and it really reminded me of who I am in my body. I think writing is very in my head all the time; expressing everything in your head and then speaking it out and writing it out, but dancing is really crazy because people are using movement to express something.


N: Yeah I’ve always thought art was a good way to get rid of whatever’s troubling you because you can feel it. Like whatever ache you have, you can push it out and I don’t think a lot of people realize that actually.


K: If you’re not getting that energy out, it can physically manifest.You can actually get sick from not getting all of this ugly bad energy you might have out. Everyone has this ugly gross side to them but if you’re not doing something with it, it’s like you internalise it and it becomes you and you’re not getting help.


N: A lot of artists do it intentionally or not, create a sort of persona of themselves for when they sing so I was wondering if you do that as well?


K: I don’t have like a specific character I think? I think that’s so cool to be able to have an alter ego, that’s so awesome. I feel like when I get on stage, I almost feel like I blackout and I don’t know and people are like “Oh that was crazy!” and I’m like “I just don’t know what I did.” You could show it to me on video then I’d be like “ Woah you’re right.” Yeah I definitely feel like I become a different person or like you release that energy, I’m still working on how to feel when I get off stage because getting on stage is such a rush and a different level to who I am I’m still figuring out how to ground myself when I get off stage. I‘m using all this energy and then I’m like “Woah who am I” ya know?

I’ve actually realized recently that I would wanna be the same person on that stage that I am off of it. Basically if you are racist or wanna deport people you really not a supporter of mine ya know?


N: I totally understand that. Sometimes it’s not a good thing to separate the art from the artist because that artist put every piece of them into their art. Like you said, you’re Hispanic you’re going to put that into your music because that’s just who you are.


K: Well that’s why I don’t think there is a separation from art and the person right? Or people are like let’s separate R.Kelly from who he actually is or listen to his music, like yeah he was poppin but he was still being gross you know what I’m saying? So it’s like you can’t really separate the art from the artist because no matter what whoever you are whether you’re a good or a bad person or whatever, like whatever you have to say is literally based off your experience. Like I could never write a song from the perspective of a black woman you know what I’m saying? Or me being like “I’m gonna write a song for white people!” you know? That just doesn’t work because I’m not white so I will never write a song for white people. One, cause I don’t want to do that and two, because I literally could not because I can’t detach myself, we grow up and the environment shapes us. And we are born who we are in the world and you can’t separate that, no matter you’re doing your art is gonna be connected to you.


N: What was it like working on Your Ep Sweet Asl? It just turned a year old right?


K: Yeah it’s creeping up in August it’ll be like one year of it. It feels really weird. Working on that was crazy it’s definitely like a different time. Me and one of the Burns Twins, Eddie… I would be at his house everyday for like five months straight. I would get off work and go to his house and wouldn’t leave ‘til like five am. So did Andrew who produced the album and so did IZ, the other half of the Burns Twins. So I’d be there til five am and come over at 11 am and then do it again. So it was a crazy rush. It was also because we thought they were all going to school, they ended up not going to college so we were all like “Let’s rush!” but it also felt energetic it was just so quick we got it done so quick. It was amazing and it was a new summer of new friends and me taking music seriously for the first time. I’ve always done music but this is my first commitment to actually putting something out there.


N: What’s next for you?


K: In general? Oh yeah for sure, I’m working on an EP next that, ya know how we talked about my experiences are always gonna be embedded in my music, but really wanna be blatant in this next EP. I really wanna put out something based on immigration and frustrations of being who I am in the world and all of these themes that I have songs for so I should just make it a thing ya know? So that’s next and I’m working with my friend on that. He’s awesome and then hopefully something way longer.


N: What do you think finally pushed you into actually writing songs and going out to sing them?


K: I don’t even know I’m like why did I do that? I don’t know, writing songs came after poetry so I did LTAB [Louder Than A Bomb] and I went to YCA [Young Chicago Authors] all the time and I just wrote poems and I slammed for a year.Honestly so many of my songs if you break them down to just text they’re just poetry so It was kinda easy. It was like I had been doing dance and singing a little bit, and did guitar a little bit so it was just like putting words to a melody came really naturally for me. The EP with the twins, and I had no expectations for that. So many of those songs were just words in my journal from high school. I didn’t expect them to be anything to anyone, the EP kinda soared and we just were playing shows for a whole year non stop. But I didn’t expect any of that. Then it actually became a thing and now my life is consumed by music.


N: Every album, just with artists in general capture a different type of feeling so what feeling do you think you captured with Sweet asl


K: That album definitely feels like last summer, like if I had to tell people my experiences of that summer,” Just sweet, and that’s literally the title, but sweet and new and fresh. Almost feels like young love too, yeah.


N: What’s next for you?


K: In general? Oh yeah for sure, I’m working on an EP next that, ya know how we talked about my experiences are always gonna be embedded in my music, but really wanna be blatant in this next EP. I really wanna put out something based on immigration and frustrations of being who I am in the world and all of these themes that I have songs for so I should just make it a thing ya know? So that’s next and I’m working with my friend on that. He’s awesome and then hopefully something way longer.