Blood Cultures is a mystery musician that created a mask of modern anonymity to let go of ego, identity, and commodified personalities. This enigmatic artist's multifaceted composition deconstructs complex topics such as self-discovery, eastern feminine oppression, toxic masculinity, and representation of people of colour. Stream their psychedelic new album LUNO now.
The music comes first - the musician's anonymous identity, and avoidance of sharing personal stories, allows them to stand amongst their audience as an equal. However, things took a new direction when the mask became a little more transparent this year. Blood Cultures' electronic melodies and experimental leaning embody the push and pull between the identities that influence their music. Their ability to combine soaring harmonies with nostalgic and compelling lyricism breathes life into the meaning of self-expression. In this interview, we talk to Blood Cultures about the journey of anonymity versus the power of sharing, their new album titled LUNO and confronting the necessary changes and growth as an artist of today.
Do you think your Pakistani-American background, and the stereotypical tension between western versus eastern culture, form you as an artist today?
Yes and no. Cultural identity is a tricky subject, especially for first-generation Americans, because there's often a pressure to choose a side; while all the while figuring out your unique individual personality within the division. No one wants to be lumped into a box and defined by one aspect of themselves, especially when that aspect is not something they ever had control over or any say in. But at the same time I am nothing without my influence, experience, and upbringing. I feel like the question of identity is at the core of what makes Blood Cultures what it is, not just in the anonymity of the project but the identity that the listener brings to the songs and shapes the meaning to themselves.
You choose not to have your physical identity shown. In your eyes what does anonymity mean in today’s culture?
We live in the age of overwhelming information, yet still it is difficult to find truth and authenticity. I think anonymity means I can be honest and my true authentic self in the places that it matters, like in the artwork and in the music. The tricky part with anonymity is that it doesn't always represent your actual life experience. In my case, I needed to begin to talk about certain aspects of my life in order to provide cultural context to the messaging of the work, because as a brown person, I don't actually have the privilege of anonymity in my day to day life.
At the beginning of this year, you posted an honest statement about the personal aspects and perspectives you share. Details regarding lack of South Asian representation, consistent negative depictions of people, culture, and religion and the power of sharing. Could you tell us about your sense of anonymity versus the power of sharing?
It's definitely a delicate balance of context that I feel like I can and should provide so that the artwork makes sense, while still maintaining enough distance where the listener is not bogged down with information that may get in the way of their relationship with the music. I shared the statement because I think it was necessary in understanding the changing nature of the project and giving context to the cultural aspects that would be explored in the material and why I think they're necessary to do so now. It is through sharing our stories, that others begin to understand our experience and can feel like their stories are being told. I cannot encourage the representation and support for Black and Brown voices while silencing my own.
Your sound is so distinctive. A meeting of occult synth-waves, post-internet electronic riffs and summer melodies. How do you identify with your sound, and how has it developed over time?
I think it's an amalgamation of experimental forays into different genres, but I don't think it's my place to try to summarise it, nor do I think I'm able. I think over time, the sound has certainly become more experimental. I think that growth is essential and is the responsibility of an artist, to challenge the status quo and expand their genre and the idea of what music means to their audience, so that's what I aim to do through experimenting and trying to not fall into a boxed genre.
Your new album LUNO is out today. This project deals with topics like self-discovery, eastern feminine oppression, toxic masculinity, and the representation of people of colour. The Blood Cultures universe is a series of images portraying the protagonist wearing a burkah and suit side by side. These are all powerful points of conversation. Could you tell us more about your experience with toxic masculinity and how your character remodels these notions?
The suit is this sort of western symbol of masculinity, and the burkah is this eastern symbol of femininity. Both are symbolic tools of limitations of what it means to be feminine, what it means to be masculine. Both are symbolic of repressive ideas about what you need to be in order to fit into the boxes that society has deemed for you. They are both symbols that, whether I like it or not, represent a dark part of my culture that I do not personally agree with, so by taking these symbols of oppression and embodying them both simultaneously, we make this paradox. The idea is to redefine these symbols and change their meaning by turning them on their head simply by embracing both together.
In the visual for Beneath the moon and me, you find an array of quick-cut montages. How does your hypnotising editing style enhance your sound?
For the record, that video was directed and edited by one of my favorite music video directors, Sam Kristofski - who did a wonderful job capturing the sporadic nature of the song by having visual totems that represented the unique sounds within the song that appear to pop in and out, in sync with the rhythm of the song. The visuals play a strong part in the experience of the project because in a lot of ways they're the only context the listener has to the music.
Your visuals and harmonies have a confronting but comforting nature. Could you elaborate on this juxtaposition?
It's about self awareness within the song, sort of being meta about it and playing on the expectations of what one thinks the song should and shouldn’t be and where it should and shouldn’t go by asking the question of why or rather why not? On a grander scale, I think it's important that we ask the same questions about our selves and the linear paths we often find ourselves on.
You were heavily inspired by Daft punk. How they demonstrated the fact that you could make “weirdo art music and still be approachable.” How has this analogy pioneered the way for you and artists alike?
They did something really unique which was to make really approachable and genuine music that really resonated with people on a mass scale, whilst still maintaining their vision of themselves and not adhering to the rules of what a house act should be and then subsequently, what a pop act should be. They really paved the way for artists like me who have had a vision that has always been beyond the idea of a persona, and extended their character into more of a concept. They were certainly one of the forerunners, for me at least, in deciding that the artist could be more than just a musician, but could be a concept.
And I'd like to think that Blood Cultures exists in that space - as a unique concept that you can choose to play into or not. You can choose to enter our world just as you could choose to enter into the Robot's one and accept their reality, but it won't ever be the other way around. They really allowed us to be liberated and not have to conform in this regard and for that I will always admire them.
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