Back in December on our blog, we gave you a peak into the fantastical mind of singer and performance artist Kayvon Zand, who at the time had just finished filming his mini movie/music video entitled “One Way Flight”. As I was one of the first people to interview him during this period, Kayvon contacted me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be interested in meeting for a follow-up where we could discuss the final product, to which I happily obliged. At almost ten minutes in length, a nine-month filming process, and backed by a $12,000 kickstarter campaign, “One Way Flight” is a blastoff into an outer-space world full of high fashion, alluring androgyny, and trippy dance beats, all highly worthy of discussion. The video premiered on June 21st on YouTube and Interview Magazine’s website, and has already gained over 55,000 views. It’s Kayvon’s second music video. His first, entitled “So Gone”, was released in 2010 and was “more than a humble beginning”.
I was invited one rainy July afternoon to Kayvon’s Mid-Town East apartment, which he shares with Anna Evans (his girlfriend of about four years and New York sex symbol and burlesque starlet), and what he dubs the ‘Zand Zoo’: two jet-black Pomeranians (Christian and Dior), a cat (Petra), two white doves (didn’t get their names, oops), and a fish tank including: a starfish, a conch, and coral. I later learn there WERE actual fish, but they sadly recently have passed.
Murray Hill, full of its’ upper class college students and young professionals, is a surprising neighborhood for this twenty-something gothic yet glamorous New York nightlife legend to call home. You may snark at my use of “legend”, but a year in Gotham City’s nightlife party scene is like a decade in regular life; and for a small town North Carolina-born guy who has carved out such a unique niche for himself over the last six years, and continues to have the career that he does, I’d say it’s a fair title. As someone who frequents downtown clubs, I would have expected him to live closer to his stomping grounds. You see, he and his tight-knit group of friends and fellow gothic performance artists known as The Zand Collective currently host parties called ‘Chic Freak’ every Friday at The Box and ‘Dorian Gray’ every Wednesday The DL, both of which are below Houston Street. Turns out though, they’ve only actually lived in the building a couple of months. Before that, he lived downtown, but decided he needed a little change of scenery.
So, here I am walking down his block (I won’t give away which one) at 4:45pm, ready for our meeting. I’m not actually supposed to arrive until five, but I always like to be early. I then get a text from Kayvon: “Hey Andy! I’m running a little late, would you mind if we pushed it back until 5:30?” “No problem!”, I respond. “See you then.” Okay, I think…Where’s the closest Starbucks? Three blocks away? Great. (Starbucks has a great app that tells you this) As I kill time with my vanilla iced coffee, I wonder what a day in the life of Kayvon Zand must be like…Is he at a hair appointment getting a touch up on his platinum blonde bouffant? Is he finishing up a new demo in the studio? Oh, the possibilities…
At 5:25, I scurry three blocks in the rain (thank god I brought an umbrella) to his high rise condominium, where I enter quite the lavish looking lobby (try saying that five times fast) and am greeted by not just one, but two doormen. They call up to his apartment to announce my entrance. As I ride the elevator with a lady who also resides in the building, I can’t help but think I should have dressed a little swankier. I’m looking like quite the East Village hipster, and stand out like a sore thumb next to her designer outfit and diamond earrings. I think she was wearing Tom Ford perfume. As I’m about to ring the bell to his apartment, I notice a sign hanging on the door: “Please do not disturb. Artist at rest”. ‘Hmm…he does know I’m coming’, I thought. I pace back and forth a few times. Should I call him? Should I ring? Oh hell, I’ll just ring. I hear the barks of what I know to be his two Pomeranian pups Christian and Dior coming towards the door (I’ve met these little guys before when Kayvon brought them to a party he was hosting at the nightclub WiP that I also attended), followed soon after by “Quiet down! Hush, guys!”
Kayvon answers the door in an all black bathrobe looking freshly showered, hair down, and quite normal and handsome, I must say. Mind you, I don’t think I have ever seen him out of the nightlife scene, where he usually is sporting extreme club kid makeup, mile-high hairdos, and black (always black) latex and fetish wear. It was pleasantly refreshing. I felt like I was getting a lucky glimpse behind the curtain into the real world of this dazzling and mysterious artist. “Hey there! Come on in. Would you like some coffee? There’s a fresh pot brewing in the kitchen.” I thank him, but kindly pass, as any more caffeine after my recent Starbucks trip would surely send me into gittery-hands panic mode. He makes himself a cup and we head into the living room, Christian and Dior following closely behind us. I get the sense that this might actually be the start of the day for this New York City night owl, but he informs me that he’s been recovering from a recent, but minor, surgery, requiring him to take it really easy the past few days. He sips his coffee out a Victorian looking teacup, which goes quite well actually with the rest of his apartment décor. Feeling quite relaxed and comfortable, we begin a wonderful chat.
Andy Crosten: When did you first begin to show a passion for music?
Kayvon Zand: I played piano ever since I was a kid.
A: And you’re from North Carolina?
K: Yep, the little Hollywood town where Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill were filmed. I wanted to leave like a bat out of hell. I was given an opportunity to do modeling in Europe for about a year. I found that being a mannequin and someone else’s product was too much for me, mentally. So I moved to New York, still as a model, but wanted to be a musician. I wasn’t quite sure how to fit in. Then I went to Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s party called Happy Valley.
A: Was this pre-Vandam? (*Vandam is a popular gay party hosted at club Greenhouse on Sundays by well-known nightlife personalities Kenny Kenny and Susanne Bartsch*)
K: Pre a lot of things. I saw people dress up in ways I’ve never seen before. I looked at people in awe like they were Hollywood Stars. It was both glamorous and disturbing and I was drawn to that but didn’t know why. I just kept coming back. Then, blogger Michael Musto wrote an article deeming me one of the ‘new age club kids’. I was really tan back then and black hair, kind of Adam Lambert-like.
Kayvon became more involved in the nightlife scene, but still was very music interested in music. He made friends with another up and coming clubkid/performer/choreographer named Jonte who introduced him to producers. (Jonte has since choreographed for Beyonce’s video “Freakum Dress”, and released his own music). Kayvon’s first recorded song was called “Bust Up” and released on MySpace Music. He remembers seeing an also very tan and dark-haired Lady Gaga perform at one of Kenny’s parties and being inspired by her energy. She sang all the songs on her original album. Now, Kayvon’s vocal teacher is the same as Lady Gaga’s and Adam Lambert came to his premie party for “One Way Flight”. Talk about coming full circle.
A: Is there a moment you can remember where, in regards to your nightlife endeavors and personal style, things started to click?
K: There was a moment where Susanne (Bartsch) said that I looked gothic, but didn’t act gothic. I didn’t know what that meant. What does it mean to act gothic? I felt that there was a disconnect. Is this something that is going to hold me back? Why am I being pigeonholed into this culture that I’m inspired by, but doesn’t define who I am? But then, the next summer, I knew I did something right because everybody started wearing black and everybody started catching on to my style. That’s when it really hit me that… (He pauses)
A: …What you’re doing is having an influence!
K: Mmhmm. That was very strange for me, as someone coming from the outside, thinking how cool it would be to be a part of this.
We move outside to his balcony to sit. It’s breezy and a bit chilly as we overlook the East River. Kayvon invites me to come join him and his friends on a Friday to get ready for a glamorous night out at The Box with them. How fun would that be…I might have to take him up on that one day. I’m showed the preliminary sketches for the “One Way Flight” video done by an artist friend of his. Lined up with the music to the song, these simple, black-and-white portraits are put in a video showing a scene-by-scene run down of Kayvon’s spaceship/fashion show concept, which he describes as “his interpretation of a one way flight in his beautiful, yet tragic imagination”. We bond over our southern roots: me from Maryland, Kayvon from North Carolina, and Anna from Georgia. We joke about road tripping to all of our hometowns one day. Kayvon comments on how friendly and comfortable with myself I seem to be. That’s always nice to hear. “It’s an aura”, he says. “All you Pat Field people seem to have it.” We move back inside, as it begins to rain again.
A: So, the video is out and getting a great response. I’m curious, how much were you involved in the editing process?
K: All of it, really. Everything from the styling, to the editing, to the action and effects. I already knew how I wanted it to be in my head- the entire story and the way the video would progress. But, it was definitely a collaborative effort. As an artist, if you do everything alone, you’re limited on how great a project can be. But, if you work with equally talented people, the outcome can be even more terrific. I wanted to make a mini-movie to show the world- this is Kayvon Zand. This is what I’m about.
A: You said in our first interview that you were excited to showcase different aspects of your performing persona? Do you feel like you were able to accomplish that?
K: Yes, especially in the opening sequence where you get to hear my piano playing and composition. I was excited to showcase this more than anything. That was what came first. It was my first language. I started playing piano when I was a little kid. Partly because I asked my Mom for one, and partly because she thought it would look good in our living room. I was also excited to showcase my support for gender equality.
He shows me scene in the video with a bathroom door with two female figures, but one has a penis. With this, Kayvon hopes to show that in the future, he believes our society won’t be so gender-divided; that we’ll think more on terms that we are all one.
K: I also wanted to show a little of my sense of humor.
A: Well, I think that showed fabulously with the surprise appearance from Amanda Lepore serving coffee as a stewardess aboard Zand Air after the ending credits. You know, I believe that as an artist, you can take your work seriously; but as a person, you have to laugh.
K: You know, I’m curious, seeing as you were the only one who did a pre-interview, and heard my concepts of the video, what did you think of the overall outcome?
A: I have to say, it really blew my mind. I didn’t expect it, visually, to look as amazing as it did. I didn’t realize it took nine months to film, but I can really see the work that went into it. I was shocked, but in a good way.
K: Wow, I’m so happy to hear that. I was nervous that people would be underwhelmed.
I now am in for a special treat- Kayvon lets me listen to some unreleased new tracks he is working on with producer/DJ Gomi. The songs have a real 80s pop vibe to them, which is exactly what Kayvon is going for with the album he is working on. “You’ll always live in me, old friend” are some lyrics I’m especially inspired by. “It’s about two people who come to NY. You come here thinking you’re unstoppable- one of you loses your way. It’s a story, a narrative,” he says with a wondering look in his eyes.
A: Is it based on anything in real life?
K: I don’t know…it must be. I haven’t figured that out yet. Sometimes when I write, I don’t know where it’s coming from. This could probably have a lot to do with some past relationships I’ve had, as well as the fear of losing someone and how you would deal with it.
A: What inspires you when you write? Do you get an idea for a song and just start writing? Or do the lyrics come to you first?
K: A lot of times the melodies come first.
Now that I’ve gotten a good idea for who Kayvon is and where he came from, talked One Way Flight, and delved into his inspired mind, I’m curious to know about what is next for the singer.
K: Well, this is only one song. I feel like people want to hear a full album.
A: Do you want to get signed to a label?
K: Well, I still want to call my own shots and do things my way. I want to take my ideas and aesthetic to the mainstream, but I don’t want to conform. I think it’s possible to accomplish that with a label but as the artist that I am, not being controlled and chained. We’ll see what happens. Right now, I just really want to create music and do a full-length album that can showcase different sides of myself, musically.
Other than writing a full-length album, Kayvon also is hoping to shoot another music video (probably with the same director of One Way Flight, celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz), is working on a fall campaign with Obsessive Compulsive cosmetics for Lip Tar available at Sephora, and is in talks for a reality show about The Zand Collective being pitched by the man behind The Simple Life, and of course will still be hosting his weekly nightlife endeavors mentioned earlier.
A: Isn’t that amazing that we live in New York where all of those things are possible?
K: What did Sinatra say? ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere?’ New York has been very kind to me and I’m excited to move forward. Even if everyone here knows who I am, I’m still a new artist to the world.
A: New York is like a puzzle, you just have to put together the right pieces.
K: We all have to stick around long enough to figure out what those pieces are.
“One Way Flight”, the single as well as a 4-track remix package is available on iTunes.
Written by Andy @NewYorkSkye
Kayvon Zand @kayvonzand