Not defined by any labels, LA-based BXB LOVE just released her second single IGNORANCE SONG. After the success of the artist’s first single, matrix, she proves with this release she can easily move between genres while simultaneously creating a distinctly recognisable sound. With a clear, unrelenting passion for music, she makes songs that feel exactly right for her, and the results are empowering anthems that feel completely new and different. We spoke to the artist – whose real name is Natasha Pheko – ahead of the release of her single, and we are sure she has a very exciting future ahead of her.
RC: Hi! Can you describe the music you make in three words?
BL: Experiential. Contemplative. Visceral.
RC: What made you get into music?
BL: Music was always the way I was able to synthesize, distill, verbalize, and understand my internal and external environments. Whether through listening to or expressing different sonic textures or lyrical ideas, music is a channel through which I’m able to make sense of the things I’m experiencing, seeing, feeling, and in that, is a way that I am able to connect with those around me, reflecting their experiences, sights, and feelings back to them in a way that is vulnerable and intimate. There’s a sense of safety in music, because it allows us to examine and experience the shadowy parts of ourselves — the desires, curiosities, areas of guilt or shame, etc — from a distance, without having to actively pursue or claim those parts. It allows us to observe the observer — see and connect to ourselves as though reflected through the eyes of someone else. And it allows us to see who we are, even when we may not be ready to share that with the world around us. Music showed me who I was before I was ready to see and participate in that sense of being in a meaningful way.
But, because music felt like such an authentic expression, and was a safe space in which I could ask questions and seek answers, it was a space that I often found myself existing in just naturally. Then, being perceived as “good” at music added a complicated, but also encouraging layer to the equation. Receiving praise and validation for something that I loved on such a personal level, encouraged me to want to share that love externally. And I think, for a while, I confused my love for music with the temporary high you get when receiving external validation. But, when I found myself chasing that high, craving that validation, I began to lose touch with the initial love for music that provided my purpose for creating. I’m happy to say that I’ve found my way back to that love. But I guess, to distill my ramblings, I got into music because, it seems, music has always been in me. And it simply needed to come out.
RC: Your artist-name BXB LOVE is purposefully ambiguous and androgynous. How do you find having an androgynous pseudonym helps with the music you’re making?
BL: More so than being in service of the music I am making, the name BXB LOVE is a way for me to claim and manifest the opportunity to express and experience the infinity of potential beings that exist within each and every one of us. It reflects the fluidity of being human and explores the spectrum of experiences that are available to us here on earth. BXB LOVE gets to play in the infinite in a world built on constructs, boxes, and categories.
RC: Following the success of your debut single matrix, you just released IGNORANCE SONG: what is the story behind its creation?
BL: “IGNORANCE SONG” was born in my LA bedroom a few years ago with a friend of mine from college. It was actually one of the songs that first inspired me to explore this new direction in my artistry. My friend, D Phelps, came over one afternoon, and we hung out, chatted about life, and listened to some music. Then he picked up a bass and started messing around. For the first 25 minutes I was sitting there not sure where things were going. I just couldn’t hear what he was getting at. Then, all of a sudden, the sound started coming together into this sort of rock guitar lick, and I was like “woah. this is fucking cool.” It just felt good! It made me wanna jump around and yell. The chorus melody came to me pretty instantaneously, but I was pretty nervous to share it at first cause it wasn’t the type of thing people were used to hearing from me — it was loud, and yell-y, and aggressive, where as the music I had been releasing up till then was more sensual and smooth.
But the moment I sang it out loud, I was in love. We both knew we were onto something. We weren’t sure what it was, but it was how I wanted my music to make me feel! Invigorated, excited, curious. We wrote the rest of the song together, and then it sat on my computer for like a year and a half. Unmixed, super rough demo. I had no idea what to do with it or what my intentions were with it. But I knew that it made me feel a way that none of my previous music had and sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. It gave me this excited rush. I was pumped. Then, almost 2 years later, I was finally ready to take the plunge. To trust my gut and let go of the old artist identity I had been building, and move into this new artistic identity. So my partner Jaime and I got in the studio, arranged the song, finished the demo, mixed it… and here we are, 3 years later! It was a slow journey, but I’m grateful for every step. It’s all in divine timing anyways!
RC: While matrix is a softer, more sensual track, IGNORANCE SONG goes in a completely different direction: what are your main influences when making your music and how do you feel your process has changed over time?
BL: Honestly, the whole intention with BXB LOVE is to create what feels right. To create the song that is meant to be created in that moment, whatever that may be, without putting unnecessary limitations or expectations on the process or outcome. Sometimes it can be fun to put certain parameters on the creative process, as an exercise, but overall, we aren’t trying to make any specific style or genre of music. We are just creating. My main influences are life, the world, the 21st century and all that comes with being alive in this specific manifestation of time and space — the music, art, books, podcasts, people, ideas, culture, relationships, questions, and answers that are floating in and out of my sphere of awareness.
I feel like, prior to BXB LOVE, I was trying to make a certain style of music “my own” or to figure out how to sort of mold and maneuver myself to fit into that style in a way that felt “authentic,” instead of just making music authentically, without the confines of genre, style, or perceived expectation. Now, I’m simply making the music I want to make, because it feels right. Not because it feels right “for the style,” within the genre, or within my “brand.”
RC: You’re from Canada but currently based in LA, how do you feel being in Los Angeles has helped shape you as an artist?
BL: This may sound a little morbid, but I think being in LA has helped shape and inform me as an artist through providing me with relationships, experiences, and choices that broke me. That shattered my sense of self and led me down a path where I felt extremely disconnected from community. It provided me with the opportunity to face the dark and empty place that exists inside all of us. The place that tells us we are not enough, that we are unloved or unlovable or unworthy. And from that space, I was able to sort of start again. To see how I had led myself astray, lied to myself, deceived myself, and strived after a life that I realised would never bring me the happiness I wanted. I was able to detach myself from that reality, and use it as a blueprint to build a life and career that I actually wanted. To find the artistic expression that felt like a natural extension of my new understanding of Self. Thankfully, I had/have access to a support system, tools, and resources that helped me to navigate my way through this really scary place that often feels hopeless. And in the end, I was able to make choices and changes to my life, patterns, and behaviours that were wildly empowering. I know not everyone has that same support and access, and it can be really scary to face a space like that on your own. I’m not encouraging anyone to seek that out or saying everyone needs to experience that to find themselves, or their artistry. That was simply part of my personal journey.
RC: Your songs celebrate self-empowerment and self-discovery, what message do you hope people take away from your music the most?
BL: Oh man, haha, so many things! And it grows and morphs as I learn more about the world, myself and, in turn, humanity. But right now, it would be that you are the key in your life. The non-negotiable constant. And wherever you go, whatever you achieve or acquire, there YOU are. So learn to truly see and love yourself. Unconditionally. Regardless of the circumstances or projections of the world around you. Do your personal work to heal and be good with yourself. Because nothing you achieve, acquire or experience can bring you anything that you aren’t cultivating internally for yourself. You are the key. You are the creator of your reality, my dude. So ask yourself, what am I creating for myself? And why? How are my beliefs and patterns upholding that reality, whether consciously or subconsciously? And is that reality for me? Or to meet, uphold, and abide by the projections and expectations of the world around you?
RC: With things slowly opening up again after a tough year in the industry, what are your biggest hopes and dreams for the coming year?
BL: My biggest hopes and dreams “post-COVID” are for a cultural and artistic renaissance. There are so many creatives and creators out there, seekers and healers, students and influencers of thought and culture, who have spent the past 14 months examining the world, capturing and reflecting on their experiences and the experiences of the communities around them. People who took this time to turn inwards, examine themselves, reflect, learn, and unlearn. And I’m excited to see and experience the artistic and cultural evolution and expression that I believe will be produced out of these scary, uncertain, and unstable times.
RC: Is there any venue you would love to play in and why?
BL: When I was little, I wanted to be the first artist to broadcast a live performance from the Moon, haha. But, keeping it closer to home, my dream is to play a sunset set at an outdoor music festival. I’m seeing a sea of beings, all gathered together, radiating this energy of unconditional love and joy. We are all singing at the top of our lungs, bathed in a warm glow of the evening, overcome with gratitude. Connecting through music, fully present, if even just for a single moment. It doesn’t need to be any specific festival or place. It’s more about the feeling that this vision elicits inside of me. An electric feeling of freedom, presence, love, and adolescent excitement.
RC: Lastly, if you could perform with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
BL: Oufff, this question gets me every time! There are so many incredible musicians to choose from. Right now, my answer would have to be Bob Marley. I remember watching this DVD my dad used to have when I was little of a Bob Marley tribute concert, and even though Bob wasn’t on stage, and is no longer with us, the way people connected to his music, his message, his energy, always stuck with me. It struck me in such a powerful way. It was as if he was on stage with the musicians who were paying tribute to him. As if he was singing to the audience through these musicians and performers. I can only imagine what it would be like to have the opportunity to share the stage with him. To be in that open, intimate, and transcendental space of performance with such a force.
IGNORANCE SONG, is out now.
Photography by Sophie Gragg (@itssophielol).