The Black Creatures are Xavier (AKA /encode) and Jade, a duo whose music is built from dark pop, soul and science-fiction. Their first EP, 2016' s Mouth to Mouth establishes their sound as a hybrid of musical, cinematic and literary influences, from Phillip K. Dick to H.P. Lovecraft to 2001: A Space Odyssey. We're fortunate to share an interview with this new Kansas City du about their work, influences and recording process. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourselves. Where do you live and work?
/encode: My name is Xavier. As a musician I use the moniker “/encode.” Currently, besides doing music, I work at H&M in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s an international clothing store that started in Sweden and I really like working there.
Jade: I’m Jade. I live East of Troost, and I work in preschools. Community and education are the most important things to me. While I get paid for my work in schools, I do a lot of unpaid work organizing with Squad of Siblings, a local group that fights against sexual and gender based violence in and around Westport, KC. My dream is to open up my own school focused on problem-solving and multiple intelligence approaches, for kids from pre-k to 12th grade. I’m really interested in the framework of University Academy here in town.
Tell us about the origins of The Black Creatures.
Jade: If I told you that, I’d have to kill you. JK. The Black Creatures started out as /encode and wiebke, our standalone personal projects. Oddly, we worked really well together from the get-go and decided, “Hey, why not put another song together….. and another…. and another…” Finally it became pretty clear we had our own energy as a unit, and the only real way to pay it respect was to give it a name. We are The Black Creatures.
I’m really curious about the science fiction influence on your work. Are there particular sci fi authors or films you point to as most influential?
/encode: I love sci-fi films and novels so much their influence kind of permeates much of my life. I really love the dark, explorative tone of the Ridley Scott films Alien and Prometheus. The creatures in those films really make you feel small when thinking about the vastness of the universe and what’s out there. Homestuck by Andrew Hussie is a multimedia series that also influences the theme and tone of The Black Creatures. It’s one of those things that you really have to be invested in to see beyond its surface level dorkiness. As far as book-books go: Scott Westerfeld, James Patterson, and Charlie Jane Anders, to name a few, are authors who’ve had an impact on The Black Creatures’ narrative and direction.
Jade: Dang… Well, I’m really into H. P. Lovecraft, Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon, and The Holders Series, the latter of which is a huge compilation of short stories submitted mostly anonymously that started out as a single creepypasta on the internet. The Twilight Zone, 2001: A Space Odyssey (the Stanley Kubrick film), anything by Hayao Miyazaki, and Paprika are a few visual works I’m pretty into.
What was it like recording your first EP, Mouth 2 Mouth? What equipment and technology did you use? What did you learn from this process you’ll take to future projects?
Jade: It took a really long time from beginning to end. /encode moved across the country and back, I switched majors at school and changed jobs, Struggling with ongoing depression sometimes made weekly meetings difficult. We used a Blue Yeti mic, two MacBooks with Audacity and FL9 installed, and went through several $9 headphones. The biggest thing I learned was how important honesty and communication are when you’re working together. /encode has become one of my closest friends, as a benefit of working so well together and proving to be there for each other even when we aren’t at the top of our game.
What inspires you most about music in Kansas City?
/encode: I’m coming to find myself intensely inspired by the local artists I’m beginning to know from this project with Jade. Even the people I’ve met most recently have inspired collaborative projects for the future. Their influence, freshly new or otherwise, has given me a new outlook and I hope to be a major influence to other artists as well. Hell, I hope to be an influence to anyone. Growing up here, I know what that can mean for someone.
Jade: Kansas City is the city of jazz, although we lost our one and only jazz station to a country station back in the early 2000s. All shade. Kansas City is one of the most hypersegregated cities in the United States. There’s so much unrest here. The same city bred Janelle Monae, a huge idol of mine, as well as Tech N9ne, both who use their music to speak out against racism. In the last couple years Monae’s seen success even on the silver screen. As a pessimistic adolescent, I didn’t think much could come out of this city; now as an adult who is no longer afraid of books and politics, I realize so much has come right from this soil. I hope I can honor my city with the work I do. Cuz I do it for all of us.