Kim Petras has been watching a marathon of horror films lately—Dario Argento, Ari Aster, Hitchcock, and random B-movies—basically anything that can send her bowl of popcorn flying. Partly because, this is the way that things have always been for the 26-year-old, who explains that movies—particularly those that rattled bones—transported her far from her childhood home in the countryside of Cologne, Germany. (“I didn’t have any neighbors, only horses and cows,” she tells CR.) And partly because she’s been making new music that is, well, spooky.
Baby-faced in person, Petras is everything you’d expect from a young artist on the cusp of just making it big. Laughing through a light German accent in sweatpants and Instagram-y cat-eyed frames, she’s as bubblegum pop as the songs with which she’s created her cult-like following, online and in dance-y gay clubs around the world. Like cinema, music has always provided a sense of escapism for Petras, who started hormone therapy at the age of 12 and underwent gender confirmation surgery four years later, becoming one of the youngest people in the world to do so. She has since said that she hates the idea of using her identity as a tool and, in fact, Petras’ music as a whole is explicitly apolitical. As of yet, no work of hers has been specifically about being transgender or gender politics or anything of the sort. In a time of polarizing statements and identities and outpour, Petras’ music belongs simply to those moments of sweaty dance floor elation or the tired hours afterward, driving home with the car windows down and the radio blasting.
But back to the scary stuff. If Petras’ first few singles this year (“I Don’t Want it at All” and “Heart to Break”) could be considered the first course, the second, which arrives today, October 1, 2018, as a spooky, surprise mixtape entitled Turn Off the Light Vol. 1, is from a completely different restaurant. Albeit one next door. Halloween-themed, the release is the artist’s way of coming to musical terms with what she calls “the monster inside of her” as well as a celebration of one of her favorite holidays. Years ago, she met her best friend, Aaron, at a costume party and he—in addition to going to Horror Nights at Universal Studios and LA’s Halloween Hayride with her regularly since—has collaborated on every one of Petras’ songs.
More so, the darker side of songwriting has secretly always been a fascination for Petras, who calls everyone from Madonna and Lana Del Ray to Depeche Mode and Kavinsky her inspirations. Make no mistake, this new phase is not without its dose of electro pop, it’s just a bit more sinister. The mixtape’s title track features spoken word from Elvira, while “Tell Me It’s A Nightmare,” which exclusively debuts in the video above, follows in haunting candor. “It was really freeing to come up with a character that’s just pure evil and to speak from that side of things,” she says. Petras mentions that she never wants to be put into a box and explains that the mixtape started off also as a way for her to challenge her work to evolve. “A lot of my friends were like, ‘Queen, you owned summer and Fire island and P-town,’ and I was just like… ‘Okay Imma own fall too now!’”
“It was really freeing to come up with a character that’s just pure evil and to speak from that side of things.”
Turn Off the Light is a teaser of sorts for the artist’s debut studio album, set to come out sometime next year. The bigger fish is already finished, says Petras, but, like always, the timing just isn’t right for now. As for her own personal plans this season? “I’m going to do a bunch of costumes this years. I just want to be spooky Kim all of October,” says Petras. “Be a little paler, be a little frail, bleach-blonder, do darker eyes, wear a lot of Bordeaux.”
Turn Off the Light by Kim Petras is available online now.
PHOTOGRPAHS MIKEY ASANIN
FASHION RON HARTLEBEN
MAKEUP MELISSA MURDICK
HAIR DAVID COLVIN
NAIL ART MEI KAWAJIRI
PRODUCTION HANNAH HUFFMAN
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