While some of us are busy scribbling away in our diaries every night about unrequited love and the beautiful stranger we saw on the morning commute, one Barcelona-based songwriter is busy taking his innermost thoughts, drenching them in Japanese pop beats, and literally singing his heart out. It’s this progression towards an almost hyper-digital sound for 17-year-old Kai Landre’s debut album Private Affairs that may surprise early listeners the artist—his first projects were stripped down to just a guitar and his quavering voice.
But, for Landre, this mammoth shift in sound was, like most things in his life, as simple as logging into his Instagram. “I saw Toni Ponix on the social media and sent him a message,” he says about his first meeting with the Barcelona producer who helped him create the bouncy, electrified sound for his album.
It’s also through Instagram’s DMs that the artist came to the attention of the designer Palomo Spain, whose floral, ruffled clothes have become the muse of queer boys around the world. After being contacted by them through the app, Landre became one of the models in their spellbinding, gender-smashing fall '17 campaign. “I really wanted to make something with them and then this happened and it was like so cute—so perfect,” he says of the experience. “I really love the clothing and the way they have of seeing masculine and feminine clothing so it’s been perfect to see that there are other people that think the same as me and I felt so good.”
As with most teenagers around the world, social media has become just as important to Landre’s identity as the gender-defying clothes he wears and the emotionally raw music he creates. “All the people I know, I met them on social media and now it’s like... I mostly live there, but also in real life,” he says, laughing.
It’s this half-joking admission that flows into the identity he’s carved out within his music. On tracks like “The 1st Kiss” and “WhatsApp Call," he sings about posting his first kiss on social media and about someone trying to make a call on the messaging app while on the dance floor.
It’s just another day in the life of Landre, who’s taken to documenting much of his life on his Instagram story and in more curated posts. Within this cyberspace, Landre’s personality shines through—punctuating dimly lit dance floors or scenes of him wandering the streets with friends wearing gender-blurring fashion. On his feed, patterns mix and match on everything from blazers and pants to dresses and skirts. One piece, a prom dress bought from a charity and worn recently while performing, shines through as his favorite piece of clothing because it’s “super, super cute.”
He hasn’t always been at the forefront of trailblazing and genderless fashion, though—it was only recently that he began to find his confidence. “I always wanted to [experiment] but I never felt good enough with myself," Landre says. "I started to maybe a year ago and now it’s like, all the time I’m improving my style.” It’s an inspiring admission that reflects the larger shift towards queer expressionism within Landre’s world—and Spain itself.
“It’s like the perfect place," he says. "I think it’s one of the most accepting places and in Madrid or Barcelona, you can wear whatever you want to and you’ll see people staring at you maybe, but nobody is going to say a thing because it’s so respectful." This freedom of expression within Spain, which has been ranked the most gay-friendly country in the world, is vital to his development as both an artist and musician. In the two years since he began making music, his own identity has guided his songwriting. On his debut album, Landre has taken both the naivety of love and effervescence of youth, and crafted it into queer music worth dancing to.
Stream Kai Landre's debut album, Private Affairs, below.