Kendall, aka Barroo, the artist behind the project Kendall 🙂 is a multitalented visual artist, video producer, and musician. She’s the co-host of a podcast about weed and, with J Bearhat, produces and hosts the video series Film Critters. Her work draws from furry fandom, ASMR, and idol culture, weaving these threads together to create an aesthetic all its own.
She recently released a full-length album called hey, a project that deals with personhood and growing up. On the occasion of its release, I spoke with her about the five years that went into the album, furry culture, and taking back the void.
merritt: How would you describe your work?
Barroo: It’s something I haven’t thought too much about. I come at it more from the emotional side. I would definitely describe it as poison for audiophiles. There’s a level to it that’s definitely a kind of “check your height at the door, you must be this tall to engage in the sentiment of it.” Because a lot of the album is very personal, vulnerable sketches about time. And this album is for me. It’s about me, and it’s for me. Anything that can be extrapolated from it has nothing to do with me.
m: You’ve put it out there and now whatever people do with it isn’t up to you.
m: This album took you about half a decade to finish. Where were you when you started, and where you are now? And what’s changed in that span of time?
B: There’s a plot to the album that exists in my head, it’s about an AI virtual idol that’s occasionally put inside a performing robot that’s on the cover of the album.
A lot of coming into the personal development stuff I was talking about is related to furry—I feel like it’s a weird name and introduction to the concept of physical abstraction. Being able to take control of the representation of yourself. Extreme stoner voice: everyone on the internet is kind of a furry.
m: Is that Kendall?
B: I don’t know really know what the character’s name is. I guess Kendall would be the first name and 🙂 would be the last name. So that being the case, it’s a narrative where in the beginning of the album, all the sounds are crunchy and machine-y, because it’s being turned on for the first time. It’s learning how to be alive. So the songs are simplistic, but they gain more complexity and start to feel like they’re putting forward ideas, getting less fuzzy. So it became a project about developing personhood. That’s the main arc to me, growing up and moving into the world, and all these personal changes as you enter relationships. It became this diary for that sense of development as I moved to Seattle in 2015.
m: There’s at least one Seattle reference, the E-Line, which is the commuter bus that runs down Aurora, the busiest bus in Seattle. And to me this feels like an album about being in a space away from the city, being in kind of a cozy ethereal space. Was that move to a place outside of Seattle part of that?
B: I would say so. For a little while I was living on Aurora, and my apartment was about an E-Line stop. It’s connected to a greater space but about home. The homeyness of it, there’s a sense of escapism that I don’t want to go too into. It’s kind of tough, because it’s not about a person, but it’s about things that people deal with in search of comfort.
m: The AI cover art is an anthropomorphic rabbit. You’re pretty involved in furry communities—has that influenced the work?
B: It definitely had a huge influence. A lot of coming into the personal development stuff I was talking about is related to furry—I feel like it’s a weird name and introduction to the concept of physical abstraction. Being able to take control of the representation of yourself. Extreme stoner voice: everyone on the internet is kind of a furry. It became something for me that I could use to develop a storyline and a character that I care about. And it’s also something that can represent me a little better than I can. In the past when I’ve put my own face on my creations, it can become a little more personally fraught for me, or at least harder to control. So it’s a way to feel like I have some sort of visual representation that I can rely on.
m: I’ve never thought about furry that way, as an abstraction. But it strikes me that furry is one of the biggest ways for people on the internet in 2018 to have an alter-ego or persona, which is something that’s been stripped away with the centralization of the internet. It used to be that you could very easily have that kind of persona. So if you want a character that represents you, this is the main way that most people I know seem to be able to do that.
B: Absolutely. It takes the edge off of occupying a body and a life. Having OCs (original characters), you can kind of decide their distance from how you’re trying to represent yourself. The thing is, people who have the blue checkmarks and all this shit in their bio, and they have their selfie avatars, it’s still dogshit. Because you used a black and white, mid-day lighting photo that you paid a photographer for—which is kind of like a commission of character artwork. I was just going through people’s bios today, because I want to see how people write them. And to me it seems more fun and more vibrant to say, “hey, I’m a cartoon rabbit who makes music and podcasts and movies.” I can kind of abstract myself from all of it and have a healthier relationship to it.
m: You use hard drive bootup sounds and everyday computer sounds in some of the earlier tracks. What’s your favorite sound?
B: Of every sound in the world? I have a lot. I’m very proud of the Fleetwood Mac wah guitar that I put in the last song. For some reason, that specific late 80s, early 90s wah pedal stuff. People Paul Simon was working with during the Graceland era, like that. As far as non-music sounds, I listen to a lot of ASMR. There’s definitely a bunch of ASMR touches, especially in “weed & nail polish.” Chimes, things that are really quiet, tapping, silence. Things that complement silence.
m: Take back the void. The void belongs to women.
B: The void does belong to women.
m: Is there anything you wish interviewers would ask but never do?
B: I make it to be a self-contained work. People asking questions is awesome, any question about my music. There’s obviously ones I don’t like, technical questions. I can answer them just fine but I don’t like them.
m: There’s a thing that happens where artists are asked to explain their work. David Lynch was once asked to explain a film and he said no, that explanation was a crime.
B: That’s what makes it difficult. I don’t want to set any expectations for how people should engage with my work, because I don’t think that anybody’s wrong. It’s a weird thing, because I’ve put my diary out into the world, and it’s the nature of the thing that people are going to interpret it in ways that feel to me like pouring salt on a snail. But I’m also constantly surprised by way that people are reaching out to me about the album, and what people have to said to me, because I feel like I just walked into public and took a shit. So if anything I like to be surprised by the things people are getting from it.
m: To close, would you rather be in a room with twenty dogs or 100 rabbits?
B: That’s so difficult!
m: Good, because I didn’t know if I’d calibrated the numbers correctly.
B: 100 rabbits, because I feel like it’s less work than 20 dogs. The dogs, maybe they don’t get along, they’re bigger. But 100 rabbits, you’d just be watching a bunch of rabbits bounce off each other.