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Sparkling Dance Party: Kira Kira Pop Brings a Variety of Japanese Genres to ORL

It’s hard to ignore the brightly-clothed, friendly-faced character that adorns Kira Kira Pop’s event artwork. The bubblegum idol has become the face of the recurring dance night’s brand for good reason; she reflects the high energy music found in the J-Pop and Idol culture their audience finds so addicting. (It’s not surprising to learn “Kira Kira” translates to “sparkling.”) Behind this colorful imagery are four co-producers Sam Harris, Joy LaFleur, Jason Rosa, and Cherry Wallflower. I met the four of them in the middle of Anime Festival Orlando to talk about the community they’ve fostered and the music they love. Enjoy.

Upcoming Events:

6/24: Kira Kira Pop — moistbreezy @ Bikkuri Sushi


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matthew warhol: I wanted to start off with a super general question. If someone had never heard of Kira Kira Pop before, how would you describe it to them?

Cherry Wallflower: Sparkling dance party! And… inclusive. And… welcoming. And… colorful. And… safe, happy, good vibes. Some people hold themselves back from going to an event because they don’t have a friend they can go with, but we hope that when people come here, they feel like they can be friends with everyone.

matthew warhol: Were any of you doing stuff before, whether it be in music or putting on events?

Jason Rosa: Yeah, Sam and I used to do a J-Pop dance show together for a brief period of time. It doesn’t need to be brought up [laughs]. And there was a show called Play It Loud that turned into a label I run. I stopped doing shows for a while, and [Sam] said, “Hey, do this show!”

Sam Harris: I was really passionate about doing something to promote Japanese music and culture. I had DJed at the show that [Jason] was originally doing, but we were interested in coming up with a new concept.

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matthew warhol: Is that where Kira Kira Pop started?

Sam Harris: Yeah.

matthew warhol: How did everyone else come together?

Jason Rosa: I knew [Cherry] from the old show at Bikkuri that she actually performed at.

Cherry Wallflower: You were friends with the person that was in my group. It’s all so embarrassing.

Jason Rosa: This was all based on a good foundation of cringe.

matthew warhol: Kira Kira was to get away from cringe?

Sam Harris: Reborn out of the embers of cringe.

Joy LaFleur: It comes with the culture, though. You have to be cheesy enough to make fun of yourself.

matthew warhol: How did you get involved Joy?

Joy LaFleur: I had attended the shows and would hand out flyers for them and stuff like that. Then I was like, “Hey if you need some more help, I really love this event.”

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matthew warhol: Really quick, let’s go down the line and tell me what you do for Kira Kira Pop.

Sam Harris: I guess we all consider ourselves co-producers, but I’m also considered the resident DJ.

matthew warhol: What is your DJ name?

Sam Harris: Hoshikuzu Kid, which means “Stardust Kid,” basically.

matthew warhol: What do you DJ?

Sam Harris: Basically, a mixture Japanese music styles: J-Pop, Japanese Hip Hop, Japanese Idol music, and Japanese electronic—like the underground electronic music.

Jason Rosa: I’m the executive producer of the show, basically responsible for everything that goes on at the show. The booking decisions are between all of us, but the actual communicating with the artists happens between Sam and I. I bring a bunch of connections from the label.

Cherry Wallflower: Let’s see… I do a lot of the video commercials we put on.

Joy LaFleur: You do all the idol research.

Cherry Wallflower: One aspect of our show is idol, which is a type of J-Pop genre. How do I describe it? It’s primarily people dancing and singing bubblegum pop songs. We try to have at least two idol acts per show. I guess my role is making friends and inviting them to perform.

Joy LaFleur: I’m an associate producer. I do some odds-and-ends and day of stuff, some talking to artists and getting information.

matthew warhol: Have you found that Orlando has been accepting of you?

Sam Harris: Yeah, we were completely surprised.

Jason Rosa: Orlando has changed a lot in the last few years, especially the people here. Maybe it’s just the area we’re in, but there’s more of a loving feeling, more of a community feel.

matthew warhol: Are you familiar with or have you seen people at your shows from Body Talk… or Jeff Marks—he does Hyperclub.

Joy LaFleur: Oh yeah, he’s a friend of ours!

matthew warhol: I love him. He got me into Nightcore and that’s probably how I found out about Kira Kira Pop.

Joy LaFleur: [banging on the table] I LOVE NIGHTCORE! Make sure you include the banging on the table.

[laughs]

matthew warhol: [banging louder] I LOVE NIGHTCORE!

Cherry Wallflower: Woah. [laughs]

Sam Harris: One of the first people who guided me with DJing was Phil Santos. When I first started, he showed me the ropes a little bit.

matthew warhol: Shout out Phil Santos. That’s really cool.

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Jason Rosa: When we started the show, we had some stuff we wanted to do and didn’t know how the Orlando community would take it. On the first flyer, we had it listed as “safe space.” We wanted to lay it down like, “This is what it is. We want this to be a welcoming environment.” It’s kind of difficult when you’re marrying those ideas with like idol. Where it’s very poppy and pretty and we love parts of idol culture, it also comes from cultural backgrounds that aren’t screaming towards inclusivity.

matthew warhol: You’re making your own thing.

Cherry Wallflower: That’s the goal.

Jason Rosa: You’re trying to make your own thing, hold up a bunch of things you’re passionate about, but not be appropriative at the same time, which is really, really difficult. Everything is nail-biting.

matthew warhol: That’s smart that you do that. If you didn’t you would be opening yourself up, and if you’re not handling it carefully, something bad could happen. Acceptance is important at shows in general, and I’ve been to Orlando shows where it doesn’t feel like that, and that’s not good for anybody.

Joy LaFleur: We are out to have a social agenda.

Jason Rosa: We have a very heavy social agenda that we keep well under wraps. We don’t market it.

Joy LaFleur: You feel it.

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matthew warhol: [Cherry], you were talking about how a lot of people are afraid to go to shows alone and not feeling accepted.

Cherry Wallflower: A person posted on the event page like, “Oh, I really want to go but I don’t have anyone to go with.” Then, someone responded, “We’re all friends here. It’s fine!” It sounds super cheesy but it’s so important. It always feels warm and tingly.

matthew warhol: I think that’s a stigma a lot of people hold towards local music—especially when people are building their own things—that they take themselves too seriously. And there are people who do that in every city and every culture.

Jason Rosa: Most things are run by a promoter, and the promoter is just…

matthew warhol: An asshole. I’ll say it, an asshole. Not all, but I’d say that is unfortunately far too many people’s experience dealing with promoters.

Jason Rosa: I’m trying to not continue that narrative.

Sam Harris: Their goals are completely different from ours.

Cherry Wallflower: I like to think of this not as just an event, but as a community that is consistently building. Through Kira Kira Pop, people have made friends with each other, gotten into relationships with each other.

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matthew warhol: Wait until you have a baby come out of it, a Kira Kira Pop baby. [laughs] Are there any guesses as to why you’ve had such great success so far?

Joy LaFleur: It’s because they feel safe and we create that family feeling so they want to come back. It’s not just people coming if they have work off. People make arrangements. People book hotels to come to this. People have flown from out of state because it’s an experience. The first show that I went to before I was a part of the team, I went with one friend that I knew. I didn’t know anyone else, but by the end of the night I was dancing with people and exchanging phone numbers and Facebook friend requests, making connections, making community. And I needed that so bad.

Sam Harris: The fact that you come out, makes you belong. You don’t have to do anything else.

matthew warhol: Another part of that, I think, is bringing people from out of state. It doesn’t feel like the same thing.

Cherry Wallflower: I also think it’s because we try to put on such an eclectic lineup. There are so many different types of people, you can’t really have cliques.

Sam Harris: We’re definitely pulling from different audiences. It’s all about diversity and quality.

Joy LaFleur: Diversity, not only showcasing really cool artists that might not always get noticed, but also bringing people that the audience might relate to more.

matthew warhol: That’s so important because at a lot of shows you only see one kind of person performing.

Joy LaFleur: It’s a lot of white dudes.

matthew warhol: Or I’ll go to shows and it’ll be all white people.

Jason Rosa: Every time we put together a KKP, we try to do everything we can to make sure that’s not the case. That has always been a the forefront of why we do this. Even the art, this isn’t going to be an anime who’s a traditional pale-skinned character.

Joy LaFleur: She’s a plus-sized person of color.

matthew warhol: The last thing I wanted to make sure we talked about was… on Facebook we were talking about doing the interview at the convention—we haven’t even mentioned we’re at an anime convention—but you said that this culture inspires you, but you wanted it to be clear that you’re separate from it.

Sam Harris: There’s a tad of irony that we’re here right now.

matthew warhol: You don’t want to limit your audience—that’s what I got.

Joy LaFleur: A lot of people that attend KKP go to anime conventions, but they’re not all from the conventions.

Jason Rosa: I’m just going to be real. A lot of people that we know make music that would be great at an anime convention. Anime conventions are not run by a lot of people that listen to music, nor care about the culture of the people that are in these things.

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Cherry Wallflower: They care more about money than anything. It’s understandable, business-wise.

Joy LaFleur: It’s a lack of social agenda.

Jason Rosa: I’m the oldest person here, and I know they used to be more community-based. What we’ve made is more like that community.

Cherry Wallflower: Before, conventions were more fan meet-ups. Then they grew and people are seeing that the can capitalize on it. They can use imagery that to bring people in. When people see Kira Kira Pop, they see an “anime girl” so they associate with cons, but we don’t want to limit ourselves.

Jason Rosa: We want all these people to meet and realize they have common ground.

Sam Harris: I think that what we have most in common with cons is our the fans’ passion for the culture, the music, bringing people together.

Cherry Wallflower: Once you become a regular at cons, you start to notice the skeevy things that happen. I wouldn’t say it’s accepted, but it’s common knowledge that there are predators that go after underage girls.

Joy LaFleur: We have zero tolerance.

Jason Rosa: We have people that host the show, oftentimes the maid cafe—shout out to Cafe Peko Peko. But when one of us takes the microphone, it’s kind of a break of the illusion of the night. When we do that we talk about what’s coming up, but also important things like people being safe and treated fairly and equally, and behaviors that are unacceptable. And you don’t have that at most shows. And it’s important to note that the venue has been incredibly supportive of that.

Joy LaFleur: Shout out to Bikkuri! Shout out to Tye, our security guard!

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Florida Is Loud: Harsh Noise w/ Glenn Stefani

Orlando Fashion Square Mall is a weird place for an interview with a member of a harsh noise/doom band. Like the isolation one feels in an empty mall that’s set to close soon(?), Glenn Stefani’s berating music has an unexpected peacefulness to it. Glenn, if you don’t know, plays in the bands Ad Nauseum, Deformed, and Uh, makes drone/noise music solo under the name Temperament, makes digital art, and was responsible for Florida Is Loud, the three-day celebration of Florida fringe music that happened in December. He’s an aloof character who doesn’t like take well to the spotlight or having his face online — which is why I’m so thankful that he was down to do this interview. Enjoy.

Photos by matthew warhol. Edits by Glenn Stefani.

Upcoming Appearances:

May 23 Ad Nauseum, Prisoner (VA), Disgender, and Acid Baptism @ Lou’s

June 23 Uh, Narvee, Gutter Girl, Deformed, Acid Baptism, & Burn to Learn @ K2 House Orlando


matthew warhol: From what I know about you, it seems you’ve done a lot of good for a side of music and a scene in Orlando that gets overlooked a lot, that’s on the fringes of things. You did Florida is Loud. You’re in a bunch of bands. I was wondering how that came about?

Glenn Stefani: Um … my friends and I got into Metallica and Misfits when we were in like fourth or fifth grade. I’ve been on and off with it for years, depending on what’s going on in my life, but I started hitting it really hard when we were getting out of high school. We had hardcore bands in high school, but when I got out and started meeting people who were older than I was and doing things, I realized that there is a mortality on who runs shows or plays in bands. I guess that’s when I started recognizing that I wanted to start really playing music. Initially, when people who book shows started moving away, people started hitting me up. I figured it wasn’t that hard to run a show. You stand there and hassle people for money, give them hard looks if they give you shit. Then you give it all to the touring bands and go home.

matthew warhol: Were you in a band at the time?

Glenn Stefani: When I was in high school, I was in a really short lived hardcore band. Grant [my roommate] and I started Ad Nauseum. That’s what I consider my first real band, and we’ve just been running with it since then. I like to stay as busy as I can at all times, so I kind of pick up whatever comes my way as I go along. If it sticks, it sticks. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We had one ligament band and I started jamming with people. Before I knew it, I was in four or five bands.

matthew warhol: You said since high school. How many years has that been?

Glenn Stefani: Four or five.

matthew warhol: That’s a long time for a local band.

glenn stefani florida is loud interview orlando music blog

Glenn Stefani: The person who has stuck with me the most is the vocalist, Justin. He’s also in a band called Burn to Learn. Him and I, since the day we met, have been really like-minded. We met my sophomore year of high school and bonded on like Slayer and Morbid Angel. He’s one of those dudes where if we didn’t talk for six months, we’d pick up right where we left up. His patience and willingness to persevere have probably been the biggest inspiration I’ve had being in any of the bands I’ve been in.

matthew warhol: You were saying when you were coming up, that you recognized that there is a mortality to what locals could do. Is that because you think that Orlando people will move on, or is it an age thing?

Glenn Stefani: Orlando is definitely a transient place. People kinda cut their teeth here, and once they decide they want to pursue a job in a different state or something, they leave. It’s definitely a training camp.

matthew warhol: You come here and then you go to a bigger city.

Glenn Stefani: All that is a positive thing because people are going off and doing bigger and better things. While I get nostalgic for the way things were — like for the band Knife Hits and their first demo — things change. All my favorite bands lived and died within a five-year gap in the 90s and 00s. Once I was getting into music and going to record stores, I realized a lot of these bands are very short lived.

matthew warhol: Do you think it’s something about the music they make?

Glenn Stefani: People get old. You might have to go get a big boy job and stop playing music or have a kid or something. But then there are people who keep doing it. I feel like when you’re coming out of high school, which a lot of the bands were, you have a different idea of what it’s going to be. You go on tour a few times and realize it’s not for you. People, as they grow older, get different ideas of what they’re going to do.

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matthew warhol: What’s kept you in it?

Glenn Stefani: Stubbornness. And anxiety. I need music. Music is very important to me. If I didn’t have it I’d have no idea what I’d be doing. I’d probably be more of any idiot than I am now. It’s taught me to grow and understand different ideas and different things about myself. As far as the mortality rate, it was as seamless as someone hit me up and said, “Hey, my friend’s band from North Carolina is coming down and said to contact you because they’re not doing shows anymore.” At that point, I’d booked shows in high school and … I pretty much exclusively book at Lou’s because I love that place. It’s a home away from home.

matthew warhol: You kind of fell into it. You were kind of like the young person in the group and when the older people were gone, you were all that was left.

Glenn Stefani: Yeah, I was 17. I was going to see shitty metalcore, Hot Topic shows in middle school. Fortunately, I met people who showed me better stuff. That’s when I went and saw Knife Hits or No Qualms, two really important bands. That’s why Florida Is Loud was such a jarring thing because I brought Knife Hits back to Orlando.

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matthew warhol: Had you known them before?

Glenn Stefani: I’d known Ben since I was in high school. Ben was their vocalist — he’s their bass player now. But I talked to Jake Smith the person who handles their booking. Florida Is Loud … I had the idea six months before it happened. And things maybe fell into place two months before it happened. I was lucky to have a more experienced promoter help me with the logistics of it. Like, “Hey, I got Will’s Pub for you.” I more handled booking Lou’s and getting all the bands together. But when it came to me starting to book shows, it was odd because I feel like there are way more charismatic personas in the community than I am. I’m more of a wallflower who’s having awkward conversations with people.

matthew warhol: You bring them together.

Glenn Stefani: Sure, and it’s fun. Nothing gets me more stoked than watching a room full of people watching a weird band from out of town. I enjoy that a lot of times more than playing.

matthew warhol: Was this the first year of Florida Is Loud?

Glenn Stefani: December was the first one. I was at work thinking, “Oh, I’ve met a lot of bands the past few years. Why don’t I try to get them all in a room.” Initially, it was supposed to be a two-day thing. I hate running shows with more than four bands. But with the response it was generating, by the end of the week I realized, “Oh man, I’m going to have to do bigger things with this.” I was nervous at first because I hadn’t handled anything that grand before. But it ended up okay, the worst thing that happened was when we knocked down the ceiling at Lou’s.

matthew warhol: And that’s pretty awesome. It’s shitty, but it’s like, “Wow I didn’t expect that to happen.” You’re making an awesome memory for someone.

Glenn Stefani: I was living purely off of coffee at that point. I hadn’t eaten anything the whole weekend. I wanted to pass out so bad and saw Niko bust out of Lou’s and drop his bass. I was like, “What happened?” I walked in and ceiling tiles were everywhere. That being the worst thing that happened all weekend made it a roaring success for me.

matthew warhol: There are certain bookers, I’ve noticed, that are more in it for themselves. They think that they’re the reason everyone is coming out. But you seem very selfless in the way you move. Does that come from your punk roots? There seems to be certain rules — like you said, the touring band gets the money.

Glenn Stefani: I’d like to go out on a limb and say that with any form of art, there’s always some degree of ego attached. I think I do a very good job of self-regulating. I think my personality to begin with — someone could throw me a compliment and I’m just going to subvert it entirely. From a very young age, I recognized that. If you’re booking a show, you help out the bands to the best of your abilities. From a young age, being exposed to Minor Threat and Black Flag and reading stories about them. Shit, these people are going far beyond where they’re comfortable to bare their hearts and souls to a room full of strangers. They deserve all we can afford to give them.

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matthew warhol: Going from punk and metal to drone, how did that happen? What’s the progression there, I guess? They seem similar to me, but I don’t know the intricacies of the genre.

Glenn Stefani: There’s this band called Man Is The Bastard, probably one of my favorite bands just out of creativity. I related to people being like, “It’s cool but I don’t get it,” because that’s what I experience a lot with my music. Right when they started, they also formed a group called Bastard Noise which was focused on harsh noise. I liked a lot of the aspects of it because it reminded me of older movie soundtracks like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where Tobe Hooper was banging pots and pans and bowing cymbals and bass guitars to make these really weird ambient soundscapes. I had that pure artistic interest in it.

matthew warhol: It seems like a logical step.

Glenn Stefani: I was also living in a house with friends from high school. One of my roommates had a girlfriend who would lay around all day and would complain when I came in after working all day and played guitar or listened to records. So initially, I thought it would be hilarious if I started doing harsh noise in the house just to piss her off. And Ad Nauseam had started, but we couldn’t practice all that often. I had all the pedals and stuff, so I started doing it myself. I kept it mostly a bedroom thing. And eventually, I got sick of listening to power violence stuff and started listening to John Caprenter and Brian Eno. I started forming more ambient stuff that was a little more pleasant to hear.

matthew warhol: What do you get out of that kind of music? Is it the atmosphere it creates? Because I was at the TMD/TWMT Counterweight event at the church and to me, sitting there, your music made me feel very isolated even though I was in a room full of people. What does it do for you?

Glenn Stefani: I’ve always felt like a weirdo my whole life. No matter how charismatic I try to be, I always end up sitting in the back of the room, staying to myself. I find it liberating to be able to — like you said — make people feel as isolated as I do sometimes. But that was kid shit when I was 18. Rather than trying to isolate somebody, as I grew older, I felt a tranquility within the introspective nature of the music. I would hope people feel a similar catharsis.

matthew warhol: There’s definitely a peacefulness in all the static. What are you working on now?

Glenn Stefani: Right now, I play in a grindcore band called Deformed. We’ve finally started writing again. I’ve been working on a lot more visual art lately. It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve been watching more movies lately so I’ve been trying to knock out more graphic stuff.

matthew warhol: When you say visual art, what’s your medium?

Glenn Stefani: Digital. I can’t draw that well, but I can sure shit manipulate stuff. I like doing collage stuff, Zerox looking shit. Reflections of old horror movies that I watch. But musically, I’ve been working on a more ambient album. I’m way too particular so it could take months to do anything.

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