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About

Kye’s family moved from Korea to the US when he was six, struggling with the economic and cultural challenges immigrants often face. Thanks to the strong music education program in the Seattle public schools, Kye picked up the violin. Practicing became an escape, a space he could control, as well ...

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Publicist
Christine Brackenhoff
812-961-3721

Current News

  • 01/23/202001/23/2020

Violinist and loop-master composer Joe Kye offers a whimsical and biting critique of child-detention policy at the U.S. border with new video for the single “Stick On Me”

“Like many other young people who grew up as an immigrant and as a person of color in America, I’ve had many experiences, some more blatant than others, that suggested I didn't belong here, that I should leave. There’s no greater symbol of this sentiment than the current policy of separating families and incarcerating immigrant children at our border.”

Despite such blatant existential opposition, Korean-born, Seattle-raised Joe Kye, a violinist, loop-master...

Press

  • Paradigms, Interview, 10/08/2017, Joe Kye – Violinist, Composer, Educator Innovator Text
  • OPB Music, Track pick, 01/03/2018, Song Premiere: Joe Kye - 'Stick on Me' Text
  • Adobe and Teardrops, Event preview, 01/08/2018, See a Show! Joe Kye Live in NYC Text
  • KTSW, Album review, 01/08/2018, Joe Kye: Migrants Review Text
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News

01/23/2020, Violinist and loop-master composer Joe Kye offers a whimsical and biting critique of child-detention policy at the U.S. border with new video for the single “Stick On Me”
01/23/202001/23/2020, Violinist and loop-master composer Joe Kye offers a whimsical and biting critique of child-detention policy at the U.S. border with new video for the single “Stick On Me”
Announcement
01/23/2020
Announcement
01/23/2020
Release Format
Video
Release Type
Digital
Release Title
Stick On Me
Violinist, loop-master composer and vocalist Joe Kye combines positive self-reflective energy with a wonderfully whimsical visual aesthetic to address the very serious topic of family separation and child detention at the U.S. southern border on his brand-new video for the album’s lead single “Stick On Me”. MORE» More»

“Like many other young people who grew up as an immigrant and as a person of color in America, I’ve had many experiences, some more blatant than others, that suggested I didn't belong here, that I should leave. There’s no greater symbol of this sentiment than the current policy of separating families and incarcerating immigrant children at our border.”

Despite such blatant existential opposition, Korean-born, Seattle-raised Joe Kye, a violinist, loop-master composer, and vocalist has always insisted on an artistic mission of creating a sound and a vision that asks: how can we reach across boundaries and borders and work towards a more universal definition of humanity? And how can we choose to see the best in one another, whoever that other might be?

That vision, with all its fractures, fragments, wounds and gaps, resonated with a bittersweet optimism and a measured hope for change on Kye’s debut full-length album Migrants in 2018. Now, Kye combines that same positive self-reflective energy with a wonderfully whimsical visual aesthetic to address the very serious topic of family separation and child detention at the U.S. southern border on his brand-new video for the album’s lead single “Stick On Me”.

Produced in collaboration with Bay-Area director, writer, and justice-oriented activist Josh Young, and filmed in a recently defunct youth correctional facility, the video depicts a small group of children representing diverse ethnic and gender identities who unite forces to break Kye out of a prison cell. The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of Kye’s crisp playing, layered in swirls of pizzicato arpeggios and percussive elements, which form the foundation for his clever and reflexive lyrics and a tender, urgent voice.

“We chose children for this who I think make up an interesting representation of America, each with their own unique skillset and differences that allow them to contribute individually to a common goal. The video reads like a short film; it has a Wes Anderson aesthetic without Wes Anderson casting,” quips Kye.

The idea of a group of kids breaking into a prison, taking out the guards, and releasing the music, releasing the song symbolized by Kye jamming in the jail cell, makes for poignant commentary. As a result, it is impossible to watch the video and not root for the kids while at the same time, being compelled to think about the fact that there are children right now standing in detention cells.

“We have to confront this truth,” says Kye, “that we are incarcerating children and separating families who, just like the monarch butterfly or the humpback whale, are migrating ...migrating for the purpose of sustenance and for life. And on our southern border, we are choosing to artificially stop that migration, to break up the family unit, and then to jail children.”

Kye wrote ‘Stick on Me” shortly after Trump was elected. With the wave of intolerance towards immigrants, people of color, and marginalized people a palpable force throughout the country, writing the song was a means to empower himself so that he could engage the country again.

The chorus “Stick on me and go lick your wounds and we'll grow together” is an acknowledgment of the fact that Trump voters are people too, that the rural white middle of the country has their own suffering, as well as their worldview, says Kye. “And that affects how they move about the world, and their feelings that the world they should be living in does not include me. So the song itself is first about self-empowerment and healing from the wounds or scars and the triggers that I may have. And then from there, determining how I can reach out across the aisle, while also recognizing the limits of such interactions.”

Kye’s awareness of his own journey and its inherent tensions intersects with this impetus for social self-reflection, in imagined dialog on “Stick On Me,” when reverb-drenched lines create ear-candy timbres. “We all have our personal struggles. In spite of that, we need to rise to the challenge and give of ourselves even in our feelings of weakness. You have to let it come from within, an internal fire that blazes. Once we do that, we can then grow together and rekindle.”

In reaching across the ideological aisle, Kye points out that one would think it ludicrous that a major point of contention could be around the humane treatment of children.  Filming the video at an abandoned youth correctional facility really brought home the depressing fact that the majority of children in America's youth correctional system are foster kids, kids who never had parents around them to show them how to live life happily and productively. If anything, he hopes this song and video will serve as a serious, if light-hearted wake-up call to help people realize that a governmental policy of tearing children away from families is a cruel absurdity beyond imagining.

Kye’s family moved from Korea to the U.S. when he was six, and they struggled with the economic and cultural challenges immigrants often face. He remembers the cold winters when they couldn’t afford to use the heater in their house. They would snuggle under a sleeping bag on the couch and watch TV together or play video cassettes of Korean sitcoms they would rent from the local Korean grocery.  Kye would fall asleep on his mother's lap while his dad would cook up food with the limited resources the family had, and in many ways, they were truly happy.

“My point is, I had my parents,” asserts Kye.  “I had my family and that access to family is so huge, especially in times of hardship. It is so imperative for basic humanity. So when I think of these kids with whom I feel a connection to, having also immigrated to a foreign country at a young age, the fact that these kids don't have access to their families is devastating. And it's also extremely angering.”

You can read more about Joe Kye’s full debut-album Migrants, here. 

Announcement
01/23/2020

04/06/2018, Album Release, "Migrants"
02/06/201804/06/2018, Connecting Loops: Songwriter and Violinist Joe Kye Threads Sonic Paths from Korea to a Reimagined America on Full-Length, Migrants
Release
04/06/2018
Release
04/06/2018
Release Format
Album
Release Type
Digital & Physical
Release Title
Migrants
Kye’s crisp playing, layered in swirls of pizzicato arpeggios and percussive elements, forms the foundation for clever and reflexive lyrics and a tender, urgent voice. MORE» More»

“I’m looking to create a sound and a vision for what might be,” exclaims Korean-born, Seattle-raised Joe Kye, a violinist, composer, and vocalist who blew open his diverse musical world when he discovered the magic of the loop pedal in college. That vision has fractures and fragments, wounds and gaps, but it resonates with a bittersweet optimism, a measured hope for change and coming together on Migrants, his debut full-length album and third release.

Kye’s crisp playing, layered in swirls of pizzicato arpeggios and percussive elements, forms the foundation for clever and reflexive lyrics and a tender, urgent voice. He bounces his own distinctive sound around in collaboration with everyone from friend and LA-based MC Jason Chu and Vegas-based MC Rasar (“Fall In”), to NYC composer/percussionist William Catanzaro (“Migrants”), to a full string section (“Joseph Rests His Head”), a lush contrast to Kye’s taut loops.

Music has been a lifelong refuge for Kye. “Music is essential and therapeutic for me, and has been since childhood,” Kye recalls. “I remember in Korea, borrowing my dad’s walkman and putting on the headphones, how powerful and adult that felt. That personal and transportative experience has stayed with me.”

Kye’s family moved from Korea to the US when he was six, struggling with the economic and cultural challenges immigrants often face. Thanks to the strong music education program in the Seattle public schools, Kye picked up the violin. Practicing became an escape, a space he could control, as well as a way of expressing his feelings. He experimented over time with songwriting on the guitar and with singing, inspired by everyone from Mel Torme to Stevie Wonder.

Kye gained impressive technique on the violin via classical training, but he often found himself quietly trying other approaches, pushing the instrument and seeking new sounds. “I would sit during section rehearsals for the orchestra and goof around, just to see what I could get my instrument to do,” he laughs. Those plunks, pops, and purrs form a foundation for the loops Kye later perfected after he discovered the approach as a student at Yale.

“So many of the objects and sounds around us can be a musical instrument if we let our ears lead the way. The violin can sometimes feel limited in terms of its range and in its classical playing customs,” reflects Kye. “If you’re a looping artist and one-person band, you have to find the snare without using a sample or having to hire a drummer. I love inventing and the pedal allowed me to dive into that,” bridging Kye’s indie rock, a cappella, pop, jazz, and classical fascinations.

Exploratory technique serves a distinct purpose for Kye as an artist: “For me, over the past few years leading up to Migrants, the mission has been to leave some positive energy before I go. One of my central life experiences is my migrant life. Granted, it led to issues that I could discuss in therapy, but it’s given me perspective on how to understand the equality of humanity.”

Kye grapples with migration and its psychic impacts very personally, teasing out details that become emotional touchstones. On the song “Migrants,” Kye points to one key wardrobe item that defined his experience. “I lived in Boston for the first two years of my life in the US. I took to covering up my otherness by wearing a baseball cap,” he recalls. “Baseball was something that I recognized, as there’s a lot of it in Korea. It was the avenue I could connect with to ease the transition.”

To further unpack this transition, Kye explores the resonances of the “first migrant story,” the biblical tale of Joseph. (“Joseph Rests His Head”) It’s a tale he’s touched on in previous work, but for Migrants, Kye chooses the moment when Joseph has just been sold into slavery far from home, before he rises to prominence in Egypt, an in-between place fraught with feeling. 

“He’s not in his homeland or his place of eventual triumph. He’s neither here nor there, and emotionally I often feel that way,” Kye notes. “I don’t feel Korean, nor do I feel wholly American. More and more I’m reclaiming what it means to be American, by digging into that tension, which includes how, for Korean Protestants, religion can be a complicated avenue for assimilation.” Strings swell around Kye’s delicate vocals in a chamber ballad that swoops and pulses.

Kye highlights the emotional complexities of living in and in between cultures on “Bambam’s Lullaby,” a song from the perspective of Kye’s 100-pound Akita. “I imagine how she feels when I leave the house, wondering where I’ve gone and why,” explains Kye. “But Bambam is also an avatar for myself. My parents moved back to Korea in 2008, and while I understand why they left, it’s a difficult emotional, linguistic, and geographic obstacle in our relationship. The song is a cry to them that stretches over the Pacific Ocean.”

The struggle with identity, its global loops between disparate homelands, came to the fore for Kye late last year, as many Americans reeled in shock. “‘Ready’ was written in the wake of the election. I was filled with fear and anger and confusion and creative paralysis,” Kye remembers. “It was written to combat that paralysis, to take the feelings of fear and not belonging, and make something of them. I decided to embrace a romping blues chord progression and not over-intellectualize. I want to take people from this boiling emotion and inspire them to go and do something.”

Kye’s awareness of his own journey and tensions intersects with this impetus, in imagined dialog on tracks like “Stick On Me,” when reverb-drenched lines create ear-candy timbres. “We all have our personal struggles. In spite of that, we need to rise to the challenge and give of ourselves even in our feelings of weakness. You have to let it come from within, an internal fire that blazes. Once we do that, we can then grow together and rekindle.”

Kye, with open ear, heart, and a commitment to connection, avoids sentimental oversimplification. His grounded perspective, like the earthy hints in his voice and the edge to his playing, keeps Pollyanna-ish pronouncements at bay. “It’s easy to fall into the trope that everyone is wonderful! No, we’re all human, with our selfishness, insecurities, and issues,” muses Kye. “I’m striving, like a lot of artists, to bridge isolated spheres, to provide avenues of expression so we can understand them and belong to a greater whole.”

Release
04/06/2018

02/06/2018, Connecting Loops: Songwriter and Violinist Joe Kye Threads Sonic Paths from Korea to a Reimagined America on Full-Length, Migrants
02/06/201802/06/2018, Connecting Loops: Songwriter and Violinist Joe Kye Threads Sonic Paths from Korea to a Reimagined America on Full-Length, Migrants
Announcement
02/06/2018
Announcement
02/06/2018
Music has been a lifelong refuge for Kye. “Music is essential and therapeutic for me, and has been since childhood,” Kye recalls. “I remember in Korea, borrowing my dad’s walkman and putting on the headphones, how powerful and adult that felt. T MORE» More»

“I’m looking to create a sound and a vision for what might be,” exclaims Korean-born, Seattle-raised Joe Kye, a violinist, composer, and vocalist who blew open his diverse musical world when he discovered the magic of the loop pedal in college. That vision has fractures and fragments, wounds and gaps, but it resonates with a bittersweet optimism, a measured hope for change and coming together on Migrants, his debut full-length album and third release.

Kye’s crisp playing, layered in swirls of pizzicato arpeggios and percussive elements, forms the foundation for clever and reflexive lyrics and a tender, urgent voice. He bounces his own distinctive sound around in collaboration with everyone from friend and LA-based MC Jason Chu and Vegas-based MC Rasar (“Fall In”), to NYC composer/percussionist William Catanzaro (“Migrants”), to a full string section (“Joseph Rests His Head”), a lush contrast to Kye’s taut loops.

Music has been a lifelong refuge for Kye. “Music is essential and therapeutic for me, and has been since childhood,” Kye recalls. “I remember in Korea, borrowing my dad’s walkman and putting on the headphones, how powerful and adult that felt. That personal and transportative experience has stayed with me.”

Kye’s family moved from Korea to the US when he was six, struggling with the economic and cultural challenges immigrants often face. Thanks to the strong music education program in the Seattle public schools, Kye picked up the violin. Practicing became an escape, a space he could control, as well as a way of expressing his feelings. He experimented over time with songwriting on the guitar and with singing, inspired by everyone from Mel Torme to Stevie Wonder.

Kye gained impressive technique on the violin via classical training, but he often found himself quietly trying other approaches, pushing the instrument and seeking new sounds. “I would sit during section rehearsals for the orchestra and goof around, just to see what I could get my instrument to do,” he laughs. Those plunks, pops, and purrs form a foundation for the loops Kye later perfected after he discovered the approach as a student at Yale.

“So many of the objects and sounds around us can be a musical instrument if we let our ears lead the way. The violin can sometimes feel limited in terms of its range and in its classical playing customs,” reflects Kye. “If you’re a looping artist and one-person band, you have to find the snare without using a sample or having to hire a drummer. I love inventing and the pedal allowed me to dive into that,” bridging Kye’s indie rock, a cappella, pop, jazz, and classical fascinations.

Exploratory technique serves a distinct purpose for Kye as an artist: “For me, over the past few years leading up to Migrants, the mission has been to leave some positive energy before I go. One of my central life experiences is my migrant life. Granted, it led to issues that I could discuss in therapy, but it’s given me perspective on how to understand the equality of humanity.”

Kye grapples with migration and its psychic impacts very personally, teasing out details that become emotional touchstones. On the song “Migrants,” Kye points to one key wardrobe item that defined his experience. “I lived in Boston for the first two years of my life in the US. I took to covering up my otherness by wearing a baseball cap,” he recalls. “Baseball was something that I recognized, as there’s a lot of it in Korea. It was the avenue I could connect with to ease the transition.”

To further unpack this transition, Kye explores the resonances of the “first migrant story,” the biblical tale of Joseph. (“Joseph Rests His Head”) It’s a tale he’s touched on in previous work, but for Migrants, Kye chooses the moment when Joseph has just been sold into slavery far from home, before he rises to prominence in Egypt, an in-between place fraught with feeling. 

“He’s not in his homeland or his place of eventual triumph. He’s neither here nor there, and emotionally I often feel that way,” Kye notes. “I don’t feel Korean, nor do I feel wholly American. More and more I’m reclaiming what it means to be American, by digging into that tension, which includes how, for Korean Protestants, religion can be a complicated avenue for assimilation.” Strings swell around Kye’s delicate vocals in a chamber ballad that swoops and pulses.

Kye highlights the emotional complexities of living in and in between cultures on “Bambam’s Lullaby,” a song from the perspective of Kye’s 100-pound Akita. “I imagine how she feels when I leave the house, wondering where I’ve gone and why,” explains Kye. “But Bambam is also an avatar for myself. My parents moved back to Korea in 2008, and while I understand why they left, it’s a difficult emotional, linguistic, and geographic obstacle in our relationship. The song is a cry to them that stretches over the Pacific Ocean.”

The struggle with identity, its global loops between disparate homelands, came to the fore for Kye late last year, as many Americans reeled in shock. “‘Ready’ was written in the wake of the election. I was filled with fear and anger and confusion and creative paralysis,” Kye remembers. “It was written to combat that paralysis, to take the feelings of fear and not belonging, and make something of them. I decided to embrace a romping blues chord progression and not over-intellectualize. I want to take people from this boiling emotion and inspire them to go and do something.”

Kye’s awareness of his own journey and tensions intersects with this impetus, in imagined dialog on tracks like “Stick On Me,” when reverb-drenched lines create ear-candy timbres. “We all have our personal struggles. In spite of that, we need to rise to the challenge and give of ourselves even in our feelings of weakness. You have to let it come from within, an internal fire that blazes. Once we do that, we can then grow together and rekindle.”

Kye, with open ear, heart, and a commitment to connection, avoids sentimental oversimplification. His grounded perspective, like the earthy hints in his voice and the edge to his playing, keeps Pollyanna-ish pronouncements at bay. “It’s easy to fall into the trope that everyone is wonderful! No, we’re all human, with our selfishness, insecurities, and issues,” muses Kye. “I’m striving, like a lot of artists, to bridge isolated spheres, to provide avenues of expression so we can understand them and belong to a greater whole.”

Announcement
02/06/2018