March celebrates Women’s History Month, and so should everybody. This month Electric Hawk is featuring some of the wonderful ladies making waves in the music scene. Today we sit down with visual artist and VJ, Kelly Fin, to learn more about her, the creative process, and endeavors in the industry.
Kelly Fin is a force to be reckoned with.
Kelly got her degree studying animation and creative technology at the University of Michigan and has a strong passion for the future of revolutionizing visual tech. With a love for the synergy and passion behind live music shows, Kelly has hit the gas pedal on her aspirations. Currently, she is working with Las Vegas company, Extended Reality Group to deep dive into high-powered technology. Think 3D camera tracking and advanced green-screening. All while also pursuing visual arts in music.
VJ’ing and visuals help make it more of an experience than just music, and that’s what really draws people in and gives meaning to it.
A conversation with Kelly Fin:
Andie [Electric Hawk]: I understand being a visual creator means you’re likely involved with a lot more than just work, in the music scene. So what or who drew you from being an artist to honing in on live music visuals and videos in the EDM scene?
Kelly Fin: The first thing was the greater music festival community, absolutely. Electric Forest 2015 was my first festival. I’m sure it’s the same experience for a lot of us; it really opens up a world where you could be accepted, be yourself, and find other people who brought all this positivity and energy. And meeting all these new great friends, it’s like “Wow, I never knew this was possible to find a place where I’m accepted for me,” and so that was kind of like my introduction to everything electronic music.
Some early inspirations for diving specifically into the visual arts are Android Jones, Alex Grey, as well as some old fond memories with the BN community, which I no longer support [the artist]. I had some really cool experiences encountering their artwork and it really lit the spark on the bomb of my personal drive and motivation.
I remember one moment at show where the visuals were so on point, not only the music, but with how the crowd was moving too. I had this split second epiphany moment where I was just looking at it all, I kinda stopped dancing, and realized “I wanna do THAT.”Kelly Fin to EH
A: That’s so cool! I absolutely understand that connectedness feeling you describe. When it comes to future endeavors and shows, do you see yourself as a touring VJ with any artists?
Kelly: I do see myself touring with a lot of people, actually. But I’ve moved away from wanting to do a classic tour like 50-100 cities, and moved more towards desiring to tour with a huge production that I’ve helped design for bigger shows, like ones you see with artists like Excision, Eric Prydz, or deadmau5. Where there might only be like five shows, but there’s so much design that goes into those five shows – putting together something really, really special and massive, taking dozens of artists and tons of collaborative people. I would be absolutely down to tour with someone I’m really passionate about working with. But even talking with other artists I’ve worked with like UHNK, we’ve definitely discussed how we can go bigger.
A: So in terms of “going bigger,” who are some artists you’d love to work with in the future?
Kelly: I really loved working with ill.Gates. I’ve had the privilege of working with him before and so I’d love to work with him a little more. Again, deadmau5 – I just think he’s really cool, and the level of technology he’s bringing into both his audio and visual productions is something that really excites me! I’d also love to work with Rezz, she inspires me a lot. Her accomplishments get me excited and I’d love to be a part of that team. And you know, Tipper. Of course, I’d love to continue working more with UHNK, too.
I’m also recently getting into hard wave music, so I’d love to work with someone like Skeler or Juche – or maybe even techno-esque artists like Amelie Lens or Eric Prydz.
I love how many other creatives inspire and excite you!
A: So tell me about ReVibe Wellness Retreat! Was that the big last event you had going on?
Kelly: Yeah! ReVibe was Halloween weekend 2020, and it was a vertical concert style festival. We rented out a big hotel that had two semi-circle of rooms and then we put the stages on the ground. Each room had a balcony, so everyone was socially distanced watching from their balconies. It was a really big success! We brought in tons of bass artists, as well as a lot more vibey music artists, and it was amazing!
I think we all kind of know (and don’t know) how crazy things are gonna be when we come back to live shows, so it was truly a gift to be there and with that team. I was in an amazing group with 14 other VJs, and it was like soul medicine. It was definitely one of the best parts of 2020, for sure.
A: Who all did you VJ for at Revibe?
Kelly: I got to VJ for NotLö, Brainrack, and Maddy O’Neal. I think they were the biggest stages I’ve played on yet, and it was legendary. This past year, I VJ’d with NotLö a lot throughout 2020 doing livestreams and things, so it was really cool to finally VJ for her in person.
I also got to explore three very different styles of VJing. With Brainrack I got to go kind of like big-festival with it. With Maddy O’Neal, I got to use a lot of my own content – a lot of my more prettier, more artistic content, and get really feminine with it. So, it was really fun to do that with her and see the impact that that had.
A: So you mention doing the different styles, like the more flowery-femme stuff for Maddy O’Neal, versus the heavy, dark stuff you do with aggressive bass music artists. What is it that inspires you when producing these diverse sets?
Kelly: Definitely the music and the artist. I want to give that to them, whatever matches their music best. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is that it’s important to give every artist their own look and a style. That’s why for me, listening to the artist’s music before the show and while preparing for events is so important. I want to give them the best that I can give them, and that involves stylizing their set.
So I’ll do very specific things for NotLö, and I have very specific things that I do for UHNK. And those two things are very different even though they’re both making like, dirty, grimy, crazy bass music. So I do entirely different things because they’re two different artists.
When it comes to art or music, I think anyone can benefit from finding what they like in new things. Like I’d say Maddy O’Neal’s style is more like me and my style. I love making dark evil, like black and white scary visuals and stuff, but I also like to make really beautiful visuals out of things like flowers and ballet dancers.
Be true to who you are, if you know you’re interested in something – you can make art about it. You don’t have to trap yourself in this box all the time. That being said, I’m still growing my styles and I love being able to have a wide range; I think it’s valuable things to have as a VJ.Kelly Fin to EH
A: So when designing your visuals, what sort of software do you use?
Kelly: There’s definitely a few things that work for me in terms of creating, I also go between different things on various software, because each will give you different results, it’s a tool. So it’s all about what you do with those tools and how those tools help you. I use Adobe Suite, TouchDesigner, Resolume, I’m getting into cinema 4d, and Octane. So the sky is really the limit.
With my internship, we’re working with things like Unreal Engine, operating camera technology, tracking software, and things like that. I’m really excited to become a more versatile artist and operator. I find such value and see such importance in being able to operate tech and hardware too. It takes what you’re doing to a higher level, inside and out of music.
Learning stuff like Octane and all this other new software was, like, the push I needed. Like many of us, I felt stagnant in this pandemic when I was already so ready to start moving forward with my life and career. This helped push me to grow in the areas that I needed to grow. I can’t wait to make the most of this year.
A: Love the silver lining, for sure. Technology and events have had such a tight-knit relationship this year. What do you see becoming of the future when in-person festivals come back? Do you see streaming sticking around? Do you see live events just evolving into something entirely new?
Kelly: Yeah, we’ve really broken new barriers and achieved new heights with this technology, because the pandemic has pushed us to adapt. I don’t see a lot of these new things we’re doing going away, I just see us evolving to find new ways to make these events better and cooler. Especially when things of the nature are being talked about like NFT‘s and crypto art. Like have you seen what Gramatik, Eprom, and Aphex Twin did with their art and music?
A: Yeah, it’s definitely exciting to think about all the cool potential that art and technology have together alongside the music space. How can the music industry do better at shining light on our visual artists?
Kelly: I guess bluntly put, make sure to pay all the artists involved. There are always so many other people involved in making shows and music happen, it’s a role a lot of people take. So fairly pay everyone! But I think a lot more people are excited to see artwork with music now, so VJs are getting so much more recognition too, and it’s important for us to interact with fans, engage online, etc. I think it benefits everyone to know more people behind the experience that you love. Especially now when we’re trying to open up our community to be more inclusive – we’re all just people.
A: What’s one of your most memorable moments on your visual artist journey so far?
Kelly: Honestly any time I’m playing live is like the most exciting thing. What comes to mind first is playing at the Movement techno festival in Detroit for two years. That was like the my beginning of working and everything.
A: Do you have any words of wisdom for any women or aspiring visual artists working in the music industry?
Kelly: Put yourself in the spaces you want to be in. No one is going to just give you the thing that you want. Simple things like just showing up and being on time are so important. One thing that’s contributed to my growth and success is just networking, both in-person and online. If you meet someone doing something you’re passionate or excited about, just talk to them! Just say, “Hey, I love what you do, it’s so cool, can you tell me more about it?” It creates genuine connections and genuine conversations, reciprocating that shared passion.
Be unapologetically yourself and just be there for yourself. Believe in what you’re doing and the dreams you have. If you work hard, everything will fall in place.
Some of the most important things anyone can do are showing up on time, being prepared, setting up quickly, ask good questions, and just find simple ways to be helpful, even if it’s just wrapping cables. Always reach for more – look for what you really want, and put in the work when no one’s watching. You make the art for you, don’t worry about making art for other people – make it for you to express yourself, and you know the rest of it will come.Kelly Fin to EH
Thank you Kelly Fin for everything you do. Your drive and hard work do not go unnoticed.
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March is Women’s History Month. This is an opportunity to celebrate successes and acknowledge struggles women face across the world. If you’re looking to support organizations that educate on women’s health, gender/workplace equity, and more, then look here.