Catching up with Kim Petras on Halloween

Catching up with Kim Petras on Halloween

Kim Petras as a Halloween dream. The “I Don’t Want It At All” signer illustrates the inspiration behind her Halloween-themed album Turn Off The Lights and ongoing Clarity tour.  

Kim Petras as a Halloween dream. The “I Don’t Want It At All” signer illustrates the inspiration behind her Halloween-themed album Turn Off The Lights and ongoing Clarity tour.  

Photography: Carin Backoff

Styling: Matthew Mazur

Text: Devin Barrett

This season, we can’t get enough of Kim Petras’ holiday-themed mixtape Turn Off The Lights. The dark and dancey album picks up where last year’s Halloween-themed volume one left off, completing a sonic journey from macabre electro to nightmare-before-Christmas. Of the track “Massacre,” Petras says, “We discovered ‘Carol of the Bells’ was public domain, so we made our own gorey version of it.” Also on our holiday wishlist is our very own Balenciaga Hourglass handbag—seen here with Demna Gvasalia-designed customization and modeled by the “I Don’t Want It At All” singer herself (Customize your own Balenciaga bag from December 4th-8th at Balenciaga Miami Design District). Here, we catch-up with Petras while on tour for Clarity, where she explains the inspiration behind Turn Off The Lights and reflects on her best and worst Halloween costumes.

Kim wears jacket, skirt, gloves, custom bag Balenciaga Top and headband her own
Customize your own Balenciaga bag from December 4–8 at Balenciaga Miami Design District

What was the starting point for the second installment to Turn Off The Lights? Why a Halloween record? What inspires you about this energy?

I’ve always wanted to continue Turn Off The Lights Volume One. I love horror movies and I listen to horror soundtracks all the time; I just wanted to make music inspired by this revival of horror movies. It felt like the funniest thing to do, and we’ve been planning to complete the record since we released the first volume [last Fall]. Turn Off The Lights is now a full record that you can listen to from front to back. Both volumes bleed into one another. It has all kinds of different horror-inspired songs; this [volume] adds a big ballad at the end, which is cool. I am a big fan of Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop Of Horrors and Sweeney Todd. I basically love any scary theatrical music [film].

What is your process like when working on Turn Off The Lights? Is it any different from working on Clarity?

[Turn Off The Lights] is a larger than life version of myself; it’s kind of this evil alter ego of mine. It’s really fun to have zero limitations. I am a caring person, I am a good friend, but I love playing evil. It’s my thing! (Laughs) The whole process has been really freeing and fun. It almost feels like a dramatic, dark twisted musical. One day, I’d love to take all of these songs and make them into a movie.

It certainly sounds very cinematic. Did you watch a lot of horror movies when you were working on the record?

Yes! My friends and I were writing in the studio in Hawaii over the summer. It was so nice, but at night it gets really spooky out there. It gets super dark outside, so we watched horror movies every single night. We definitely drew a lot of inspiration from the horror genre. But my friends and I always watch horror movies, so it wasn’t much different. I have a lot of songwriter friends like Jessie Saint Johns and Aaron Joseph. It was like hanging out and [taking] our combined passion for horror and gore, and making it into art. It’s been a dream.

Do you have a favorite horror movie?

My all time favorite would be The Exorcist–it’s crazy. Most recently, it’s been Hereditary. That movie blew me away! Also, the new Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis was amazing.

Totally. She’s the original scream queen!

Honestly, Scream Queens also inspired the album; it’s all over the board. I watch every horror movie even if it’s going to be absolute trash. I always find something to enjoy.

Do you dress up for Halloween? What have been your best and worst costumes?

I dress up every year and go out. I love that part of Halloween. My worst costume was Dracula because it was so basic. At least it could’ve been “thotty” Dracula, but it was in the third grade. I’ve done a mean Sailor Moon, I’ve done a mean Barbie. I love super-girl costumes, but I always make them kind of dead. I always have blood. I really want to [dress up as] Daphne from Scooby Doo. I’m putting the pressure on myself this year.

Tell me a bit about the complete record.

[Turn Off The Lights] is supposed to be a party. It’s meant to be a journey. “There Will Be Blood” is an epic introduction; it’s definitely the most “pop” song on the record. Then, there is “Wrong Turn,” which is inspired by the movie Wrong Turn. It’s basically…you’re about to die. [Laughs] Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof also inspired the song, with all of the car doors slamming. Almost like a race to death; ‘you met the wrong one on the wrong night’. “Massacre” is the track where we incorporated a fucking Christmas song. We discovered [“Carol of the Bells”] was public domain, so it’s the dark Christmas track. We went super dramatic on it, with these crazy vocals that sound like a huge Catholic choir, which is the scariest thing on the planet. All the interludes go really hard. The record ends with “Everybody Dies,” which is my cinematic Rocky Horror Picture Show ending. It’s a bit depressing, but in an inspiring and uplifting way. I’m super proud of it; I think it’s my best vocal performance to date. It’s nearly one take all the way through.

You’re also on tour for Clarity. How are you feeling?

It’s the biggest tour I’ve ever done. We’re playing in some of the biggest venues I’ve ever played in. I’m headlining venues where I opened for Troye [Sivan] last year. I have staging, I have lights, I get to dial into every second of it. The costumes came to me in a dream; I was drawing and sketching them. This tour definitely has a storyline; it’s a [complete] vision. For me, it’s go time.

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