Nothing better captures the essence of vocalist and bassist Kassia Conway—known simply as Conway—than her music video for the single “Big Talk”: self made, raw and demanding of a little honesty. Filmed and created by Conway herself and recorded entirely with her laptop, the video hones in on our obsession with ourselves and is, at its core, a tongue and cheek commentary of our culture. Pieced together in a flurry of scenes, Conway turns the camera on herself against a background of changing filters not unlike Instagram, while she sings about an ignorant mass culture that at the same time knows it’s constantly being messed with.
“‘Big Talk’ is about a lot things, but I think the biggest theme [is] just kinda how full of shit things can be, whether that’s people, or government or business,” Conway says, adding, “Whether it’s like you’re at a club and someone is dropping names like an asshole, or you’re at a business meeting and someone is telling you everything they can do for you. Or you turn on the news and you’re listening to the presidential debates.”
“Big Talk” is the first single from Conway’s upcoming debut EP, which is due out in May. At times sarcastic and in other parts very direct, the “We get high / We don’t mind” mentality of the chorus is essentially like “putting your middle finger up and continuing on with whatever it is you’re doing,” says Conway.
Spirited and unapologetic, Conway writes from her own personal history and experiences, while also finding inspiration in observing people, whether directly or indirectly as part of the conversations she encounters in her daily life. A self-proclaimed fascination with people has lead to a notebook full of stories she’s jotted down about characters she’s come across, a collection of tidbits creating personas she’s referred to as inspiration in her songs.
Her experience as a woman in the music industry is also something she considers to be unique, and also a reason why she thinks it’s still very relevant and necessary for women to have outlets that directly feature and focus on them. In an industry that is still quite dominated by men, both while performing live and in the studio, there have been situations where guys have either questioned her skills or are shocked that she can actually play her instrument.
“The experience isn’t exactly the same [for men and women]. There are a lot of similarities, people are people. But, being a woman is a unique experience no matter what you’re doing, and in music that’s no different,” says Conway. “We deal with some things that I don’t think guys do, like you get questioned a little more. ‘Do you really play that instrument’ or ‘Did you really write that.’ In some ways I think it’s an advantage and in other ways you have to work a little harder.”
Taking it in stride, Conway has navigated her experiences with patience and a sense of humor, a testament to her long track record in the music industry, most notably fronting the rock band Stella’s Ballin Brooklyn. Hailing from the Southside of St. Louis, Conway lived in Brooklyn before moving to L.A. at the urging of her best friend with whom she formed the duo All Wrong and The Plans Change. Her past music ventures have explored a range of styles, from punk and new wave to R&B and hip-hop, all which have influenced her work now as a solo artist.
While she has always been the songwriter in all of her bands, Conway has definitely noticed the advantages and disadvantages to both experiences. While going solo means not navigating all the personalities in the band or offering the songs up for trial, she’s found that the downside is that in the end you only have yourself.
“When you need that perspective or you want to vent, there’s no one,” she says. “In the end it’s freedom versus more responsibility.”
Los Angeles also proved more challenging than she thought it would be at first, realizing rather quickly—and surprisingly—that a lot of the stereotypes were true. It’s not hard to imagine that much of “Big Talk” was likely inspired by her first experiences in the new city. And while Conway has found herself in a place that she says took a lot of getting used to and where it was difficult at first to establish a community, she eventually found that it was not without its own beauty.
“As I just kind of put my head down and worked and did music, I found that the music community here really is what saved me because there are a lot of talented people here and they work really hard, but you don’t see them out. They’re not the ones talking shit and whatever, because they are the ones literally in their studios working hard,” says Conway. “It takes some patience and tenacity, but there’s a lot of good to be found, if you can stick it out.”
In a culture where we are constantly being bombarded with information, it’s hard to figure out what is real, worthy and necessary. And while Conway navigates this and other relevant and diverse themes on her upcoming EP—as a human, Kassia Conway’s goal are this: “Be better, do better, don’t quit, don’t be an asshole.”