Aesthetic: Bala Club
On set at a studio in a corner of East London, Bala Club are trying on outfits that include wrestling masks, angel wings, inflatable jackets and make-up that ranges from a bit of eyeliner to full-on Juggalo. Just like their music, their look is trailblazing and apocalyptic, and it refuses to play by anyone else’s rules.
Although the looks have been turned up to a hundred for Crack Magazine’s shoot, the boys don’t really look much different on a day-to-day basis. “The first time we started experimenting was when we were about 10,” Uli K tells me. “I started painting my nails, lips, nose, eyes black. I wanted to be like The Murder Dolls, or Slipknot, like the metal bands I was listening to. I had long hair and when you’re that young you’re still quite androgynous, and people look at you like ‘What are you? Are you a boy or a girl?’”
An aversion to being defined is central to Bala Club’s ethos: they are loathe to even define the collective itself. At the core are brothers Kamixlo and Uli K, along with producer Endgame and MC BlazeKidd, but “there are always people that are coming through and getting involved in some way without it ever being a fixed entity,” Endgame tells me. “With the [Bala Club Vol 1] compilation there were a ton of people involved who were not necessarily there at the beginning but they’ve got the same ideas.”
Loosely, the crew fit into the wave of producers, DJs and artists taking over the underground with their ‘deconstructed club music’, repurposing everything from reggaetón to industrial noise to euphoric trance into something altogether new. The brothers didn’t go to school as children, something that Uli K believes was instrumental in the breadth of their influences. “We were eating through music so fast,” he explains. “By the time we were 12 we’d already been through everything from N*Sync to Limp Bizkit to Dr Dre, and we were listening to avant-garde shit like Frank Zappa. Even now, I want to create something new. Things already feel quite stale and the whole idea with Bala Club is to never become formulated, never become stuck.”
Bala Club find common ground in their otherness. Themes that explore the extremes of light and dark, demons and angels, are central in both their music and their style. “It’s kind of a representation of how I feel,” muses Uli K, “you gravitate towards the night-time and the darkness when you feel excluded. When you’re in the dark you’re hidden, nobody can see you.”
In terms of influence, wrestling is a huge inspiration for the brothers. Kami references WWE legends Matt and Jeff Hardy. “They’re two brothers just like us, and their looks were always super colourful – long hair dyed red and green and shit, colourful designs on their arms”. Uli K, wearing a wrestling mask custom-made for him by Nasir Mazhar, agrees: “That imagery [of] wrestling, and the sound of new metal that was huge at the time, the combination of these looks really blew our minds. As a child you want to imitate it, but once you reach a certain age of maturity you don’t want to imitate any more, you want to create your own thing. We’re inspired by all of this stuff but we don’t want to be Slipknot or the Hardy Boys. We’re just Bala Club”.
Photography: James Pearson-Howes
Hair & Make-Up: Naomi Nakamura
Styling: Kusi Kubi
Words: Niloufar Haidari
Kamixlo’s Angélico EP is out now via Bala Club