Singer, writer, producer, director, burgeoning musician, bartender, eyelash technician, rug-maker, ex-insurance salesperson: Kayla Le—aka Sailor Goon—does it all. One of the most enigmatic artists in the scene, the 22-year-old Jacksonville native is making waves with her R&B-tinged soundscape and colorful videos. Le started releasing music as Sailor Goon in 2019 and has put out a handful of singles since then. Her latest effort “Way Down in Decatur” arrived in March, and she’s set to release more material in the coming months. But before that, she’s secured a stop in Los Angeles to perform at The Echo in September, her first show of the year.
Q: Let’s talk about that name, “Sailor Goon.” What inspired it?
KL: It’s inspired by the anime Sailor Moon. It’s just a play on words. I was, for the longest time, thinking about changing my alias because there’s another girl up in New York; her name is Sailor Goon. I was like, “Ooh, we’re going to have to fight to the death about this,” but she’s cool, she’s a DJ up there. It just stuck. The anime is very wholesome, like “girl power,” but they always end up calling a man in to help them, and I’m like, “That’s lame,” but it is what it is.
Q: You’ve talked a little bit about inaccessibility in the local music scene, is that something you want to change?
KL: I don’t think I have that power. I can definitely do me and inspire other people to do the same, but in terms of the culture, I feel like it’s so deep-rooted in misogyny, if I’m being real. I feel like so many producers out here—no shade, no shade—are like, “Oh, unless you’re going to do something for me, which is pay me, do something else. Why should you come to my studio?” I feel like a lot of people here are very opportunistic. They don’t want to work with you unless they see something they want to take. That was just my experience, I’m not speaking on all of Jacksonville because I know a lot of musicians here who are on their grind and who are really really cool, but everybody has an ego. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m it. I don’t want to support other people in the city,” and I’m just like, “Y’all are ugly.” It became very easy for me to become a recluse and just stay at home and make music.
I love Jacksonville. I’ve lived here all my life, and rent’s cheap so that’s a plus. My plan is to leave Jacksonville eventually, not that the culture’s bad by any means. Friends of Friends Recording, Glenn [Michael Van Dyke[ and Lena [Simon], all of them, they’re really trying to make the city what it is and build it up. But I feel like the infrastructure, the misogyny, all that: It’s not cute. It’s not helping build anybody to be honest.
Q: Your visual aesthetic is really colorful and intricate. How did you develop it?
KL: I feel like the most important thing is “Does it translate to the audience and can people connect with it?” It really doesn’t matter if it’s an awesome look or a cool visual, like, yeah, it’s cool, but can people connect to it?
Q: Is that idea of connection something you keep in mind when creating?
KL: Yes and no. When I’m in the studio just messing around, I’ll literally make a song about grilled cheese. But if I’m going to put it out to people, I’m like, “OK, what is this going to do for anybody?” Not necessarily that I should be creating stuff for other people, but also, what’s the point of putting this out?
Q: That kind of begs the question, what is the point for you?
KL: At first it felt good. This was something I made. Look at it! Enjoy it with me! I feel like now, you can really use music to color anything. With literally just 15 seconds of a song, you can change someone’s mood, and I feel like that’s really neat. Ultimately, I want to be able to connect with people. I feel like music is universal.
Q: Social media plays a huge role in being an artist. How do you feel about having that online presence?
KL: I love and hate it. I feel like the internet has created such an accessible platform for literally anybody to just blow up and connect with anybody. It’s like, “Who has a cinematographer?” and literally three people will hit you up and be like, “I got you.” We wouldn’t be able to do that back then—what like, sending pigeons out? Social media’s great, but also, for a while, I felt like I was making music to release it, and that’s the downfall. There’s so much instant validation on there that you start creating stuff and then it’s like, “I need the likes, I need the interactions.” It’s a great tool, but it’s a tool—don’t get too immersed in it.
Q: Three albums you can’t live without?
KL: Bro! Why? Why did you do this? OK, this is kind of basic, but we’ll do it: 6 Feet Beneath The Moon by King Krule. Let’s do Mama’s Gun [by Erykah Badu]. Dang, bro, I see too many! When I Get Home, Solange. Honorable mentions: Soulquarius by Phabo, Forever, Ya Girl by KeiyaA.
Q: Who’s “up next” to you?
KL: I’ll start off with Dennis because that’s my ride-or-die. Honorable mention to Leo Sun, love them. India, I love India. Her voice is…wow. Dejah [Simone] too.