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Baby Alpaca's "Teenage Graceland" Is His Most Starkly Personal Tune Yet

A song that in party encapsulated "the beauty of youth and being lost—not knowing what is going to happen to you—and accepting that."
February 1, 2016, 2:57pm

Baby Alpaca, a.k.a. Chris Kittrell: a man who takes all 6"5 of his frame and all of his soul and experience and pours it into his music. The Brooklyn based artist makes slinky, soulful crooner pop in the vein of Josef Salvat, even a touch of Jeff Buckley, if Buckley was less into Van Morrison and more into 90s R&B.

We first started championing Kittrell's music back in 2013, but it's only in the past year that the singer says he really feels like he's nailed his sound, working in LA with producer Filip Nikolic (Poolside, Ima Robot), playing shows away from the brittle grip of NYC's winter. "It's so fortunate to find a producer who understands you and gets your sound, after years and years of musical chairs," he explains.

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Together they pulled together Baby Alpaca's first LP Under Water, out May 6th, 2016 on Atlas Chair Records.

His newest song—premiering above—is perhaps his most confessional, sparklingly beautiful, and more lyrically important piece he's ever released. Initially the concept stemmed from "the beauty of youth and being lost—not knowing what is going to happen to you—and accepting that." It's an idea which took hold when he was driving around in his car with friends and The Who's "Teenage Wasteland" came on the stereo.

"I started thinking about rebellion in that 70s, and how that generation paved the way for new ones to have an easier time finding their way and being themselves," he explains. This inspired a poem, which then turned into a mission statement, a call to arms which you can read below.

"We are not a wasted generation. A teenage wasteland.
Teenage graceland set out to explore. Discovering our bodies
On the floor. Documented in song, photograph, and sculpture.
We're a generation filled with culture. Not Rebels without a cause.
We see the problems with past generations and wont blindly
Make the same mistakes. We did learn from you.

"We don't decide on a point to go somewhere. Getting there to find
It doesn't exist. Just accepting where we are and what is next.
A blurred vision, a feeling, on the horizon. We are going to make it.
There was a time I was unsure if life was worth it. Rejecting the system.
And paying for it in uncomfortability. Living outside on rooftops.
Feeling broken down. Feeling free and loving it. Getting to the point
Of dismantled. Lying across a heap of fallen soldiers. Our limbs
Crossed and intertwined. And then risen like the clean slate of morning.
Learning from everything in a new light. With a new set of rules
Centered around togetherness, love, freedom, the wild, productivity,
Family, saftey, respect, and no limits.

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"It starts to build with supporters of a cause. It comes out on pen, paper,
In the art, in the songs. All melodies of our experience. The only goal
To live and survive. Keeping harmony alive. No old solemn face
Or broken dreams. Maintaining a sense of reality. Losing thoughts
Of judgement and jealousy. Creating things for our pleasure
And the pleasure of others- our friends, family, and audience.
As if making a guidebook to freedom and adventure.

"Running feels euphoric in my body. Alone. And running together
With you. In the night. Our minds in the stars. Through the high top
Canyons of Los Angeles, to the boat docks in Seattle, the Highline
In New York City with an arch of balloons. It starts to feel like a marathon.
More runners, more minds, more talents. Combining our heads.
Creating something together that physically displays the beauty of a group
Of a family."

A piece of art Kittrell created to accompany his music

Kittrell didn't stop here. He has so much more to say, so we're going to let him say it, to express his experiences in his own words.

"I started to think about my own youth and the problems I faced. Being young and awkward, not being able to make friends. I was made fun of and bullied by schoolmates. Going to church and being part of a religious family. I felt like I couldn't be myself. I had ideas of my own and creative thoughts that seemed to go against the grain of the society I was being raised in. I wanted to let it out, but didn't want to disappoint my family.

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"When I hit puberty I started to realize my sexuality. My attraction to men became stronger and stronger. And the list of things I had to bottle up became bigger and bigger. Then there was the moment where I cracked. I couldn't bottle up everything, so at once, I let it all out. I had a radical moment of my own, before I started to level out myself.

"The height of my radicalness, I met a boy at school that I started hanging out with all the time. He was a "bad boy" you could say. One night him and a friend of his stole a Chrysler from a car dealership. They came to my house at midnight and I snuck out and rode around with them all night and rode through the schools football field. They dropped me off in the morning before they ended up getting caught. My parents were pretty shocked when a cop showed up at our house asking questions a few days later.

"It was shocking to my family, and made a lot of tension in our house. And fighting. But eventually that leveled out a bit. My mom was always the understanding and more supportive one. She is a creative person herself. She loves to do watercolors and playing piano. She also has a fun rock and roll spirit. She is the "poolside mother" I sing about in the song. "Holes kicked in the wall," the night I came out to my parents my dad told me to get out of their room and I ran into mine, slammed the door, jumped on my bed, put my feet on the wall, and one went right through. As I think back on these things I feel they evoke things that most people go through in some way. Things we may have in common. Those low moments. The escape. Things that make us feel not so alone when you know you're not the only one.

"My mother also realized the truth about my experience at school. Making me feel suicidal and walking home from the bus everyday crying because of how much I was harassed for being different. She pulled me out that suburban high school and sent me to The Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts. Where I finally was able to be around art and culture. Also students and teachers that shared similar outlooks on life. This was a lifesaver for me.

"I wrote six verses to the melody I came up with. And then my boyfriend and I were on a bus to go to Sasquatch, a music festival in Seattle, and we went through them all and paired it down to two verses. He was helpful in picking out things that were less personal and more things that a listener would relate to. Which is the main reason I was compelled to write this song, and most songs, to make others realize their common factors and take the edge off of loneliness or feeling like an outsider. Benji, my boyfriend, also co-wrote another song on the record with me "In Our Eyes" which I recorded with Theresa Wayman from Warpaint."

Can't wait to hear it.

Baby Alpaca plays Union Pool on 2.9.