Musician Audrey Kang Finds Comfort in Ursula K. Le Guin

Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.

Audrey Kang was born in Buffalo, New York, but calls New York City the only home she’s ever known. Raised by parents both from Taiwan, she grew up between elements often in direct opposition. This contradiction continues to influence her work today. She now makes music under the name Lightning Bug with her friends Kevin, Logan, Vincent, and Dane.

What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time? 

I don’t know if I can say I loved this film, as it was difficult to watch, but I was recommended a documentary called EARTH that I found significant. Humans seem to swing from extreme to extreme. I wonder why it’s so hard for us to find balance. How do we as a species find the maturity to curb ourselves before a disaster — for instance, a pandemic — strikes? Where do we draw the point of return? 

Are you working on anything during this time? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it?

Lightning Bug has been productive! We’re good at tag-teaming remotely, as we did it that way a few years back when Logan was living in Banff for a residency. We had tracked the basics as a full band back in January, so we already had the bulk of the material to work on. The next record is now close to being done, I am so eager to share it! I am so proud of this one. Having Vince and Dane join powers has made all the difference. But…it will probably be a while before release. Or no time at all! Next year is here as if tomorrow.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? 

Knitting is not a new hobby, but one that I’d put down for a while. I did not have the time or patience to knit before quarantine. But it is also very meaningful to me as a tradition passed down through generations in my family, so I’m happy to be participating again. And to knit stuff for my friends!

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar?

I was going through some financial straits earlier on in the shutdown before I was recently taken off furlough, and my friend Stef made me a care package with so many grains, beans, onions, sweet potatoes, limes…I took everything she gave me, combined it into one pot, and turned it into a very motley stew. I had basically been surviving off white rice for weeks, so the stew was like a nutrient explosion. Tasted like love.

What’s your current phone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it? 

Since I’ve purchased my iPod, my wallpaper has remained a photo I took of my perspective whilst perched above a fjord in Norway and enjoying an apple. The idyllic nature is a bit misleading, as I was actually lost, hungry, and ill-equipped to be out there. I did not realize how expensive Norway would be before going, so I was surviving off this huge bag of apples (first apples, now white rice, smh what am I doing). I had pitched my tent and gone off on a long walk, but lost my pathway after traversing a vast field of snow. And all I had was an apple lol. I eventually found my way back by finding my footprints in the snow, and being back in my flimsy tent has never felt so cozy since.

What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far?

Seeds! I ordered them from Tend Greenpoint, who I believe is still doing no-contact pickups. I love checking in on the bb plants in the morning. I love how the sprouts extend in unison towards the sunlight. It’s a very literal sign of life springing anew, possibilities unfolding from a still, solitary kernel.

Who are the writers, storytellers, or makers who are bringing you great joy right now?

I was going through this phase where I just couldn’t sit still with a book, until I turned back to Ursula K. Le Guin. She is an incredible storyteller. Her books transport you into dimensional worlds, where you can feel the characters and their stories extend past the pages. It’s like the world already existed, and she just happened to find it and translate the message. When I read her books, I feel like a kid again, staying up just to get to the end of the next chapter. But not only are her books wonderful stories, they are also pertinent and perceptive critiques of our civilization and its maladies. I’ll stop gushing and leave you with a quote from The Left Hand of Darkness: “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

Any unexpectedly memorable moments of quar so far?

I think what I will really remember about quarantine is all the bird activity I’ve observed from my window. I don’t have a TV or subscriptions to streaming services, but I’m lucky to live in an apartment facing a backyard, so I get this whole bird reality show. I’m particularly attached to this pair of doves that my brother named Beau and Mamie, hahaha. We made up a backstory where they’re young small town lovers starting a new life in the big city. It tickles me that in reality they are just being birds, totally oblivious to my weird adoration. It gets crazy out there though. Beau and Mamie are going through some rough times. Feuds, lust, family, hardship, fortune, death, devotion…it’s a soap opera.

Find Audrey on Instagram @lightningbugpjs.