“I was really shy my entire life when it came to music,” Quiñ tells me.
It’s hard to believe that Bianca Quiñones, the boricua-mexicana behind the hypnotic and confident project Quiñ, could have once been shy, but she insists. “I would do it in private,” she maintains. “Even my mom knew, ‘Don’t look at her [while she sings].’”
Quiñ’s father, a Los Angeles transplant from the Bronx, was an amateur musician who played the trumpet and congas, and jam sessions were a household staple; music was part of the family DNA. As the first born, she had a window into the adults in her life – her parents and their friends – that shaped her relationship to music as part of everyday life. “Just jam sessions, smoking weed,” she laughs. “It was just normal.” However normal, for Quiñ music was always a private endeavor.
It wasn’t until much later in life, when she was away from everything she knew and spent some time alone, that Quiñ came to realize that she wanted to sing for an audience. In the Bay Area, far away from her family, without roommates or a boyfriend, she was able to isolate the fear she had been holding about singing and confront it head on. “I had words to go with my voice,” she tells me. “Once I realized that, I realized that the only thing stopping me was me.” She made herself a promise to do things that made her uncomfortable. She searched for opportunities to step out of her comfort zone, and made herself do it every time. “Eventually, I didn’t care any more.”
Quiñ’s DREAMGIRL EP, which dropped earlier this month, showcases Quiñ’s hard-earned confidence. This is her second EP, following 2016’s Galactica, and the celestially quirky soul of her vocals manage just as well with pulsating, driving beats as they do with meandering ballads. These are songs about finding yourself and about the many ways we experience the daze of love, with tracks that portray this most finicky of emotions as at turns thrilling, dangerous, and stale. DREAMGIRL’s upbeat dance tracks are sweet-enough confections, but it’s when Quiñ slows down that she excels. “SAILBOAT” and “BB” are foggy and aquatic R&B numbers, floating explorations into the wild twists and turns of love and lust.
“I realized that the only thing stopping me was me.”
The EP’s standout track is its lead single, “Sticky Situation.” Featuring SYD of The Internet, the song is about a hard fall into love and an equally hard fall from grace. Most of us will find familiarity in its scenario of carnal desire so urgent it feels necessary, like love even, only to fizzle into tediousness the moment it is no longer new (“Can’t you tell, caramel, that you’re losing your flavor/ sugar, honey, I ain’t got the patience/ it’s like candy”).
Candy is an apt metaphor for this kind of love; the succulent, sheer hedonism of gorging yourself on sweets, the dizzying rush of sugar, and of course the inevitable crash, sluggish and sticky and unpleasant. This fleeting romance satisfies a craving, but is never meant to be nourishing. Recovery means cutting out the source of the malady, and here, Quiñ is real and cold (“You should know we cast a vote/and all of the homies said you gotta go/ all the rest is outta my control/ don’t get too comfortable”). She has to be real, because she’s been there. “Definitely everything [on the record] is a personal experience,” she tells me. “Like, ‘damn, I need to get the fuck outta here.’”
The visual for “Sticky Situation” is a rush of saturated femininity. Soft pinks, purples, and oranges fill every frame; toenails are polished, hot magenta lipstick is purposefully smudged. Quiñ runs, plays, and nuzzles with a female love interest, vacillating between exhilaration and breathlessness to the flat stillness of boredom. “I knew that I didn’t ever want a boy in [the video],” she says. “I wanted it to be as pretty as possible. And I feel boys can be corny sometimes.” The visual is indeed stunningly beautiful, shot in magnificent sand dunes in the fiery sunset, and iconic picturesque country roads.
Everything seems to be falling into place for Quiñ. She is happy with her music, her path, and herself, and she has the unflinching support of her family. “Everyone was really shocked to see me singing, but they were really happy.”
At the end of August, Quiñ played Brooklyn’s Afropunk Festival, quite the come-up from her experience the year before. “I always wanna go to Afropunk, but I couldn’t even get in last year,” she laughs. “I hit up my people and I couldn’t get in, even just as a person. So I was like, ‘Next year.’”
QUIÑ’s DREAMGIRL EP is out now.