From Kelly Wong to HEYKERI
By: Donella Lalas
Editor: Ricky Rath
Heart pounding and nerves rushing through her veins, Kelly Wong walked on stage for the first time as HEYKERI opening for Robotaki alongside fellow BTO member ALVYN.
“I was definitely extremely nervous,” she said. “But then when I was up there playing, seeing everyone so happy and having fun took away a lot of the edge.”
Before she got there, Kelly’s journey as a DJ came about at the beginning of the 2017 school year.
Kelly is currently going into her fifth year at California Polytechnic State University. During her first two years of college she danced hip hop but had to drop it once she switched her major to computer science as she became too busy.
“I felt like I had this empty gap and I wanted to do something with it,” she said.
That’s where mixing music came in.
Along with hip hop dancing, Kelly also spent the first two years of college listening to electronic music and coming up with her own ideas in her head that she never thought she could execute. But in October 2017, she began working on mixes in Ableton as a destresser from school.
“I was inspired by artists I listen to,” she said. “They put so much effort and work into their songs and their music can speak so loudly to audiences across the world.”
Kelly tends to jump around different sub genres of electronic music in her mixes and livesets. She started out solely with the dreamy, melodic sounds and began to explore other sub genres such as trap as she built a catalog of popular mixes.
“I try not to limit myself to a specific genre within EDM because I feel like in doing so, you’re limiting yourself as a creative,” she said.
Three weeks after releasing her first mix, she was contacted by another DJ, NESZLO who asked her to be a part of a collective to create a community on SoundCloud, which is now known as the BTO (Better Than One) Collective.
“There wasn’t any form of community or helping each other out at the time,” she said. “At the end of the day we’re all amateurs trying to get bigger. We have the same goal and forming a collective was a good way to support one another.”
As part of the collective they still make their own individual mixes, but also share each others’ content and collaborate to help everyone’s audiences grow.
Kelly started out as one of the first few female artists in BTO and was determined to pave the path for others.
“In the beginning, people would joke about how I got listens or opportunities because I was a girl,” she said. “As a computer science major, I’m used to being one of the only girls but I wanted to prove to people I earned this spot. I’m here because I worked hard for it.”
A lot of Kelly’s sets are usually in Los Angeles or Northern California but her favorite show has been in her college town, San Luis Obispo where she opened for touring LA duo, ARMNHMR.
“Getting to play for all my college friends was amazing,” she said. “I got to play what I wanted and seeing them in the audience made me feel less nervous.”
Studying computer science while prepping live sets and mixes for her fans takes quite a lot of balance, but it’s effort Kelly is willing to put in to pursue her passion.
“I think it's so amazing how music is another language you can speak to people through,” she said. “You can share the feelings and emotions you feel and people can feel your message through that.”
-HEYKERI was Kelly’s Snapchat name in high school
-Kelly and her roommates worked at Coachella this past year at the lemonade stands and were able to attend the festival free of charge after working
-Kelly is currently a full-time intern at a startup tech company in Palo Alto called Rubrik
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