Jewish singer Kinneret was destined to make music. She calls it her “namesake,” given the Hebraic translation of her name: harp.
Kinneret first debuted her psychedelic, eclectic musical style with her 2018 single “Vroooom!!,” but went viral with her 2019 song, “No Wind Resistance!” Originally gaining fame on TikTok, the song captivated listeners with its meshing of hip-hop and kaleidoscopic rock, its striking vocals and its spacey feel. Kinneret’s music videos also showcase her experimental style, often featuring animation, colorful costumes, chaotic scenes or a combination of all three. Plus, she paints many of her own album covers. Kinneret’s creativity and unique vision have earned her 5.8 million Spotify listeners just this year.
Kinneret is certainly one of a kind, but she does attribute much of her musical inspiration to her Jewish upbringing. The young musician is the daughter of two rabbis, and her single, “Learn My Name,” embodies her connection to Judaism, discussing her relationship with her Hebrew name and her journey to honoring her namesake. Even beyond “Learn My Name,” Kinneret’s take on Jewish values can be found sprinkled throughout her discography, encouraging listeners to be themselves, see beauty in the world around them and believe in love.
More recently, the artist released the magical, experimental single “Wizardry!” in preparation for a brand new album. Hey Alma sat down with Kinneret to talk new music, Judaism and spirituality, fast fame and vulnerability on the internet.
This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.
Could you give us a little introduction to yourself, where you’re from and your music?
Yeah, I am Kinneret Klein. I’m born and raised in LA, but my family is mostly from the East Coast. My mom and dad both got good rabbi gigs in LA. My dad worked as the Rabbi at the USC Hillel, and my mom got a gig at Temple Isaiah, and is still there. So from the get-go, I’ve been a clergy kid, and Judaism is a part of my life.
Usually, when people interview me and ask why I started making music, I start with that same story — even if it’s not a Jewish platform. I really believe that my parents being rabbis is a huge reason that I make music now. I grew up seeing my mom on a stage, using words to bring meaning to people in their lives. My mom was always the word person; she wrote amazing sermons. And my dad was always the musical one. He was a songleader at camps and would sing us lullabies with his guitar. I saw my dad bringing meaning to people with music and my mom bringing meaning to people with words, and I realized I could put them together into songwriting and bring people meaning that way.
It’s really magical because my name is “Kinneret,” which translates to “harp” in biblical Hebrew and also refers to Lake Kinneret in Israel. I feel like my parents gave me that name because they knew what I had to do.
As I grew up, I always loved music and played piano and knew how to read music. But I didn’t start writing songs until early high school, when I was a teenage girl in Los Angeles. I was struggling mentally and with my friends, and so the moment I really needed to let stuff out, I started writing my own songs. The more I realized that was my thing, the less I prioritized school. I actually wrote lyrics about how I felt trapped in school, so that’s part of my story, too.
You started writing in high school, but you’ve definitely developed a style since then. How did you come across the kind of music you like to make and develop your own voice?
I definitely listened to a very diverse blend of genres. My top favorite bands are The Beatles and Pink Floyd, but I was also listening to a lot of hip-hop, a lot of modern techno and rock. Crumb is one of my favorite bands that got me into music. So, I was listening to this really big blend of music, but I realized that, in all the music, there was a sound missing that I couldn’t find anywhere — a sound that I could 100% resonate with.
And then I found the missing piece, it felt so obvious: I could take a trap beat and I could sing over it, with lyrics that I resonate with. And it really felt like that didn’t exist anywhere, and that was really exciting.
In high school, I became friends with Ezekiel, who was in my music tech class. A lot of my friends made beats, but no one made beats like Ezekiel. I had a friend crush on him for a while, but we were never really close. Eventually, I started to go up to him and be like, “can I hear what you’re working on?” and we started to become friends. I asked politely if I could write over one of his beats, and I started writing in class when he agreed. That song that I started writing was “No Wind Resistance,” which is my biggest song right now. It was pretty magical. And I remember writing the lyrics to that beat he showed me and then performing it for him, like singing my idea to him. And then he really started to get on board. He heard what I was doing with it and was like, “OK, I’m down to really work with you.” He sent me like 10 beats, packs of beats to my email, and I wrote a song to pretty much every single one of them. And that became my first album: “DMZ.”
Let’s talk a little bit about “No Wind Resistance,” which blew up on TikTok. What was that like? Were you expecting that to happen?
I think I was expecting it — I didn’t know what I expected. I just knew, from the moment I wrote those lyrics with that beat, that there was a magic to that song. I’d play it for everyone I knew and be like “look at what I made!” So, I think I did know that it was a magical song.
But TikTok songs as a concept were very new. I wasn’t one of the first TikTok songs, but I was one of the first independent artists to just explode from the ground up because of TikTok. And so, because of that, there was a lot of uncertainty. I didn’t know what that looked like and what you do from there. But, if there was one song that was going to gain traction and start to get me a fanbase, I knew it would be that one.
I could talk a lot about what it felt like to blow up on TikTok. It was a lot of uncertainty and there was loneliness because there was no peer that I could talk to. The only people who really did understand my situation were people in the music industry who were trying to sign me and get the rights to the song. But it was a good learning moment in my life because I learned that the music industry is just a bunch of real people who want to be paid — and that nobody cares more about my album than me and the real fans who are listening. So, that was kind of a special thing to learn.
The song actually blew up for a second time recently, and it was even bigger. I was so much more prepared this time.
Speaking of social media, you’re also very honest with your fans online. You share a lot of your life. Can you tell me what inspires you to go on social media and tell people about you, and why you’ve continued to do that throughout your career?
A lot of my lyrics are about believing in yourself and being authentic to who you are. So if people like my music, then they like that idea of learning to be themselves. I think it helps teach that lesson even more if I am myself to them — if I not only sing about being myself, but I am myself. They get to know me, and they get to see themselves in me.
I think that a lot of my demographic is girls in early high school, going through the exact same thing that I went through when I wrote these songs. So whether they see themselves in my curly hair or my favorite color or in the food I like to cook. Every time I post something that shares my real life, it enables them to believe in themselves even more. There just need to be more young, female role models who aren’t selling their looks or popularity. I think a lot of influencers that people look up to are just selling the fact that they are the “it girl” and they’re hot. And I understand that, because we’ve been taught that that’s what is most important. So, not hating on them. But, yeah, I never had someone who was close to my age to look up to who was promoting just being raw and art in general So, it’s really fulfilling to know that some people are getting that from following me or listening to my music.
You’ve put out two songs recently. “Learn My Name” was released in September. Do you want to talk about the lyrics?
My name is a Hebrew name. People haven’t heard it before — there aren’t any chets or weird letters in it, but somehow people really struggle to learn how to say it. Just because it’s a Hebraic emphasis: “kee-nair-it.” In English, it would be something like “kee-nar-et.” Kinneret has a natural Hebrew sound to it — which I’m used to, because I grew up hearing Hebrew, but other people didn’t.
I don’t blame people, but it started to get annoying that people wouldn’t take the time to learn my name. They would think of nicknames or just call me “K.” It’s frustrating, because you don’t want to tell a story every time you meet someone. You just want to say, “Hi, I’m Kate,” or something. I’ll go by Emily at Starbucks because I don’t feel like explaining.
That was the inspiration behind making a song just about my name in general. But on a deeper level, it’s my story of realizing that I was entirely embracing my namesake. And I didn’t even try. It happened so magically and so subconsciously. I always thought about my name and the Sea of Galilee. That’s why my parents named me Kinneret, because of the Sea of Galilee and Lake Kinneret. They had a romantic bike ride around it when they were falling in love. So, I always thought about my name in that sense. And then I realized the actual definition of my name is exactly what I believe my purpose is, and what I’m doing every day. There’s something so beautiful about that.
“Learn My Name” is a little bit of a Jewish song. “Kinor” translates to “violin” and “kinneret” is the feminine version of “kinor.” But, in old Hebrew, it translates to “harp.” The only time that kinneret is really used is in the context of old Hebrew is when talking about King David, because, King David was famous for writing songs on his lyre. The chorus of the song is “songs angels like to play, they play it with my name,” because angels are often depicted with a harp. And then, “poetry King David used to make, he’d make it with my name,” referring to King David and his famous musical skills and poems that he’d write with his “kinneret.”
You also recently put out “Wizardry!” as well. Do you want to tell us a little bit about the song?
“Wizardry!” is also a song about believing in yourself. They’re all sort of about that.
But, the story of “Wizardry!” is: 070 Shake is one of my favorite artists right now. I think her sound is really cool, especially because of the production she has in her music. And I recently found out that 070 is an entire collective of people from New Jersey. It’s their area code. And I found out that 070 Sebastian, who is one of the producers, is in LA. And so, I was like “you know what? I’m going to shoot my shot because I really want to work with these people. Let me DM him on Instagram.” And he answered and was like, “send me your music.” So, I sent some songs that I thought he would like and he was super down to work. And it was very sweet, very easy. All I had to do was ask, which was very special. Suddenly, a week later, we’re in the studio working on a song! I had him over to my home studio and within five minutes he’s playing this magical line on my synth. And the song we started making is “Wizardry!”
“Wizardry!” is because I think we’re all wizards, and also because I was watching 070 Sebastian play the synth like he was a wizard — like there was magic coming out of his hands. And I felt like a wizard for making it happen, and for the melodies I started hearing over the beat.
I could have seen the magic in that situation, or I could have been like “oh, thank God he thinks I’m cool enough to work with me and I better not screw up this session.” I could have approached that session in a different way. So, the song is also about how you have to choose to see magic around you… around you and in yourself. You have to really choose to see the magic in yourself. Before I started making songs, and even in the beginning, I didn’t realize how magical I was. A lot of my lyrics were about school and about society, and there was a lot more complaining in the beginning of my songwriting journey because I hadn’t realized just how magical I was. And then, I grew up and matured and made friends that I loved, and yeah, I started to realize I was magical. But, I had to choose to.
So yeah it’s about manifestation, beauty around you and that we’re all wizards.
Outside of Judaism, do you consider this musical process and this outlook on life to be a sort of spirituality for you?
100%. Over time, I’ve really built my own set of spiritual beliefs. I say “my own,” but it’s really just the most universal truths. And a lot of them I built because I was raised Jewish. I had a very healthy relationship with Judaism. I was raised in a Reform Jewish environment in Los Angeles, and my mom is a rabbi. I think it says enough that a woman can be a rabbi.
The Torah has all these incredible morals, and we analyze them and talk about how we can apply them to our lives. A lot of those morals that I learned from the Torah as a kid are love, that beauty is everywhere and to trust God — and I think you can also call God the universe or love. For example, trust that the universe will guide you and you will get to the promised land — and I think that promised land is different for everyone. For me, it is self-confidence and art and believing in myself and seeing the beauty around me. So, yeah, I’ve built my own spiritual beliefs, but I’ve really just learned my favorite parts of Judaism and tapped into them. And learned to believe them with all of my heart. Not just believe them as things I recite in temple.
Sounds like an incredible process. What is next for you?
I have a whole album that is done, that I am so impatiently keeping to myself right now. But that’s because I’m so proud of it that I want to do it right. I want to release it with a ton of music videos and a ton of art to go with it. “Wizardry!” and “Learn My Name” are two singles from the album. I haven’t really talked about that yet because there are two more singles, and then the album’s out. So I have these four singles and a focus track when I drop the album, which is the title track. I don’t know if I should talk about it, but it’s my favorite song I’ve ever made. I’m so proud of it.
But, definitely expect an album in the next few months. And then expect a lot of shows. I am starting to work with a booking agent and really plan live shows. We don’t know what we’re going to do yet, but yeah. Expect an album and expect shows, and then expect me to get right back to the workshop and make another one.
And, what’s the dream venue?
Right now, my dream venue is actually very doable. It’s The Mint. I haven’t played there yet, but I grew up like three blocks away from The Mint in the Pico Robertson area, a very Jewish area. I always passed The Mint and, as a little kid, I always thought like, “is that where they make money?” And then I went to one of my first shows at The Mint in high school and I realized it’s a very cozy, charming venue. I love how it looks. So, my dream would be to sell out at The Mint. Just for my past self’s sake. Like, look! I played at the money production place.
Is there anything you want to say before we wrap up? About yourself or your music?
I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while: I’m in a relationship. I work with my boyfriend a lot now because he’s this very talented jack-of-all-trades, editor, producer, all of that. Everything I need. We’ve been together for over two years and I have not revealed much of him to my following, because of this fear I have of losing the value I have as an available woman on the internet. This fear of, “oh, I’m going to lose a bunch of my male followers if I post with my boyfriend.”
And that lame fear that I had for so long prevented me from sharing a beautiful, healthy love that I have. And I recently decided, screw it, I’m going to talk about him. Because, not only am I in love with him and he treats me well, which is so rare and beautiful, but I also make a ton of art with him. Like all the time! And people follow me for my art, so I should talk about my collaborator.
So, that’s a recent realization that I had. And I think that we need to get over that fear, myself included. We need to get over that idea that we have to be available and live in the male gaze if we are a public person. I’m very over it, and I think the internet could use more healthy relationships.