Introducing: Kaz Mirblouk’s “Borderline”

A track premiere, plus an introduction to it by the artist himself.

My partner likes to joke that I’m “ethnically ambiguous,” but the truth is I’m a Chinese-Iranian born and raised in Los Angeles. My full name is Kasra Gene Mirblouk, a reflection of my ethnicity and nationality. My first and last name are Persian, but my middle name I share with my Chinese grandfather; he chose it as his American name when he came to the US in the 1950s. 

In my experience, the American dream is both more important and less tangible to first generations of immigrant families. Without generational wealth, their dreams of traditionally lucrative careers and white picket fences often get reluctantly inherited by their children and grandchildren. I spend family gatherings avoiding talking about careers. My sweet grandmother recently told me, “I heard on the TV that Amazon is hiring a lot of engineers, you should look into it!” My grandfather always asks when I’ll start my career in tech. I’ll generally steer the conversation to sports. The irony is I actually have a degree in computer science and my grandparents can’t understand why I’m not working a nine-to-five. They grew up in poor families and wanted to outgrow poverty. Regardless of personal interests, when they came to the US they worked hard to find stable jobs and careers in order to raise their family. My college degree is the cumulation of a multi-generational effort, but my life choices are privileges not afforded to immigrants in the ‘60s. However, my parents understand my choices, even if my grandparents don’t.

My father was born in Iran and came to this country as a young adult alongside my grandfather. He grew up attending boarding school in the UK in the midst of the 1970s punk scene. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, he and my grandfather escaped to Spain before finally coming to the US. He worked tirelessly to support himself while saving to bring the rest of his family to the US. My mother was born in East LA, the product of the 1980s big hair and bands like Duran Duran. The youngest of four daughters in a deeply Christian home, she rebelled against her conservative upbringing by modelling to support herself. I effectively ended her modeling career early and unexpectedly, and she stayed at home to raise my brother and me, returning to work only when we were old enough to care for ourselves. Both my parents sacrificed so much to ensure that we had opportunities they didn’t have. We were brought up devoid of religion with no semblance of a predisposed path for our lives. They always encouraged us to follow our passions despite their wildly different upbringings, but like their parents, they continued to prioritize the next generation of their family ahead of themselves. 

“Borderline” was the first song I wrote for the record. It was a big transitory phase of my life. After graduation I moved back into my parents home in Los Angeles. Musically, I was very inspired by Television’s Marquee Moon and was listening to a live Credence Clearwater Revival record called The Concert on repeat. Mixing both the rhythmic drive and evolving guitar work, I wanted to ride the same sonic line which kept both bands’ songs growing to new heights. Thematically, the lyrics came from my observations between generational values and familial dynamics. Reflecting on the lineage of my parents’ lives with the life they gave my brother and me, I realized family members have to constantly gauge their decisions as both an individual and as a unit. Within my nuclear family, I never felt pressure to follow a specific path. Yet, I still question my motives and personal growth. Was I doing something that I would look back onto and be proud? Is forgoing a stable and lucrative career to make music justifiable considering the sacrifices my family has made to set me up for a traditional definition of success? In a family that has shown selflessness at my benefit, dedicating so much to creating something for my personal fulfillment can feel selfish.

These questions shaped this record. While lyrically sparse, “Borderline” became one of the more important songs that I carried with me throughout this period of my life. It greatly influenced the direction and mindset I gravitated towards for the rest of Careless by Contrast. This song and the record is for my family, both biological and chosen, who continue to support one another alongside our mutual paths.

— Kaz Mirblouk

Over the past seven years, Kaz Mirblouk, a Los Angeles-based native, has played throughout North America and Europe with his solo project, and as a member of Hooveriii and Numb•er since 2017. While attending school in Davis, Mirblouk started performing at local house shows as a two-piece along with Greta Soos on drums. He began touring the summer of 2014 along the West Coast with Joey Kaufman. His first EP, Through the Glass, was released in 2015 on Lolipop records. A year later his first record, Imitate, Intimidate, was also released on Lolipop and toured the US and Canada. After graduation, Mirblouk moved back to LA. Six Tonnes De Chair released Sidestep as a 7-inch in the summer of 2017. The pair of songs represented a departure from the surf and psych-rock styling of his collegiate releases. The upcoming second record, Careless by Contrast, was written throughout late-2017 and early-2018. Mirblouk enlisted the help of Louis Cohen to co-produce the record. Experimenting with new styles and genres, Mirblouk and Cohen pushed his songwriting towards maximalism while exploring themes of transition and nostalgia. Between touring internationally in 2018 and 2019, Mirblouk self-recorded the record, featuring friends like Spencer Hoffman, Oliver Pinnel, and other bandmates to create his most refined and layered work to date.