With Smokin’ Grooves Fest in Long Beach attracting music lovers from all across town, fans can look forward to 50 of their favorite R&B acts on Saturday, June 16, at the Queen Mary. Joining the all-star lineup, which includes Erykah Badu, Miguel, The Roots and Jhene Aiko, is Los Angeles native QUIÑ.
The fantasy soul singer exploded onto the scene in 2016 with her debut project, Galactica. Living somewhere between reality and fantasy, her sound is both exquisite and ethereal, with the goal of bringing listeners into a different world — her world.
One listen go the project’s intro track and listeners are immediately drawn into this vacuum of pop, electronica, R&B, soul … and magic. With so many elements and moving parts in her music, QUIÑ decided to coin her own term for her sound: fantasy soul.
“The superpower that fantasy soul has is the power of versatility,” she says. “It came from people asking me what kind of music I made, and me having these really ridiculous answers. I would be explaining it with my hands and all these glittery sounds. I just wanted to simplify it to a term that made sense to me. I didn’t plan on it, I just wished for it. And ‘fantasy soul’ came to my head one day. So I was like, ‘Hmmm, I’ma just try it. Fuck it.’”
This decision to take a bet on herself catapulted her career to the next level, giving her the freedom to be as creative as her spirit desired.
“It’s funny because when you bet yourself, all of these opportunities arise for you to practice that,” she says. “Fantasy soul triggers some part of the brain that makes somebody think of a second, and they’re usually right. As I’ve been confidently saying that, I’ve also been learning what it is from the day I said it until now. I have an even bigger grasp on what it truly is. The reason I even called it in the first place is because I’m writing the music and it’s coming from my soul. It’s not coming from a machine of different brains going to work and creating something. It’s just my soul speaking. It’s as simple as that.”
Growing up in a musically inclined household, QUIÑ found herself marinating in this realm. With her dad playing the congas, bongos and trumpet, and her mom being a dancer, she naturally took to the art of creating music.
“My parents were really good friends with Patrice Rushen and her husband,” she says. “I would play in the studio, but I would make everyone get out. I would want to be in there all alone. I was really just soaking up something, some sort of energy that was charging me up from really young.”
Being the firstborn, she enjoyed growing up around all the really artsy adults in the ’90s, observing and soaking up their vibes. At the same time, she was singing in the choir at her school — Mom’s orders.
“Thank God she did that, because I really learned my love for the perfect vibration of harmonies,” QUIÑ says. “And how that felt and how much I just loved it. But I was really shy, so I wasn’t there to sing by myself. I was very much there to sing with these kids that I was only friends with for an hour, and then we acted like we didn’t know each other afterward. They were all very clique-y and weird. So I got a taste of everything: perfect harmony but also social awkwardness. I was really, really shy. So I just went home and minded my business, but I secretly really loved it.”
Naturally shying away from confrontation, she decided to approach the matter head-on, forcing herself into “uncomfortable situations until she didn’t care anymore.” This is the exact tactic she used to get over her fear of singing in front of people.
“Once I said, “OK, you’re going to face your fears,’” she remembers. “‘Every time somebody asks you to sing out loud, you’re just going to do it.’ I did it until I just didn’t care anymore. Ever since it actually counted, when I actually did get up on a stage and sang, I don’t have those scared feelings anymore. I have those adrenaline feelings, but it’s not fear. That shyness and that personality in me, I kind of put her to rest. I was like, ‘Actually, we don’t have to be that anymore.’ I’ve lived that, so I can relate to it. And I can make songs to relate to people who are shy or are scared or all those things, but I don’t have to feel that anymore. The fear, I beat it up.”
Bianca Leonor Quiñones took on the moniker QUIÑ in part because people could never pronounce her last name. At 19, she realized she wanted to do this music thing once and for all. She was enrolled at Cal State Northridge studying psychology when a series of unfortunate teenage events concurred, causing her to withdraw and flee to Berkeley, where her godmother was. This proved to be the sanctuary she needed to heal her broken heart.
“I went and finally had my own room for once,” she says. “It was November and gloomy, and it just matched my mood I was in. My heart was totally broken at the time, so I was writing from my soul. I started writing a lot, and I started writing really well. It was the first time I was able to admit I was good at something, out loud. I was like, ‘Yo, I’m really good at writing, but I’m also really good at singing. So those two just go together.’ So I really started having these epiphanies by myself without any distractions around me, without somebody judging my epiphany. Growing up, it’s like you can’t really be self-confident without being conceited. So I put those thoughts away, but now they were coming out.”
Sacrificing her fear of the stage came with knowing she was performing for a greater good, with a purpose. Her music is meant to make you feel like accepted, loved and empowered. Last year, QUIÑ unleashed her Dreamgirl EP, home to standout single “Sticky Situation,” featuring The Internet’s Syd.
“We made it at her house actually,” QUIÑ says. “She’s a really good engineer. She could just press buttons and make a song. We were just kicking it, and it really came up from, ‘Want to make something? I’ve got some beats.’ It came so naturally. We didn’t even have to talk about what we’d ever gone through to make that song, because everyone’s been through a sticky situation. It’s kind of obvious. It was just like a homie day. Her voice is so buttery smooth. I was blown away of how easy it was. ‘Cause I’ve been writing everything alone and doing everything by myself, minus the producers obviously. So to be with a friend and to just sit there and admire someone else’s voice for once, that was just nice.”
For all fans eagerly waiting for new music from QUIÑ, you’re in luck. Those who attend Smokin’ Grooves will get an exclusive sneak peek of what’s to come, including a collaborative effort with The Cool Kids’ own Chuck Inglish.
“My brother Chuck Inglish and I have music together,” QUIÑ says. “We met in 2014 and created an album. I knew that I wanted to be in a position that was more respectable to the music, so I could get it out the right way. I’m happy I have things lined up now to distribute it better, and I feel it was worth the wait. Now we’re making a whole other thing in addition to the old songs that started the foundation of this project.”
For more information, visit smokingroovesfest.com.