Robokid Talks Discovering Himself In The MySpace Era & 'Not Hiding' His Sexuality

Drew Phomvongsa


Robokid is a product of the Internet. Born Ethan Budnick, the L.A.-based producer and singer/songwriter credits his DIY approach to music and visuals to the digital world: “I used to make MySpace layouts in seventh grade. I was addicted to MySpace, I had like 36,000 friends. That’s how I got into Photoshop and HTML,” the 26-year-old shares. “Growing up in that era, I think that made me want to control every aspect of my projects, from my artwork to the music.”

And in 2013, Robokid even met his business partner and collaborator AOBeats, also known as Andrew Okamura, online, too, after Okamura stumbled upon a Lana Del Rey remix on Soundcloud that Budnick created. “When I went on his Soundcloud, it said he was based in Amherst, MA, which was where I was going to school at the time,” explains Okamura. “I just remember being surprised someone else on these blogs I followed was making music from the same town.” Within a year, the two co-founded a label, Moving Castle, with Okamura’s close friend Chris Gavino (better known as Manila Killa) and a fourth founder who since moved in a different direction.

Five years later, the collective has released music over 100 songs with various artists, including projects credited to all three founders. Its latest release, “Sunny,” (out today, July 27) is an electro-pop collaboration between Robokid and AOBeats. Budnick explains that while the track was initially conceived because it was, quite literally, too hot outside, it took on a deeper meaning after it was finished.

“When I write, meanings jump out. This song is about the safety of being in your own bubble. Sometimes it’s good to escape that,” Budnick says. “A lot of the songs I write are pretty funny and ironic. I didn’t really think that would be my writing style, but it’s been very natural.”

That sense of humor is echoed in the lyrics of another track Budnick has in the works that centers on people who use TV shows to become famous. On it, he assumes the role of someone trying to get on Dr. Phil: “I called the hotline yesterday/ They told me my problems are so lame/ It’s no longer trendy to be gay/ Wish I was a bigger headcase.” The song also marks a change in Budnick’s attitude toward discussing his sexuality. “I’ve never spoken publicly about it so I don’t want to mess it up,” he laughs. While he maintains that he’s always been authentic in his music, he teased that his upcoming projects will be more explicitly queer.

“There wasn’t really any music that spoke to the issues I was dealing with as a kid questioning my sexuality. That’s kind of what made me want to do music so bad,” Budnick shares.” I always thought I’d get into DJing and perceived as straight and get famous and then come out and blow everyone’s minds,” he says before adding, “I gave up on that a long time ago.”

Still, Budnick says people are shocked to find out that he’s gay. “I’m not hiding anything -- I talk about my boyfriend. Sometimes it takes me mentioning RuPaul’s Drag Race in a writing session for people to put two and two together.”

The clues have always been right where one should expect with Robokid: online. “I look at my Instagram feed and it’s all gay memes and Drag Race'' he says. "I’m being my authentic self.”

Listen to “Sunny” below:


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