Austin DJ Turito talks new stage persona, upcoming music

Sage Dunlap, Life&Arts Editor

After evolving the stage persona of Y2K over eight years, Austin DJ Turito Moreno craved a rebrand. This March, the three-time Austin Music Awards nominee took to the stage as Turito — a lifelong nickname based on their birth name, Arturo — for the first time as an official South by Southwest performer. 

With three upcoming EPs and several anticipated collaborations with LGBTQ+ producers from Austin and beyond, the former 21st Street Co-op booker and founder of Cyber Queen music showcase emerges into a new, more vulnerable era.

Q: You said you felt stuck in a box with the Y2K persona. Why did you feel that way?

A: I started the project in 2015. I loved it, but I couldn’t get branding for it because I can’t trademark it. Y2K is already pre-existing. I was also stuck in this cyber, internet beep-boop box. When I go by my name, it just gives me more freedom to do whatever I want with my music. I don’t have to stay in this electronic hyper-pop box.

Q: How has your sound as an artist changed with your new stage persona?

A: Turito is more rave music. The vocals are pop-punk vocals with Latin influences. I had my first performance of the new music during South-by, and it was received very well, so I’m really excited to actually release the project. I just need to fine-tune it before it comes out.

Q: Did the change from Y2K to Turito reflect any changes in your own life, or was it more of a creative transition?

A: Whenever I first started Y2K, I was wearing a lot of pinks and dressed super femme. I started making a few more songs during COVID, and I was still Y2K, but … I was wearing all black and all silver. Maybe it had something to do with COVID, but I evolved into this darker character. Turito is an even darker version. On my final EP as Y2K, I released a song that was by Y2K featuring Turito. It introduced the new persona but also got rid of the old project. It’s kind of like Turito is the human that was playing this AI virtual reality game this whole time and didn’t realize it until they woke up out of it. Y2K was that VR AI game.

Q: What does that feel like to be such a prominent figure in Austin’s queer nightlife scene?

A: With me and p1nkstar, one of my main collaborators here in Austin, whenever we first were put into the nightlife scene, we were doing music, but everyone just wanted to book us as drag or didn’t understand what we were doing. It wasn’t like traditional bands here in Austin. We weren’t really getting booked for music showcases. We didn’t feel like there was anywhere we belonged, so we started producing our own events and pulling in musicians and drag dancers, and we would throw it all together in this one big party. That’s how Cyber Queen and Cyber Babes were born, and then they picked up. I love Austin’s queer community. It saved me.

Q: What are your plans for the near future with Turito?

A: I’m working on three EPs right now. The first one will be out very soon. It’s the music I performed during South-by, and I’m fine-tuning some last things before I put it out into the universe forever. Then, I can’t really say a lot about it, but I have a pretty cool collab coming up that I’m really excited about. Hopefully, it’ll change my life forever.