Interview: Kyla la Grange

This interview was originally published in Issue #14, October 2010.

Never heard of Kyla la Grange before? Whenever a relatively undiscovered musician graces the front cover of DrunkenWerewolf, it’s not because we’ve lost control of our senses - it’s because we truly believe in said artist’s capabilities, and think that you should pay them every ounce of your attention from the day you read this forth. They’re unavoidable, and we wouldn’t want to do them a disservice by having them second to someone else.

Kyla creates powerful, atmospheric folktronica that borders on the macabre. Songs about living (and dying) in a cupboard underneath the stairs, draining a boyfriend’s social circle of their blood, and waking to a new world. Songs that carve at your heart and tear at your soul, but ultimately leave you with an overwhelming sense of understanding. They’re as profound in their construction as they are in their sentiment - both technically and emotionally ambitious, “Lambs” and “Vampire Smile” have rightfully been causing a stir on the Internet since the beginning of the year.

In a revealing interview, Kyla talks to DrunkenWerewolf’s editor Tiffany Daniels about her progressive recording techniques, the possibility of an album, her lyrical content and life on stage:

Hello Kyla! What are you up to at the moment? I’m about to go and work in the studio with a producer called Ed Buller [Suede, Pulp, The Raincoats]. That’s next week, but we’re probably going to finish the tracks in September sometime.

At the moment we’re trying to sort out who we want to produce the album, so I’m working with a few different people and re-doing some of my demos, because the [original] recordings weren’t quite right. Ed will be the third [producer], there’s one more guy after that, […] and then we’ll be able to see which tracks work best done in which way, and who I liked working with the most.

It’s interesting, because everyone you go into the studio with has a different take and a different way of working!

You’ve worked with Marky Bates and Rollo Armstrong in the past… That was a while ago, yeah. They were the first people I worked with really. They’re very talented, wonderful people, but I think in terms of direction - because they’ve got a pop and dance background - we were going for something a lot more folk influenced and rough around the edges, [so] in the end we decided to try out some other people.

Marky’s fantastic at coming up with other parts – “Why don’t the keyboards do this, and why don’t the strings do this?” – so I’m sure […] he’ll be involved in the future, but in terms of the overall production, they were perhaps wrong for where I wanted to go.

How long do you think it will be before you get your debut out? I have no idea; you never really know how long these things will take. I just want to keep working on it and hopefully we’ll find the right person soon. It’s such an important thing to find someone who can comfortably produce your material!

Will it be released on Communion Records? I’m not signed to them [but] I’m working with Kev [Jones, co-founder of Communion] at the moment. He’s a talented guy, and he’s been really helpful and supportive…I would love to carry on working with them, but in what capacity I don’t know yet. It’s all a bit up in the air!

How did you get involved with them in the first place? I think Kev and Ben [Lovett, co-founder of Communion] heard my demos, and they booked me to play Brighton, and then I played their Bristol night as well, and we played London after those two. I got to know everyone whilst I was doing the gigs, and then I went into the studio with Kev and Ian Grimble, who produces all of the Communion stuff. That was fantastic, Ian’s also very talented and a great guy to work with. I also did the Flowerpot sessions a few weeks ago…

How did that go? Oh it was amazing! It sounds really gushing, but I think it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! It was such an amazing night, and by all accounts the other nights were also fantastic…

I heard a lot of musicians got up on stage with you… Yeah, yeah, it felt like such a privilege, because everyone there was so talented and amazing in their own right. To do one of my own songs and have so many people play alongside me… I had an organist, a violinist, a full band, and loads of people singing as a backing choir. I’ve never really had that many people behind me on stage before and it felt fantastic. We all went up on stage with Matthew & The Atlas and Marcus Foster as well, and I’m sure they found it amazing too.

You played Glastonbury earlier on this year… I did yeah, it was quite strange for me actually because this whole year I’ve been doing stuff with the band. The live shows are now quite loud and big, lots of backing singers, instruments and the full drum kit, and the Glastonbury set I did was completely acoustic, me and my guitar. I haven’t played like that in ages and it felt a bit strange. When I started out I was always acoustic, but going back to it made me feel really scared again! Very nervous, but it was nice.

Do you always play with a band on tour? I already had a ticket to the festival, and then at the last minute the woman who was organising the stage contacted my manager and asked whether I’d like to play, and I sort of said, “Well, I’m there anyway! I’ll do a set.” I landed myself in it, really, but it was good - you should, I think, continue to play acoustic [as a performer].

So ideally you’d take a band with you if you were touring Britain again? Absolutely, if I was going to play a festival properly…

How did your tour go in April? I missed you in Liverpool! Liverpool was a bizarre gig, it was one of the strangest gigs I’ve ever played – it was in this venue where the people there were actually there to play pub golf! It was quite funny because there was people bopping along to our songs who I imagine would never listen to us usually - they were just wasted. In the end I quite enjoyed it! The traffic was bloody awful though; I wouldn’t want to do it again in a hurry just because we were stuck on the motorway for so long…such is life!

You’re not planning to go on tour again any time soon? At the moment we’re really focusing on studio work and trying to get these songs recorded. We also want to step back and look at the band we’re going to use with the live show, because it’s getting a bit out of control!

I think when you first get a band; the temptation is to go, “Oh wicked! Let’s go and play, everyone go for it,” and play really loud. We need to take a step back and think about it - what should the bass be playing? What should the guitar be playing?

“Lambs” is quite different to “Vampire Smile” – there are a lot more layers in there. Is that a style you’ll be focusing on in the future? “Lambs” is quite different, it’s actually just a demo recording. I think it’s a bit too full up with things, we could do with some stuff being taken out. That’s part of what we’re doing [in the studio] at the moment, going back to those original demos and having the chance to get the songs down and put those ideas in there, and actually hone them and make them sound like they should do! So I think that “Lambs” will become more like “Vampire Smile”; the harp will be played on the guitar eventually, and things will change. It’s all a work in progress!

Will your lyrics remain similar? They’re quite macabre at the moment. Yeah, for me once something has been written, that’s it. I write on my own with a guitar, and the songs mean a lot to me, so I’d never change them that drastically. Once the lyrics are there, and the chords and the melody, they don’t change. The only thing that could change is the production and what goes around it.

What inspires you to write about the things you do write about? All sorts of things!

I suppose I’m not a particularly happy person. I am sometimes, but a lot of the time I’m not, and one of the best ways I find I can deal with that is to write a song, so a lot of my songs are about negative things as it’s a form of catharsis for me. It’s the way I get those things out, and it feels like a much more productive way of getting them out than getting pissed! I nearly always write when I’m unhappy.

Do you think your degree in Philosophy has influenced your writing? It’s funny - lots of people ask that. It’s really hard to say – probably not, but maybe in the way that if you’ve studied something for three years, it’s probably changed the way you think about things rationally.

When I blogged about you a while ago, Laura Hocking got in touch to say she went to University with you. Did you meet many musicians at Cambridge, and how did it and they influence you? I did meet a fair few musicians – the nice thing I found about Cambridge was that it had an unintimidating music scene. I think in London it’s terrifying! When I first moved here I thought, “Oh I can’t possibly go up to them and ask them for a gig, because I don’t know them, I’m not in their group.” Whereas in Cambridge, it was so open, I guess because there are so many Colleges, and all of them run their own open mic nights, and then there are lots of little pubs as well that run nights or gigs and you can quickly find yourself playing where no one really knows you. You have the freedom to do what you want. I met some really nice people there.

Did Uni life make an impact on your sound? I think it did, but what really made an impact is that the first boyfriend I had there had a very good taste in music and introduced me to loads of music that I wouldn’t have listened to otherwise. He was actually the first person who introduced me to Cat Power, who’s now my favourite musician in the whole world, so I think it was more who I started to listen to than being there in itself.

What was the music you were writing before like? Dire - basically just crap [laughs]! When I was at Sixth Form it was more me pottering around on my guitar, I don’t think I took it that seriously, it was songs for myself rather than an audience. They were all pretty bad!


2 Responses to “Interview: Kyla la Grange”

  1. Cheska 22/10/2018 at 6:14 pm #

    What I appreciate are artists who ooze pure talent yet are under-recognized, just like Kyla here. Great of you guys to share her story!


  1. » Kyla la Grange lets go DRUNKENWEREWOLF - 19/07/2011

    […] Jul Rounding off today’s give away love-in is Kyla la Grange. Since I interviewed her, the singer-songwriter has scored the hearts of many, but in my opinion she’s yet the reach […]

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