Kyla La Grange has impressed us over and again since the release of her debut single ‘Walk Through Walls’ in March 2011. First with the squalling, fiery ‘Been Better’, then with the decidedly anthemic combo of ‘Heavy Stone’ and live favourite ‘Lambs’, and most recently with her latest single ‘Vampire Smile’. Now, just a little over a year since she began, the half-Zimbabwean, half-South African artist is making the final preparations to release her first album, Ashes, which arrives on ioki records/Sony on July 30 and features all-new versions of ‘Walk Through Walls’ and ‘Heavy Stone’.
This week we’ll be running a series of guest blogs from Kyla to mark her latest headlining tour, which kicks off tonight in Southampton and includes her biggest London show to date on May 29 at Village Underground (full list of dates below). But first comes a note from Kyla herself, explaining why Ashes took her five years to make and talking through the painstaking process of finding the right sound.
So I started to think about how I would like to record these songs, how they should sound. It’s always quite a tricky thing, to take a song you write alone with one instrument and grow it into something else. For a long time I didn’t know how I wanted them to sound. I found it quite scary, playing around with different sounds, because before you know it you can completely change the original sentiment of the song, which is the last thing I wanted to do. I did know that what was most important to me was that the way the songs were produced should enable them to communicate the intensity of the emotion I felt I at the time of writing. I really wanted people to be able to hear the sadness and anger and hurt, and for there almost to be a sense of melodrama at times – because that it how was when when I wrote all these songs: completely absorbed in those feelings. I’ve never been able to write well unless I am at some kind of extreme emotionally: when I’m happy I can go months without writing a thing.
I met a few producers along the way who were kind enough to record a few of my songs, until I met Marky Bates, who recorded ‘Vampire Smile’ and ‘Lambs’, and Brett Shaw, with whom I recorded most of Ashes. Each time I worked with someone I learned a lot, and gradually became more confident about how I wanted the album to be recorded. I realised I wanted a raw sound: for some mistakes to be left in, for us to record the songs in the room together as a band instead of piecing the parts together one by one, for there to be a mix of male and female vocals, lots of layered reverb-heavy harmonies and guitars in the louder songs, and – most importantly – to retain the intimate, pin-drop moments as a contrast with the big moments.
Ashes was written over a period of about five years, over the course of several relationships, each of which made me see traits in myself that I probably didn’t want to see, and in a sense I suppose the album is a bit of a diary. It still makes me sad to listen to many of these songs, but I see that as a good thing!
– Kyla La Grange
Catch Kyla on tour this week and next:
21.05.12 Joiners, Southampton
22.05.12 Sticky Mikes, Brighton
23.05.12 Moles, Bath
24.05.12 Forum, Tunbridge Wells
29.05.12 Village Underground, London
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