Welcome to the first episode of Dawter Podcast! This week I sit down with Melbourne dream-pop producer and songwriter, KAIAR. After releasing her debut self-titled EP in 2017, via Provenance Records, KAIAR has received support and radio play from Triple J, Double J, Triple R and many more. Her dynamic and atmospheric live show has earned her support slots with the likes of Braille Face, Aphir, Estére (NZ) and others. In this episode, KAIAR talks about her latest single Human, as well as offering advice on production, live performance and collaboration.
Have you always been working with electronic music?
When I was young I did singing lessons, then I taught myself piano to accompany. But I became really interested in electronic music because there was Grimes and FKA Twigs and I was like, they can do it, I can do it too! When I found out they were doing their own production I was like, wow, what am I doing?!
They have obviously been a big influence on your sound…
Yeah. It’s that heavenly sound that I love, and that comes from my background as well. I grew up in a religious environment. I was always singing, and I was always singing in the higher register so, it’s always been easy. In the particular religious group that my family followed, you sung three times a session, and you were doing that three times a week, so you were singing a lot.
How did that effect your feelings about music?
That experience effected the way I sing because in that group I felt like I always had to be, you know, pretty, or feminine, or you know, perfect. So singing in the higher register was easy for me, and it easily portrayed that kind of image. But also, the actual experience itself, influences a lot of my feelings about music as well. I have a lot to say about that experience, through the way I produce and through what I write about… If we are going to get specific I’d be talking about feelings of resenting that experience and also being grateful for it, thinking deeply, that sort of thing. If that makes sense?
What are your favourite plug-ins?
I love the Una Corda… It’s so beautiful, it’s like three piano samples layered on top of each other. So the sound and the frequency spectrum is always amazing. And I love Sound Toys, like their whole thing! Which I’m sure everybody loves. For reverb and stuff I love Valhalla Vintage. Those are my go to’s and they are really popular.
What about hardware?
So I use the Ableton Push, and that triggers my tracks and my samples, like vocal samples that I take out to play percussive elements in the instrumental bit of the song. For my more acoustic parts of the set, I’ve got my Novation 49 which is just a small midi keyboard. I like having a midi situation on stage because I can change the sounds and it limits how much I have to bring with me. So I can play the bass on that, I can play samples on that as well, I can trigger the drum track without having to go into my computer or the Push.
And also when I’m on stage I will also have my sound card which is the Scarlet, I actually forget the brand but it’s the red interface that’s quite popular. And I just run two vocal mics on stage and one is a dry and one is an effects. And I can turn off all effects with my Push as well. As long as on my computer, the CPU isn’t running too high, it works really well.
Do you do a lot of rehearsals?
I guess it depends how many new songs I’m going to play as well. I try not to over do it, and over think it. But I just make sure I know where everything is. I go through the technical part in my mind and make sure it flows. So I will do that a couple of times before a performance, especially if I haven’t done it in a while. If I’m gigging regularly it obviously comes a bit more naturally. It’s like muscle memory.
How do you deal with mistakes on stage?
If you make a mistake you just have to basically admit it, right? You’re just like, whoops, I triggered the drum track at the wrong time… Sometimes if I make a mistake, or I trigger something at the wrong time, I will just turn down the volume or stop it, and just try again at the next verse or chorus. Most of the time people don’t notice if you don’t make a thing of it either.
Tell us about your new song Human
The song’s about this idea that we close ourselves off. You get to a point in life where you’ve had a certain amount of relationships, and a certain amount of hurt, and there are pattens. You start to realise that you’re trying to protect yourself all the time, from people hurting you, so you close yourself off. It ends up totally messing up the relationship, when you feel that you have to close yourself off. That doesn’t benefit the relationship… I was thinking about that idea and thinking about a relationship from the past, and it’s almost like everyone has a shell on the outside and we’re not humans, we are like crabs, who have their exoskeleton. Thats where the idea came from.
The fabric you are wearing in the film clip is images of human cells…
So when I first contacted the designer I was like, oh I love this stuff, it’s like coral or something, and she was like, ‘no actually it’s a very microscopic image of muscle fibres…’ which is cool because it totally just tied in. It was perfect. She is an amazing designer.
How do you go about finding people to work with?
Sometimes it’s by chance. Like with Rob, the film maker that I worked with on both of my film clips, he actually contacted me, he was like ‘I like this song, I want to make visuals to it.’ So that was a happy accident. I guess for photographers and designers, that’s always a social media thing for me…
What about finding other musicians to collaborate with?
It’s like a community. It’s like, ‘hey we’re friends, we’re both passionate about music, let’s see what we can do.’ It’s always trial and error with collaborating. It’s always a learning process, even if you don’t end up releasing anything, you learn stuff from each other.
How do you establish that community?
I think gigging. Thats probably the biggest part…I will go up to someone after their show and be like “that was amazing! We should do something one day” and you send them a link… It’s always just about making that connection… Often people will enjoy your show, but wont say anything to you, and it’s so nice for that one person to be like “hey! That was amazing!”
How do you balance working a “day job” and spending time on music?
It’s always a push and pull because you need money to do music, when you’re an independent artist. You’ve just got to be, kind of strict in a way, and create a time of day when you know you work well, and know that you can always be there for that. And that’s the only way I really can manage to keep making music, is to set aside 3-5 hours a day… If you’re gonna have to get up early to do it or you have to stay up late to do it.
If you wait till you’re inspired, you’ve got this rush of adrenaline to write everything down, get the production and get everything there, but if you’re not working on the skills all the time, you’re not going to be able to get there very quickly, and you’ll end up being disheartened. Thats why it’s always important to work, even though you might not make anything good. It’s just like exercise.
What do you think new artists and producers should invest their money in?
It depends on what you find most important. For me I want to make sure it sounds good, so spending money on mixing and mastering, and recording the vocals properly, and then I think you can get the visual stuff cheaper. It’s such a hard thing. Do I make sure the work is good or do I make sure people hear it? And you need both. I think you can do it cheaply, but maybe in the beginning stages you need people to see your name. There is that marketing idea of “recency” and people have to see your name three times before they’ll even click on the link. So that is important.
What about electronic music do you connect with the most?
I think because it is such a new sound, in the scheme of things. Like guitars and drums have been around since rock n’ roll and before that. Its almost like intangible. So it’s so interesting. It’s kind of endless as well. I love that about electronic music. You can f***k with something so much that its totally different from it’s source. I love that you can really make anything you want.
“I love that about electronic music. You can f***k wth something so much that it’s totally different from it’s source. I love that you can really make anything you want.”