2nd November | St George’s
Photos: Lorenzo Ottone
The earthy, wooden-clad Glass Studio at St George’s provides the perfect backdrop to the natural sounds of Bristol-based producer and experimental sound artist, Kayla Painter. The event forms part of the venue’s Listening Room series: a series of live sessions where a range of artists will perform fresh material and discuss the ideas that shape their work. There’s a stool with some ‘sound equipment’ atop, including paracetamol wrappers and sticky tape, two speakers and a laptop.
The Glass Studio is an intimate space of only 50 or so, and Kayla begins to play four tracks in succession, including 2016’s ever-ambient ‘Drones’ and the debut live play of her new track ‘Precipitation’. The music is enhanced by the light pattering of rain outside. Kayla then sits down for an informal Q&A, where she explains that she channels an alter-ego when performing. “It needs to be different, otherwise I get too nervous… I’m a massive introvert”.
In the same vein, Kayla speaks about the solidarity demonstrated in 2015’s EP Cannibals at Sea. She explains that growing up with mixed heritage (her mum is from Fiji, her Dad Southampton) meant she often felt faced with a ‘culture clash’. This track is about her exploration of identity in those two, admittedly, very different cultures – how it can be celebrated, but also how it can be difficult: “This is me wanting to express something as a response to that. It sounds really, really pretentious, but I guess sometimes, where you get inspiration from can sound pretentious.”
When talking about where her inspiration for sounds comes from, Kayla explains that it can be as simple as doing the shopping, or just pottering in the kitchen. She records special conversations or moments with family, sounds from nature, and says that she’s able to tap in on her creativity most when she’s away from city life. Names like Colin Stetson and Neil Young crop up too, “There’s that whole classical movement of artists that are doing things slightly outside the regular boundaries that I find really interesting.”
To wrap, Kayla divulges some struggles she’s faced as an artist, from being told to “just put a 4:4 on that” to measure up to label pressures, to the demanding process of self-producing. She also opens up about the obstacle of breaking through, as a woman in the industry. “Four or five years ago wasn’t as easy. Now schemes are in place to help visibility”. Breaking through often involves breaking expectations. Two rolls of tape play a starring role in her second set, as she tears parcel tape and builds it gradually into the audio, producing real raw charm. Certainly something to be experienced live.
In conversation, she recalls that one of her “dancier tracks” actually got picked up by the drum & bass scene, of which the top-line snare was made out of giant pasta. “I think it’s funny because none of them know that”. The interviewer refers to Kayla as “a sound scientist” to which she quips, “I feel like I’m in a lab” in response to the afternoon’s venue.
Kayla’s music takes you into new realms. It’s a joy to experience live, and particular credit is due for staying true to herself and her niche.
See the video for ‘Sacrificial Magic’ here: