Having finally escaped a restrictive publishing deal that has left her debut album as-yet-unreleased, Bristol producer Kayla Painter has just dropped a new five-track EP Auriga – unusually, on a limited run of 50 cassette tapes.
Known for her highly thematic work, Auriga too centres around a key inspiration. Named after the Auriga constellation, the tracks follow a theme of space exploration (plus bonus track Seed, which Kayla wrote for Independent Venue Week).
However this time, the EP’s concept is as much about the process as the finished tracks – designed to represent a snapshot in her timeline, or ‘series of sketches’. Coming from as an intelligent writer and producer as Kayla, that’s no bad thing.
The EP’s concept is as much about the process as the finished tracks
‘It’s kind of a concept album, in that I wanted to use a particular process to make this EP – which was that I wanted to have a really short time between the initial idea, the composition, and the production and release.
‘I wanted it to be really short because, as you know, I wrote an album that didn’t get released. And whilst those tracks will eventually get released in another format, I felt that this was my way to do something that’s completely within my control – i.e. I’ve written these songs, I really like them, they work well together and I’m going to put them out. And I’m going to do it really quickly, because I’ve missed putting things out the whole time I’ve been stuck in that publishing deal.
It’s all been written January – June, so it feels really relevant to me and current in terms of where I’m at musically
‘It’s all been written January – June, so it feels really relevant to me and current in terms of where I’m at musically. I did so some editing, but not a lot, and because I wasn’t agonising over songs not being quite Kayla Painter enough – I was just allowing them to be what they were – they’re like a nice little set of sketches, almost.
‘It has a nice little narrative between the five tracks, which you wouldn’t necessarily get if you spend months on one track – which is how I normally write. They tell a story and you need the whole EP to do that, which is why I didn’t want to put out one track at a time.’
They tell a story and you need the whole EP to do that, which is why I didn’t want to put out one track at a time
In another untypical move from the producer, Kayla chose to use a really narrow set of instruments across the EP. Whereas usually her tracks are made up of layers upon layers of sounds ranging from bass guitar to a crisp packet, this time round, she stuck to only a handful of instruments.
‘Stuff that features quite heavily is my voice – in a very certain, processed way – and a handmade 12-string guitar that my dad made for me. He’s not a carpenter or anything, but he decided one day that he was going to learn how to build guitars. I wanted that to be a part of the writing because I love playing it. And then just my normal, ‘found sound’ type things from around my house.’
this EP treats us to a rare insight into a musician’s artistic musings – which are typically very far away from any finished release we’d usually hear from a label
Besides her 2015 track Revert, Kayla has not used her own voice in released tracks before, signaling another new mutation from Kayla and reinforcing the idea of this EP being a snapshot in time of where she’s at currently as an artist – whether or not these are ideas she will continue to explore, this EP treats us to a rare insight into a musician’s artistic musings – which are typically very far away from any finished release we’d usually hear from a label.
‘It’s not lyrics and it’s not singing, it’s more vocal sounds. And it’s processed and messed around with – I’m not very good at actually singing. But I like writing using my voice, because I find it easier to make the sounds I’m imagining – rather than trying to find it on a guitar or piano.’
Kayla Painter’s live show is available for booking now
Kayla explains the inspiration for EP’s space-themed title, narrative, and artwork: ‘I’ve been to the cinema a lot over the winter months and I was quite inspired by the stuff I’ve seen. There’s been a fair bit of sci-fi out – which is kind of part of my aesthetic anyway – but seeing things like Arrival and even the new Alien film, I found the beauty of the landscapes on the other planets really inspiring.
I found the beauty of the landscapes on the other planets really inspiring
‘Also, when the new solar system TRAPPIST-1 was found a few months ago, the depictions and visions of that really inspired me too. It’s space exploration, which is a theme of one of my other EPs before, but I guess it just feel a bit more current.
‘I take a lot of inspiration from Bowie and he used to write about stuff that was very real and political and the whole Life on Mars was because all that space exploration stuff was happening around that time – they sent someone to the moon!
I take a lot of inspiration from Bowie and he used to write about stuff that was very real and political
‘I like things to be current and relevant to what’s happening in the world, but I think politics and that side of things doesn’t make me feel artistic – it makes me feel depressed! So I write in a more, exciting, exploration way. It’s a reflection on my musical style or wonderings, I guess, and that is inspired by discoveries that we’re having in terms of space exploration.’
Those who purchase the EP will receive a double-sided cassette tape (B side of remixes), individually wrapped in newspaper pages that Kayla collected in the two weeks before Auriga was releases – which sadly, as seems to be commonplace these day, was two weeks of social and political chaos, including coverage of the London and Manchester terrorist attacks, as well as the snap general election.
‘Part of the reason I released on cassette tape was that I didn’t feel that I had the time or money to do vinyl, but also because the actual sound of the tracks lends itself to tape better than anything else, because it’s low fi and warm.
I wanted to do it and make whatever mistakes I wanted to by myself
‘I could have just done digital only, but coming back from having been restricted so much, I felt that I wanted to do something myself, and even though it might turn out to be not a cost effective solution to buying and selling music – I just felt that I wanted to do it and make whatever mistakes I wanted to by myself!
‘I say that because I know that lots of people don’t have tape player. It isn’t an anti-CD, anti-vinyl statement, it’s more that I think this works well on tape – if you have a tape player then great, if not, you can get it digitally.
in the sense of it being a short snapshot in time and then it’s just not there anymore – that’s a nice idea too, I think
‘The idea of wrapping each cassette tape in newspaper pages is, because I can’t really write politically, I thought this was a good way to present the EP as: “this is what’s going on in the world…” and when you open it: “…but this is what you can escape to.”
‘If they all run out really quickly, I might do another run. But in the sense of it being a short snapshot in time and then it’s just not there anymore – that’s a nice idea too, I think.’
KAYLA PAINTER LIVE:
16 June – The Love Inn, Semtek + Kasra V + Kayla Painter (DJ Set); 30 June – Cafe Kino, LTO + Kayla Painter; 7 July – Roll For The Soul, Kayla Painter; 22 July – Bristol Harbour Festival, Kayla Painter (DJ Set)
Photography by Sarah Koury