Interview: Hayley Kiyoko
Mon, 15 Dec 2014 09:11:05
"This is the exciting and fun time," Hayley Kiyoko exclaims. "The music is done, and we’re putting all the pieces together."
Those pieces formulate a focused, fascinating and, at times, fiery musical concoction that's as intoxicating as it is inimitable. Hayley managed to open up the boundaries of pop music and build her own world in the process that sonically lives up to that Paradise title. You'll quickly fall into this lush and lovely musical landscape, and you might just want to stay there forever.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Hayley Kiyoko talks This Side of Paradise and so much more.
You created a world with This Side of Paradise. How much of that is a conscious effort verses making the music and allowing it to live independently?
I appreciate that. Thank you! I really worked hard with my co-producer James Flannigan on creating a sound that sat well with me. With every song I write, it’s going to sound like me because my voice is the way it is. Sonically, I wanted to find a happy medium that represents my roots growing up of doing a rock band, listening to Metric and Arcade Fire, and having that live sound mixed with the heavy bass, hip-hop beats, and 808. I’m a dancer so every song I do has to have that “nod your head” moment. I was conscious of how I was trying to create the music sonically, but I didn’t how to create it until we actually did it. We’d be in my parents’ garage, and all of the snares weren’t sounding right. So, I took a drum stick and whacked a wood plank on the side of our house, recorded that, and warped it. That’s all of the snare sounds on the EP. On “Feeding the Fire”, I would dribble a basketball, and that was another sound. We tried to throw in the homier ways of creating samples into the EP. It was a fun process. We just went for it. It was a great process doing it that way. With this EP, I’ve created a great platform for my sound.
You worked hard to find it.
It takes forever to really sonically find yourself. This is the first EP where I believe in it. It’s so hard to translate your personality and who you are into audio. I feel like I’ve finally done that with this EP. I’m excited for people to hear it, and it’s opening doors to a different type of left-of-center pop.
When was the moment you could see the vision?
For us, it was mastering the drums. We spent days and days just trying to get the drums right. We were making sure it wasn’t too hip-hop, too rock, or too electronic. The drums are really the heartbeat throughout each record. It took a while to master that. Once we did, everything came together. It all fell into place from the synth to the bass, once we got the drums right.
What’s the story behind “This Side of Paradise”?
As a songwriter, you write so many songs. As you go back to them when they’re being released, you go, “Holy shit! What was I even thinking?” In a weird way, you have this moment. In going back and reliving that moment of writing your song, I really wanted to write a song that I connected to growing up. As a kid, I was popular, but I wasn’t like the hot girl on campus. I had these crushes. I’d have this moment. It wasn’t so much dark, but I’d go home and, instead of doing my homework, I would want to sleep and dream of the one I had a crush on and just escaping reality. We thought of that concept of escaping and going to my own side of paradise. The song emulates that time of my life. I feel like everyone goes through that whether it’s with work, friendships, or relationships. Everyone likes to dream and escape reality. It’s sad, but it’s also great at the same time.
There’s a catharsis within that. You can take it with you.
Definitely! That sadness becomes a sweetness in a way. Sometimes, you like feeling that pain too because then you know it’s real.
Right now since I’ve been in the production process of getting my music out there, I’ve been watching a lot of movies. I’ve been listening to a lot of scores too. I watched Interstellar, and the score is just crazy. The movie is insane. My brain stopped for like an hour-and-a-half after the movie. That’s a tangent though [Laughs]. I’ve been watching that show How to Get Away with Murder. I’m on CSI now so I’ve been watching a lot of crime-solving TV shows like Scandal. I love Homeland. It’s my escape.
If This Side of Paradise was a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
I feel like it would be dark. It would have a cool crawl to it. I have no idea [Laughs]. When I write the songs, I think of the music videos. That’s what’s exciting about “This Side of Paradise”. You write a song, you have a vision, and it comes to life. I can’t wait to shoot a music video for every single song. I love to create that visual aspect to audio so it comes to life full form. I really am creating stories.
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