Ahead of her UK tour and the release of her latest EP Cannibals at Sea, we caught up with experimental electronic artist Kayla Painter as she reflects on her career so far, her musical inspirations and her time working with Brighter Sound as part of our first Beth Orton residency back in 2015.
Brighter Sound (BrS): Hi Kayla, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your music?
Kayla (K): Sure, I am a producer of experimental music. You could call it electronic music, however that doesn’t highlight the fact that I use a lot of instruments in my music! I write and record music within my home studio. I’m interested in collecting sounds from out and about, from different places and countries when possible. I take found sounds and process them to make elements of my tracks. For example, in Keep Under Wraps I used the sound of dry pasta to make one of the drum sounds.
I’ve been writing experimental music for a few years now, but prior to that I was a bass player, and before that a saxophonist. I still draw from the skills I learnt as a multi-instrumentalist in my music now, but when I perform I don’t tend to play them live.
BrS: How have you been involved with Brighter Sound?
K: In 2015 I was part of the Beth Orton residency where I met and worked with women from around the UK in composition workshops which culminated in a performance at the end of the residency. I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of the other residents. In fact one of them – Jote – plays violin on my new release! She can be heard playing on the track Kensopia from my new EP Cannibals at Sea (out 19 Oct).
BrS: How did the residency help you as an artist?
K: Brighter Sound gave me the opportunity to work with other women, and being led by an experienced artist like Beth was invaluable. I met musicians (and friends) that I can turn to for advice, or collaborate with, and hopefully give back to them as well. Over the last few years we’ve kept in touch by going to each others shows, swapping advice about venues up and down the country, and leaning on each other for support. Something that was really great about it was just how diverse the group was – people from varied backgrounds with such a broad skill set. I really cannot speak highly enough about the experience! I feel it has helped support me as a musician and given me a stronger network across the UK.
BrS: What tips would you give to emerging artists looking to make a sustainable career from their music?
K: First of all, I would say be patient. It can take a long time to progress, and I don’t think that is necessarily to do with skill. I think it depends on who you have around you, and what people are ready for. For example, sometimes tracks I’ve made, people have not liked at all, but resend them a year or two later and it lands and receives plenty of praise! It seems strange but I think there are a lot of factors which contribute to someone wanting to push or support you and they all have to line up simultaneously for that to happen, which can be frustrating waiting for.
I would also say look out for grants and opportunities. Arts Council or PRS funded programs are out there, and they can be a really good way to progress your career. Aside from the Brighter Sound residency with Beth Orton, I have also been successful in being selected as a ‘Future Bubbler’. This is Gilles Peterson’s talent development programme which selects 10 individuals every year to get a host of industry opportunities. This has been another big step for me. It has taught me so much and helped me progress my career through the mentoring programme, workshops from Ableton, industry days, showcases, networking and so on.
Finally, I would say get a day job which can be flexible to your needs. Having some money coming in is important but you need to be able to take the opportunities when they arise, so that’s something to think about.
BrS: Finally, who inspires you musically?
K: Such a range! I’ll give you some names but it’s by no means exhaustive! David Bowie, Aphex Twin, Burial, Holly Herndon, Aisha Devi, Katie Gately, but really too many to list. Also musicians who are not aligned at all with the type of music I make. I enjoy such a broad range of music, for example the last album I bought was Sefronia by Tim Buckley.
Catch Kayla live at Soup Kitchen in Manchester on 25 Oct. Find out more about Kayla, her music and her upcoming tour on Facebook.