Kyla La Grange isn’t your typically demure singer-songwriter. With four critically acclaimed singles taking in striking rock, bewitching pop and intricate folk, the soaring choruses belie darkly emotional subject matter. She is out on tour, including a south coast stop and her debut album Ashes follows in July, she tells Your Entertainment.
The singles so far have revealed such a wide range of styles. How do you go about describing your music?
Oh, I’m terrible at doing that! There are a huge jumble of influences but at the core is folk and rock music, and there are loads of big harmonies and choruses to grab hold of.
It’s often sad and sometimes angry. And that’s about as close as I’ve ever got to nailing it: I leave the rest to other people to work out!
You don’t sound – or look – like an angry person.
Where does it come from?
Honestly, I go through months where I don’t write anything at all because I’ll feel happy and relaxed, like I am now.
Unfortunately, being in that state is creatively unproductive for me! For as long as I can remember, ever since I was a kid actually, whenever I felt sad I would sit down and make something. And to this day it’s how I cope with feelings: I write a song.
Vampire Smile in particular seems written from personal experience.
For my debut album there are three specific relationships I’ve explored. I know that lots of people write about love and the end of love, but in a way it’s understandable because it’s often the most intense emotion you feel. I don’t have to write about love, by the way, but when I write, it has to provoke that same sort of intensity.
Vampire Smile was written quite a long time ago. Does it feel odd to be raking up emotions, and even people, from such a distant place?
Yes, it’s six years since I wrote that song.
You know, I wish it did feel weirder. The problem is, the emotional themes that run throughout the song – of obsession, rejection, neuroticism – were written from the viewpoint of a 19 year-old, but have seemed to persist in all my relationships afterwards! I love Vampire Smile though: it makes the whole album hang together because it most clearly encapsulates what is behind a lot of the songs.
We’ve talked a lot about the emotional, thoughtful side to your music. Did studying philosophy at university have an impact, do you think, on your writing?
Probably not: the songwriting is the irrational part of my brain whereas the philosophy is the measured part! But actually being at university did definitely have one benefit: it was the first chance I had to play at openmic nights in front of people who I didn’t know – which was much less scary. It was very useful in that sense, in terms of learning what songs would work.
And how does having a band these days impact on songs you’ve worked on for so long?
I’m still a complete control freak I’m afraid!
I usually write the song in my room and do a little demo on my computer, and because I’ve known the band for so long now, it’s then just a question of going into a rehearsal room and we’ll all try things out. Usually the bones of the song, the melody and lyrics and so on are already there. But the band are really good at bringing their ideas too.
Did that make the recording of your debut album more fun than you thought?
Oh yes. really much happier than I thought I would be. I kept going back into the studio to tinker with it, re-record different parts. I would suddenly decide I didn’t like a vocal and we’d have to re-do it... I did wonder whether I’d actually ever be happy! But I’m finally there I think.
And what are your hopes for it?
I really hope that people feel moved, that there are songs there that people can identify with, and in those moments, they’re swept up in the album. It’s not about depressing people, it’s about finding a catharsis. That’s what I’m searching for when I write them, I’m working out my issues, singing things I wouldn’t dare speak myself. It’s about feeling a sense of release. If that transferred itself to the listening experience, I would be absolutely delighted.
u Kyla plays The Joiners on Monday.