Kyla La Grange is undoubtedly one of the UK’s hottest songwriting properties, off the back of fantastically rich tracks and videos (Vampire Smile, Been Better) and a fair amount of time trawling the country’s venues last year. However, even rising starlets are no match for the rail system, with a packed carriage of a late train momentarily suspending the interview in a void of anxious time. Once free from such shackles, Ms. La Grange called The MMP straight back to speak about life, love, fate, corduroy and her Cardiff date on April 18 in Clwb…
How are you feeling on this fine Spring day?
Yeah, wonderful. We were rehearsing for an acoustic set and were in my drummer’s garden. So we were all just chilling, relaxed and folky.
Rises to notoriety such as yours are often portrayed as meteoric. Would you care to tell us about all of the hard work that got you to this stage of your career?
I feel it’s not been meteoric at all. I feel I’ve just been chipping away, doing this since I left university which was about 4 years ago. And then I just gradually met producers and people who wanted to work with me, band members and things, along the way. And the album’s been a really gradual thing, too, which I’ve been working on for so long now. So now we’re doing the final mixes and mastering, it feels quite strange because I wanted to get it finished for ages and now it, sort of, is. Which is quite a strange feeling.
Vampire Smile seems to come from quite a dark lyrical place. Care to tell us about the songwriting process…
It’s literally my oldest song but it ties the whole album together, really. I wrote it when I was 19. I was at university, just started, and I was completely infatuated and obsessed with someone who I definitely shouldn’t have been obsessed with. I couldn’t really tell anyone about it, and felt like I was getting madder and madder inside. So I sat down and wrote a song about it. Actually, I probably wrote several songs about it…
The video accompanying it has loads of striking imagery in it. Do you have input into those visual ideas too?
Yeah. It’s my friends who’ve worked on all of our videos, Debbie Scanlon and Liz Adams. Debbie was originally a photographer and Liz is a video editor. We always get into a room and brainstorm a bunch of ideas and they always come up with some great things. This time it was pretty horrible because we managed to find a guy who would lend us his wood, which was very kind of him, but we had to go and shoot there at 6am in the middle of winter. We shot for about eight hours. Shattered and freezing at the end.
Your list of influences hints at an interest in the darker songwriters of young and old (Leonard Cohen, Cat Power etc). Who do you think above all else has impacted on your own songs?
I wish I could say some of those people had but I don’t think I write anything like them. I wish I did. I’d much rather be a lo-fi, indie, cool writer. But I think in reality, I really don’t know. I listen to a lot of music and I don’t seem to write like anyone I listen to. I think it has more of a pop sensibility and is a bit rockier than Leonard Cohen or Cat Power.
What steps are you taking into the live show?
We’ve been playing live for quite a long while now. It’s the band and me. And we play the songs. Like they are! (laughs) Sometimes we make the stage like a wood, bring the world on stage with us. But sometimes it’s difficult to drive that for five hours with that much foliage.
Looking forward to coming to Cardiff and visiting Clwb?
I’ve never been to Cardiff before. I really like going to new places. It sounds great there and a cool venue, can’t wait.
What else can we look forward to from you in 2012?
Well, first off is the tour this April which we’re really excited about because we’ve never done a headline tour before. After that, there’s a few festivals and then the album should be out late Summer. It’s exciting but it’s terrifying because you’re never sure whether people are going to like it. And if they don’t like it, you think ‘my God, five years of my life!’ And then we’re doing a big London show on the 29th May which will be our first big show there for a while.
What can we expect from the album in less than 20 words?
It’s like a mixture of folky, sad elements and big, melodramatic ones. And the bigger ones are filled with guitars, huge drums and cathedral voices. Then the folkier ones are sadder, emptier and more lonely. Sorry, that was the opposite to succinct.
Not at all, thanks for taking the time!
No problem. Really looking forward to playing in Wales.
Interview: Simon M. Read
Photo: Debbie Scanlan