Kult Kyss Interviewed Callum Baker (elkkle)
Hair and Make Up Liz Sharp
Shot at Wicked Of Oz
Photography by FAINT
As a duo, it’s hard to say you’re greater than the sum of your parts. Could you describe yourselves and the many facets of your creative output?We’re Jack & Claire, otherwise known by our individual artist / producer names Haxx & Rromarin. Rromarin is a vocalist & topliner / songwriter and Haxx is a producer and mix engineer. Together we are Kult Kyss. Beyond Kult Kyss we have our individual projects, and collaborate with other creatives doing things like co-writing, producing, mixing, feature vocals and more.
How long have the two of you known each other? A long time; if the amount of time we’ve known each other was in cat years, the cat would be around 60 🐱
What compelled you to initially create together, and what advantages does working as a team offer over a solo situation? From the moment we first met we recognised kindred creative spirits in each other, and things just flowed from there. Our shared taste in music & love of artists such as Radiohead, Fever Ray, Royksopp and Little Dragon was what initially inspired us to explore a more conceptual direction when writing and producing together. We tend to gel quite easily and are both fans of what the other has to offer creatively, which allowed a relatively experimental ‘dark-future-pop-electronic-dance-art-music’ project like Kult Kyss to be born.
Working as a team has the advantage of being able to share different tasks and focus on different areas of the project, as well as providing support to each other in what can sometimes be a very isolating and mentally challenging (albeit rewarding) field. There are advantages to both working solo and as a team; however Kult Kyss is very much the sum of our parts, and the facilitation and support that we find in each other emotionally and creatively. We rarely shoot down each other’s ideas, or restrict ourselves to one genre or style when making music together.
As important as aesthetic is to any modern artist, it’s clear to see that yours is part of your own vision as a closely collaborative act. From press shots and artwork to the clothes you perform in – how much thought goes into the link between your aesthetic and your sound? For Kult Kyss the two are inseparable, and symbiotic. We’re heavily inspired by artists that cultivate worlds for their music to exist in, and love creative projects that pair interesting visual elements with music.
The thought process when cultivating our aesthetic would probably be; “What is this song, and what is it trying to convey? How can we best represent these sounds, and these stories, visually? How can we invite listeners into this world, and create an experience in which people can escape, transcend and enjoy themselves?”. It’s a link that we love cultivating because for us, it honours the music, represents it, and gives life to it in a different way. It’s also another aspect for our audience to hopefully engage in and enjoy, which make us happy.
Congratulations on your release of Be Cool! Could you tell us a bit about the track? Thank you! In creating the track we wanted to strike a sonic balance between the modern and retrospective sounds of UK house music, drawing influences from artists like Jamie XX and Bicep, with throwbacks to the synthesised trance throbs of the 90’s. Lyrically the song explores the spaces that form between people in love and the desire to reconnect, repair and rectify things with one another. It’s is about the need to be close with someone; to be a source of comfort, freedom and relief – an oasis. We were fortunate to work our friends Cam Bluff (additional production) and Anthony Garvin (mix) on the song, with Huntley Miller on master.
You recently had your first headline show at Radar. A healthy sign of things to come I’d imagine? Hopefully! It was great finally getting to perform to a room full of people that we know and love; to a home town crowd. After taking some time away from performing this year to focus on writing and recording, we’re definitely ready to bring the live show to the stage more often.
How did it feel stepping on (and off) the stage for such a pivotal show in your careers? Satisfying and heartwarming. As pivotal as it was, for us the main joy was sharing the show with people who had been waiting to see us live for ages, curating it with our best friends and peers, and throwing an event that was entirely ours. It felt like closure, as well as a whole new beginning.
How important are the performative aspects of a song when closing in on its final form? Definitely more important than we give consideration to when writing the song!! We rarely let the performative aspects of live music dictate our choices when writing & producing our tracks, however we probably should. It’s definitely been a challenge bringing some of the songs to the stage, and consequently we’re trying to be a bit more mindful of this. For example, we’ve been slowly moving into a more electronic-dance realm with our production, as these are the kind of sets we enjoy performing live, and the kind of music we enjoying experiencing live.
The clothes we wear, the things we find beautiful, and, in general, the world we strive to live in are often deeply rooted in our younger years, and in ways we’re completely unaware of until much later. Describe an aspect of your childhood or teen years that seems to still drive you creatively. This is one of our favourite questions ever asked, and we couldn’t agree more. We (also) grew up playing video games like Zelda, and this definitely had a huge influence on us and played a role in the inspiration behind Kult Kyss. From the beginning, we wanted to incorporate aspects of magical realism into our art and visual content, and worked with CGI artists to create videos and imagery depicting this. To this day, we still find the fusion of real vs altered realities beautiful and have loved watching the evolution of CGI artists such as Ines Alpha, one of our earliest collaborators (who’s now doing artwork for musicians like Charli XCX!).
Looking forward now, we live in a most uncertain time for the human race. Everything – from technology to environmental destabilization – is accelerating faster than any laymen or experts could have expected, say, 10 years ago. We face so many existential questions, some threatening (climate crisis, diplomatic hostility, AI), some bold and exciting (Virtual Reality, Quantum Computing, space exploration, AI) – Tell us a few thoughts on this precarious future of ours. As individuals we share a deep love of animals and the environment, and are very concerned and mindful about the catastrophic decline of the natural world. For all of the depressing statistics on animal extinction and bees dying, we’ve also been reading some cool things on https://www.reddit.com/r/futorology/ that have been providing glimmers of hope…but despite this, feel that we all need to step up and do our part, even if it’s in small incremental ways, to try and undo some of the damage inflicted on the flora and fauna of this planet.
Tell us about Joyluck. Joyluck is the music studio and rooftop space that we founded in 2015 in Abbotsford, Melbourne. During our time there we worked in the studio providing recording, production, mixing and co-writing services for other artists, and also threw collaborative events on the rooftop. It was an inspiring, magical place, which we sadly had to leave in 2018 after the building was sold. The spirit and vision of Joyluck lives on, however, and we’re currently working with artists in a new studio space.
What kind of collaborative environment are you trying to create for the artists you work with? For us, the goal has always been to provide a warm, supportive and friendly environment for the artists that we work with at Joyluck; a place that they can speak their truth through music, and feel facilitated and empowered.
After focusing on mixing, recording and production services over the last few years, we’re wanting to spend the coming 12 months doing more on co-writing sessions with our creative friends and peers, to move the Joyluck brand and identity into a more Bloodshy & Avant realm.
Rromarin is in many ways a purely collaborative project, and yet there is a super strong sense of identity and self-expression that ties all the features together. Apart from writing words and singing melodies, what else is happening in a recording session in order to strike that marriage between you and a collaborator? When working on toplines for feature vocals I always try to strike a balance between suiting the style and genre of the producer I’m writing for, and my own sound and identity as an artist. My primary goal is to try and unlock the best melodies and lyrical hooks for the track; I love the challenge of transforming an instrumental into a fully fledged song, and (hopefully) allowing the track to reach it’s full potential.
Beyond vocals, I’ll often rearrange the structure of an instrumental so that it flows well i.e identify the verse, chorus, middle 8 etc and restructure things accordingly. I also enjoy trying to hone in on lyrical themes or ideas that best represent the project I’m writing for; sometimes, however, inspiration comes entirely from how the track is labeled when it’s sent to me. For example, when Golden Features sent through the instrumental for our collaboration the demo was saved as Woodcut. I thought that was a really interesting word, and based the lyrical narrative around it.