New Zealand songstress and budding icon Kimbra talks The Golden Echo LP and her varied sources of inspiration in an exclusive interview with Okayplayer; the kiwi tour de force runs down her thoughts on everything from classic soul to Maori culture and cutting edge fashion. Unapologetically vivid and effortlessly whimsical, Kimbra’s look and sound are as curious as they are certified dope. With an approach that references Minnie Riperton and Jane Child and a stylistic edge that hearkens back to the rise of pioneering artists like Madonna and Missy Elliott, Kimbra has made the road by walking and left a solid string of killer tracks in her wake.
Though Kimbra has worked with her fair share of heavyweights – a phenomenon that speaks as much to her talent as it does her indisputable singularity – she still manages to have a few folks left on her wish list of potential collaborators. The discussion of producers and features is a timely topic given Kimbra’s recent work with celebrated producer and JJ DOOM representative Jneiro Jarel. Both artists avowed to pushing the envelope, Kimbra and JJ are a logical and sonically forward fit that finds all parties winning. The inside track on their creative ventures is only bolstered by the premiere of the Echoes In Viberia mixtape, which we are proud to present. The mix is a journey through Kimbra’s catalog that reflects her musical evolution through a mash of tracks from Vows to the present project, as well as Jneiro Jarel’s exclusive remix of “90’s Music.” The collaboration is aptly named to reflect Kimbra and JJ’s respective ventures: The title gives a healthy nod to The Golden Echo as well as Jneiro Jarel’s upcoming event series, The Viberian Experience. Check the track below to listen to the Echoes In Viberia mixtape. Scroll down for a candid taste of Kimbra and what’s she’s got coming next. Purchase The Golden Echo LP via iTunes. Catch Kimbra rocking the house in Philadelphia on September 7th at World Cafe Live. Stay tuned for more from Kimbra and Jneiro Jarel.
Okayplayer: Can you explain your working relationship with Jneiro Jarel and the story behind this particular mix?
Kimbra: We actually first started talking on Twitter! Jneiro sent out love for my work and I saw his post and followed up to say I was also a fan of his work! I knew his project with Doom but he then sent me a bunch of his other records (Shape Of Broad Minds, Capital Peoples etc) and I was immediately in. I knew instantly that we would connect musically so we made plans to get together in LA last year and started working on some tunes.
OKP: Is this collaboration the beginning of a larger project? Are you two cooking up anything else you might be able to discuss?
K: We have worked on some tracks together (some from Jneiro’s world, some from mine) but nothing is finished yet. I think we have only scratched the surface of what is possible creatively so it’s just a matter of time. We have very complimentary rhythmic instincts and also approach music from the same place – seeing it as a space to expand consciousness.
OKP: What do each of you bring to the creative/recording process and how does that affect the final product?
K: Jneiro has an amazing flow and fluidity to his beats, I always sense a tribal element to a lot of his work which has always resonated with me. My main instrument is the voice and finding pockets to sit as a vocalist that are interesting, I also like to work off challenging rhythms that inspire me to think differently about melody and harmony. One of my main interests at the moment is growing as a beat-maker and we both share a love of beats that sound huge but borrow from a lot of lo-fi places.
OKP: What other producers are you working closely with?
K: I co-produced my new record The Golden Echo with Rich Costey who I have admired for many years (for his work with Mew, Interpol, The Mars Volta etc). I learnt so much from him. I also worked with some producers and beat makers/artists like Surahn (who plays in Empire of The Sun but also has some amazing solo work coming out), as well as Taylor Graves and Major Dudes who all play in my live band. I’m sure you’re going to hear more from both of them.
OKP: There was news that you had worked with Flying Lotus leading up to The Golden Echo–can you talk about that collaboration?
K: We worked on a bunch of tunes together, some were ideas for his record but at this point the songs still haven’t found homes. I’m sure they will when the time was right. It was really rewarding to create together since he has been such an inspiration in the last year. We both really value imagination within music and pushing to access that in a new way.
OKP: The Golden Echo is a clear push even farther into the futuristic R&B that we caught glimpses of on Vows. What exactly are you searching for with your sound? What’s influencing you right now, musically, in a way that’s pushing you to take risks?
K: The people I have met on the journey this past year have definitely influenced me. I started last year doing a show with Van Dyke Parks performing songs from his catalogue which involved Beach Boys tunes and songs from his own record. Then I came back to LA and started spending time with Thundercat and Bilal – I had the melodies of Van Dyke’s world etched on me but my interest sonically was moving into a lot more of that space-age type soul that has been bubbling here in LA. I also got into a lot of film scores last year and wanted to find ways to incorporate the moods that I Ioved from that world into what I was doing. I think what I am often searching for is a feeling of transcendence.
OKP: You’ve built up a massive list of collaborators by this point. Who’s the one that got away? Who’s your all-time dream collab?
K: Maybe Nigel Godrich. I want to learn how he gets that live drum sound on the Radiohead records.
OKP: With your music, plus the work of acts like Electric Wire Hustle, it seems the Kiwi soul scene is strong. Why do you think we’ve seen such a surge in R&B coming from your homeland? Can you put us on to another great New Zealand act or two that you really enjoy?
K: I think the influence of Maori music has something to do with the music we create over there – there is a lot of soulful melody and rhythm to traditional Maori music and I think it subconsciously rubs off. I also really love the work of Connan Mockasin who put put out one of my favourite albums last year called Caramel. Ruby Walsh is another singer/songwriter coming up out of NZ who I think is super special.
Earth Wind and Fire or P-Funk? Why?
Damn, that is really tough. I think I have to chose Parliament for George Clinton and Bootsy. They are beyond. But Earth, Wind and Fire have written some of my favorite songs of all time. “After The Love Has Gone” literally blew my mind when i first heard it. I couldn’t believe how many key changes they pulled off in that song. It made me so happy.
OKP: Who are some acts we should keep our heads on a swivel for?
K: I’m loving a band out of New Zealand called She’s So Rad at the moment. They have an EP out that is awesome!