Local Watch: Kathryn Rollins Q&A
Written by Alana Mazurke
Melbourne has been fortunate enough to steal Kathryn Rollins from her hometown of Fremantle and, if you’re lucky enough to get the chance of seeing one of her shows before she hits it big then I suggest you do so sooner rather than later. After reading her responses, she confirms what I had already seen live; that there is a certain factor about her that lies beneath her work. That is, there’s a sense of personally understated level of commendation here. The maturation of both her lyrics and musical abilities are both admirable and surely envied by most. Kathryn took some time to answer my questions about recently released debut EP Reckless . The EP is now available through ITunes for your listening.
There are a few extremely good talents hailing from the west as of late. As someone originally from Fremantle, what are your lasting thoughts on the music scene in WA and are there any notable differences to Melbourne; a city renowned for its live music culture?
The WA music scene was where I grew up and my experience was a great one! I was always impressed by the diversity of genres and styles explored by Perth musicians and the level of talent seems remarkable for a relatively small place. I’m still getting to know the Melbourne music scene but so far I’m impressed, I love the musicians I’m playing with and people have been really welcoming. I’ve noticed there’s a bit more eccentric musical exploration going on in Melbourne that I’d put down to the ingrained art culture. People seem to accept the more arty types of performance around here.
Listed influences of yours include Lykke Li, Bon Iver and one of the greats in PJ Harvey. As an Australian singer/songwriter do you find yourself compelled more so to listen to other artists of the like or, do you think broadening who you listen to in fact influences yourself more so? If the latter was not the case and rather you did venture toward listening to other solo female artists; just how hard is it to write and create music that hasn’t been done before?
I try to listen to a broad range of music for the reason you mentioned. I think it’s important to branch out with your influences because it will inevitably affect what you produce and you don’t want your style to become too much like somebody else’s. Having said that I also find myself listening to a lot of female solo artists partly because I relate to them and partly because I want to see what they’re doing differently. It’s a type of research and a way of processing what kind of artist I’d like to be. I accept that while we might try to be different, there’s also a lot of things we’ll create that are the same as what’s been, I just like to try and blend all the elements that I enjoy and not worry too much about being ‘original’ as such.
Debut EP ‘Reckless’ has been available to the world for only a short amount of time; what has the response been so far? One could only speculate the feeling of getting ITunes single of the week [title track Reckless]; feel free to use as many adjectives as you can to help us relate to those feelings…
The response to Reckless has been really positive so far! I wasn’t really expecting anything in particular so I’m happy to have people I don’t know contacting me on Facebook and Twitter with comments and playing the songs to people and getting a good response. I got a 7/10 review from the Herald Sun so I’m stoked. The feeling of getting iTunes Single of the Week was much like my feelings about this whole process – a mix of disbelief, excitement, apprehension, expectation, and bubbling creativity. Getting positive responses only spur me on to be more creative and write more.
You’ll be playing in Melbourne later this week at The Grace Darling hotel for the Reckless launch to showcase the four track record; what is your take on the current Melbourne music scene and how comfortable are you in calling Melbourne home?
I would consider Melbourne home, but Fremantle is also my home. I’ve been in Melbourne for just over a year and I’ve really settled in, met more people, found a great place to live and work and have just been enjoying the creative vibe. The Melbourne music scene is big and diverse and I’m still getting to know it, but the people I’ve met so far have been extremely talented and lovely.
I was fortunate enough to see you play before the exceptional Fletcher show at The Workers Club not so long ago. Your cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ was pretty admirable as often covers can fall flat even though they are a good crowd pleaser. You really made that song your own, yet is the reason of higher appeal to crowds that may be unbeknownst to your music a factor in including a cover into your set list?
Thank you! I play covers partly for those who aren’t familiar with my work and may therefore find a cover a bit more immediate and impressive, but also to fill out my set and get creative with somebody else’s work. Learning covers and trying to make them your own is also just a great way to learn and push yourself technically and creatively. I love the process. At the moment we also play a cover of Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ and Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Games’. Great songs.
It has been noted your father is one of your greater influences having been a jazz musician and guitarist of the like. Obviously growing up with a musical family aids in appreciating music; what drove you into picking up a guitar or learning to play the piano? How old were you when you wrote your first piece of music and or lyrics?
Singing and writing music has always been something I’ve wanted to do. I’m not sure why, it’s within me, it’s in my genetic code. I played a lot of different instruments as a child including piano, and I did a lot of dance and art as well. It was when my older sister started re-learning keyboard to play pop songs when she was 14 and I was 11 that I decided I wanted to do it too. I would’ve been 12 years old when I wrote my first song. I’m pretty sure it was terribly cliched and for a while I didn’t understand the concept of a key but I just kept chipping away at it learning more chords and then eventually teaching myself guitar at 14. I just always wanted to express myself creatively, and song writing seemed perfect to me as I loved to sing.
The film clip for single ‘Reckless’ is quite compelling. Can you elaborate on the ideals behind the music video and how the story board began and unfolded to become what we see now? (Video posted below)
For Reckless I wanted a cinematic sort of video that expressed some of the creepy and epic themes in the song. Taste Media pitched their idea of doing a kind of dream sequence, stalker girl, slightly creepy video and I loved it. I had sent through a visuals board and some ideas prior that linked in with that concept so I was happy to run with it and let them take the reins. The girl in the video is like the girl in the song, she’s young, idealistic and just a little bit unhinged.
Watching the teaser for ‘Cold Water’ is quite haunting in a way; the acoustics from the Fremantle Arts Centre where you did the live recording suit your vocals so effortlessly. Why did you chose to shoot the teaser and record the track ‘Cold Water’ there rather than at The Wasteland (also in Freo) where the rest of the EP was recorded?
That video was from the actual recording of ‘Cold Water’. Filming there had a lot to do with the location, lighting and just the general vibe of that session. It also just showcases the more raw elements of my voice and my guitar playing so I think it offers something pivotal to the viewer. Also at that point The Wasteland was actually a bit of a wasteland, not quite finished being built so it wouldn’t have been very good for filming a video.
How did you and Kav Temperly (Eskimo Joe, Basement Birds) originally meet? How has his musical experience and knowledge of Australian music and the music industry helped you when creating the EP?
I met Kav about 4 years ago. I’d just started playing gigs in the Perth music scene after doing well in a band competition and I got asked to play a show supporting Kav doing his solo thing at the Norfolk Basement. I didn’t realise at the time but he was looking for a female singer/songwriter to work with for their development label Dirt Diamonds (to which I’m now signed). He saw the end of my set and asked me if I wanted to come over and record some demos. I, of course, said yes. He’s a good friend now and has helped me to develop my sound and direction. He gave me my start in the industry and I’m grateful. We chat on the phone every now and then and have a grand old time. He has a lot of great wisdom to share and has helped me avoid some pitfalls already I think.
After the EP launch tour, what can we expect from Kathryn Rollins?
I’m planning on playing some more shows with the band, and hopefully doing some touring support slots. Also, I’ll be doing some more writing and recording in the next few months. I’ve got a taste for it now and I’m extremely excited to produce some new work and build on what we’ve just done.