“If Portishead and Massive Attack got together with BANKS and Ella Eyre, THIS is what their trippy, wayward kids would sound like!”
It’s a temperamental day of sun and snow in York and Kymberley Kennedy is looking through a host of products from a recent test shoot. Bare feet tap tentatively on the kitchen floor as she scrolls through photos from photographer James Hudson. “You’re getting a ‘behind the scenes’ look at my next project, here”, she muses, “exciting times”.
Kymberley’s life is split between studying for her Psychology degree and the imminent release of her debut album, “Head Games”. This will be the catalyst for a frenetic schedule of touring to promote the new album, due for release this Summer. Despite the interviews, live shows and video shoots over the coming months, Kymberley is also making plans to travel to China to volunteer as a conservationist, caring for her favourite animals… bears.
So how does it feel to be so close to seeing everything you’ve worked towards come to fruition?
“It’s scary, but at the same time it’s like a relief. I’ve had to keep quiet about a lot of things which is difficult when all you want to do is share things with the world and shout it from the rooftops. I just want people to hear the album. I’m really proud of it.”
But a shift of focus in 2012 saw the release of her debut EP, “Blackout” propelling Kymberley into the limelight as a solo artist. The self-produced record, which depicted a sexual assault by an ex-boyfriend, became a symbol of empowerment and was play-listed on BBC Radio 1Xtra with praise from MistaJam and Trevor Nelson amidst glowing reviews from The Huffington Post, Fame Magazine and Soundscape Magazine. The critically acclaimed EP continued to gain recognition and made its way to American film director, Aram Rappaport, who used it in the movie “Syrup”, starring Shiloh Fernandez and Amber Heard.
“That’s talent, right there!”
Trevor Nelson, BBC Radio 1Xtra
It was the plaudit of “Blackout” which eventually led to the conceptualisation of “Make Me Wanna”, the video for which premiered on VEVO last September. “Make Me Wanna” was an uncompromising declaration of sexual liberation, dominion and exploration. “I’d found ‘my sound’ and truly enjoyed writing music for me. It was cathartic and music just began to flow out of me”. It serves as a worthy precursor to “Head Games”.
“When you write without agenda a lot of things surface,” she says. “You begin to discover unresolved demons. It can either be exhilarating or it can be emotionally painful, but if you choose to draw on those emotions, you can also end up freeing yourself from them. Then, when you share those experiences with people through music, they follow you on the journey and meet you on the other side. That journey stays with people. It resonates.”
The entire album is self-produced. True to form, Kymberley still writes and records in her home studio, but her music has evolved since her first offering. The elements which first drew fans are still there – the percussive accents and raw tone as heard on “Blackout”, but now they’re immersed in nocturnal, siren-like vocals and fuzzy synths, platforming the chanteuse’s distinctive sound.
“If you like indie music, you are going to fall in love”
Selina Southworth, Soundscape Magazine
There are no features on this record. Just pure, raw emotion, told honestly by the person who experienced it. “DKM” playfully toys with the idea of ‘how well do you know a person’? One of the most innovative offerings of the album, the track is littered with fuzzy synths and pitch shifted vocals reminiscent of AlunaGeorge. Here, Kymberley uses her voice as an instrument in a cautionary tale of self discovery. Another stand out moment is “I Need Your Lovin’”, a cover of “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” by The Korgis. Throbbing basslines, reversed vocals and gentle percussion coupled with yearning vocals make for a sultry version of the Korgis classic which has since been met with approval from James Warren, the writer of the original song.
Much of the record was written in between live shows and studying during which time Kymberley immersed herself in simplistic beats and ethereal vocals. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I get bored easily. And you can definitely get sick of hearing your own voice, especially if you’re trying to mix a song and you keep replaying the same part over and over again. I like experimenting with my voice whether that’s pitch-shifting, time-stretching or simply layering lots of vocals together. That way, the little voice in my head isn’t saying ‘I can’t listen to this track a moment longer. Please shut her up!’”
The title track, “Head Games”, is a tale of uncertainty and imminence. “It’s a barrage of questions that never really get answered. You’re opening the lines of communication for someone to say something to you, to respond, but in the end you just feel like you’re talking to a brick wall. But then that makes you feel worse because you end up questioning everything.” Ethereal vocals and melodic keys merge with pulsating synths and guitar to create a sombre sense of immediacy. “As soon as I’d written it, I knew I was going to name the album after it.”
Through all the frustrations and pressures of recording and producing a record alone, there is a silver lining – absolute and unrestricted creative control.
Kymberley’s set the bar high with this record with established producers already lining up to remix the album tracks – Nick Thayer, Busta, JFB (two time winner of the DMC World DJ Championships). But she’s no longer just a feature. She’s an artist in her own right, making her own ripples in the music world. “It’s been a long time coming. Everything about this album is me. I can’t wait to perform it with my band. It’s gonna be fucking amazing!”