To those who may not be familiar with your genre or looping in general, how would you describe the process of creation and performance?
My process is very much anchored in playfulness. I sit down on the floor with my equipment around me and just explore ideas as they come. When you are just playing for the sake of play itself, you lose a lot of self-consciousness and can be completely true and authentic without any pressure, and I think that’s how you can get into a flow state. When you’re in the flow state—that’s when the really good ideas come! When an idea gives me a really excited feeling, I know I should go back and work on it, flesh it out. I work with very minimal equipment, and working within set limitations is a challenge that I enjoy. It also makes the process manageable, not too overwhelming. Like, “How much can I do with the least amount of stuff?” Working within boundaries allows you to explore all of the possibilities that exist there. I’m developing new material now and I already know that I will need to add to my arsenal of gear. It will be fun to work within new parameters.
What sets looping apart from using other instruments? Do you think it’s more or less work or a completely different experience altogether?
I wouldn’t say that it is more or less work; it’s just a different kind of work. When you’re looping, your attention is a bit divided—rather than just channeling all of your focus into your voice, or your guitar or whatever you play, you are monitoring the recording and playback of all of the layers. But the bonus is that you can maximize your sound by adding harmonies or other elements that wouldn’t be possible in real time, unless you split yourself into multiple people. An instrument is just a means to the end of self-expression, and in that sense, the looper sort of becomes an instrument in its own right.
Your debut album was released January this year. Tell us about ‘Health. It’s an interesting album name, could you expound on why you chose it?
The songs on Health came together at a time when I felt very lost. I felt conflicted about a lot of things and very divided, like my body and mind were a type of wilderness that I was trying to navigate through music. The album came to be about the wilderness of the human landscape, health being the goal. The EP considers paradoxes—the pulls between the present, past and future, and the animal versus the spiritual. I wanted the EP to feel a bit haunted, because it is very much about being haunted by our ghosts—those challenges that we must face and bring into balance in order to feel peaceful. Health seemed like the best title for this collection of songs because it was the goal of the album, and also very self-fulfilling. I felt that I had faced a lot of my demons while making it, and felt like a healthier human as a result.
Your music has a definite haunting quality and darkness to it. Where do you think that quality comes from? Is it deliberate or inherent?
The moody nature of Health happened naturally because that’s where my headspace was at the time, and I decided to go with what felt natural. I kept seeing this image of a dark forest full of animals and ghosts in my head. I saw dark blues and greys and silvers all over the songs. Ghosts were a huge conceptual part of this album, and by that I mean the people and memories that haunt you because there is some part of your healing that you have not addressed. The body of work that I am currently working on has a much brighter sound because I feel differently now, and the concept behind these new songs calls for a more multi-faceted approach.
Any pearls of wisdom for other aspiring musicians who want to try something new?
I definitely encourage exploration. As a listener, it’s so exciting to hear music that is unlike everything else I’ve heard. My journey has taught me to trust my instincts, and do what feels the most natural. The goal is to be authentic and sincere with your explorations; people will always connect with truth.
[toggle_box title=”Working with Kira: In Conversation With Randal Harris” width=”Width of toggle box”]
Randal Harris works at Exclaim! Magazine – Canada’s Music Authority, and was a band promoter for years with his own company, Wreckingball Entertainment. Harris hadn’t promoted a band directly in quite a while, but when he heard Kira’s music he decided to become her manager. He had some things to say about Kira and the underground looping scene.
What made you choose to represent Kira?
I had been a concert promoter for years, and had seen many bands come through and play for me that I knew were destined for greater things. But for whatever reason I never felt inspired to want to step in on a more managerial role. It was different with Kira. I think Kira’s music is incredible, and I see her as someone who will only grow and become better. There is a huge drive in Kira to create, and it comes from a place that is not motivated by wanting to be wealthy or famous, or even cool. It’s motivated by necessity; in the same way I eat breakfast every morning because it keeps me feeling alive, Kira creates. Something that comes from such a genuine place deserves to be supported and it’s rewarding to be a part of something like that.
What would you say about the Toronto underground music scene, and where do looping and vocal experimentation figure into that?
In regard to looping, I think it’s a really fascinating thing. I often hear comparisons from people who see Kira perform, and the names that are often dropped are artists like Imogen Heap and Bjork. These names are all flattering, in ways I can’t even express, but in truth, I think the biggest thing they have in common is the instrument they use. From there, each of them is different in their own right. When an artist uses a looper, it needs to be seen as an instrument. Everyone plays it differently. And I think as time progresses it will be regarded more fairly in that way. When I see someone play guitar, my immediate thought isn’t “he reminds me of Jimi Hendrix,” so hopefully as it becomes mainstream, the looper will be regarded in the same way and seen as more diverse.
There was a time where this way of composing music wasn’t an option. And I think brilliant creative minds can finally feel empowered to create music, even if they are unable to play a piano or guitar.[/toggle_box]
Mavra Bari is Head Creative Writer at White Rice Communications and talent scout for The Missing Slate’s Spotlight series.