If you think epic, widescreen pop can’t coexist with a keenly felt indie sensibility, then prepare to have that notion gloriously exploded by Kyla La Grange, a fearsomely talented singer who is fast establishing herself as a bewitching live act and profoundly thoughtful songwriter.
Kyla grew up in Watford, the eldest child of hippy-ish parents, and has been writing songs from the age of five. It was only while studying philosophy at Cambridge that she began taking her talent seriously though. There a friend played her Cat Power and Elliot Smith for the first time, “and they were unlike anything I’d heard,” she explains. “A lot of the music I’d listened to as a teenager was quite shit and always tempered by a need to be a certain style, or sell records. What I loved about them is just how raw and honest the emotions seemed.” Falling in love with their songs was the catalyst she needed to start performing her own music and she began playing small open mic nights around Cambridge. Back then, she explains, “I’d be really self-contained, just be looking at the floor, in my own mind.” Now however, with a full band behind her, she’s as spirited and captivating a performer as they come.
“The songs are all from a place of sadness so it’s interesting to me what makes you choose to perform it as well as just write it for yourself,” she says. “I suppose it’s part of that catharsis and that feeling of being part of a pack.
“There’s something quite nice,” she laughs, “about everyone revelling in your misery!” Misery rarely sounds this gorgeous though: Kyla’s exquisitely smoky voice is laid over rich instrumentation to create the sort of songs that seize you by the heart and don’t let go.
Her first single was the heartrending and rousing “Walk Through Walls”, as featured in the Independent, the Guardian, the Times, the Mirror, and on countless blogs, including Neon Gold who deemed it “equal parts urgent and visceral… a bona fide anthem-in-waiting for the wistful indie set.” Powered by Kyla’s extraordinary voice, it’s a track that swells with Arcade Fire like uplift into its chorus’s passionate invocation to “Get up, get up, get up.” When she sings soft and low Kyla’s is a voice of smoky, intoxicating intimacy and one that sets spines tingling when it catches with emotion. She can also, though, soar to heights with the sort of querulous intensity of Kate Bush.
Walk Through Walls sounds like elation at its most urgent, but its typically odd and affecting lyrics (“Did you walk through walls, ’til you hit the floor?/ Did you read my eyes, and my aching thoughts?”) betray the heartbreak. It’s about being broken up and blown apart and wanting to walk through walls to that person, Kyla explains shyly. “When you feel really, really fucked up about something it feels like the whole world churning around in your mind,” she says. “I guess a lot of musicians want to do that with their music – to make it feel so big, like a wave has taken you over and washed you up. I wanted to revel in an epic sadness and get swept up in it.”
And as for that huge voice, “I think if you get into the emotion of something enough then it just comes out of you.”
Kyla’s second single Been Better will be released by the Chess Club label, home to early singles from Mumford & Sons and Local Natives. Meanwhile Kyla recently played her biggest gig to date supporting Glasvegas at London’s Forum, and is following that with a UK tour in support of Wolf Gang and a series of festival dates including Secret Garden Party and Bestival. An album is due early next year, produced by newcomer Brett Shaw.