Interview: Kayla Painter
Simple Things returns to a number of Bristol's best metropolitan venues for a sixth year on Saturday, 22nd October, and once again the organisers have pulled together a very strong, eclectic line-up. This year sees the resurgent Kano top the bill alongside Warpaint, Death Grips, Ben UFO and Nina Kraviz, with a similarly varied bill spread across venues such as The Island, Lakota, and the grand surroundings of Colston Hall.
The festival has evolved into one of the country's most impressive inner-city fesivals since its inception in 2011, consistently drawing some of the leftfield and underground's top names as well as a host of promising up-and-comers. One such name to watch is Kayla Painter, a Southampton-born Bristol resident whose engrossing ambient productions have recently caught the attention of Turnstile Music (home to the likes of Cate Le Bon, Perfume Genius and Gruff Rhys) who have signed her for a forthcoming debut album. Ahead of her performance at Simple Things on the Quietus-curated stage The Lantern - where she shares the bill with Suuns, Flamingods, Karen Gwyer and more - we spoke to Painter about her ongoing relationship with the festival, her live show, and reinterpreting one of Bristol's most iconic groups...
You performed at the very first Simple Things in 2011, and now you’re returning for their sixth edition this year - how does it feel to be back?
Great! When I performed at the first Simple Things I didn't have any idea what I was doing, which it feels safe to admit now. I was new to electronic music, to MIDI controllers, to solo performance! I really felt like I was just blagging it and it might be something that I never did again. I had no idea I'd really take to laptop music and live sample-based work!
Do you have any must-sees from this year’s line-up?
There's loads to see. I'm really interested in seeing Nina Kraviz - I've not seen her before but have listened to her talk a lot about her upbringing and her interests, she sounds like a really fascinating person. Jessy Lanza, Steve Mason and Three Trapped Tigers will be on my list too, amongst others!
Can you talk us through your current live set-up? Does it differ much now from, say, your first performance at Simple Things in 2011?
My current live set-up varies depending on the show, but for this I'll be doing the dual screen audiovisual show, which I performed to close Glastonbury's Glade stage this year. It's the really big one, it only comes out for special occasions! For this show I work with Jason Baker, who is a visual artist, he provides me with live visuals across two screens. The screens are in front of and behind me, and they create this amazing immersive effect. I'm partially visible but the spectacle here is the visuals. Jason and I have worked together over a few years now to really get the audio and visual narrative just right, so it feels amazing to see the dual screen show get such a good reception this year.
It differs loads from my first set in 2011; I'd only done a few shows with a laptop before that, as traditionally I'm a bass player. So it was really alien to me to play live with a laptop and a MIDI controller (at the time I was just using a Korg Nanokontrol). I didn't have visuals back then either, it was quite a basic show!
Tell us a bit about the Massive Attack Reinterpreted evening you took part in at The Cube in Bristol earlier this year - what went down, and which track(s) did you tackle yourself?
I worked with a band, Jilk, and we reinterpreted the tracks Blue Lines, Hymn of The Big Wheel, Be Thankful for What You've Got, and Unfinished Sympathy. I had most influence on reinterpreting the first two, although was involved in all four. We worked together for this show as we felt it would be best to combine our skills and the instruments we could play between us! It aptly gave us a musical outcome of something in the middle of our sounds.
I've never done anything like it before, so I didn't know what to expect. I actually really enjoyed playing real instruments again - I played bass, saxophone and glockenspiel on the night, although I'd done some of the laptop arranging leading up to the show.
How much has the music scene of Bristol / the South-West influenced your own music, if at all?
It's really hard to say, and I get this question a fair bit because Bristol is so proud of what it has to offer musically. I suppose it has definitely influenced me in a way I wouldn't be able to really pinpoint, or control for that matter, just by being here, going to gigs, hearing what your friends are making and so on.
However, I find music listening to be a very private experience a lot of the time, and I don't like listening to things that are receiving lots of attention or hype, because I feel like all those press releases, opinions and reviews stop me from hearing what's really there. And in that sense I listen to stuff that's pretty old a lot of the time, things that aren't current, or things that are about six months past their sell by date. So in that sense I think I have a unique set of influences which gives me a different angle to approach my own music from.
How did you initially link up with Turnstile Music?
You’ve recently had a remix of Georgia Ruth out - how does the remixing process differ to creating your own original productions? Do you feel any pressure working with someone else’s material?
I feel it differs quite a lot, it's almost an entirely different thing to composing your own stuff. Sometimes I feel its more fun to remix, because someone has done a lot of the hard work already, and you aren't composing to communicate meaning in the same way as you would be if it was original work.
I do feel responsible for the artists feelings and without fail I'll get worried they might not like it, even though they've asked me to do it for them. It feels quite invasive to rip apart stems, music that someone has put together based on (usually) an emotion of some kind. I feel like I'm walking around inside someones head and tearing things up and mashing things together that weren't meant to be together!
Having said that, I do love doing it. With remixes there's something really refreshing about having a pallet you wouldnt usually work with. You hear things that they might not, ways to approach the remix and ways to frame sounds differently - I suppose you get the chance to recontextualise sounds. The process is really different, it is usually a lot quicker for me as well, it's clear quite quickly what the remix track is going to be. Whereas I'll agonise for six months over 15 seconds in one of my own songs!
What projects do you have coming up?
I have an album coming out! It's my debut album and it'll be released on Turnstile. I also have a couple of collaborations I'm working on at the moment too, so I'm hoping to put a couple of tracks out in the meantime in the build-up to the album!
Simple Things 2016 is now sold-out, but line-up and venue details can be find on the festival's site: simplethingsfestival.co.uk