Kaela Sinclair On Making Her Musical Mark Outside Of M83

Photo by Exploredinary

Listen to her new single, “I Cry Too,” here on NYLON

“I asked, and the universe gave,” says Kaela Sinclair of her philosophy of positive thinking, while sipping on a glass of wine redder than her hair at Hollywood’s La Poubelle. And did it ever. The 27-year-old’s life changed emphatically since joining French electronic band M83 two years ago as a keyboardist and singer. In between recording with the band, she’s releasing four singles as a solo artist on what she calls a “mini album,” which is better known as an EP, but then again, it doesn't sound as cute that way.

Sinclair's signature hair color is a unique combination of red with streaks of deep purple, yet she’s seen it of late framing fans’ faces on Instagram. “Those are the fans I want to have,” she says, noting the aesthetic similarities not only between her fans and herself but also between M83’s and her own solo music. She loves that she's acquired a devoted following, and is not scared off by peculiar fan gifts either, like the chocolate bar she once received with a picture of her face on the wrapper. 

In 2016, Sinclair was managing her solo career after graduating with a degree in jazz studies at the University of North Texas. Her cover of "Artifice" by SOHN went viral on Facebook, but she’s lost track of the views. It was during that time that bandleader Anthony Gonzalez called to inform Sinclair that she’d earned the coveted spot in synth-pop M83. “The amazing thing about being in M83 is that it’s Anthony’s vision,” she says. “It’s not mine; I’m [just] in it. It’s a very special thing that he does, and he asks for a creative contributor.” 

A month after meeting the group, Sinclair was onstage at Coachella and then wearing a green cape on her first TV appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Sinclair toured with M83 nearly uninterruptedly for 10 months, using up two passports by visiting 35 countries, going as far as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her most cherished keepsake is the memory of bar-hopping in Tokyo’s Golden Gai district and scream-singing karaoke all night with her jet-lagged band members. Sinclair admits that when she's not working, she tones down her vocal abilities to avoid looking like she’s showing off—unless she’s at a drag show, as happened in New Orleans. “I did a Whitney Houston song because I wanted to impress them,” she recalls, ”They were like ‘Girl, that was amazing, but we’re gonna do it now.’” 

While on tour, Sinclair also played the famed Jools Holland TV program in England, on the same show as Sting, and watched a perfectionist Jack White play three different versions of his own song. “I feel like we exchanged looks, but I can’t guarantee it,” Sinclair says jokingly. Before M83, she’d played Austin’s SXSW festival—as she’s preparing to do again with two solo performances this coming week—and put together small tour legs in the South. “It was kinda like janky touring,” she says of the DIY shows, “so coming in and having this infrastructure—a keyboard tech, someone whose job is to set my stuff up—that’s new.” 

And now, Sinclair is releasing her music independently. “I’m doing it my own way,” she says. “My strategy is to make more music and put it out, and have it speak for itself.”

Sinclair has always been remarkably entrepreneurial about her talent. While attending an arts magnet high school, she formed a pop band with fellow students, which continued through college and got signed to a local label. “But don’t look it up, shit,” she laughs. She’s also governed by her ethics, listing “having integrity” as her top priority, and expects the same from her industry. “I think about fairness a lot,” she says. “Having a background and developing yourself, having a vision and an idea—I think that directly impacts what I do.”

Every few minutes, Sinclair mentions food. And not because she’s particularly hungry. She’s a habitual baker, and her concern for animal mistreatment keeps her on a vegetarian diet, though her schedule doesn’t allow for any pets. Her boyfriend, also a touring musician, lives in London. While the rest of us spend weekends at IKEA, their dates take them to Amsterdam and Paris. Sinclair finds the silver lining in long-distance dating: “I can have the time alone to write songs about it.”

Sinclair believes in the magnetic power set forth by simply asking for what you want. “I’m very convinced that you invite it all in; tell people around you that this is what you want, and it happens,” she says. Upon moving to L.A. alone, Sinclair asked friends to set her up with new ones. Now she hangs with an enviable clique of female musicians, including Alisa Xayalith of The Naked and Famous and Chloe Chaide from Kitten. She calls them “a creative support system.”

Sinclair learned French on the road with her European crew of 18 people, with an ease she believes she inherited from her parents, who were Air Force linguists. She’s still shaken by a recent gig in which she learned of the Parkland school shootings, particularly since her brother is also a Florida high school student. “It wasn’t my family,” she says, “but it was someone’s. I’m absolutely appalled by the current sense of things.” Sinclair often dismisses advice not to get political, and while she doesn’t consider herself an activist, she does use her social media platform to speak up on injustice. 

“There are very specific struggles to being a musician,” she says, “even more as a female.” Sinclair often encounters assumptions that she’s clueless to technical musical details. “I also produce a lot myself, and do a lot of session work as a keys player,” Sinclair says, “They sort of assume I essentially do nothing and give the credit to male producers. Not to take away from the amazing guys I work with, but just to get respected, is the main thing.”

Through all her commitments, Sinclair doesn’t sit around indulging writer’s block. “My life changed so dramatically in two years, it was such a whirlwind,” she says, “but now I’m back to writing all the time.” Her new single, I Cry Too, was produced in London with Luke Saunders. She’s proud of the song’s overall message, suited to her “empathetic” fans. “I got a lot of people who write me who’ve said, ‘I didn’t have a song for those feelings,’” she says. 

As for herself, Sinclair is enthusiastic about her future. “There’s usually a peek, and I don’t think I’m at it. I’m working toward this thing, and I can feel it building.”

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

Asset 7
hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes