For Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, The Challenge Of Making Her New Album Was Exactly The Point

Photo by Tom Saccenti

The electronic composer sheds some light on ‘The Kids,’ her gorgeous new record

Throughout her career, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has challenged the hoary cliche of electronic music being artificial, disposable, and ill-equipped to represent a world beyond the dance floor. On previous albums, most notably 2016’s EARS, she employed her signature modular synths to represent natural worlds teeming with squelching, creepy-crawly life. But with The Kid, out Friday, Smith turns her focus toward an even more universal subject: the human life cycle.

Over two LPs of cosmic synthscapes and soothing vocal incantations, she lays out the four stages from birth to death as based on the Hindu dharma, oscillating from the spaced-out ambience of “To Feel Your Best” to triumphal tour de force pieces like “To Follow & Lead” (the latter exhilaratingly sounding like tUnE-yArDs attacking a Buchla). It’s a dynamic record, one that shatters any preconceptions of experimental electronica as overly abstract and obtuse. We caught up with Smith to discuss the creation of the album, the challenge of analog technologies, and her deep-seated mistrust of smart fridges.

Where did the album title come from in your creative process?
The album is all about reconnecting to your kid energy, the playful energy. I saw how easy it is to get taken away from that as we get older. 

A really noticeable shift, especially in the visuals around the record, was from the organic imagery of EARS to a more galactic, outer space theme. Does that tie into the idea of reconnecting with your inner kid?
The inside of the album artwork is kind of broken into four different sections. It goes along with the four stages of life and each side of the double LP, so each side is a different stage of life. The inside part is more of a kid energy, and the outside part is more the energy of the eternal essence of things, that doesn't really have a beginning or end.

You’ve mentioned that the album is inspired by the philosopher Alan Watts. What's your relationship to his work and how did that permeate its way into The Kid?
I've always loved his energy. I love his concept of life is "play" and that your work should always be play. I try and live my life that way, and that's a big intention in this album. There was a talk that I was listening to, right when I was making this album, that was saying that it's our human nature to record ourselves to prove that we exist. Whether it's looking in a mirror to find a reflection or finding a partner to find a reflection or actually recording ourselves through writing or audio or video. That was just very fascinating to me, so this album has a lot to do with reflections, and I play with that a lot musically and visually for the live show. 

Listening to the album, I was really struck by your line about "modern use being obtuse." I'd love to hear more about that idea.
It's kind of how I feel about a lot of modern technology and modern devices where it's trying to add convenience to our life, but it's kind of just more annoying than convenient. When I wrote that lyric, I was at my parents' house on Orcas Island, and everything in their house beeps. If you leave their refrigerator open it beeps, when the laundry is done it beeps, when the dishwasher is done it beeps. If you put something too close to the front door and it doesn't close all the way it beeps. All that stuff is trying to be convenient to remind you to close the door and not leave things open or put on your seatbelt, but it ends up just being really annoying. 

How do you view play as a strategy to combat that ever-permeating presence of technology?
I guess the sentiment that I was trying to get at for that is, for me personally, it's more enjoyable to not do anything the convenient way. I have more fun when I'm involved in a process and when things are too easy and too handed to me then I kind of get a little bit bored. I guess it's like, the sentiment for the whole album, and something I'm always trying to embody is just to fall in love with the process. Like, that's the joy of life—the doing activity, and not the end goal. 

Was that initially what drew you to using modular synths?
For some reason I'm attracted to when things are hard for me, that's where I get a lot of joy. I think that one of the things that drew me to modular synthesizers was that it was not easy. It was a lot of problem-solving and it kept that part of my brain very active. 

So what would you say was the most challenging aspect of creating The Kid?
It went through so many different stages. Probably mixing because I think I have for each song about eight different sessions where I had to just constantly keep on bouncing down to new tracks because it was just insane how many tracks there were. Now I've got them down when I open the session—it's something like 70 for each one—but before it was just insane amounts of tracks. I think because I wanted to play with the constant trading off of different instruments like how you would in an orchestra and trading off between the voice to the instrument to an orchestral part to an electronic part. 

Is there anything about The Kid that I haven't touched upon that you'd be interested in sharing?
I guess one really big part of it for me is, I made the album because, unfortunately, I lost someone in my life who wasn't aware of how important they were to the world. That's just something that I wanted to put a lot of feeling and thought into. It's such an abstract thing, but it's kind of the way that you charge something by holding it. The feeling I wanted to put into the album was just how important every single person is and I wanted to make the album for anyone who ever doubts how important they are. 

The Kid is out October 6, and you can purchase it here.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.



Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

"In the midst of chaos there's opportunity"

Following the travesty that was Fyre Festival, Ja Rule wants to take another stab at creating a music festival. Good luck getting that off the ground.

On Thursday, the rapper spoke to TMZ, where he revealed that he was planning to relaunch Icon, an app used to book entertainers, which is similar to Billy McFarland's Fyre app. He told the outlet that he wanted to create a festival similar to Fyre to support it.

"[Fyre Festival] is heartbreaking to me. It was something that I really, really wanted to be special and amazing, and it just didn't turn out that way, but in the midst of chaos there's opportunity, so I'm working on a lot of new things," he says. He then gets into the fact that he wants to form a music festival. "[Fyre] is the most iconic festival that never was... I have plans to create the iconic music festival, but you didn't hear it from me."

Ja Rule actually doesn't seem to think he is at all responsible for what came from Fyre Fest, claiming in a Twitter post that he was "hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, led astray." Even if that's his feeling, he should realize that anyone involved with Fyre shouldn't ever try their hand at music festivals again.