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Interview: KITA Talk Releasing Music In A Covid-19, BLM Era

Interview: KITA Talk Releasing Music In A Covid-19, BLM Era

Annabel Kean / Monday 13th July, 2020 11:38AM

Emerging from various corners of the Whanganui-a-Tara music scene, pop trio KITA are releasing their Try To Find A Way EP this Friday, followed by touring the North Island to celebrate. Everything's coming up KITA this year, with two gorgeous music videos published in the past month, and a debut album also on the horizon; the result of studio sessions with Grammy Award winning producer Tommaso Colliva (MUSE / Razorlight). The band sat down to answer a few curious questions from UTR assistant editor Annabel Kean, and took the chance to reflect on how they've grown as a group, and what the EP means to them in the context of a global pandemic. Scroll down for the full interview, but first, here's how and where you can catch them live...

KITA - Try To Find A Way NZ Tour
Friday 17th July - Paisley Stage, Napier w/ Sarah Wiig
Saturday 18th July 2020 - San Fran, Wellington w/ Tui Mamaki, Zuke
Saturday 1st August - Whammy Bar, Auckland w/ Ed Waaka, Zuke, Dylan C

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Annabel Kean:
What's KITA's origin story, how did you all get to this point?

KITA: KITA started out under a different name, and it was mine (gat/vocals) and Ed's (Keys) baby to begin with. At the time Ed and I were playing around with rotating drummers; Myele Manzanza, Cory Champion, Alex Freer, Riki Gooch to name a few. Rick (Little Bushman) was one of my favourite drummers after seeing Little Bushman play when I first moved to Wellington, and from that gig on I had always wanted to play with him. Rick jumped in and played a couple of gigs with the band, and soon he confessed he wanted to be the only drummer for our band.

At first we were playing the local spots, one of our favourite local spots that always supported us was Rogue & Vagabond; where they really look after their musicians - it's a lovely community of musicians that hang out there, the owner and the people that run it are on the level - we played there pretty regularly.

During the first leg of our journey, we were all working on lots of other projects; Ed with Thomas Oliver, Trinity Roots; Rick with Darren Watson, Little Bushman, and I travelling overseas writing my play, and performing in theatre and film. Next thing we knew, Seamus (now our manager: Above & Beyond, Leftfield) found us through Ed who was performing under ZUKE at SPLORE. He decided to take us on after flying over from the UK to see us play last year at Wellington's SAN FRAN. Since then, we've made KITA our primary focus and have been going hard writing and recording with GRAMMY award winning producer Tommaso Colliva (MUSE // RAZORLIGHT) from Italy. He flew over and worked with us end of last year before the pandemic, and we will be continuing to do so with him remotely from ARMOURY STUDIO in Wellington, and his studio in Milan to finish our album that will also be coming out this year.

Tell us about the title 'Try To Find A Way’.

This EP is named after our title track, Try To Find A Way. This song is about exactly that. Sometimes we try really hard to accomplish something, but we keep meeting resistance. It doesn't mean to give up, for me it means to shift perspective and find the cracks where there is the least resistance, the spaces where you find support to find what you are seeking, it's about finding cracks where water will flow. For me personally, that has always been seeking and cultivating Hope and Compassion, so we as global citizens feel more connected to each other - despite our differences.

We had released a version of TRY TO FIND A WAY under our old band name a year ago when we met Seamus (our manager), but have since reworked the tune, re-written part of the lyrics and re-recorded it with Tommaso. I prefer this new version. Little did I know when I wrote these lyrics, just how apt this would be when we released the music video with Covid-19 hitting our World. Before Aotearoa went into lockdown, I had created a music video brief for this song that obviously couldn't happen. When we all went into lockdown, we started reconnecting with old friends and whānau overseas, and that's how we came to compile all these clips from 89 households from all over the World during lockdown. It was one of the most moving experiences receiving all these tapes; during one of the hardest weeks.

Now with Covid-19 still rampaging through the World, we also have the atrocities that have been happening in America with the Black Lives Matter Movement. Being a woman of colour, I am a massive advocate of these movements. And they aren't just happening in America - they are happening all over the World, in countries that are muted and their stories don't make front page media. More than ever, we need to cultivate Compassion.

What's your music-writing process as a three piece? How does the EP compare to the album?

The biggest difference between EP and album has been our approach to songwriting. Previously most of the tunes would be written by me; I would bring it the the band and we would jam out sections until they became what they are now as we play them live.
Since receiving our grant from Creative NZ (Thank you CNZ!!) we have changed our approach to writing more as a collective. It often involves a good several solid hours at Ed's Room (home studio in Newtown), where we might have a tidbit to work on. We will talk about what the song represents, what the lyrical content might be a metaphor for, and go from there with musical ideas, and jam out. Ed's room is full of records, we will talk about references to others songs that in the past have conveyed certain feels, listen to them and unpack why they give us that feeling. After we jam out certain sections for the drum and bass to lock in, guitar and rhodes will come trickling in and vocals - then we demo. Our demos get uploaded for Tommaso to comment on from Milan, and then we explore ideas that we might not have considered. Our demoing at Ed's is a massive help in finding the direction for when we enter the Recording Studio, so we are well prepared and have clear idea of what our studio performance will be. It's been the most holistic and creatively stimulating way I've written with people in a long time.

What do you hope listeners take away or experience from your music?

We believe in making the World a better place. It might sound naive, but really that's what we want to do. Music just happens to be the vehicle we have. We want to make people feel good, and connected, feel compassionate and Hopeful, in order to spread that to the people they interact with.

There is a lot of serious mahi (work) that needs to be worked on in our World. Racial, environmental, historical, political - the list goes on. But it always begins with the individual. We hope people keep learning, keep challenging their current ways of thinking, to evolve and become better people, and in turn, creating a better World. We will be doing that alongside them.

Nikita 雅涵, where has the inspiration for your stylised eye make up in the single promo come from?

The dots painted on my face during KITA shows started out as something I did when I was in a travelling circus show. Since then, it has evolved into somewhat of a ritual that I only perform as KITA.
A few years back I started to really reconnect with my Taiwanese roots after rejecting it during my youth, this was a reaction to experiencing racism in Aotearoa as a young Asian kid.
These simple dots now are a symbol, a reminder for me; to learn the history of the space we temporarily occupy; to learn about the Scars of the Land we live on, and the importance of knowing where you come from; for there is a wealth of wisdom that exists there. Wisdom isn't only just the good, it's also the bad. We can learn from our mistakes of the past. It's confronting but it's the only way forward in my opinion.

What Aotearoa bands / solo artists are you excited about and the moment?

As a collective we have been digging: Troy Kingi (!!!), Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Labcoats, Dawndiver, Cairo Knife Fight.....

Any tips for other NZ bands on how to find yourself working with a Grammy Award winning producer?

Nikita 雅涵: I'm still processing that this is all happening to be honest. I would say, resilience in keeping at doing what you love will open doors. Staying true to your voice, and the vehicle that is your Art. For me, it's not about having the expectation that good things will come to you, but it's about being open to the opportunities. You never know where one opportunity will lead you, including things that may feel like catastrophes at the time.

Ed: I would say - do the things that you love, and do them a lot. Don't try to figure out what others want and make that - make the music that excites you. When Seamus (our manager) found me, I was playing as Zuke at the smallest zone at Splore at 5:30am on Sunday morning for no money. I've done 26 Splore Festival sets over the last six Splore's, which is not even 15 full days. From main stage at peak time on Saturday night to the smallest zone. I did that because I love to be involved and love to perform. I'd also say be kind, and the most authentic version of you that you can muster. For me it's a lifestyle, and about having a vision without needing to know when or how that will happen. Keep a keen eye out for opportunities and be involved in the scene and community you're contributing to. Yep!

Rick: Having vision and listening to lots of music; even music you think you wouldn’t usually enjoy, and playing with lots of people. Being open to ideas, learning your craft and understanding your instrument and being comfortable with your instrument. Finding ways that feel truthful to you - to share your ideas to other people through music. In my experience you always sound better when you collaborate with other people - things get honed, and you evolve. All these puzzle pieces come together to make you as an Artist.

KITA's 'Try To Find A Way' EP is out this Friday 17th.


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KITA - Try To Find A Way NZ Tour
Fri 17th Jul
Paisley Stage, Napier
KITA - Try To Find A Way NZ Tour
Sat 18th Jul
San Fran, Wellington
KITA - Try To Find A Way NZ Tour
Sat 1st Aug
Whammy Bar, Auckland