London based four piece Kid Wave’s debut album ‘Wonderlust’ is without doubt one of our favourite albums of 2015 so far. It’s a stunning collection of songs and reaffirms our view that singer, songwriter, guitarist, and Kid Wave lynchpin Lea Emmery is one of the brightest new talents to emerge in recent years. There’s a beautifully uncontrived openness and straightforwardness to Emmery’s literate dreamy compositions, combining melodic buoyancy with an overarching sense of wistful longing. But rest assured this is not the place for agonised navel gazing and self-flagellation, there is no doom-laden introspection, rather a sense that here is somebody trying to assimilate their own experiences and make sense of their place in the world.
‘Wonderlust’ is perhaps an album that could only have been written at a certain time in your life, and although it’s refreshingly free of cynicism it is in no way naïvely optimistic. However the underlying mood is one of celebration, conjuring up a sense that Emmery and her cohorts reside in a world in which hope will always win out over gloom. Musically Kid Wave combine classic guitar riffs with soaring blissed out pop hooks, evoking a youthful unconstrained ache for adventure, and discovery, whilst at the same time eliciting a sense of wistful nostalgia for those endless summers and limitless horizons when the possibilities seem infinite.
There’s nothing that remotely resembles a filler on the album – Gloom despite the title is anything but, and is, in fact, one of the finest examples of life-affirming guitar pop and rock you’re likely to hear in this life or the next! Honey is all driving propulsive splendour, I’m Trying To Break Your Heart is simply stunning, Sway is as hypnotic as it is majestic whilst Best Friend aches and shimmers with a yearning beauty that few songwriters can muster.
There’s no pretension, no arch agenda, Kid Wave aren’t here to push boundaries, break taboos, or f**k, with your head man, but they may well capture your heart. They are content to write elegant beautifully crafted, hugely emotive, escapist music, and what they have achieved with ‘Wonderlust’ is to produce an album that will surely resonate with anybody who has been young and dared to dream.They’ve also contrived to make this writer’s world an infinitely better place for the near forty-minute span of the album. And sometimes y’know, that’s all you need.
We spoke to Lea, to find out about all things Kid Wave, her decision to move to London, her influences and that awkward moment when you don’t have a clue who J Mascis is … read on…
VP: Hi Lea, so, your Kid Wave story unfolds when you moved from your Swedish hometown of Norrköping to study a sound engineering course in London. You then started writing songs in your spare time and in no time at all were signed by Heavenly Records. Was this before Kid Wave had formed as a band as such?
LEA: Yeah, that’s all true I moved about three and a half year ago, and at first I didn’t know anybody at all or what I was doing! I started recording some demos at home on my laptop in between doing my course. I then came across Heavenly Records and thought they had a strong roster, so I sent them these garage band demos, and amazingly, they got back to me within the week! They were actually the only label I approached so it really did happen in a kind of old school way! It felt quite lucky really, because they must get hundreds of demos a month and I didn’t even have a band at the time, so it wasn’t like they could just come out to a show and check out what I do live. It’s nice to know that these kinds of things can still happen!
VP: Were you writing under the name of ‘Kid Wave’ when you recorded the demos?
LEA: Yeah the name had been decided on at quite an early stage and I had performed under the name before but as I say I didn’t have a band as such, just initially it was friends helping me out. Of course, when Heavenly came on board things got a lot more serious and I thought, ‘ right I really have to get a band together now.’
Serra (Petale) was already on board helping me out, we’d met at college where she was teaching drums. I’ve been friends with our guitarist Mattias (Bhatt) for years; he’s also from Sweden but moved to London last year to commit to Kid Wave full time. And the last piece in the jigsaw was Harry (Deacon), we’d tried out a few bass players before but nobody really clicked and for me it was important to get the right people involved. When we met Harry we knew straight away he was the one, and now we are all best friends and all on the same wavelength.
VP: When you moved over to the UK were your family worried? I mean it’s a big step and there’s often pressure to aim for something a little more secure rather than something creative.
LEA: [Laughs] well yeah, I don’t think many parents wouldn’t be a little concerned about their children moving to another country to pursue their dream of making music. It’s hardly the steadiest or most secure area to try to work in. In addition, I’m not from a family with a real musical background, in fact I remember when I was fifteen or sixteen telling my parents that I really wanted to go into music and applied to a music school in Sweden. I didn’t know anything about how to get into music, but after playing in a punk band, I just wanted to get better. One day my mum took me aside and said ‘Lea, you do know there’s a 99.9 % chance that you’ll never be able to work in music, It’s so hard to make it ‘ It was a weird concept to my parents, I mean they were supportive and I really did understand their concerns. But I so wanted to do this.
VP: Once you’d decided to make the move from Sweden was England the obvious choice?
LEA: Yeah I’ve always been drawn to England and the UK music scene is so strong. I actually worked on a music camp in Wales when I was sixteen, but London seemed the logical choice. I love New York as a city but it seemed such a long way from home.
VP: Your fabulous debut album ‘Wonderlust’ has just been released and its one of my favourite releases of the year, the title really encapsulates the mood running through the album. There’s an overarching sense of yearning, of wonderment, of wanting to see the world. Was it written over a long period or did it come together quickly?
LEA: Oh thank you I’m really, really glad to hear that! It was written over a longer period of time, for example, All I Want was the first song I wrote when I moved to England and consequently was the first single. I then wrote a couple of songs just before we went in the studio in November. So the album’s a collection of songs written over maybe two or three years? I suppose partly it’s kind of a reflection of me moving away and growing up. A lot of the demos I sent to Heavenly appear on the album… Not sure, what other bands do but I imagine album two will be written a lot quicker.
VP: Was it a difficult process picking which songs to put on the album and which ones to leave off?
LEA: It wasn’t really, we weren’t like some bands who have 20 or 30 songs recorded, we didn’t have that kind of budget so we had a core of about 14 or 15. We put aside a few which were more rock n roll, for B-sides and such like. We all had our personal favourites and views on what should go on the album but I think the ones we decided on picked themselves. They all add something individually and yet work well as a cohesive whole.
VP: In a relatively short space of time you’ve generated a fair bit of online buzz and have been steadily gaining momentum, there’s a tendency amongst music journalists and bloggers to compare new bands to bands from the past (me included). I understand why it’s done, but have you read any comparisons to which you thought ‘Hmm well I didn’t see that one coming’?
LEA: Well some of the comparisons that have been drawn I didn’t quite get at the time, not because I don’t like the bands referenced but often because I’ve never heard of them before [laughs]! This might sound awful, but not coming from a hugely musical family, I didn’t grow up with lots of influences so I’m still discovering new stuff all the time. My other band mates would be better at this with their musical knowledge. They know all about Lush and Dinosaur Jr.
Actually I remember one of my first interviews and I was asked about the singer of Dinosaur Jr, to be honest, I didn’t recognise his name [laughs], I thought I’ll ask Mattias, he’s bound to know. He laughed and said ‘Lea, honestly you really should just say you don’t know!’ They then asked me what my favourite album was from the 90’s and I was Googling again! But on the whole, I find most of it quite flattering; we do get the shoegaze reference a lot, which I’ve never really been influenced by to be honest, and we do get a lot of 90’s comparisons to bands I wasn’t even aware of!
VP: So who would you say are your musical heroes, influences?
LEA: In all honesty, I have probably been inspired by music most people wouldn’t associate with the Kid Wave sound! The local scene where I grew up was also a big influence. Especially my friend’s band the Class of Kill ‘Em High who had a massive impact on me. Seriously, if you like Kid Wave you’ll love them. They only ever released one album but it’s incredible and the vocal performance is one of the best I can recall. I discovered many bands via them, their singer Markus Palloff was heavily into the grunge scene and Nirvana, whilst their guitarist Niklas Berglöf introduced me to the likes of Tom Petty. And then I really got into Wilco, who I think are such an incredible band. I’ve got quite broad taste – from Swedish pop like Abba (compulsory) to the Cardigans as well as singers who write immense tunes from Bryan Adams to Sonic Youth. So it’s a bit of a mix, but I only really started listening to the 90’s shoegaze stuff after Kid Wave had started as it kept being referenced. Maybe it’s our guitar sound, I don’t know?
VP: When was you first gig as Kid Wave, were you nervous beforehand?
LEA: Well I was in bands in Sweden, and played briefly with a French band in London, but the first gig as Kid Wave was The Great Escape a few years back, but that was when I didn’t really have a band so I guess the first gig as we are now was at the The Shacklewell Arms, last April . I don’t get that nervous now, although I did if we’d hear rumours that industry people were in the audience, I know it shouldn’t be like that, but I tend to kind of start analysing myself on stage which is really annoying and you can’t get into the moment. Mind you when I was in music school playing classical piano, we had to go and perform in front of a big audience with four judges watching you, so after that kind of experience Kid Wave is so much fun!
VP: Yeah live you all seem to get really lost in it and are full of energy, when I saw you at the Night And Day Café in Manchester there was plenty of space on stage to move around, although the way that stage is set up meant Serra on drums seemed to be way back on her own.
LEA: Yeah people do say we move around quite a bit and ask why can’t we keep still? [laughs]. We enjoyed that Night And Day gig, and I shouldn’t say this but, I have quite a quiet voice and Serra can really hit the drums hard, so when she’s a bit further away I can hear myself and the sound engineer is usually quite happy when we are checking the levels [laughs.]
VP: What have been your most memorable moments in your time together as Kid Wave?
Lea: Wow, well the Palma Violets tour was great because we had so much fun, they are great people. Touring has been a wonderful experience and I loved playing on a bigger stage like at The Koko in Brighton. Oh and getting on the BBC playlist was a big deal because I’d never been on the radio before.
VP: And if we meet in a year’s time what would you like to have achieved
LEA: [Laughing] Oh god! Well at the moment, I just want the album to get out there and be heard by everyone. And that we get out and play as much as we possibly can, happily autumn looks really busy for us. And in terms of a bucket list well, I don’t like saying too much in case I jinx it [laughs] but it’d be great to play abroad and on some of the big festival stages. I know the plan is to get to America and play there so if that happens it would be fantastic. So yeah, just to get our music out there in front of as many people as possible and to travel to America and Europe and do this as full time as possible
VP: And finally five words to describe ‘Wanderlust’
LEA: Oooh erm, good question I’d have to say ‘dreamy’ I guess, and ‘driving,’ whenever I picture the music in my head it’s kind of driving forward. This is harder than I thought erm; do you want to have a go?
VP: Ok, shimmering, evocative, majestic!