When UK’s Leo Kalyan dropped his debut EP, Silver Linings, earlier this summer, I nominated it as the discovery I’ve been eagerly awaiting since Ben Khan, and preceded by Jai Paul. The falsetto vocals and surreal soundscape I first heard (“Golden Age”) provoked that initial attraction to his music, but Kalyan has a sweeter, syrupy taste that is emphatically invigorating (“Get Your Love”).
Kalyan is incredibly self-reliant: singing, producing, writing, and even creating the visuals to complete the artistic package. Though you may find yourself blissfully lost in the chimera of it all, take notice of the simple, yet comely beauty of his lyrics as well (which he shares on his social media via scrapbook-like renderings).
In his debut year, Kalyan topped the Spotify worldwide viral chat with “fingertips” at #1, headlined his first live show in London, and continues to pick up the traction as he embarks on the exciting road ahead. Read more about Kalyan below:
First, so our readers can get better acquainted with you, can you share three odd/random trivia tidbits?
1. i'm partially colourblind. the simpsons look green to me, but apparently they're actually yellow.
2. i create all of the artwork for my music myself.
3. i once read 4 harry potter books in a single day
The lyrics, mood, and sonic style of your debut EP, Silver Linings, clearly evidences themes around summertime and the sea…which is kind of peculiar coming from London (as opposed to say, LA or Sydney, where beach culture is prevalent). I understand that this project was inspired by a road trip across Europe, so is this a sort of fanciful escape for you (and your listeners)? For the dreamers versus the realists?
i’d say the sonic and production is for the dreamers, but the lyrics are very much for the realists – because i write directly from my own life experiences. i didn’t intentionally sit down in the studio to create a sonic that felt summery – it kind of just developed naturally. all the music i was working on had a certain “mood” to it – and i guess on some level i was trying to subconsciously recapture that feeling of escapism and freedom you get in a hot, sunny, faraway place.
What was a high or low of your road trip?
one of the lows was also one of the highs – and it happened in crete. we were driving to a beach called balos, which was rumoured to be extremely beautiful but equally difficult to reach. so we set off, drove for three hours and finally reached the dirt track that led down to the beach. this dirt path was so bumpy, gravelly and narrow that we could only drive forward at a snail pace. along a cliff edge. with a pretty fucking steep drop. so we had been going down it for about 45 mins – and half way down, the car’s low fuel signal starts flashing. the road was actually too narrow to turn around so we had to keep going.… until…. our tire burst.
don’t ask how we made it there (or back home afterwards) but we did – and the beach was actually worth it. just google “balos beach crete” – it felt like the bahamas. pink sand! it was a miracle that we got there in one piece. we were only there for about an hour until the sun started going down :(
Earlier in July, you performed your debut headline show in London. How was that? Coming from a singer-songwriter-producer standpoint, do you find the recording process or performance aspect more enjoyable? Is one more challenging than the other?
at the moment, the performance aspect is definitely more challenging, because it’s still quite new to me. i’ve only played a handful of gigs. in the studio, i’m confident and i know what i’m doing… it’s my comfort zone. but with performing live, i’m relying on everyone – the band, the sound engineer, the lighting guys – to work collectively to make it run smoothly. plus, i can't see or hear what the audience sees and hears…. we're having two very different experiences, which is weird. it takes effort, but it’s a lot of fun.
What is something you find exciting, and something you find aggravating, about today's music climate?
the exciting thing about today’s music climate is the amount of truly awesome music that’s out there on the internet. really interesting, beautiful, forward thinking and imaginative stuff. and it’s actually able to find an audience through soundcloud, social media and all the rest of it. i'm not talking about experimental music here, i'm talking about really great *songs*.
the most frustrating thing about the industry is how little of this good stuff is being released. everything that’s “successful” sounds the same, and is written and/or produced by the same people each time. i’m not saying it’s not good, i’m saying that there’s a lot more out there which goes unheard by the larger public, because most labels are usually too scared to take risks with stuff that sounds too "different". songs only get released if they sound like the tried and tested hits that are already playing on the radio. how is that conducive to creativity? it’s an odd situation.
How would you describe the music scene/community in London?
very exciting. there are so many people here making excellent music, and everyone seems to know each other. it’s a good time for collaboration.
In light of MTV describing you as a "sex symbol" (though you humbly declined), and the air of romanticism/poetry given in your EP, what's a tip or pointer you have for the guys or girls out there? Haha.
erm…. keep an open mind? haha, i have no idea. my songs might be romantic but they rarely have happy endings!
What songs have been stuck in your head? Or what songs do you currently have on loop?
i’m still loving “rewind” by kelela, and i’m obsessed with the new grimes record. it’s so good!
Lastly, what do you have in store for 2016?
i have more music coming out in the new year, and more shows. more of the same really! watch this space.