Moms Know Everything! How the Electronic Duo Kllo Came Together
Interview by Colin Kirkland
Photography by Rachel Cabitt
Illustrations By Peter Hopkins
Just before I entered Holyrad Studio where I was about to interview Chloe Kaul and Simon Lam of Australian electronic-pop duo, Kllo, I remembered what I had done at their show the night before. I paused in the sunny Brooklyn street, not even at the right entrance, and prayed to the indie-rock gods that neither of them were offended by my accidental (drunken) entrance to their dressing room post-performance, that the memory of smiles and laughter wasn’t actually a false thought soaked in beer. The pair had just wrapped up their first New York City show and I guess I decided to congratulate them, by following them off the stage.
Pronounced “K-l-oh,” not “Kilo,” the electronic group is comprised of two “awkward” cousins who came together in 2014. Simon was studying engineering and playing experimental music on the side while Chloe was singing and writing what she refers to as her “folky stuff," when Simon’s mom suggested that the two introverts combine musical forces. According to Chloe, Simon “chopped up a folk song of mine and sent it to me as an experimental piece. He asked, 'Do you want to sing on top of this?' What emerged is Kllo’s most listened to song on Spotify entitled, “False Calls.” The moody, entranced feel of this debut single set the tone for their next two EP’s, “Cusp” and “Well Worn.”
When we finally sat down to chat, it was clear that everyone was exhausted. Kllo’s NYC premiere the night before at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right, marked the end of a successful two-and-a-half-month world tour, their largest to date. As we got acquainted, I was reassured by Simon and Chloe that I didn’t make a total fool of myself after the show, but came across as just another giddy fan. It was fascinating being in the presence of such a new, young band. Simon and Chloe were timid, but definitive in their answers. They both shared a similar sarcastic wit that cut through any potential awkwardness.
I decided to start the conversation with their glowing performance from the night before.
“Seeing that crowd and that response… I almost had a heart attack on stage actually,” said Chloe in a quiet, raspy voice, “My heart was hurting (laughs). We just didn’t think that was going to happen.” I was surprised by this answer because when looking through their gig-list on this tour I noticed venues four times the size.
Simon spoke up, “It’s funny, it was a much smaller crowd, but there’s almost more pressure.” It seems that this comes down to being the headlining band or not; whether or not the crowd is there to see you or just watch you warm up for someone else. Kllo is still in the early stages of performing and therefore isn’t used to selling out a New York venue, no matter the size. However, this was not at all evident during the concert; the crowd was captivated from start to finish, consistently swaying as one whole entity.
Intrigued by their family ties, I asked Chloe and Simon if the rest of the family is supportive of Kllo.
“Yeah it’s pretty good, our moms have a funny relationship. My mom’s just super anxious and Chloe’s mom just loves stressing her out and playing pranks on her,” Simon answered.
Simon informed me that their family avidly attended their shows until they started using strobe lights. Before Kllo formed, Chloe, who was originally inspired by female artists such as Amy Winehouse and Adele, was “too afraid to sing in front of anyone” and chose to write at home, doing very little performing. The first show she and Simon did together was also her first “proper gig.” Simon’s music-past goes back to playing jazz drums at a university in Melbourne. He started to hate everything he was being taught in jazz school and the drums quickly became more of a chore than anything else: “I just started getting into electronic music… It was a nice escape that I ended up taking more seriously.” When I asked Simon whether or not he ever collaborated during his time at school he told me, “Rarely… I could never really connect with the people there. They were just kinda like, ‘Jazz is it and everything else is dumb.' ” Chloe looked over and said, “I think that’s why we connect so much. Like I said, I’m so picky. We don’t really connect with many people who make music.” Since this is true, I wondered whether or not they had ever envisioned expanding their on-stage presence with added band members playing bass, guitar, drums, or horns in addition to the current foundation of two keyboards and sampling equipment.
“We’ve actually spoken a lot about this lately,” responded Chloe, “Kind of bringing it up a next notch and even getting someone in to make it more live.” Simon nodded, “Yeah, there’s only so many hands between us… I think it’s been enough time that I can get back on drums and see if I can still play them.”
While talking to Simon and Chloe, it became apparent that Kllo is currently in a period of immense growth. They are getting used to traveling – as much as one can – and are making crucial realizations for both their in-studio and on-stage style. Chloe reflected on their combined evolution playing live: “I think we did some really cool shows at the beginning because we were trying out so much, but this is our first big tour with thirty-six shows over two-and-a-half months so we have become so much more comfortable performing. It’s what we needed.” Simon and Chloe agreed that they are ready for change. “It’s about constantly changing it for our sake… just to keep us sane (laughs). If we keep doing the same set we’re eventually gonna get bored of it and that will reflect on the audience.”
Change will also come in the form of writing and recording for Kllo. Their second and newest EP, “Well Worn,” came out August 9th, this past Summer. When I asked how their approach to “Well Worn” differed from their debut, “Cusp,” both artists were upfront in discussing the stress that came with personal expectations. “I think we put much more pressure on ourselves for ‘Well Worn’ which was stupid (laughs),” said Chloe, “It’s a learning curve. We’ve just realized no matter how much effort you put into a song, if it’s a good idea, it’s a good idea. We’ve changed the singles so many times. One of them we changed like 128 times. It was really ridiculous and drove us insane. It kind of ruined the direction we were going in. I think it’s best to care less. When we care less and write it for fun, that’s when it’s the best music we can make.”
Simon explained that once they signed to Ghostly International and “people actually knew who they were” the pressure set in and they started to second guess themselves. “I think we needed to do that, we needed to see that putting pressure on us won’t create a better product. We’re having a lot more fun writing the next thing.” The “next thing” will be a full-length album in which Kllo is excited to show a different side of themselves. “With EP’s,” Chloe remarks, “you can only show a small piece of yourself through five songs… We want the album to be a range of different genres. There’s a lot of R&B in it, a lot of UK garage. We just want to write music with how we’re feeling at the time more than sticking to one genre.” Simon added onto this and spoke about how he and Chloe need to go with their instincts: “We’ve been thinking about where we want to take it and I think we’re going to start trusting that if we both like the song and what it’s doing then it will sound like us.”
Pressure materializes in so many of us because of a simple question: What will they think? It’s not an easy task to dedicate yourself to a craft without asking whether or not your product will be accepted by those around you. Therefore, I was curious to see how a newer band reacts to reviews of their work, especially when Kllo started so recently as a project that was never supposed to be serious. “You have to take the bad ones and the good ones with a grain of salt,” said Simon, “There are things that people say are good that I don’t agree with. Then people say things that aren’t so good that I don’t agree with and there are other things I definitely take on board for the next record.” Chloe expounded on her cousin’s words: “I think some of the criticism we’ve had we’ve taken on board because like, yeah we think that too, we’re just developing, we’re just growing. Every song we’ve ever put out is pretty much every song we’ve ever done together because we’ve just been always a step behind like okay, we’ve got to get music out, we’re always changing direction with songs. We’re just growing still.”