2,4,6,8... we appreciate kali uchis

The Virginia based songstress with Colombian roots and R&B oldies influenced style talks Brigitte Bardot, Quentin Tarantino and sleeping in her car.

by Dan Wilkinson
24 November 2014, 1:45pm

Kali Uchis has a look and a sound from another time. The Colombian songstress thinks modern music "is a distraction" and that "music should make you feel something". Take her song Table For Two, a soft, sleepy and soothing song about how nobody ever meets her halfway for anything. Kali describes the title plainly "I'm always setting a table for two but eating by myself", which reflects her ability to be vulnerable yet mysterious at the same time in her lyrics. Kali is completely behind her own instrumentals and videos and whilst she cites the 60s as her biggest musical influence, Kali's R&B influenced hits are for the 2014 generation. Here's the low-down on Kali....

2 people Kali has recently recorded with:
Tyler The Creator. Tyler helmed the boards and lent his borderline baritone to Kali's Aunt Wang Syrup Theme. She found it easy working with the manic rapper, "he's my age, we're good friends". But what does she make of his up and down personality "I've seen him calm and crazy, he's very much himself. He'll just be in the studio eating a big ass bowl of cereal, not caring at all".
Snoop Dogg. Kali has also worked with the Doggfather himself on his track On Edge. Was he a hip hop diva? "No way! He's humble, and even asked my opinion on the songs".

4 musicians that have influenced Kali's sound:
Curtis Mayfield
Loose Ends
Ralphi Pagan
Irma Thomas
Musically Kali is influenced by the 60s, with its mix of early soul, R&B and doo-wop, "Musically and aesthetically, the culture of it just inspires me." One place that lumps all these influences together is her favourite radio station 89.3, a local Virginia station that is "so low key I don't even know its name."

6 style lessons learned from Kali's idol Brigitte Bardot:
Scarfs used as a bow.
Light colours, usually pink.
Thigh high go go boots.
Earrings to make you feel girly.
Black velvet choker.
Chic dresses.
"I watch the movies and follow all the fan Instagram pages," she says. It doesn't stop there though, "there's even a folder of pictures on my computer dedicated to her." Kali said of her idol,"She's not given enough credit style-wise."

8 things you should know about Kali Uchis
1. The name, who/what is an Uchis? Pronounced u-chees, not u-kis, its origin is close to Kali's heart, "It's a pet name from my family. I wanted it to be original and no else to have thought of it."

2. Born in the US but raised in Colombia, Kali has fond memories of the country, "Growing up there was amazing, it can be sunny and then rain. I experienced my first earthquake there as well. Colombians are passionate, silly, easygoing, outgoing and outspoken."

3. Being behind the instrumentals of her self-produced mixtape debut Drunken Babble, Kali became a multi-instrumentalist by being first chair of her school's music class, preferring saxophone and piano to anything else. Even though "It's kind of a goofy instrument to play", Kali agrees that it's how "melodies still come to me, because of that musical grounding."

4. The inspiration for her music videos came from watching too many Quentin Tarantino movies. This also inspired Kali to make a movie whilst in high school, with a plot straight out of Pulp Fiction. "It was a movie about two lesbians teenagers. One of them is a drug dealer who fakes her death but actually just moves to another school. The girlfriend finds out that she's alive because of a Facebook account." And how does a high school student divide her time between studying and making a movie? "I was just skipping classes all the time to film it." Did Kali learn more from that than school? "Yeah! I learnt how to edit from doing stuff like that, which helps when making the videos now."

5. Before she was doing music and in high school, Kali decided she didn't want to serve fries or work in Walmart, so put her entrepreneurial side to the test. She used to get thrift store clothes and sell them at a high mark up, "It'd be a shirt for fifty cents, customise it and then sell it for seventy dollars." It all got a bit much much for the teen designer when "people started ordering clothes from Germany" and she decided that there must be an easier way to earn a living.

6. Kali gets inspiration from the most unusual of place, "I have dreams about the songs, it all comes from my subconscious". This come with difficulties when trying to get the song across, "It's hard to work with producers because I want to recreate the exact idea to them".

7. Before all the music buzz, hard times meant Kali was once living out of her car (a Subaru Forester). This recently came back to haunt her when a fan emailed her saying they recognised her from one of her videos and saw her sleeping outside the grocery store.

8. Kali has picked up a group of fans who think her music is best enjoyed whilst high. This is something Kali understands but doesn't agree with. "I can see how old music could be considered good for that mood. But I don't like when it turns into 'this sounds great when I'm high' because anything sounds great when you're high! I like things when I'm sober/ when I'm high or going to sleep. I think music should be more than that."



Text Dan Wilkinson
Photography Joshua Osborne

tyler the creator
Brigitte Bardot
Kali Uchis
tab​le for two