get to know cloves, down to earth with the voice of an angel

From Melbourne's dive bars to wowing LA, Cloves is on a mission.

18 June 2015, 10:55am

Experiencing music that is truly spoken from the heart should challenge life's meaning in that very moment, suddenly centring the soul. Kaity Dunstan, aka Cloves, is a seemingly regular 19-year-old Australian singer songwriter, Australian singer songwriter, releasing her debut EP Xiii on Duly Noted Records and now destined for huge popularity.

Easy to pass up as just another hot young thing gifted with lithe, endless limbs, cascading hair and piercingly deep eyes, when Kaity sings the sound that reaches out deep from within is melancholy, beautiful and mature beyond her tender years. Discovering that voice singing in dives around Melbourne; entertaining old men and barflies, Kaity then rose up quickly from relative obscurity.

Her one-woman project, Cloves, has been received with resounding enthusiasm from LA to Paris. The label released her low-key, debut track Frail Love earlier this week. Coming together with Justin Parker (Lana Del Rey, Rihanna, Sia) and Rich Cooper (Tom Odell, Mumford & Sons) to write and record her first and forthcoming album, playing on the trios combined, finest talents, the music which has been born of their time spent together speaks with innocent intensity about falling in love for the first time and then losing it all, endeavouring to find and feel peace and ultimately a sense of self.

Capturing the fragile experience of not knowing anything and then feeling everything, slow moving tides ebb and flow alongside Kaity's whisky tinged tones. Inviting comparisons to a whole host of original female greats, Cloves spins spine tingling tales, written in the lost and insecure moments of her bravest hour.

How did you come to develop your musical style? Was your progression quite varied before you arrived at the place from which you sing today?
My older sister and I started playing in Melbourne pubs together when I was around 13 and I definitely wasn't very good. Our dad would drive us to the venue and help us drag in PA's and guitars. We would play a set and be kicked out by 10pm because of how young I was. I always wanted to write my own album and perform live, I'm not really sure why. I just remember never wanting to get off the stage and everyone being drunk.

The progression of the music has definitely been a long one. I always knew the music I wanted to make and could hear how I wanted it to sound in my head, it was just about working out how to get that across and finding the right people to enhance that.

Do you see your relationship with music as a journey of self actualisation? How has the reflective process of writing such emotional material changed your perspective on life?
If I read over my songs now compared to three years ago there is a massive growth as a person and a writer. A lot of the time my songs are based on relationships; whether they are romantic or a friendship, it's taught me to appreciate the people closest to me. I think my album isn't just autobiographical but it's also observational. It's centred around learning lessons about relationships; romantic or not, and the make or break moments within those. It's kind of a journey of self-loathing to (hopefully) healing but I haven't written that part yet.

Is there a specific person, moment or an enduring feeling that you channel or express through the music?
I think subconsciously there always is but really it depends on what's going on with me. Sometimes I'll have a very clear intention of something I need to write and it all comes together pretty quickly. Other times it'll be just because i enjoy writing. I'll start by humming along to a couple of different chord progressions, then I'll just mumble together a few words from the melody and go from there. Usually looking back over the lyrics I find an underlining meaning to the song.

You are very clear on the direction you want to take with the music and your image. Which artists have helped shaped your perspective on what truly exudes enduring originality?
I think growing up I was always obsessed with voices with unique tones. I always found vocals the most captivating part of a song. It's artists like Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Eva Cassidy who's voices I idolised for having that thing nobody else had: something honest and raw. At the moment I'm currently falling in love with Fiona Apple's lyrics again, and I would've loved to just sit next to Amy Winehouse and watch her sing, she's too majestic.

You've worked with Justin Parker--who's produced for Lana Del Rey, Rihanna and Sia--on the album. What is he like to work with in the studio?
Justin and I were set up through our managers. We liked each other's music so Justin, Rich Cooper and I got in a studio together and it just worked. We wrote Frail Love in the first day we were in and the second track of the EP the next session. In the studio Justin is the perfect balance of honesty and bluntness, along with being caring and sensitive. I think it brings out the best in my writing because he will constantly push until something is great.

Unfortunately, image in music is a central focus for female artists. How have you come to accommodate and not feel affected or compromised by the industries merciless moulding of new and interesting anti-commercial singer/song writers?
I have definitely experienced the lazy critiques and comparisons constantly made about female artists, often dumbing our work down to just appearances. I feel no need to accommodate myself and to be apart of any certain style or merciless moulding. I love clothes somedays and somedays I can't be fucked to put a T-Shirt under my hoodie. I just dress for my personality on that day and unfortunately for those around me, it changes. Honestly does it really matter? Maybe you love fashion and want to put a lot of effort in or maybe you like to wear your matching purple tracksuit for the day. Just wear whatever you feel the best version of yourself in.x

What are the three things you miss the most from back home right now?
The coffee because one day I accidentally became a coffee snob and I've never gone back. Definitely the weather and my family and friends are alright too.


Text Milly McMahon
Photography Nik Hartley
Styling Jeanie Annan-Lewin
Hair Hiroshi
Make-up Ann Sophie Costa
Post-production Retouch & Cake.