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

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

by Milly McMahon
19 June 2015, 5:24pm

Kaity Dunstan, aka Cloves, is a seemingly regular, 19-year-old Australian singer songwriter. But with the release of her debut EP Xiii on Duly Noted Records due this August, she's destined for huge popularity. She might seem easy to gloss over as just another hot, young thing gifted with endless limbs, cascading hair and piercingly deep eyes, but when Kaity sings, her sound is mature far beyond her tender years. Singing for old men and barflies in dives around Melbourne, Kaity's melancholy and beautiful notes helped her rise 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. To write and record her forthcoming album, Kaity joined forces with producers Justin Parker (Lana Del Rey, Rihanna, and Sia's go-to guy) and Rich Cooper (who's worked with Tom Odell, and Mumford & Sons.) The trio's collaborative efforts are innocently intense tales of falling in love for the first time, losing it all, endeavoring to find peace, and ultimately strengthen a sense of self.

Capturing the fragile experience of not knowing anything and then feeling everything, Kaity's whisky-tinged tones ebb and flow. 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?
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 PAs 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.

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's massive growth as a person and a writer. A lot of the time my songs are based on relationships; whether romantic or friendships, they've 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. 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.

Which artists have helped shaped your perspective?
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 whose voices I idolized 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. Have you experienced such shallow critiques?
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. Some days, I love clothes. Others, I can't be fucked to put on 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.


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

Milly McMahon