Kyla La Grange & Jakwob, making magic
Kyla La Grange is the otherworldly mermaid-haired beauty with a voice to match. Jakwob (James Jacob) is the Digital Soundboy-signee with equally as luscious locks and a CV that name-drops the likes of Lana Del Rey and Usher. Together they are making...
Kyla La Grange & Jakwob by Wolf James
Having joined forces to produce the singers' forthcoming album (already tipped for album of the year), Kyla is gearing up to release the record's first single, the melodic and minimalist, Cut Your Teeth. Freshly dropped, the video is a whirlwind of glow in the dark facepaint, great styling and live animals. It's super fun and almost as stunning as the artist herself. Almost. Curious about the producer-artist relationship, the album and the hair, i-D headed deep down underground to join the dream team in Jakwob's secret studio lair.
Do you remember your first impressions of each other?
Kyla: I saw James DJing at SXSW in a really dark, dingy room in quite a sketchy place. There were only like ten people there but I thought you looked scarily cool and aloof cause you were wearing a buttoned-up shirt and the sides of your head were shaved.
James: I was so pissed off at that gig! Jet-lagged and pissed off cause I was supposed to play the main room.
Kyla: I would never have said hi there because you were too cool.
James: Which ironically…
Kyla: Then we had a studio session where I sung on one of James' tracks and I'm really bad at writing to backing tracks so I probably did a shit job. But I realised that he was actually really good, so I asked if he'd be interested in producing something for me someday. I played him the Cut Your Teeth demo and we did ended up making the whole album!
James: I'd never worked with anyone that sings the way Kyla does before. It's an obvious thing to say, but I've always thought that she has a very Kate Bush sort of voice… and I love Kate Bush. I don't think anyone else really sings like that in our generation, so I thought she was pretty special.
How important is it to find a producer/artist that shares your vision?
Kyla: Well I couldn't believe how easy it was to make this album. I've not worked with a producer before who's just so on it. When you're both in the right zone it all just comes together naturally.
James: Even though Kyla already had a vision and knew exactly what she wanted, I think it was always important for us to keep experimenting. The electronic elements in Cut Your Teeth for example, were completely by accident. I was just playing around with them…
Kyla: ...and I was like 'I LOVE IT!!'
James: It was about not being too stubborn with our ideas.
Kyla: It sounds really wanky, but it was the most free in terms of creative expression that I've ever felt in a studio. I felt like we could just do anything we wanted to. The album never seemed to fit in a particular genre, so we weren't concerned about making it fit - we were very much just making it sound how we wanted it to sound.
And now it's done, does it sound how you always imagined it would?
Kyla: Yeah, definitely. It's really easy to get attached to your own demos - when you're excited about them you just listen to them over and over. James used what was there to begin with and built on it with all of his magical skills. He's really respectful I think, because some producers hear the melody and think the rest is up for grabs. You were always really aware of not making it sound like one of your own tracks.
James: Oh yeah, definitely. It was just a case of understanding how you approached it. Every single demo was so good that if you'd not recorded the vocals on your mac, they could have been used as actual tracks.
Kyla: Mmmm, I don't know about that.
James: Well it was so well blueprinted already that it was just a case of freshening it up, wasn't it?
Kyla: And taking the dog sounds out of the background…
James: It wasn't a hard process because you knew from the start what you wanted to do.
Kyla, were you involved at every stage of the production process?
James: Yes, Kyla was backseat driving throughout the whole thing!
Kyla: You did have to tell me that one time! He'd be in the middle of really carefully crafting something and I'd be like 'Yeah, I don't think there's enough bass on that...' and he be like 'Yeah, I'm just doing it!'
I heard that your dog, Flea, is a total studio dog. What involvement did she have in the process?
Kyla: I'd say that she was like, the key shredder of paper and a major source of inspiration. She'd come in and just shred everything. She stars in my new video actually!
Describe each other in three words...
James: Sickly. Dippy…
Kyla: I'm not dippy!
James: No, as in… you like dips.
Kyla: People don't know that though.
James: Sickly dippy (as in, likes dips) debater.
Kyla: Speedy. Achey. Beanie.
Do you have any funny anecdotes from your time making the album?
James: When you ordered the flipping marimba! It was so big that a guy had to bring it in like two hours before our session.
Kyla: They're massive and they have to be constructed.
James: I bumped into the marimba guy the other day actually! He came up to me in the street like 'I built a marimba for you!' which was pretty weird. So yeah, we just ordered loads of instruments in.
Could either of you play it?
James: That was the icing on the cake really... nobody could play it.
Kyla: I could play Rugrats!
James: So we got this huge marimba that nobody could play, but we liked the look of it. So I had to learn how to play the track on the marimba.
Kyla: For another track we needed loads of backing vocals but none of my friends were free, so Charlie the engineer decided to 'pop out and find some people'. He came back 10 minutes later with about 15 people who worked at a luxury yacht firm round the corner. And they all came and sung backing vocals, which was pretty funny. We haven't credited them.
Pick your favourite album track…
Kyla: I didn't even think to play it to James because I'd just started writing it. All it had was a verse and a chorus, and we'd been working on a different song but it just wasn't working so James was like 'okay, play me one of your other demos.' I played him others and we weren't feeling them so eventually I played him Cannibals and he was like 'yeah, wicked! Let's do it!' So I ran off into the other room, finished writing it and it all just came together. It was a real surprise one.
James: We did half of it in my studio and half in Britannia Row. In mine it was all programming and electronics and then Britannia Row it was more live stuff. It was probably the most fun we had on a track because we had live guitar and drums.
Kyla: Mike and Elessio from my band came in and played on it. But what's brilliant about the way you've layered it is that it could easily have sounded like a crazy rock-out but instead, even though it's a massive soundscape, it's just so beautiful and not aggressive in any way.
James: It links your last album and this one really well, with the traditional rock to electronic ratio.
What's it about?
Kyla: It's the only breakup song on the album. Just about someone that I used to love.
So you wrote a song about eating them?
Where should you listen to the album?
Jakwob: My answer would be, not on laptop speakers.
Kyla: Maybe like, on a bike? But only in the dark…
Well that's dangerous. Who has the best hair?
James: Careful now…
Kyla: Definitely James. Mine is artificially enhanced and James' is all natural.
How much money would I have to pay you to switch hair?
James: You can have my beard as well!
Kyla: Well at the moment it'd be really inconvenient because all my press photos have my colourful hair… further on in life though, I'd happily have straight black hair for a while. I think it'd be quite fun… for my goth album.
James: I wouldn't have to be paid much. I think I'd just take it.
Kyla: You should do it!
James: I'd look like an Asian Kurt Kobain.
Would you work together again?
Kyla: I'd love to.
James: To be honest, I've kind of moved on now… Joking, I'd totally love to.
Is there anyone you reckon the other person should collab with?
James: The ultimate would be William Orbit because so many people (me included) are trying to capture that era of pop-meets-electronic stuff. Or Jon Hopkins maybe? You should probably guest feature on a Warpaint track too because they're the ultimate girl band.
Kyla: Purely because I love your production and I love her music, I'd say Bat For Lashes.
Is there anything you'd like to ask each other?
Kyla: This is like therapy!
James: Can I get guestlist for your show next Tuesday in Hoxton?
Kyla: I actually only got one place and I gave it to my brother... sorry.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Wolf James