Cloves – the moniker of Melbourne-born Kaity Dunstan – is someone you’re about to be seeing, or hearing, a lot more of; the rising singer-songwriter has been making a name for herself for some time and now has a plethora of certified bangers to her name.
Releasing latest cut “Bringing The House Down” last week, the track is the perfect glimpse into what makes Cloves such a compelling artist; with a jazz-inflection and her mesmerisingly smokey vocals, it’s a beautiful, sultry number that shows off her skills in crafting an effortlessly catchy pop track.
Currently gearing up for the release of her debut album, we caught up with the London-based star to find out all you need to know.
What’s your first memory of music?
When I was super young, probably four or five, my mum had this little handheld tape recorder and we would make little tapes of us singing over pop songs. My mum is terrible with lyrics so she would always encourage me to make them up instead of just singing along. That’s a great early memory of mine.
And what kind of music are you drawn to?
I mean, I go round in circles with what music I love. At the moment though I’m massively inspired by Kanye, not necessarily just because of his music, but also I really appreciate how he literally just does whatever the fuck he wants and how he continues to evolve and stay inspired, I think that’s really admirable. That’s what I want to achieve with my career too, I want to be able to write and produce a song that you could hear at a house party and then go away and make an album that’s weird as fuck. I just want to be able to do it all, so I find him really inspiring.
Growing up in Melbourne, were you particularly influenced by the scene there?
I think everyone is influenced by their surroundings, I think growing up literally in the middle of nowhere meant that getting anywhere was relatively impossible (unless I could convince my parents to drop me somewhere or get a friend to pick me up), so having that spare time on weekends/school nights meant that I had to keep myself entertained. So I would write, try and half-ass play guitar. I think that’s been influential for me as now, fucking around with song ideas in my spare time is kind of habitual.
You started playing in bands with your sister when you were really young, can you tell us a bit more about that?
I mean, as much as it sounds “cute”, I took it really seriously, I really wanted to make great music. I would arrange the show and write new music for our performances. I wanted it to be a great show to go see. In truth it was terrible and next to nobody would show up but we worked really hard to create an experience for the few people that did. I look back on it and I think it was a really important foundation for me, it taught me a lot about performing live and arranging a set.
What made you want to start doing solo stuff?
To be honest I just did it! Sometimes things just happen naturally and unfold in certain ways. My drive never changed, I just stayed focused on the same goal.
What was the process from then?
Well I started looking for opportunities any place I could find them. I didn’t fully understand myself musically, so I began the long five year process that gets us to now.
You moved to LA and then to London. What inspired the change?
I spent a little time in LA once I turned 18. I had absolutely no way to fund myself to go but had been signed to small record deal, so I went in for a meeting and convinced them to send me overseas to write. I wanted to go to London but they said they would “try me out” in LA. So I took what I could get and went to LA, in a way though it was lucky because by chance I met my management team there and they then helped me push for the chance to go to London, where I ended writing and recording my whole record.
Has living around the world affected your work or influenced your music in anyway?
I think it’s made me more independent as a person, -and I think that’s reflected in my music.
All clothing CLOVES’ OWN
You’ve previously said that you’ve had an obsession with creating an album in London. Why is that?
When I was 14 I changed my Facebook “lives in” banner to “lives in London” for no other reason than I was just really determined to do it. I’m definitely one of those people that once I get an idea into my head I can’t let it go until it’s done! My dad always says he feels sorry for the man I end up with because he’s going to have to put up with me being so hell-bent; I’m terrible to argue with.
So tell us about your debut! How long have you been working on it?
Well I’ve been writing for the record for the last three years, and then spent every single day for the last two recording the album in a shed in London. Basically just going around in circles, putting in snares, taking out, re-writing sections, adding outro/intros, it’s been an experimentation process.
What was the moment that made you feel like now is the time to release it?
I feel like I could work on it forever! There are parts of the record that I feel really happy with and then there’s still things about the record that I feel like I could change, but I think it’s just time to move forward. Don’t get me wrong I’m really proud of it and think it’s the best representation of me that I’ve been able to put together so far. I’m kind of nervous to put it out but I think that’s only natural.
What can we expect from it, are there any themes – musically or lyrically – that tie it together?
I really love Fiona Apple, I think she always takes such an interesting perspective in songs and really challenges lyrical cliches. So that idea was a big inspiration for me lyrically on this record. I didn’t want to just write a bunch of love songs and call it a day. I wanted to dive a little deeper, be a little more self aware and try and write songs that were as brutally honest and coming from an interesting angle.
Where did you draw inspiration for the album from?
Well sonically it was heavily inspired by 90s music; bands like The Verve, Mazzy Star and Radiohead inspired a lot of the tonality across the record and the big outro sections. We were also really conscious of syncopation across the record and took a lot of inspiration from hip-hop, not for the sonics but for the understanding of how the instrumentation should all fit into place, like a puzzle. I really didn’t want the album to just sound like a band in a room, I wanted it to be thoughtfully manipulated, something that was guitar music inspired but tightly syncopated enough so you could really understand the purpose of every sonic in the record.
What juicy exclusives can you give us about it?
I can exclusively tell you there are no features on this album.
Fair. So what else do you have planned for this year?
I’m going to FINALLY be releasing my first album, as well as touring.
And finally… Where does the name Cloves come from?
Smoking a cigarette in Bali, it’s sad but it’s true. Not every choice I’ve made was a good one…