RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AUSTRALIAN ARTIST BEL KIL
What made you decide that music is a thing for you? A guest speaker! I taught Visual Arts and I was mentoring year 9 boys at the time. During a career pathways talk, I found myself listening intently and implementing her advice. I was dreaming of a recording studio and making music. The very next week I quit my job and started Googling audio and music production courses. I don’t think the students were even listening and I don’t blame them. Who really knows what will fulfill you in year 9 and more to the point what that career will look like on a day to day basis.
When I started recording and producing I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue my own music. I just knew I wanted to be writing songs and creating a sonic world for them to live within, whether that be for myself or others. I had some incredible opportunities while studying – including being flown to Popakademie in Germany to write for Sony and I was selected for the top-tier American mix engineer Andrew Scheps’ workshop. These experiences were inspiring and validating. The more I produced, recorded, and experimented with sound, the more I wrote myself. A serious bike accident also put things in perspective. After this I let down my guard and decided to write an EP and put my own music out into the world.
Introduce us to you and your musical history.
I grew up on a farm in the Northern Grampians, surrounded by a family with a love of music and entertainment. I spent my childhood playing guitar, constructing and creating with an inquisitive mind. Music was always at the forefront but I didn’t ever study music at school and the confidence to pursue it as a career came later.
As a little girl, I would stop and start the VCR to write out the lyrics to my favourite songs so that my best friend Suse and I could sing and dance along to Rage. We were slow to get the internet on the farm haha.
My dad taught me the guitar but he was left handed and played upside down which made it interesting. I grew up writing songs. But they were personal. It was like my diary so I was shy to sing in front of others for a long time.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
This is my second release with a lot more to come so I’m yet to find out.
However the question, ‘Hmmm, so do you make any money from music?’ gets a little tiring. It’s very telling about a person when this is their first response to hearing that I’m pursuing my dream of producing and performing music.
We set up RGM USA and many other countries in the world (Now Including RGM Australia) to share music with America and the UK, good idea?
I think that’s unreal. As an emerging artist we need all the support we can get to cut through. There is so much music out there. A lot of brilliant stuff but also a lot of repetitive crap that lacks substance and I think media like RGM is so important to help sift through the sea of music and promote those they believe in.
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?
No! But wow there are a lot out there and I can see how vulnerable people can get trapped.
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
Haha, no, I didn’t buy a puppy or anything! I bought Whisky… It was my saviour. live in Melbourne and I think we experienced the longest lockdown in the world, over 260 days. I tried to stick to a routine of getting up and recording, producing and mixing my forthcoming EP. But lockdown zaps your energy. I’m not a bath person. But by 4-5pm I would be exhausted and I’d run a bath and have a whisky on the rocks.
What useless party trick do you have?
Oooo this is a hard one. I don’t think I have any party tricks to be proud of but I have a competitive edge and I am very good at sculling beer when challenged but I don’t do that anymore.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
My ‘Escaping’ single launch at the Leadbeater. It’s a big venue and it was my first headline show. I found myself waking up in a sweat dreaming that no one would rock up ‘thinking why the hell didn’t I book a small venue’. But it was packed out and there were people on shoulders. It was so much fun and I can’t wait to do it all over again for my EP launch.
What was the worst experience on stage?
After 2 years of lockdown I was pretty nervous about my debut single launch. I booked a warm up gig the week before to ease into it. I specifically chose Bodriggy Brewery, a huge venue with a guaranteed crowd whose primary focus was after work drinks not to focus on the music. The venue had a new sound guy that night, who absolutely lovely but no idea what they were doing and the feedback was terrible. He kept carving out more from the foldback wedge until we could barely hear ourselves and at one point the squeal of feedback was so ear-wrenching that the entire venue turned to us screaming and covering their ears. We tried to persist but had to call it in the end. It was traumatising.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
I am also a visual artist exhibiting my glass sculptures worldwide under my full name Annabel Kilpatrick. I studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in glass and I paint and watercolour portraits.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
I am told my voice is unique and distinctive and I don’t write or produce to try to sound like anybody else. I have no idea what I am going to create until I sit down in front of the keys or guitar and experiment with a riff, chord progression, melody, sound or effect that really resonates with me. Then the ideas come flowing.
Having said that, we are all innately influenced by something or someone even if we’re not aware of it at the time. I guess I’m subconsciously drawing from the influences I grew up with that have shaped my appreciation and love of music. The songs my parents and older sisters listened to when I was a little girl, consequently resulting in a sound that is versatile and unique yet distinct and easily recognizable.
When it comes to the creation of the music Bel Kil is a solo project yet as a live performance my band is integral. Our live shows are fun, energetic, emotive and a damn good time so make sure you catch Bel Kil and my band at the EP launch in December at the Toff In Town, Melbourne.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
I have two favourites and you’re yet to hear them when the EP comes out in November.
The first is My Year, which is the feature single from my EP. The crowd got a sneak peek at the ‘Escaping’ single launch and it got people up on their shoulders, singing along despite never having heard the song before.
The second is ‘Cards’ for an entirely different reason. This is the most meaningful song I’ve written and it had the opposite effect. People stood still and listened intently, you could hear a pin drop.
I wrote Cards thinking back to the moment I found out my closest childhood friend’s older brother had died. He was one of the first people I knew to die young. Suddenly I was faced with the realisation that we are not invincible. To me the feeling of losing a sibling was incomprehensible. All I could think about was my best friend Suse and how there was nothing I could do to take her pain away. The lives of the family I spent almost every day with as a child would never be the same.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?
Yes, my Debut EP ‘My Year’ is out on the 10th of November with a launch at the Toff on the 9th of December.
I put my heart and soul into writing, recording, and mixing this EP throughout the lockdown. It blends electronic production with acoustic instruments and has been described as emotive, uplifting, unique, and distinctive. These songs are incisive perceptions of life, love, and dreams, laid bare on a backdrop of cinematic, rousing, spirited beats. The EP strikes the balance between youthful nostalgia and hope for the future, making My Year the perfect soundtrack for summer.
“It’s been a minute since we’ve had a good whistle song! I am hearing Milky Chance, Julia Stone, Tones in this.” – Max Quinn, Triple J
“…the singers debut introduces us to summer-drenched sonics, built upon dynamic guitar lines and driving organic percussion.” – MILKY
“It’s the perfect summery jam to help you escape from the winter weather, even if it’s for just a little while.” – Sounds of Oz.
Talk me through the thought process of the single ‘Backup Plan’? Backup Plan is an anthemic single exploring the emotions of being disappointed by a friend or loved one who constantly stands you up when you’ve made plans…
I was walking home from the studio on a balmy Friday afternoon, excited to have a beer with a friend, only to receive a text saying he couldn’t make it. I can remember feeling the letdown and then when I walked past the pub we were meant to meet at, I started singing voice memos into my phone.
By the time I got home, I had the lyrics and the melody and was ready to write the music.
What was the recording process like?
I was a lot more focused on guitar and bass tones with this track than in the past. It was nice to take a step away from producing more electronic songs in Ableton and go back to how I used to write with a guitar before I knew how to produce. I wanted to capture a slower, contemplative, dreamy and slightly psychedelic feel. I started with the guitar chords and built the production around there, using midi drums originally and my guitar as the bass. I added virtual strings, synths and layers of vocals. I played around with panning and effects. I worked backwards producing the whole track in the box during the lockdown periods. When I was able to get back in the studio I overdubbed my friend Tristan Courtney on bass, blending it with my pitched down guitar. I also recorded John Vassallo on drums to achieve more of a ‘live feeling’.
I wanted to capture summery guitar sounds and propulsive bass lines that build into a cinematic climax. In a way, the outro feels chaotic but it’s intentionally ordered chaos, the way my head was feeling as I reasoned with myself and didn’t let the disappointment get me down. I wanted it to feel like a journey. The song starts out reflective but by the time we reach the peak, there’s this epic hopefulness.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the ep?
Oooo so many things but here is a couple…
A solo project is a lonely lifestyle. Fortunately, I have an incredible group of friends around me who also write, produce and mix which is the best source of feedback, inspiration and support. A good community of like minded people is so important, It keeps you sane.
Also to separate the production from the mixing stage and learn to say enough is enough. Otherwise, a track will never be finished. When you create all aspects of a song the tiniest changes, that most people wouldn’t even hear, feel huuuuuge. You go down so many rabbit holes listening to a song thousands of times and things begin to sound good. Life would be so much easier if we could wipe our mind free as though we’re hearing it for the first time in order to make critical mix decisions.
Would you change anything now that it’s finished?
It’s funny, I have listened to these songs thousands of times while mixing them. I was obsessed with bouncing out the track in order to reference on a walk or run. I would come back to the studio and make the slightest tweek to the reverb or compression on the snare for example. But now that my first two singles are out I can’t even listen to them. It’s like they’re someone else’s songs.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
I’m really excited to put my EP out on the 10th of November followed by my EP launch at the Toff on December the 9th. Once it’s out I will start recording and producing my next project that’s currently in demo stage. There is a lot more of Bel Kil to come so stay tuned. My dream is to play lots of music festivals. I’ve been told my music has a festival vibe so hopefully I’ll see you there.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
I think I’ve rambled enough. But thank you so much for this opportunity and your support of emerging artists.