Since the release of her debut single ‘Cold Blue Light‘ last year, GIHE have been big fans of Dublin-based multi-instrumentalist Kynsy (aka Ciara Lindsey.) Her lyricism offers a refreshingly honest perspective on the world around her, whilst her self-described “rowdy pop” sounds provide space for reflection and escapism, often within the same song.
We caught up with Kynsy ahead of the release of her debut EP, Things That Don’t Exist, to talk about lockdown-learning curves, how working with co-producers and her band mates has helped to flesh out her sound, the underrated trait of humility, and to reminisce about the deeply humbling and emotional experience of seeing David Bowie’s cocaine spoon at an art exhibition in Brooklyn…
Let’s start at the beginning – who, or what would you say first got you into writing and playing music?
My Dad’s a musician, but he never really showed me any specific rock artists, maybe he was waiting for me to turn the right age, but I was always listening to stuff that was in the charts, even though I wasn’t that inspired by it. When I was having a really low point as a teenager, my Dad showed me this music video – ‘Rebel Rebel’ by David Bowie – and I thought it was amazing. I think I was at that age where you begin to realise that it’s actually okay and kind of cool to be weird. Bowie just clicked with me and I knew then that I wanted to be in a band and I wanted to write music like that.
David Bowie seems to have that kind of affect on most people. He’s definitely one of my favourite artists.
He’s an absolute hero. So many people I know cried when he died. I went to New York in summer 2018, and I went to see the David Bowie Is exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. It was really hard to get tickets for, but I somehow managed to swing it and I went and I walked around and I was crying the whole time. I got to see all of his famous outfits which was mad.
I went to the same exhibition in London at The V&A in 2013! Did you see his coke spoon too?
I remember that as well! I told my friend about it, it was mad. I was really hungover when I went to the exhibition, so I remember walking around feeling a mixture of being really emotional and being extremely hungover as well.
That’s a good way to approach anything in life.
Let’s talk about the singles you’ve released prior to your debut EP – ‘Cold Blue Light’ & ‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’. They were both born from personal experiences. Would you say your song-writing process is usually autobiographical? Do you find it more natural to write what you know?
The majority of the time I do prefer to write from personal experience. I think you can be much more emotional and vulnerable, and you can connect with the audience more if you’re talking about a real incident that’s happened to you.
Congratulations on releasing your debut EP, Things That Don’t Exist. Talk me through your memories of making the record, and the context behind your latest single ‘Elephant In The Room’…
Things That Don’t Exist is a collection of four songs that I’ve worked on over a couple of years. The reason why I chose these songs is they’re all very different, they all have this high energy to them that I really like. Each one has their own personality, but I also felt they were kind of contrasting as well, and I like to create contrast and juxtaposition in my music.
‘Elephant In The Room’ is the first song on the EP and it’s a lot poppier than the other stuff. Lyrically it’s reflecting on a darker time in my life when I was using escapism to deal with my problems. I was feeling kind of alienated from myself and trying to run from myself. ‘Elephant In The Room’ is that known metaphor – something you don’t want to mention or talk about, but that everybody knows is a thing – so this song in particular is about being 18-19 years old with my friends, going through a dark time and partying too much and realising that it was something that had to stop, but no-one would ever say it out loud. When I was writing it I was reflecting on that, and I was using the song as a conscious kind of wish to not go back and make the same mistakes when trying to deal with my problems.
But there’s an element of hope in there too. All of the songs on the EP are a bit sad and melancholic, but there’s a glimmer of hope. I like to try and have a positive message, even if it’s only something small.
That’s definitely a good way to frame a song. What are your main memories of recording the EP?
I recorded most of the songs in a studio in my college before Covid, and one of the songs called ‘Dog Videos’ was recorded during lockdown, which was interesting. I had to email my band being like “can you send me a bass line? Can you send me some trumpet?” so everyone recorded from home and sent their stuff over to me so I could mix it myself. Then I got my friend Joseph to go with a drummer and record in a studio in London, then he sent over the drum stems to me and I had to compile it all myself and send it off to be properly mixed. I usually work with a co-producer, so it’s the first time I’ve had to do it all myself. I learned an awful lot, it was really stressful but really good at the same time. I was forced to learn how to bounce out stems and get into the nitty-gritty of the technology side of it.
Equally, I learned a lot from the co-producer who I worked with when I was working in the studio, watching how they work and how they think when it comes to arranging songs. So it was a combination of both of those things.
In future, do you think you’ll have a 50/50 split when it comes to working by yourself and working with other people on new material?
A bit of both, but I would lean more into doing it with people, especially producers. Right now, I don’t think I’m confident enough in my own skills to completely get a track together properly by myself. That’s not me being down on myself, that’s just how it it. I know I did it for ‘Dog Videos’ on the EP, but it was very stressful and I get into my own head a little bit. It’s so easy to do when you’re just starting out with producing, so you need someone else to turn around and say “that’s done” or “send me the stem, I’ll fix that,” instead of me trying to get into all of these technical areas. I do think I would lean more into working with other people. Their ideas can help to get you out of your own rabbit hole sometimes, you know?
I will probably always write and demo stuff on my own though. I will layer guitars and come up with bass lines and stuff like that. The initial ideas I will do on my own, but bringing those ideas to the band and the producer just brings it such a level higher. The songs wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for that group of people being there. You need those extra voices there sometimes.
It sounds like you have the balance right. Do you have a favourite track on the EP? If so, why?
Probably ‘Dog Videos’ because I think I’ve been the most vulnerable with my lyric writing in that song. One of my goals as a songwriter is to try to be as vulnerable with myself as possible, just because I think that’s how you connect with people properly. It’s great to hear a song and be like “Oh wow, I feel like that too! Why does no-one ever talk about this?” I like the instrumentation on ‘Dog Videos’ too. I got a really good drummer and I got trumpets on it, which I never thought I’d end up doing. I have a really good friend who plays trumpet who I just hit up and asked if they’d play something for me and the next day he sent the stems over, which was really cool. I feel like I really hit the goal of opening up and being vulnerable with this song.
NME named you in their TOP 100 LIST, The Irish Jam named you as one to watch for 2021, and GIHE featured you on our Tracks Of 2020 list. How are you feeling about having the spotlight on you? Is it a bit nerve-racking or is it exciting?
Overall I’m happy with the attention. Everyone wants to work hard on something and for it to go well, and the main thing for your music is you want it to reach fans so that you can get a following through them. Everything in the press about me means I’ve been able to reach more people. Even with the NME thing, a few teenagers have messaged me personally about it and I just thought that was really nice, so I messaged them back to say thank you, because it means people are really listening which is nice!
I try not to think about the press stuff too much though, because any form of validation can mess up anyone’s head. Even though it is nice and positive, I don’t want to get stuck on it. In my head, there’s still a lot of work to do and I’m always trying to get deeper into the writing process and deeper into myself, that’s the main thing. They’re my main values. Trying to be a better writer, write like myself and trying to create meaning. The reviews are great and all, but they can really obscure your goals and style and I’ve seen that happen to people.
One of the down sides of today is because of social media – and the lockdowns as well – artists aren’t having natural interactions with their fans, they’re just seeing everything online. It’s so easy to slip into the idea that people are only liking this, or liking that. Obviously there’s no gigs at the moment either, so there’s no way you can actually physically see people’s reactions to your music. I think the main thing is just being aware of that and keeping on your own path, focusing on why you started making music in the first place.
I don’t want to come off super negative about it, but I think people will know what I mean. It’s just if people are telling you you’re great all the time, it’s going to get to your ego and your music’s going to suffer. Humility is one of the strongest personality traits you can have and it’s only going to do you good.
I think you’re right, it’s so important not to get side-tracked by other people’s opinions of you.
Finally, do you have any new artists or bands you’d recommend we listen to?
Sorry had an album come out last year and I listened to that a lot. I think they’re really cool, kind of like The Kills, I love the mix of electronic and rock stuff. Another band called Do Nothing. I went to one of their gigs in December in Dublin and unfortunately there weren’t that many people at the gig, which was bad for them but good for me afterwards because it meant I got to hang out with them for a bit!
I’ve been listening to a lot of Micachu & The Shapes as well, they’re kind of like sorry but more experimental rock stuff. Mica Levi is a producer and a writer and she is unreal, she’s someone I’d love to work with.
Thanks to Kynsy for answering our questions!
Listen to Kynsy’s debut EP Things That Don’t Exist here.
Photo Credit: Paula Trojner