Kita Alexander On Debut EP ‘Like You Want To’ & ’80s Influences: Interview
After spending much of her adolescence singing in choirs and gigging in pubs, Kita Alexander woke up one morning and decided to take music seriously. So she dropped out of high school and googled “management.” Amazingly, it worked. The Australian singer/songwriter went viral earlier this year with summery, ’80s-influenced anthem “My Own Way” and followed it with the equally magnificent (and retro) “Like You Want To.”
I recently caught up with the rising star in Los Angeles to learn more about her excellent debut EP and ballsy start in music. Kita spoke about her obsession with the 1980s (blame her parents), working with hitmakers like Ben Romans and Nick Littlemore and her undying love for Stevie Nicks. She also opened up about her unique visual approach and plans for 2016. Find out more about the Aussie newcomer below.
How did you get started?
I was in lessons from when I was really young. It was all my idea. I always wanted to do music and I was very fortunate that my mom let me do all these things. Then I was in the national choir for a couple years and was really into choral music. It got to a stage where it was like, “This sucks I sound like everyone else.” I stopped doing that and picked up my guitar and tired to figure out my own sound.
I went to open mic nights and was doing covers and then, from that, I got gigs. It was cool. I did a heap of pub gigs, like three hour sets, during school. Then it got to a stage where I was like, “I’m making enough money. Maybe I can quit school.” I always got good grades, but I just had a passion for music and I woke up one morning and though, “I really want to do this. I really want to follow this.” I’ve had two epiphanies in my life and that was one of them.
What was the other one?
It was under water. I was scuba diving and I had an epiphany about the world.
How did you go from gigging to writing “My Own Way” with Nicky Night Time?
I googled management and the first one that popped up was Tim Manton. I just sent him some really rough demos. He said “Yes, there is potential there. You really need to get into some sessions.” He put me in with one session, which was a couple hours with two guys. Do you remember Amy Meredith?
That was my first session. I think we got a verse and half a chorus done. Then my manager realized, “When she’s with the right producers she can make good music.” He used to manage Van She so he knew Nicky [Night Time] and Mikey Di Francesco from it.
I used to love Van She. What happened to them?
They went off to do their DJ thing.
That’s a shame.
It sucks. They were cool.
You have such a distinct sound. Did you go into the session with a clear vision of what you wanted to do?
It was bit of a fun day. I was specifically in Sydney to try and line Nicky and Mikey up. Tim was lining it up but I had to put in the effort. I had to call them. I was actually watching my friend surf that day. He was doing the comp in Manly. I was messaging Nicky, “Are you free today?” He was like, “I’m pretty hung over, but come over.”
I was kind of sunburned and hung over as well. I jumped on the ferry. I was in my thongs, my shorts and a little shirt. I don’t know, I kind of had the sun in my head and everything. I wanted to make a lively track. Also I knew I wanted to head in an ’80s direction but still keep it pop. I started by playing my influential tracks and naming the artists that inspire me. He showed me what inspired him and it was a bit of a collaborative thing. It was crazy because I knew the path I wanted to go and he just helped me get there.
To me the track has a Californian vibe, which a lot of bloggers also picked up on. Were you surprised by that?
Yes, really surprised. I didn’t even know the industry was over here. I am still surprised I’m in Hollywood, making music. Yes, it is weird. I suppose that’s why I vibe so well over here. Must be something in my personality. It was a bit if a shock. Especially because I haven’t spent any time over here.
Were you also surprised by the Haim comparisons?
I was a little surprised. I see it because they are influenced by the ’80s too. They have guitars and they have synths. I like Haim. I never wanted to make music that sounded like them, but it’s still a compliment to hear.
“Like You Want To” moves away from that sound. It’s more synth-y.
I think it was natural progression. The first track was very simple and took a couple of hours to record. This one we had a couple days to work on. We were playing tons of instruments and just bringing it all together. The first one was really naive. Which is nice, I think it shows through in the music but I wanted a fuller sound.
You worked with Ben Romans?
Yes. It got lined up through management and we clicked up straight away. He is one of my favorite producers to work with. I’ve spent a week with him this trip and got some new, cool stuff as well.
It has such an ’80s Stevie Nicks vibe.
I love that. It is such a compliment.
Is she a major influence on your music?
I grew up on Fleetwood Mac. She was always my idol. Her whole witch kind of vibe. I’m not very witchy. I’m kind of a hippie in some ways. Her magical aura really drew me in. Her lyrics, her melodies, how she’s rock and roll but still keeps it feminine. She’s such a major influence in my life. I actually saw Fleetwood Mac the other week.
I actually surprised my mom with tickets. It’s so insane, apparently when my mom first saw them, Stevie she was off her face. I think it was my mom’s first concert. And Stevie was off her face. She forgot her lyrics, fell off stage and all this stuff. My mom was like, “This is the worst thing ever.” I got to take her and they were amazing. She said it was so much better then when she saw them the first time.
So your love of all things ’80s comes from your parents?
Yes, definitely. Actually, I was only allowed to listen to Queen and Fleetwood Mac. Never allowed to listen to Top 40. I think I was very fortunate that way. My management asked me to do some covers recently and I just did old songs. They were like, “We’ll send you a list of new pop songs so you’re not just singing songs from 1983.”
I love all the songs on your EP, but I think “Wild Heart” is my favorite.
It’s funny. I was at my friend’s house and just playing my guitar, just practicing. They also picked out “Wild Heart,” which is really cool.
You’ve been in the studio with Empire Of The Sun’s Nick Littlemore, Morgan Kibby and Chris Braide. What was that like?
Yes, I love Morgan. I work with her and we are saving some of that juice. Nick Littlemore is one of my favorite people I work with. Very eccentric and very vibey. It’s all about the music for him, which is so refreshing. I worked with Chris Braide once and we didn’t really vibe. We vibed personality-wise but musically… we didn’t really finish the song. I’m going to work with him again.
Do you have a timeline? What happens after the EP?
Just going with the flow. I am working. I have heaps of tracks up my sleeve. I just want to see how the EP goes and see what makes sense.
Your visuals are so striking. How did you come up with that style?
That’s just me. What you see in the videos is exactly who I am and what I wear everyday. I wear short and t-shirts every day. That’s just me. I tried to make it a bit edgier and my team were like, “No, just be yourself. Just be 100 percent yourself.” That was the best compliment I received and I stayed true to that. Yes, it wasn’t created, it was just me.
Do you direct the videos?
I did “My Own Way” by myself. We did a video in LA. It was so tacky. I refused to put it out, so I made one myself.
I want to see it!
No, it is deleted.
I bet it’s going to end up on the super deluxe edition of your album.
[Laughs] No. I frantically looked through my phone, looked through my computer. What videos I had of home. I emailed all my friends and said, “Please go though your phone and find videos of us, just hanging out.” I just threw it all together.
It’s just iPhone footage?
Mostly. A few things were additionally filmed like the lip syncing and stuff because I didn’t have enough footage. I co-directed and co-edited “Like You Want To” with a friend. It was nice because he had better cameras and stuff.
Are you going to concentrate on cracking America or focus on Australia to begin with?
My team has a plan. My plan is to write the best music I can and just connect with people. That’s all I want to do. If the plan that my team wants to put together works, it works. If it doesn’t, I am still making music and that’s what I love to do.