Words by Angela Christian Wilkes.
Melbourne singer, songwriter, photographer and total delight Kira Puru stopped by for a chat with us at BIGSOUND. We talked inspiration in all it’s facets, collaboration and how women are ruling the stage.
Before heading to Bigsound you played The Toff In Town with Clairy Browne. Is she your bestie?
Yeah, she’s my bestie!
I’ve noticed you’ve worked with a lot of artists. Most memorable for me was when you came onstage with Urthboy at his Melbourne show. What do you enjoy about working with other people and collaborating?
I just really like getting a little look-see into how other people make art and the way that they approach writing songs, or takings stories and putting them into music. Everybody has their own technique and sometimes you have a tendency to get bogged down in what you think is good or not good about what you do. Working with other people really allows you to have an objective perspective on what you make. I think because I’m self-interested and interested in the development of my art, I like to work with other people so I can pinpoint when I’m doing right and wrong, interesting and not interesting, and how I can work on it.
You also work in photography and other mediums as well. Is it a different mindset for you in photography compared to music?
I guess they’re different beasts so you do approach them differently. I find photography super relaxing. It’s just looking at shapes, and it seems nice and quiet and meditative for me. Whereas music seems quite stressful. But I think if I was ever going to take photography seriously, it could easily be as stressful as music. It’s just maybe I don’t care as much, or that [it’s] my relaxing side-job.
I’m a bit more business about music, I guess. I take it more seriously and knock backs hurt me more. I’ve got more pinned on my music career than on my photography career and other art making. But I think all art making feeds into each other and into the appreciation for beautiful things.
You mentioned song-writing techniques. Do you have a particular process you identify with for yourself? That was a really backward way of asking how do you write music?
I try and alternate techniques because I think if I do the same technique or have the same approach too many times, I come out with similar results. So in an attempt to try and get varied products at the end, I try and do different things. There was an artist that once said if you really want to see what your picture looks like then turn it upside down or look at it in the mirror so you can get a different perspective. I like to sometimes write the music first and muck around with chords, then write lyrics that suit the mood that they suggest. Or sometimes I’ll get lyrics that pop up in my head and I try and work them into a series of chords. Or take somebody else’s story and make it into my own. I try to try a lot of different things.
I really enjoy artists that can look at a story and make it into a piece of music. I know that’s something that Regina Spektor does a lot, and Urthboy.
Yeah, it’s impressive. I think because I am so self-interested I find that harder, to take somebody else’s perspective and make it my own. (Laughs) I like to write about myself!
You recently worked with Flight Facilities and triple j to produce ‘GENERIC INSPIRATIONAL SONG’, which is uh-mazing. Serious question though, what is your favourite inspirational song?
Oh my god, I don’t know! That’s such a good question. I don’t know if this is actually true, but the first thing that popped into my mind was Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’. But I think that’s just because my old band used to listen to it to gee up before a gig. But I don’t think that necessarily inspires me in any particular way. Hmmm, I don’t know…
We can come back to it!
Maybe I’ll just try and think about it for a second.
In the same stream of thought, who has been inspiring you recently?
Well, I listen to Rihanna all the time and I basically love everything about her, from her outfits to her attitude and her music and the way she incorporates fashion into her craft. I think it’s really well done. I think she’s gorgeous and seamless and amazing. So her, definitely.
Hanging out with Clairy always inspires me because she’s super strong and she’s a hardcore feminist bitch. She’s not afraid to say whatever she wants and thinks and feels. So, that’s always super inspiring to have her in my life. She always gives me really beautiful advice when I’m going through tough times. So that’s cool.
Sampa [The Great] really inspires me in terms of lyrics and attitude. She’s the most gorgeous shining light offstage and then to see her onstage, she’s almost weirdly menacing in a way, even though she’s not. I really enjoy seeing powerful women who don’t find it difficult to compromise between having a sweet, personable side and this bad bitch stage presence. Sampa does that. She’s also an incredible lyricist who talks a lot about her experiences and her culture. I’d like to work more of that content into my own work as well.
Has there been a particular reason why you haven’t done that in the past?
It’s actually a conversation I had with Sampa; she did a spoken word set for the first time in ages a couple of weeks ago in Melbourne. She talked a lot about where she came from and her cultural identity. I realised I hadn’t really felt the freedom to do that as a person of colour in Australia but I grew up here and was born here. I think a lot of the time I haven’t felt [I had] access to that part of myself because I felt like I was just Australian and I don’t suffer in the same was as “real” people of colour do, which is a weird thing. That’s my own stuff that I have to unpack and unlock. Seeing Sampa reminded me that I do have the freedom to speak about my own experience and how legitimate or illegitimate I feel because everyone’s experience is legitimate. It was really freeing to watch her do that. Now I feel like I can start attacking that myself.
Obviously, not the same, but I can definitely relate to that in terms of queerness.
Yeah, I now identify as queer but it took me a long time to be able to say that out loud. I thought that meant I had to have done X amount of gay things in my life and X amount of bi things or straight things. Or maybe my politics have to be over a certain line, or I have to be a certain amount of educated to be able to speak about queer politics. But I guess the thing behind both that and the race and cultural stuff is basically that everybody’s story is legitimate and unique and important. The more we share and talk about that the more that we can put all that segregation in the past. We can just ease up a little bit about our insecurities about who we are and where we come from. It’s important for me to talk about all that stuff for those reasons.
I saw your tweet about Tinder in Melbourne, the vegan personal trainer…
Oh my god, it’s so painful.
For me, that image that’s presented has been a barrier [that] I have to get over myself.
It can be both liberating and isolating at the same time, because you get to see how many people are not like you in the world. But also, it’s kind of like if all these people can be themselves, why can’t I be myself?
Exactly. Different topic now, but you have some new songs to share with the world. Are there any in particular you’re really excited to share?
Yeah, there’s a couple. All the ones I’ve been tossing around, putting on the EP, I’m really into. But I think that’s like your newest songs are always the ones you like the most until you’ve had them around long enough to hate on them. Then you move on!
But there are a couple that I wrote about my two most recent break ups. They’re always good and cathartic. They’re about the romantic and melancholy and tragic way of being in love with someone but not being able to be with them for whatever reason. But I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so maybe that’s stimulating for me.
Is there anyone that does that sort of music for you?
I’m super into Angel Olsen and Elliot Smith. I was just talking to my Uber driver about playing Lana Del Rey. She didn’t want to play Lana Del Rey in the car because she thinks that she’s too depressing and then I had to explain that I’m the sort of person who’s into that stuff. Frank Ocean. There’s a couple of great ballads at the end of Rihanna’s latest album, heart-achey pop tunes. Katy Perry’s good for that stuff. I like a bit of everything.
It’s Day two now, but who were you super keen to see at Bigsound? Women are ruling Bigsound.
I realised last night that everyone I saw was a chick. I was so down with that. All the people I had checked down on my list were all women and I didn’t even realise. But I noticed by the second last set of the night I was getting heaps of mad vag in my face. I thought that was so cool. I saw Clairy Browne, Alice Ivy, SAATSUMA – Paul Kelly’s two daughters – Coda Conduct, two hip hop girls… they’re sick. Wallace. But I’m going to see Sampa tonight, I’ll try and see my mate Olympia. Ladies! Heaps of ladies!