The LA-via-Perth artist and producer sheds light on the long road to her debut record.
Creativity and fame is a funny thing. Some artists thrive in the limelight and feed off the fame; others tend to flourish in the shadows, lending their talents to the former and happily honing their craft in studio sessions without an overt aura of celebrity hanging over their heads.
For the better part of a decade, KUČKA – born Laura Jane Lowther – has been a fine example of the latter.
Emerging in 2012 with an eponymous EP that merged woozy synths and oddball vocal treatments with elements of glitch, post-dubstep and IDM, it was apparent from the get-go that KUČKA had star potential, and her production chops were quickly noted by both local contemporaries and international heavyweights alike.
In the years to follow, KUČKA would tailor her craft as a truly distinct sonic architect alongside the likes of A$AP Rocky (‘Fashion Killa’, LONG LIVE A$AP’), Fetty Wap and fellow Australian wunderkind Flume, her creative partnership with the latter resulting in keynote appearances on tracks with Vince Staples, Kendrick Lamar and the late SOPHIE.
All the while, KUČKA continued to release a host of stylistically ambiguous EPs and navigate the global touring circuit, relocating to Los Angeles and beginning the process of finalising her debut record, Wrestling; out today via Soothsayer / LuckyMe.
A densely curated package of compositions that emanate confidence, technical skill and sheer creativity, Wrestling is the byproduct of nearly a decade of toil on KUČKA’s behalf, and far and wide, it stands out as her most defining work yet.
Songs like ‘Joyride’, ‘Ascension’ and ‘Eternity’ spotlight KUČKA’s ability to fuse obscenely chopped-and-effected vocals with pop aesthetics with ease, ‘No Good For Me’ is an irresistible UK Garage-flavoured number that’s destined to soundtrack dancefloor debauchery, and ‘Your World’ and album closer ‘Patience’ demonstrate the multi-talented artist’s emotional journey over the course of her career.
Across 12 tracks, off-kilter electronic grooves collide with gleaming synthesisers and hard-knocking sub-frequencies, with KUČKA’s distinctive vocal treatments swirling and floating above the mix to make for one of 2021’s most dizzying electronic projects yet.
With the album out now, we spoke with KUČKA to find out more about the album’s long-winded incubation period, her approach towards collaboration and the creative process behind Wrestling.
Tell us about how Wrestling all came together – I understand you wrote more than 50 pieces of music whole working towards the project? How long did you spend working on the album?
I spent waaaay to much time alone in the studio over the past few years. But I believe that everything you work on has its benefits. Even if no-one else ends up hearing it, you might have worked out a cool little way of modulating a synth, or experimented with a new weird way of re-sampling a vocal, so I do like to experiment on tracks even if they end up sitting on my computer forever.
I love the gradual evolution your production style has undergone over the past few years, and I think it’s particularly prevalent on this album. What’s motivated you to embrace such a fluid approach towards production, and how does that pertain to Wrestling?
I have really had time to focus on my production during the writing of this record and I think I’m getting better at creating the sounds that I’m envisioning. I don’t think you need to have good technical skills to
make great music but for me finding my own personal rhythms has been helpful as I can get my ideas down quickly and really capture the mood that I’m aiming for.
Describe the interplay between your songwriting and production process. Do you start things off with an instrumental, vocal or lyrical idea? Are you triggered creatively more by making music than you are writing or arranging vocals?
I would say my writing style is kind of unpredictable as I always start with something different. When I’m feeling particularly emotional I find it’s a good time to write lyrics, and if I’m a bit tired then I can work on production as I don’t have to think about it so much, I can kind of feel it in my body.
Wrestling also navigates some incredibly complex and personal themes lyrically. Were there any songs in particular that were really challenging for you to write?
I found it super cathartic to work through things with my lyrics. I’ve realised that I need a lot of time to process things and writing music has really allowed me that personal introspective time.
Paint us an image of your own studio space. Are you working with hardware, or all in the box? Are there any particular pieces of equipment or software that are absolutely crucial to your process?
I’m mostly using soft synths these days, but I do like to jam on hardware synths to get melodic ideas down. I would say that my microphone is the most important piece of equipment. I bought a Sony c800g a few years back and it made recording so much easier as I can immediately get the tone that I want, without having to worry about adding too many effects.
What about when it comes to vocals? The way you layer your own voice across the album is seriously impressive – are you engineering yourself while you work as well?
Yes, I think engineering my own vocals has been key to me developing my own sound. It means I can record when my voice is at it’s best and I’m never in a rush to get them down. I can change the inflections, lyrics and melodies as I go without external pressure.
I’m also a huge fan of your drum programming and choice of samples – everything hits so well, and the timing and placement of your percussive patterns is really refreshing. What’s your secret for creating such distinctive rhythmic interplay?
I like to lay out each sample on its own track so that I have control of every individual waveform. That way you can slightly change the samples where you need to and create slight variations in a way that is harder when you are working with a midi instrument or drum machine.
You’ve also collaborated with a number of prominent hip-hop and electronic acts – namely, A$AP Rocky, SOPHIE, Vince Staples and Flume. Is there any single production you can pinpoint as being your favourite collaborative experience, and what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from someone you’ve worked with?
I always love working with Flume as I feel like there’s never a huge amount of pressure to create a ‘song’. The past few times we’ve hung out we’ve spent a lot of time jamming and playing around with some modular hardware, looping it etc and that’s been super fun. I love making music with people when I feel really comfortable.
Now that you’ve got the debut album in the bag, what are you planning on working towards next?
I’ve done a few collaborations that will be coming out this year and I’m also working on new KUČKA which is really exciting.
Wrestling is out now through Soothsayer / LuckyMe.