Interview by Arianna Govoni
Music is such an area of interest that’s very beautiful in its own way because, at the same time, it’s very varied… In a period where everything seems to slow down and, somehow, to also stop due to the global pandemic, a new metal band comes to birth and it decides to cheer this awful year up bringing some freshness and novelty. Approaching its own debut in the music scene, Italian metal act Kalah prepares itself to offer its hybrid metal mash up and electronic melodies in the first EP “Descent”, a record that, as you’re going to read, will create a unique and one concept album that will be released within the end of the year. Exclusively on Femme Metal, we’re going to introduce a very detailed interview that we conducted a few days ago with the whole band.
Hi guys and welcome to Femme Metal. It’s such a great pleasure having you here today. We’re here in order to give a huge spot to Kalah, a very young and promising band which was born last year, if I’m not mistaken… so let’s start from a very basic but useful question in order to give a picture of the band to those people who are not still familiar with you. Would you mind telling us how did the idea of forming this new band come from?
Dario: Like every beautiful things, it happened in a quite natural way. It happened that four people already knew each other and they played together so right before the lockdown, both me and Claudia, the lead singer, joined the band because we simply answered to an announcement of these people who were looking for the latest members in order to found a band. It’s been quite easy, we came across each other, as it often happens, and we felt the urge to do something together, so it was very easy. It often happens inside the bands that, because of somebody who’s already experiences, you need to decide upon the music genre you’d love to do, what you would love to make, which are the music ideas you’d love to pursue… in our case, everything was easy, because we simply came across each other very well and we didn’t need to have that initial experience that a lot of bands need, like, you know, player cover songs or something similar. Everything’s been random, but it was also easy at the same time. Right after we felt the need to write music that rapidly came to life and that identifies our way to see music.
Even the band’s name is very intriguing. If I’m not mistaken, “Kalah” refers to a game in the mancala family, which, sometimes, is also called “Kalahari”, possibly by false etymology from the Kalahari desert in Namibia. What can you tell about this choice?
Claudia: Well, actually ‘Kalah’ is a Sanskritic word that points out that slight movement of a little segment of the Moon that grows little by little, in order to become a full moon, so we’ve been inspired by this, by the idea of constant movement which is not always that visible.
Dario: It’s a sort of an idea related to the evolution that we also put in our way of writing music. I guess that so far you’ve only listened to the first single, but the idea is related to transformation, so we’ve thought it was a very intriguing word due to its own meaning, which is pretty strange. We simply came across with this term and we liked it!.
I don’t know if what I’m going to say is correct, but to me Kalah seems to be more a sort of hybrid metal band. Listening to the 4 tracks of your EP, “Descent”, which will be released doon, I have to say that there are so many elements in there, from metal to the melodic melodies, to electronic passage. Where does the need of mashing so many features in your music come from? Does it come, maybe, from your music background, since that, for example, Alessio play in other three different bands (Imago Imperi, Hidden Lapse and Hellcome) or was it simply a sort of cautious choice, so to say?
Dario: If you mean that we’ve decided to make this kind of music, the answer is no, it wasn’t really like that. Each of us has his/her own different background and, as you said, Alessio play in other metal bands, I’ve played the keys for several years now and I’m the responsable for the electronic parts. I have a classical music background, because I’ve studied classical music for years at College Of Music, our lead guitar player has an extremely wide background, so he’s more into blues, funky, hard rock and metal music… The rhythm guitar player comes from a metal music that has a lot of powerful riffs, so our main idea was to leave each one some space and create something beautiful that didn’t need to be a limitation for anybody,but it could be free as a term of expression. We wanted to create something that could be labelled as “hybrid” and, at the same time, that we may like. Our goal wasn’t to make something “saleable”, but we wanted something that could be important to us, so I think! We’re pursuing this road.
Claudia: Actually, everything was born very naturally, because we came across each other immediately and we mashed the music genres up…
Mario: No one said: “Let’s do this, because this is missing”. It was easy to come across with the different awareness and everyone brought his/her own, we managed to create a team formed by all the different awareness and, in our opinion, the products are a perfect expression of this.
Dario: In the second EP, which is gonna create the complete album, you’ll surely hear an evolution, a change, in order to give this idea of not being steady over a music style and tell: “Okay, let’s do something like a peculiar band, but let’s do something ours that can be an evolution”.
If you were to describe your own sound to the audience or, indeed, to a person who listens to your music for the very first time and who would love to make a complete idea about Kalah, which terms or adjectives would you use in order to introduce yourself?
Claudia: If I were to enclose everything into one genre, even if it’s pretty hard, I would say that we’re an electronic melodic metal band, yes, because, actually, we’re quite miscellaneous in everything we do.
Dario: We don’t want to be like all those bands who say: “No, no, our music genre doesn’t exist, our music is only power metal, it’s not only about that”. These are bullshits! Let’s say that we play a sort of metal with huge electronic influences which, indeed, are not more into electronic but into dubstep, a more classic electronic, 8 bit, as you’ll discover up ahead. I don’t want to reveal anything in advance! It’s something that extends itself in this world, yeah, what we don’t use are the classic instruments, like you know, violins, strings and this kind of things, because they do not depict our nature. This is the reason why, we don’t have anything against violins!
Mario: Of course it’s melodic metal, because there’s a melodic part which is very important and that we would love to keep.
Dario: What we didn’t like at all was the idea of having a singer who’s more poppish, as you can see in a lot of bands who play electronic metal. We did want to have a more metal influence, because the lead singer is one of the band’s member, it’s not somebody who “holds” the fans and, in actual fact, is considered as nothing, or rather that she’s not seen as an extra element.
As I said earlier, Kalah was born last year in a period that was very unlucky and mainly portrayed by the global pandemic called covid-. How did you live this historical period and, secondly, how did you manage to record and write the EP in such a very delicate and critical moment?
Alessio: Let’s say that we have the fortune that some of us lives together with other band members. Marco, my brother, Manuel, the bass player, and I are flat mates, so my room is basically a sort of studio. This was mainly the meeting spot where we managed to pursue our work remotely, because the other band’s members weren’t physically with us… We’ve never been detached from each other, we’ve constantly communicated with each other and, indeed, we tried to bring our ideas concerning the songs to the table, in order to discuss. It wasn’t easy at all, of course, because it’s important for sure to see each other, but during the period where everything started to slow down a little bit, we managed to meet and to conclude the songs you’ll find in the first EP. We’ve managed to pursue the whole work…
“Descent” has been anticipated by a single that I really like a lot, “Six Feet Underground”. Do you think that this song could be a great calling card for the band?
Claudia: I think so, because actually we’ve released this peculiar single considering the idea of introducing ourselves in a setting, to include the listener in a setting that, at first sight, maybe could be quite merry, because the textures are merry as well, but continuing with the listening of the other songs we’ll release further ahead, we have this sort of idea of descent… so we enter in a very beautiful room, in order to pay a visit to basement dungeon. I’ve imagined something similar…
What kind of feedback did you get and which have been the feedbacks you’ve gained right after the song’s release?
Dario: Well, in my opinion we hade a very good feedback on Youtube, but especially all over our social platforms… I mean, Facebook, Instagram and also on Spotify! This was the first single and we needed to introduce something ‘catchier’, because in the end when a band comes to life cannot show its soul completely, its nature, it’s very tough! It’s also very hard to make an impression, so you have to be a little bit more compliant sometimes, even if this is not the right term… You need to meet the audience halfway but this doesn’t mean that you have to do what the audience wants you to do. It simply means that you have to do something that can drum up the attention, in order to tell what you wanna tell. This is an introduction useful to tell what we really have to tell. We’re very happy about the result and surely “Six Feet Underground” is not our principal song, it doesn’t completely depict our style, but as a beginning, we’re very satisfied!
Mario: It contains some of the most important elements we have.
Manuel: It’s a very good introduction to the album. We could say that it could be a quite interesting interpretation, it’s more comprehensible, it’s the basic step for us in order to enhance all the textures that will be in the record, indeed. Without revealing too much, in the second EP there will be some darker resonance but we’ll pay more attention to the electronic part.
Dario: There’s also a sort of introduction to the dubstep music, there will be a lot more further on… There are some anticipation, honestly that song was the most suitable one for the opening. You’ve listened to all the songs, so you can confirm this!
What can you tell about the single’s lyrics? Where did you draw your inspiration?
Claudia: Well, I can’t even tell where I did draw my source! Probably I woke up in the morning with an idea stuck in my head, I jot down and, gradually, I’ve developed that idea. There are four different stories in “Descent”, each song is auto-indisputable and connected to a sort of state of uncertainty where you can find all the characters of the stories. They are in a prison that, at times, is built by them, sometimes it’s a physical prison where they cannot or they don’t want to escape, so there’s this sense of mutual claustrophobia, even if, perhaps, you cannot sense from the resonances. These are the themes.
The EP will be released on Feb 1st, I guess it will be only digital. What are the expectations you have for this first music effort? You know, even if they don’t want to admit, bands often create their own expectations just before the release itself. What are yours?
Dario: Well, everyone hopes for something beautiful, that could be an EP or whatever, so we really hope this material can be appreciated as much as we do or at least that it can leave its mark or transmit something. Future ambitions? Well, currently we show interest in having done something and come across to write and jot down a record with 13/14 songs in it that we do really like and that tell something about us. It’s quite difficult to have expectations with a very first EP and, to me, somebody shall be realistic and shall think of making really good music, hoping to be appreciated by people and this is already enough for a first record. If the future will hold something better, well, cool, but this already makes us happy.
Alessio: Let’s say that, also due to the complicated period we’re living right now, it’s also very difficult promoting your music with live activies. Our choice was to release just a part that is circumlocutory, in the sense that rather than being committed in a very big effort right now in something that could be haphazard in this area of interested, we preferred a small format in order to draw attention. Let’s hope of being able to release the full effort and, perhaps, to also promote it in a more suitable way.
Dario: That’s why we opted to slip the record in three parts, where there are three style that evolve, so our idea was to divvy up as a sort of serial publication that’s published periodically. We wanted to divide the record in more parts in order to give the listener the chance to understand one at a time… This was our main idea, despite the period.
Something that immediately has arosen my curiosity about “Descent” is that it will be the first chapter out of three of a concept album. You know, making a concept album often requires a lot of study and care, even if it depends on the themes of the record itself. For such a young band like yours, I guess it was a very challenging thing to do and I sense that you like challenges! So will the chapter be published yearly or biyearly?
Dario: Within the end of the year we’ll release everything! The fact is that we’ve opted to split all the parts and release them individually, but basically the album is more than done! It will contain 12 or 13 songs plus two bonus tracks, because we wanted to offer something substantial. Nowadays bands sell 32, 35 or 40 min-records, we did want a more important introduction, given that this is our very first album, but we didn’t want to give the impression that we made an effort with a 30 minutes record… The ideas were there and everything is set, it’s all about a partition that we thought to do…
In your opinion, why shall people give a listen and a chance to Kalah? You could give, for example, a reason trying to encourage the audience to follow and support you!
Dario: I would say that we don’t have any phony limitation, we only do what we like, that’s it! In my opinion, you don’t need any motivation, a person listens to the song. Does she/he like it? We don’t need to sell it.
Manuel: It’s a natural inquisitiveness, as you say. I do really like the single, then I’m curious to listen to the next one… and let’s hope for the others! Let’s hope that this very first EP, this first listening will bring and arouse some curiosity towards our music. In the end we do the most natural thing possible, it’s nice to find a way to concentrate all our backgrounds in what Kalah is about, in the music we do… We want to spam it, we want people to hear our music. Interest shall arise progressively, we don’t want to impose ourselves as a band, we don’t try to play covers, we don’t do this! If people likes us and listen to us, we’re more than happy about it, else we will listen to our music ourselves!
Dario: As much as you can try something, there will always be somebody who will go after us but there will also be some people that will respect you a lot!
Alessio: Let’s say that, compared to some band who have a more melodic female vocals, more classic, in our case the aggressiveness is enough contemporary. There are some heavy, tough rhythmics, so in my opinion a feature that identifies us in the music scene with a more melodic female vocals, is the fact that we have also this aggressive and rhythmic feature.
Dario: I guess it concerns also the music style, I mean Claudia doesn’t dress like Elize Rud or those metal singers who are dressed in latex in order to show off how cool they are… Claudia has a more punk style and I have to admit that we do like this thing! Unfortunately, this is the female fronted image! If you see, 90% of the metal bands who play this music have their own singer who’s dressed in the most bizzare and absurd ways in order to gain more male fans… and sometimes this doesn’t add anything!
Claudia: Perhaps the singer is considered as a decorative object, but we talk about singers who have incredible skills who, unfortunately, are also sacrificed in this way…
In your opinion, which are Kalah strong points?
Dario: I could say that we play electronic music without compromise, where we don’t only play stuff that can be pleasant to somebody but we do offer something that has also “noisy sounds”, so there’s also the ability of experimenting! I would place the will of experimenting as our very first strong point!
Mario: I could add the will of referring to the melodic side without compromising the rhytmics.As we said earlier, melody often calls for open chords, so it compromises the rhytmic part. Clearly we want to have more melody in order to bring out Claudia’s vocals, keeping guitar’s weaving that could be complex but also less understandable at the same time.
Alessio: And in all of this, the singable chorus is never left behind, it’s indeed a feature of ours!
Dario: We don’t want to make this, but in my opinion, the idea of making the chorus singable is very cool.
Claudia: Let’s say that each of us has its own spot and, sometimes, it’s not very easy, because we’re a sextet and it’s great that everybody could express himself in his own way. Our strength is, indeed, that we managed to find a balance between us, no one prevails and no one is left behind.
Dario: Here the guitars are lower, and even in the mix you can sense this, just because we wanted to give more space to the vocals and to the electronic parts. We also opted for leaving more spot to the rhythm guitar as well, otherwise there’s no metal in it. It seems that we could play pop and we didn’t like this idea at all.
What’s actually brewing for Kalah?
Dario: We’ll surely publish three videos out of this EP: a lyric video, a visualizer and a complete one, we don’t want to reveal too much about the style, but one of them will recall the 80s, something from the digital world of that age because we’re connected to this style; after all, we’re about the same age, we played the videogames and we’re very connected to this world.
Claudia: We’re quite homesick!
Dario: We are quite intrigued by the 8-bit world! Despite this, there’ll be another series of videos, because we have the intention of put a face to all our songs. It’s indeed awful to release an album, make some video and then everything disappears… so we want to give more space to all the tracks and start working on the next effort, because in the end we have so many ideas and we’re extremely fecund under this point of view. We’re very happy, since that our first work is basically done concerning the writing process, so why shall we not start working on the following one? Even if we’ll be unable to play live, we can start jotting down. Sooner or later the world will be open again and we’ll have the chance to play this material live… or so I hope!
Claudia: At least we’ll use this time in a more useful way!
Ok guys and girl, I thank you for giving me this spot! I give the chance to conclude our chat the way you want!
Alessio: Thanks so much for the spot Femme Metal gave us, we hope to present this EP also live and let’s hope that the release of this very first effort will give us some satisfaction or at least some feedback…