Kimbra on the making of her new album

Kimbra press shot

Images via Warner Music
Words by Tara Smith

From the heart.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Kimbra.

The New Zealand expat first appeared on our radar way back in 2011, following the release of her debut studio album Vows. We were introduced to hits like ‘Cameo Lover’ and ‘Warrior’ around the same time ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ received its first play on radio.

One billion YouTube views, a feature on The Sims soundtrack (which she recorded in Simlish) and an ARIA award for best female artist later, we’re on the cusp of Kimbra’s third album. If her past achievements are anything to go by, Primal Heart promises to deliver a dignified revival of the Kimbra we’ve come to know and love.

Just before she kicks off on a US tour, we caught up with the artist to chat four years of songwriting, working with Skrillex and rumours of an Australian tour.

Welcome back Kimbra, what have you been up to the last couple of years?

Well, where to start? I’ve gone to Ethiopia twice in the time of this record – I’ve done a lot of personal travel. I’ve moved my life from LA to New York. I stopped off in crazy little towns across America and built my own studio with my own collection of synths and drum machines. You know, I’ve grown a lot as a producer, a beat-maker; I’ve been studying a craft… I’ve collaborated with a bunch of different artists, trying to find what I want to say next to the world, and it does take time.

Can you tell us how Primal Heart differs to 2014’s The Golden Echo?

Every time I make an album, it’s somewhat a reaction of where I’ve been before. So, The Golden Echo is my playground album where I could really try out so many things and explore so many sounds and work with so many people.

I think when it came to Primal Heart, I wanted to simplify things a bit more and find a more direct way of reaching people, and speak truly from my heart without decorating things too much… I think Primal Heart is this very internal and rooted experience of what it means to be human.

What was it like working with producer John Congleton?

When I first met [John] I knew he was going to challenge me. He was very strong about helping me unveil a boldness that he didn’t think I had necessarily fully discovered on previous records. So that was exciting, you know? I mean, everyone wants to find their next incarnation, right?

You also worked with Skrillex on this album, how did that come about?

I was hanging out at his house one night, and he showed me something he was working on… and I was like ‘this is good.’ I started singing along to it and he just hit record on his laptop. We were literally just hanging out in his lounge and

building this little beat. I asked if I could take it home and mess with it and it just kind of continued developing.

[Skrillex] is great. I mean, I was kind of surprised that we were so productive; I would never have guessed that me and him would [work], it just doesn’t seem like a likely collaboration. But I guess if you hit it off with someone and you have a good energy, something’s probably going to happen.

You have a huge fan base here. Even though you’re a New Zealander based in the US, I feel like Australia has claimed you as our own.

(Laughs) I feel incredibly honoured that Australia has always been supportive. I think it’s just been incredible for my confidence, for my career. It was the first place for my first record; it was the place where I had my first step into the music industry.

I’ve got to ask… what happens when you hear ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ now?

It brings up a lot of beautiful memories for me. It brings back memories of performing it with [Gotye] all across the world. It brings up memories of how serendipitous the whole thing was, because I was just a fan of Gotye for years. And I do believe things happen for a reason, but I don’t know, I just kind of smile to myself thinking ‘wow, wasn’t that a beautiful, crazy thing?’

When are you coming back to Australia?

Australia is very high on everyone’s priority list and as I said, it’s the place where I consider my first fan base. I want to get back there very soon, and I imagine in the latter half of the year it will start getting scheduled in. I can’t confirm anything just yet, but I hope very soon.


Primal Heart is now via Warner Music. You can listen to it here.
This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 178. You can read it here.

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