KYM: Ethereal Maltese Vocals

KYM: Ethereal Maltese Vocals

KYM’S delicate Maltese vocals were birthed from her time with Brikkuni. Now she is coming into her own with her debut single, Kun. 

Maltese singers tend to lean towards more powerful and strong vocals, so getting a vocalist with soft and ethereal tones like KYM’S is a unique, chilling experience that she executes phenomenally. 

“It took me a lot to master the soft voice. Going to singing lessons, they taught me to project and sing loudly and that’s probably why I didn’t want to keep attending because they focus on specific technicalities- wanting you to fit into a certain mould as a singer. We are not taught to sing softly from my experience. “

We sat with KYM for a coffee to talk about her journey as a Maltese vocalist, the hidden meaning behind ‘Kun’ and building her own musical narrative. 

UGS: Were you always interested in music? 

“ I’ve always lived in music. My parents met by chance as my mother heard my dad play a cassette in his car and asked to borrow it! They’d play music in the house while cleaning and I used to sing along while my uncle played guitar when I was just 6 years old. After that I started to perform in school shows, music and singing always seemed to be in the background.  After that I decided to take it up seriously and started singing lessons at the age of 16.” 

KYM started out singing soulful covers at Earth Garden and other local events with Chris Tanti, then she met Brikkuni’s frontman Mario Vella and dived into a whole new realm of vocal exploration.

Check out Kim’s cover of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel: 

 

Doing operatic and enchanting backing vocals on albums like Rub Al Khali and Brikkuni’s latest album, “Il-Ħajja, il-Mewt, in-Nisa”, Kim switched things up. Check out the interview we’d done with Brikkuni for more on this! 

UGS: How did you master the ‘soft voice’? 

I started to master the soft voice on the last Brikkuni album, because the duets needed a soft female voice. I remember thinking; “Oh no! I can’t do this, it’s horrible!” 

It was completely new for me and I needed a lot of pushing to get to it, but when you hear the final track you tell yourself, “OK, this really works!”

After hearing it I told myself; ‘I need to do this in my project as well’. I’ve been writing songs for 4 years and just left them on the computer, but I plan on recording some of them in the coming weeks. The songs I’m releasing now are the latest ones.

UGS: You’ve been singing alongside Brikkuni for a while now, how does it feel to break out into your own? 

“It’s not easy, it’s been 4 years since I started singing with Brikkuni. But that gave me a lot of confidence. I always had low self-esteem and thought I couldn’t do it on my own, but Mario really pushed me, and my friend’s support was everything as I couldn’t have done it without them. 

Mario suggested that I ask Jimmy, Brikkuni’s guitarist to record some demos at his place and it ended up being this project, KYM. Basically, I tried some chords, recorded the voice melody over it on my mobile then I sent it over to Jimmy. Before Covid-19 we used to spend a day working- I play the synths, we find sounds and layer and it ends up being a song. 

It’s not easy but it’s the same musicians who are collaborating, so it seems very familiar to me, because I have Jimmy, I have Oliver and Andrew; a guitarist in Brikkuni who did the music video. So it’s in the same waters and it feels good. 

Brikkuni is Mario’s narrative- and this time it’s become my narrative so it’s very exciting for me. Not more exciting, because working with Brikkuni was super exciting, I remember playing their CD in my car like 5 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that, but I think I feel more comfortable now. “

UGS: Who are some artists you look up to? 

“I draw inspiration from both local and foreign acts. 

Apart from Brikkuni I really look up to Brodu– I think Zizza is the sweetest guy I’ve ever met in my life and before I used to listen to Plato’s Dream Machine because of their electronic elements. Obviously, I really love synths and that Radiohead vibe- which shines through in the song.

I used to listen to Radiohead in my teenage years, but I think my music is more inspired from Portishead and Goldfrapp because I really love the tone of their voices. When I used to sing at bars and stuff,  I used to use a different tone of voice then I heard Portishead and Goldfrapp and thought- ‘I love this tone’ so I started working on the softer voice and if you look at some of the covers I had done for Earth Garden on YouTube, the tone of voice I had a couple years back is completely different. “

Kim with Brikkuni at Earth Garden/ Image Courtesy of Chris Vella

UGS: And what can we expect from your project? 


“The Arts Fund Malta funded this project, so the plan for now is to record three more songs and release them by the end of this year, but I would like to eventually do live concerts and maybe release an album or EP. There’s a lot of songs which need to be worked on. 

I talked to Immanuel Mifsud (an incredible Maltese poet) and he wrote something for a song I have in a day. I don’t mind collaborating; I love his work so I’ve always wanted to do something with him. I approached him after I saw that he shared my video on his Instagram, so it seemed like a golden opportunity.

I sent him a song, he really liked it and sent me the lyrics the following day. “

UGS: Any style we should look out for? 

 “I think I’ve evolved a lot. The style is changing a lot. I’m writing more upbeat kind of songs, kind of ‘poppish’ but not in the way people might think. To me it’s quite upbeat compared to the darker stuff I used to listen to. I used to attend heavy techno parties and listen to a lot of dark music when I was younger, so I’m inspired by it. 

Even though it’s upbeat, it’s still got some dark undertones to it. It remains alternative. 

Kun is an easy listener, but the one’s I’m going to release now aren’t as easy to listen to. This track seemed like the most ideal to release as a debut because it draws people in, but I don’t think the others will be as easy on the ears. “

UGS: Is there a hidden meaning behind ‘Kun’ and the music video?

“Yes, there is a hidden meaning. It was written on purpose with that theme, it’s about the untraditional kind of love It talks about the kind of love that goes against society’s standards. The lyric ‘Jiena ma rridekx normali’- (translates to ‘I don’t want you to be normal’ from Maltese), highlights this theme perfectly. Although the relationship may feel normal for two individuals who might seem odd and unconventional to outsiders. 

It’s about these kinds of ‘less accepted’ relationships. “

Check the video out below: 

“I think the video captures two sides of the person who finds themselves in this situation. The dark side, desperate and depressed for people’s approval. But at the same time this person feels a deep love that shines through in the reflective profile. The person can’t choose, it’s a continuous battle between being able to express the self freely and restricting the self to fit into conservative ties. 

It’s all about the guilt tied to this dichotomy between wanting to live a freely expressed life in colour and not being able to do so because of judgement and disapproval. 

That’s the gist of it. “

UGS: What kind of feedback have you gotten from the release so far? 

“Funnily enough the feedback has been pretty positive- some people might say it can’t always be positive. You need negative comments to push you further. 

People shared it and I think it moved beyond the alternative scene a little bit. But the thing is I have a lot of other things happening at the same time, so I’m a little bit overwhelmed by all the notifications I’ve gotten. 

I would love to hear some criticisms as I think I would take it very well but have not heard anything so far. “

UGS: I think it’s a very unique track, so even seeing it all come together you don’t really see that kind of stuff here in Malta. 

“It is quite innovative in that way because it’s in the Maltese language and we don’t get a lot of electronic music sung in Maltese and by a woman. I think all these factors really motivated me to get into it, because I knew it would be a really good thing for the local alternative and indie music scene. 

In Malta there’s a lot of rock bands that use Maltese lyrics, but most of the electronic artists in Malta use English. I know of one other artist, JOON  who does some amazing electronic music in the Maltese. But Maltese people don’t seem to be really interested in the local music scene, you find them listening to the radio more than anything. “

“I think the fact that it was written in Maltese attracted some attention. There’s this band called Super Love that’s based in Berlin. They started writing music in Maltese and apparently people from Berlin are really enjoying it and listening to the Maltese language, so you can’t really say ‘I’m not going to tour, so I’ll write in Maltese.’

I write in Maltese because it’s much more expressive for me. “

UGS: Anything else you’d like to add for our readers? 

“I would encourage young people to engage in music, because I have not seen a new band in ages. It seems like people stopped creating new projects. 

The music industry should encourage young artists to write their own music and collaborate, not compete by singing covers as it won’t really amount to much.  Being an artist comes with practice and a lot of hard work.”

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Images Courtesy of KYM, Nicky Scicluna and Chris Vella.